Posted in Books

YA Books for AAPI Heritage Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

For those of you who didn’t know, in the U.S., May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage month! I made a list of YA reads for the occasion last year (click here if you’d like to parse through), but since I’ve read so many more incredible books by AAPI authors since last May, I figured I would make another list. These are books from all genres, but all of them are from authors of AAPI heritage. And with all of these kinds of posts, I always want to impress the following: reading diversely should never be confined to one part of the year. That being said, it’s always important to uplift marginalized voices—AAPI in this case—and reading is a key way to do so.

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA BOOKS FOR AAPI HERITAGE MONTH (2022 EDITION)

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea – Maggie Tokuda Hall

GENRES: Fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

One of my favorite reads of last year, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was a raw and tender read filled with pirates, mermaids, and resonant love. Highly recommended!

The Weight of Our Sky – Hanna Alkaf

GENRES: Historical fiction, fiction, mental illness/disability

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A searing and powerful read that follows the story of a sixteen-year-old girl with OCD in the midst of the Malaysian race riots in the late sixties.

Gearbreakers – Zoe Hana Mikuta

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Gearbreakers is no ordinary YA dystopia—filled with mechs, found family, and fierce feminism and queerness, this is a must-read!

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, mystery

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Mind-bending and endlessly thought-provoking, The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a unique and unforgettable tale of sisterhood in the darkest of times.

Rise of the Red Hand – Olivia Chadha

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Rise of the Red Hand certainly wasn’t perfect, but it’s best element was its representation; it’s one of the only dystopias that I’ve seen that’s set in South Asia!

Forest of Souls – Lori M. Lee

GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A rich and spooky fantasy that’s perfect for readers who like their traditional fantasy with a dash of necromancy, vengeful souls, and spiders.

Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao

GENRES: Dystopia, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Raw, fierce, and relentless, Iron Widow is a searing ode to those who are unafraid to take down the status quo—no matter the stakes.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know – Samira Ahmed

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A love letter to all of the women that history erases, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a sharply feminist story set in alternating timelines.

Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A powerful and unforgettable story of grief and starting over. Akemi Dawn Bowman’s writing never fails to stir up all kinds of emotions in me.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by AAPI authors? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Weekly Update: May 9-15, 2022

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.

This week’s been surreal, to say the least. It was my last week of high school; there wasn’t much to do all week up until Friday, but it’s so strange that Friday was the last time I’ll ever have to wake up at 6 AM to go to school. (Not that I’m complaining about the “waking up at 6 AM” part.) We had a goodbye ceremony for us seniors, and tears were certainly shed. High school wasn’t perfect, but there are certainly things I’ll miss. (The fact that there was active construction going on at the school all year? Not one of them.) I actually graduate next week, so…

Reading-wise, I was able to read more than last week, but it was a hit-or-miss kind of batch. I picked up some more promising books at the library yesterday, and I stopped by the bookstore and picked up some books as well, so hopefully next week will be a little better!

Other than that, I’ve been drawing, petting Ringo, listening to the new Smile album (AAAAAAH), and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I finished high school. It’s weird. But I’m seeing the new Doctor Strange this evening—been looking forward to it all week long!! (No spoilers!!)

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Light from Uncommon Stars – Ryka Aoki (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Gallant – V.E. Schwab (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Saving Montgomery Sole – Mariko Tamaki (⭐️⭐️)

Song of the Crimson Flower (Rise of the Empress, #2.5) – Julie C. Dao (⭐️⭐️.5)

POSTS AND SUCH:

SONGS:

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

A River of Stars – Vanessa Hua

Loveless – Alice Oseman

Fire Becomes Her – Rosiee Thor

A Magic Steeped in Poison – Judy I. Lin

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/10/22) – The Psychology of Time Travel

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I don’t remember exactly where or when I heard about this novel; I don’t read a lot of books that involve time travel, but this one (paired with its beautiful cover) reeled me in some time ago. I finally got the chance to read it last week, and although it wasn’t the perfect book, it’s certainly a standout for its thorough worldbuilding.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

In 1967, four women created the first time machine and turned their invention into an empire. But as the project was being unveiled, one of them suffered a mental breakdown, condemning her contributions to be erased from history.

