Hey everyone! I just wanted to hop on here quickly to make an announcement. I’m taking a break from the blog for a little while, as I’m moving into college today, and I’ll definitely need some time away to settle in and orient myself. Wish me luck!!
Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! Hope this week has treated you well.
Well…things have been…put into perspective this week. I’m now only a few days away from moving into my college dorm, so most of this week has been preparing for that—physically and mentally. I’ve got most of my stuff packed up in boxes and bags in the next room. It feels so strange that the day’s finally here, but it was bound to come eventually. Wish me luck, everybody.
Reading-wise, though, I had some great reads! All of my books were in the 3-4 star range, and I enjoyed them all. This was my last library visit before college, so that was bittersweet, so I’ll probably end up with a mix of Kindle library books and re-reads for this week, especially since I’ll be moving. I finished draft 1 of the WIP I wrote for camp NaNoWriMo this year! It’s a little on the shorter side (~250 pages), but it’s a first draft, so I’m proud of what I’ve got.
Other than that, I dyed my hair green (as seen in my new pfp…face reveal, I guess?), played guitar, drew a little, watched What We Do in the Shadows and rewatched The Shape of Water (my all-time favorite movie…many tears were shed), and started packing for college. Soon…
I wasn’t able to go to the library last week, so I went through the Kindle library for books to read. I was in a fantasy mood for no rhyme or reason for most of the week, and That Dark Infinity presented itself. My expectations were average, but this book turned out to be one of the most creative fantasies that I’ve read in a long time!
The Ankou is an infamous, immortal monster hunter, but few know his true secret: while he’s still immortal, a curse made it so that during the day, he’s nothing more than a pile of bones. All he wants is to break the curse—and be able to die.
Flora is the former handmaiden of the princess of Kaer-Ise, but after her kingdom is sacked and she’s left for dead, she goes on the run. Looking for work, she seeks the Ankou to become a monster hunter like him. His only condition is that she help break his curse that’s kept him immortal. But the price of breaking the curse may be greater than she ever could have imagined.
TW/CW: off-page rape, rape/sexual assault-related trauma, violence, murder, body horror, suicidal ideation, descriptions of illness
I remember liking Kate Pentecost’s previous novel, Elysium Girls, but I didn’t have any expectations for That Dark Infinity. But to my surprise, it blew me away—one of the most inventive YA fantasy standalones that I’ve read in ages!
Let’s start off with the worldbuilding, which was a good portion of what made That Dark Infinity so unique! Pentecost doesn’t shy away from pushing the boundaries of the genre