In 2017, Ruby Rebello lives in a world where time travel is commonplace. Her enigmatic grandmother, known only as Granny Bee, was one of the four women who created the time travel Conclave, but she reveals little about her past. But when a clipping detailing a mysterious future murder arrives on Ruby’s doorstep, she must dig through time itself to find out if Granny Bee’s life is at stake.

TW/CW: murder, descriptions of a corpse, mental breakdowns, loss of a loved one, death, gore

“Time travel! I see this as an absolute win!”

The Psychology of Time Travel is a textbook example of how worldbuilding can make or break a novel. In this book’s case, it enhanced it exponentially, making for a highly nuanced and lived-in world that compelled me to no end!

So! About said worldbuilding—it was Psychology’s strongest point, and it was what consistently made it worth reading. Mascarenhas imagines a world where time travel was invented in the 60’s, and how the four women who invented it created a veritable empire out of recording the future, predicting events, and preventing occurrences from happening. But she didn’t just have time travel exist and leave it at that—every possible nuance of time travel that one can think of was explored in some way. Everything from time machine toys to time-travel law to the psychological toll of it all (hence the title) was explored in marvelous detail. All without infodumps, too; with the split POV that jumped back and forth between timelines, the information felt more like anecdotes than dumps.

Psychology’s themes of women in history and how they are treated were also a consistent standout. All of the central characters are women, and through them, Mascarenhas explores how history books overlook women, and how some things may never change; even still, all of Psychology’s women are determined, steadfast, and innovative characters. They all bring home a powerful message and sustain a plot that jumped back and forth through time—just like the rabbits that this book’s first time machines were tested on.

Psychology is a murder mystery at its heart, and for the most part, I’d call it a compelling one. However, the plot’s intricate worldbuilding was a drawback when it came to the plot. With around six or seven time periods that Psychology jumps back and forth between, it was easy for the main mystery to be lost in the threads of the vast time tapestry. I’d read a chapter, remember what happened, read the next chapter in a different timeline, then only get to the thread in the first chapter six chapters later. For the most part, Mascarenhas managed to keep it together, but it was easy to get lost.

All in all, a fascinating and intricate novel that explores time travel and all of its implications across several decades. 3.5 stars!

The Psychology of Time Travel is a standalone and Kate Mascarenhas’ first novel. She is also the author of The Thief on the Winged Horse and the forthcoming Hokey Pokey.

Today’s song:

I’ve had this on repeat all day today and I can’t get enough aagh

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Weekly Update: May 2-8, 2022

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles, and happy Mother’s Day for those celebrating! I don’t know where I’d be without my amazing mom—thank you for supporting me through thick and thin, always. 💗

This week’s been a bit exhausting; I had all three of my AP exams this week, two of which were on the same day. (@ the comparative gov multiple choice: WHAT) It was rough, but I feel alright about them in general. And this means that I’m all done with AP tests! Good riddance.

As a result, I haven’t had as productive of a week in most other departments. I got through most of my library books, but two of them ended up being duds. (Shoutout to The Final Revival of Opal & Nev for pulling me out of the momentary slump.) I picked up more at the library, and they all seem fairly promising.

Other than that, I’ve been drawing, watching Heartstopper all the way through (anybody else sobbing at the coming out scene 🙋‍♀️), watching The Power of the Dog (WHOA), going out to brunch for Mother’s Day, and trying (and failing) to get Ringo to stop biting my feet. Ringo’s a good boy, though.

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:

Beyond the Ruby Veil – Mara Fitzgerald (⭐️⭐️)

Forget This Ever Happened – Cassandra Rose Clark (DNF – ⭐️)

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev – Dawnie Walton (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

POSTS AND SUCH:

SONGS:

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

Light from Uncommon Stars – Ryka Aoki

Song of the Crimson Flower – Julie C. Dao

Gallant – V.E. Schwab

Saving Montgomery Sole – Mariko Tamaki

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/3/22) – Beyond the Ruby Veil

Happy Tuesday!

Beyond the Ruby Veil wasn’t a high priority for me, but I figured I would check it out and give it a chance despite the bad-to-mediocre reviews. However, when I read it, I found the result to be lukewarm and underdeveloped—all the potential in the world without the execution to pull it through.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Beyond the Ruby Veil – Mara Fitzgerald

In Occhia, all of the water comes from a creature called the watercrea; in order for the city to be hydrated, it demands sacrifices in the form of the townspeople who show an omen mark on their skin. For centuries, all of the citizens of Occhia have obeyed. But Emmanuela Ragno has hid her omen for years, evading death until now. When her omen is exposed at her arranged wedding ceremony, she kills the watercrea, effectively cutting off Occhia’s entire water supply.

To return water to Occhia, Emmanuela must venture into a secretive neighboring kingdom that seems to have everything that Occhia doesn’t have. But behind the veneer of luxury is something far more sinister, and Emmanuela will do whatever it takes to take back her city’s water.

TW/CW: blood, violence, murder, torture, body horror

Describing a book with the words “queer,” “dark,” and “fantasy” are always enticing. Do I love queer books? I’m bisexual, of course I do! Do I love dark books? Yes indeed. Do I like fantasy books? Also yes. And yet, a good half of the books described as “queer, dark fantasy” end up being disappointing for me (also see: Ruinsong, Beyond the Black Door…maybe the problem is books with “Beyond” in the title?). I’m sad to say that the case was the same for Beyond the Ruby Veil.

If I had to describe Beyond the Ruby Veil in one word, it would be underdeveloped. I’ll give Fitzgerald one thing—the premise is still intriguing. Suffice to say, there isn’t a whole lot else to it. The bones of a story were there: a good start on worldbuilding, history, and a general direction for the plot. However, the muscle of the book was completely missing. It felt like a first draft, one where Fitzgerald hadn’t fully fleshed out the book and instead published the start of a story.

At least the one part of the book that I wasn’t supposed to like worked—Emmanuela. One of the major selling points of Beyond the Ruby Veil that I’ve seen was of her as an unlikeable anthero; unlike most of the book, I did like this part. Emmanuela was appropriately headstrong, rash, and impulsive, and those traits made for a character that wasn’t likable as a person but fun to follow as a character.

However, she wasn’t enough to carry the rest of the plot, and the few characters that showed up didn’t pick up her slack in the slightest. Ale wasn’t much more than a stereotypically clumsy sidekick, and he served almost no purpose whatsoever. Verene was one of the only other characters that mattered in the story, and she was only introduced at about the halfway mark; even then, her only personality trait was that she was alluringly secretive. As fun as Emmanuela was, Fitzgerald doesn’t give much to work with as a reader, making for a story that felt filled with holes.

The plot itself didn’t hold much water (no pun intended) either. After the botched wedding ceremony and the killing of the watercrea, it was mostly just Emmanuela and Ale bumbling around a foreign kingdom and trying to find clues. Not only did Emmanuela seem to get away with a lot more than was realistic (there wasn’t any context on how she enters this completely foreign kingdom and is immediately able to attempt and pull off the accent AND subsequently speak to the palace?? And get an audience with The Heart?? In a relatively short amount of time?? HUH??), but after the halfway mark, there wasn’t a whole lot of plot to speak of. There’s the beginning of…well, I won’t quite call it romance since there wasn’t much other than heavily implied context to hint at it instead of, y’know, actual chemistry, but in the midst of a book that already felt like a first draft, it felt even more like an afterthought than everything else did. And that’s saying something. Like I said: with a lot of polishing, this could’ve been a fascinating book, but it didn’t have much to sustain it—even in a book that’s less than 300 pages long.

All in all, a book with an ambitious premise that ultimately suffered from a lack of fleshing-out in all departments. 2 stars.

Beyond the Ruby Veil is Mara Fitzgerald’s first novel, and it is the first book in the Beyond the Ruby Veil series. This book is succeeded by Into the Midnight Void.

Today’s song:

first heard this in 6th grade, forgot about it for years, and just remembered it last week…good stuff

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Weekly Update: April 25 – May 1, 2022

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.

This week’s been a bit of a slog; I have all three of my ap tests next week (insert infinite string of the 😐 emoji), so I’ve been studying for most of the week. Not ideal. But I’ve had a little time to read and blog, so it’s been nice.

I’ve had a string of good reads, though! Last week’s library haul was great, and although I couldn’t go to the library this week (studying 😐), I was able to pick up some books for this coming week, and they all seem promising! I went to the comic shop on Friday, so I got a big haul from there as well. I haven’t really done much writing this week, so there’s nothing much to say one that front.

Other than that, I’ve just been petting Ringo, getting everything done before the end of the school year, trying to keep track of all the new music coming out soon (WILCO DOUBLE ALBUM I REPEAT WILCO DOUBLE ALBUM), and going to senior prom!! The latter was a lot of fun—such a fantastic night!

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:

Heartstopper, vol. 4 – Alice Oseman (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

One for All – Lillie Lainoff (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Warrior of the Wild – Tricia Levenseller (⭐️⭐️⭐️.25)

The Weight of Our Sky – Hanna Alkaf (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

POSTS AND SUCH:

SONGS:

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev – Dawnie Walton

Beyond the Ruby Veil – Mara Fitzgerald

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

Forget This Ever Happened – Cassandra Rose Clarke

Today’s song:

I keep flip-flopping on how I feel on this song—I’d like it more without the autotune, either way. super catchy though, and the video’s cute!

That’s it for this week in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Monthly Wrap-Ups

April 2022 Wrap-Up 🎫

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

I keep saying things along the lines of “this week has been low-key…” in my updates and in my journal, fully knowing that it’s the calm before the storm (read: AP tests), but it’s been good to enjoy the calm nonetheless. And if I could get through three AP tests last year, then I can do it this year too. At least they’re all in one week again this time.

GENERAL THOUGHTS:

Looking back, April was somewhat busy, but it never quite felt that way. Going to three concerts in a month was certainly a plus, however tired I got the day after the second two. I have less than a month left of high school (!!!!) and it certainly feels like things are slowing down…it’s all coming into perspective…

April’s been a great reading month as well! Aside from one DNF at the beginning of the month, I haven’t read anything below two stars. I found some great books in the bunch too, both from new-to-me authors and from tried-and-true authors! A good batch, I think.

Things have been slowing down as far as writing goes; since I shared my WIP, I’ve been in a sort of limbo where I’m not sure what to write next. For now, I’m outlining for said WIP’s sequel, but it’s been…rocky. I forgot how frustrating the beginning stages of outlining can be sometimes. Figuring out the playlist has been fun, though…Other than that, I’ve just been drawing, learning a few new songs on guitar, finishing Raised by Wolves (w h a t) and Severance (season 2 can’t come soon enough), watching Spirited Away, listening to an excess of Wet Leg, Spiritualized, and Jack White, and seeing Spiritualized, Snail Mail, and Ben Folds live. (All three were lots of fun, but Spiritualized was hands down my favorite!!)

READING AND BLOGGING:

I read 18 books this month! I can chalk that one up to several lengthy books that took me longer than usual to read, but that’s okay. Still on track for my goodreads goal of 200—78 books as of now!

1 – 1.75 stars:

Witches Steeped in Gold

2 – 2.75 stars:

The Conductors

3 – 3.75 stars:

One for All

4 – 4.75 stars:

The Weight of Our Sky

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE MONTH: Extasia4.5 stars

SOME POSTS I’M PROUD OF:

POSTS FROM OTHER WONDERFUL PEOPLE THAT I ENJOYED:

SONGS/ALBUMS THAT I ENJOYED:

now THAT is an impressive high note
this was so beautiful live 😭
in which my dad and I try to catalogue all of the songs that they played at the Spiritualized soundcheck
such a fun album!
also a very fun album!!
every day I get more and more excited about the new Soccer Mommy album
such a haunting ending to a beautiful album
this was so much fun live!! the whole concert was so fun and interactive

DID I FOLLOW THROUGH ON MY APRIL GOALS?

  • Read at least 20 books: 18, but it’s all good.
  • Try not to spontaneously combust at the Spiritualized concert if/when they play “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”: …well, no “Ladies And Gentlemen,” but nonetheless, I spontaneously combusted. Hands down, one of my favorite concerts I’ve ever been to. Thanks again, J Spaceman!

GOALS FOR MAY:

  • Get through the AP tests
  • Finish high school strong! (aAAA STILL CAN’T BELIEVE I’M GRADUATING—)

Today’s song:

That’s it for this month in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/26/22) – One for All

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Disability representation—especially in YA—is few and far between, and even when I do find it, a lot of disability rep is still written by abled authors. (That isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but it’s easy to fall into harmful tropes and misrepresent disability that way.) So when I heard about One for All, I was so excited—a feminist, historical fiction novel about a girl with a chronic illness! And beyond that—a girl with a chronic illness WHO SWORDFIGHTS. Doesn’t get much better than that, am I right? My copy finally came from the library last week, and although it wasn’t the perfect book, I enjoyed a lot of it!

Enjoy this week’s review!

One for All – Lillie Lainoff

Tania de Batz is determined for the world to see her as more than just a “sick girl.” As the daughter of a former musketeer, her passion is swordfighting, and with the help of her father, she’s become a skilled fighter. But when her father is brutally murdered, she discovers his dying request to send her to a finishing school.

But what she finds at L’Academie des Marieés is no finishing school—it’s a secretive school that trains young women as musketeers. Tania is soon swept into a world of swords and secrecy, and soon, she and her fellow students have an assassination plot to uncover. The only clue to the plot—and maybe even her father’s murder—lies in a boy named Étienne, but his charms may be Tania’s undoing.

TW/CW: ableism, blood, murder, loss of a loved one, past mention of sexual assault

Good disability representation—especially in YA—seems to only happen once in a blue moon. So I was so happy to find this book—a feminist historical fiction book written by a disabled author, no less! And while I did have a few problems with the story overall, One for All was no doubt a fantastic debut!

First things first—disability rep! While I can’t speak to the accuracy, Lillie Lainoff (the author) has the same chronic illness as Tania—Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)! Disabled representation from disabled voices always makes my heart so happy! For me, it’s even better that One for All is a historical fiction piece; most books with disabled characters only exist in contemporary/realistic fiction books, and I adamantly believe that disability rep in genres like historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction is just as important, if not more important; it’s crucial for disabled readers to know that they don’t only exist in modern realistic fiction realities—they have always existed in history, and they can exist in fantasy and sci-fi worlds as well. One for All did a fantastic job at detailing all the aspects of Tania’s POTS and how it affected her daily life, from her routine to her social interactions and childhood. So many chronically ill readers will be able to see themselves in Tania, and that, to me, is immensely impactful.

Beyond that, One for All is fiercely feminist! It’s set in France in the 1600’s, and the themes of empowerment and sisterhood ran deeply through it. Throughout most of the book, Tania struggles with her place in the world as a disabled woman in a time where both are frowned upon, but her journey for self-empowerment is one that is sure to resonate with so many readers. Although some of the other students don’t treat Tania with the respect she deserves at first, there are themes of recognizing and correcting your previous ableism. The friendship that Tania eventually shares with the rest of the fellow L’Academie des Marieés students is wonderfully tender and strong, and it makes for an incredibly empowering novel overall.

As much as I loved the aforementioned aspects, however, there were a few aspects of One for All that I didn’t like as much. For the most part, I liked the writing style well enough; Lainoff’s prose flowed well and was appropriately descriptive when the time called for it. However, Lainoff’s style tended to fall towards the over-the-top side of the spectrum. I could let it slide in most instances—it fit with the mood and tone of the book in general—but in some cases, it felt overly purple and theatrical. It had a dramatic feel to it, and while it fit the classic retelling tone at times, it felt superfluous in other cases.

Additionally, I wasn’t quite as invested in the assassination part of the plot as I was in the rest of the book. Seeing as that (after Tania’s father’s murder) was the main driving force to the plot, it didn’t come through all the way; it was overshadowed by more mundane character interactions (which I did like), and as a result, felt rushed and oversimplified. For something that was supposed to be the primary inciting incident of the second half of the book or so, it felt more like a subplot than anything. As a result, I felt my mind wandering a bit during these parts, but it didn’t take me out of the book entirely.

All in all, a feminist retelling with a disabled heroine who all readers will want to cheer on. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

One for All is a standalone and Lillie Lainoff’s debut novel.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Weekly Update: April 18-24, 2022

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!

It’s been another fairly low-key week on my end; we had the day off on Friday, so I’m getting way too used to shorter school weeks. After last week, I’ve been on a streak of great books! So many unique books in particular—I can’t decide which one I’ll review next week! I’m nearly finished with the whole Heartstopper series too—I’ve got vol. 4 ready on my Kindle, along with my other library books!

Writing-wise, I’ve been attempting to outline for book 2 of my sci-fi WIP, and…it’s been…it’s going? It’s going. I have a clear picture of the beginning and the ending, but the middle is still hazy, so I’m trying to figure out what goes in between. Making playlists always helps get my sense of direction going, and it’s certainly helping now, at least.

Other than that, I’ve been listening to the new Spiritualized (AAAAAH), drawing a little, and playing some guitar. I also saw Snail Mail for a third time on Sunday night (great!) and Ben Folds with the Colorado Symphony last night (amazing!!), so there’s been a lot of concerts this month!! I’m tired now, but it was worth it.

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:

Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Heartstopper, vol. 3 – Alice Oseman (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

The Library at Mount Char – Scott Hawkins (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Extasia – Claire Legrand (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

The Chandler Legacies – Abdi Nazemian (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

POSTS AND SUCH:

SONGS:

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

Heartstopper, vol. 4 – Alice Oseman

One for All – Lillie Lainoff

Warrior of the Wild – Tricia Levenseller

The Weight of Our Sky – Hanna Alkaf

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Music

Everything Was Beautiful – Spiritualized album review

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles, and happy world book day as well!! You’d think I’d have a book-related post today, but…nope. No thoughts, only Spiritualized for the next 3-5 business weeks.

Normally, I wait for a few days to a week after an album’s release to review it, but…well, between my listening to it yesterday and my dad playing it the whole way through in the car yesterday evening, I’ve probably listened to it three or four times in its entirety already, so…

Spiritualized has been one of my favorite bands for around two years—even longer, if you count when I first heard “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” for the first time and listened to it on repeat to fall asleep on vacation. Their music, if I had to describe it in one word, is all-consuming; J Spaceman has built a stunning career out of making a song into a vast cosmos of sound, making themes of heartbreak, addiction, and new love into the dictionary definition of larger-than-life. That’s what I’ve always loved about his music—his songs never feel like just songs, but experiences.

By the time I’d really gotten into Spiritualized, I’d accepted that I wouldn’t be able to see him live or experience a new album of his; he’d said in several interviews that And Nothing Hurt would likely be his last album. But in late 2021, we were gifted with the best kind of surprise: we would be getting more Spiritualized after all!! Now that it’s here, I can say with certainty that there isn’t a single bad song on this album. It’s probably impossible to re-achieve the genius of Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space or Sweet Heart Sweet Light, but Everything Was Beautiful comes very close, even at just seven songs.

Enjoy this album review!

EVERYTHING WAS BEAUTIFUL – SPIRITUALIZED ALBUM REVIEW

TRACK 1: “Always Together With You” – 10/10

This was the first single to come out of this album, and it singlehandedly provided all of the serotonin that I needed to get through the rest of 2021, so there’s that.

It’s not hard for me to say that this is easily one of Spiritualized’s best songs. Expansive and cosmic, I feel as though I’ve been lifted into the air and through the clouds every time I listen to it. I was texting my family about it when it first came out, and I jokingly called it “‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’ but happy,” and as much of a joke it was, it feels true; “Always Together With You” feels like a more matured, more hopeful version of its predecessor, down to the morse code sounds and J Spaceman’s daughter (😭) saying the album’s title at the very beginning. Absolute masterpiece.

TRACK 2: “Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)” – 8.5/10

Smoothly transitioning from “Always Together With You,” “Best Thing You Never Had” keeps up the momentum set up by the first track with classic Spiritualized elements—catchy guitars, a backing choir, and what sounds like a good-sized brass section. Just as spacey as ever, it’s the perfect song for rolling the windows down in your car, and it’s sure to cement this album as one of Spiritualized’s best.

TRACK 3: “Let It Bleed (For Iggy)” – 9.5/10

When I saw Spiritualized back at the beginning of the month, this was one of my favorites of the new songs they played. Now that I’m hearing it through my headphones, it’s one of my favorites off the album! Here’s where the momentum sustained by “Best Thing You Never Had” picks up once more, with another sweeping, all-consuming thing of pure beauty.

TRACK 4: “Crazy” (cover of Nikki Lane’s “Out of My Mind”) – 8.5/10

(so apparently this is a cover?? took me a while to find out…I guess because the original has a different title)

“Crazy” is one of my least favorites on the album, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Even as a cover (I’ve only listened to the original once, so…), it’s indicative of the quiet, genuine tenderness that J Spaceman is capable of amidst all of the heartbreak and darkness that’s prevalent in so many of his other songs. Lovely.

TRACK 5: “The Mainline Song” – 9.5/10

This is another Spiritualized piece that seems more like a journey than a song—all of the train sounds layered in only adds to that effect. With J Spaceman’s airy vocals and rushing instrumentals, it’s another song that seems to physically carry you somewhere else, watching the clouds rushing by. It doesn’t even matter that it’s chiefly instrumental—it’s an unmistakable highlight of the album.

TRACK 6: “The A Song (Laid In Your Arms)” – 9.5/10

Like “Best Thing You Never Had,” “The A Song” is a persistent, powerful march reminiscent of Spiritualized’s harder side. For Spiritualized, longer songs are a common sight, but at over seven minutes long, this song never loses its impact or momentum, delivering guitars and brass that crash against you like waves on the shore. Nothing short of a masterpiece—and another song that was phenomenal live!

TRACK 7: “I’m Coming Home Again” – 10/10

For a lot of Spiritualized albums, the final song is either a sweeping ballad or a mournful, soft ending. “I’m Coming Home Again” is neither of those—and it’s almost more powerful than some examples of both. It’s the longest song on the album at almost 10 minutes long, and like “The A Song,” never loses its momentum all that time. But unlike the former, it achieves its affect more in its consistent feeling of foreboding. It’s a haunting song—I have an oddly specific feeling that it would mesh perfectly in the second-to-last episode of a TV show, in a scene where the main character gets their revenge, walking away from lighting something on fire. From the first notes to the final strains of the choir, “I’m Coming Home Again” is a looming masterpiece, and an unexpected but perfect ending to a near-flawless album.

I averaged out all my ratings for each track, and it came to about a 9.4! Absolutely accurate to how I feel about Everything Was Beautiful—it’s hard to touch some of Spiritualized’s other albums, but this album establishes itself as one of J Spaceman’s masterpieces. It’s the perfect melding of the sound of 90’s Spiritualized with the hope of 10’s Spiritualized, and it makes for an album with a lasting, haunting, and eternally memorable effect. Thank you, J Spaceman, for another religious experience. 💗

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

Since this is an album review, consider the entire album today’s song.

That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!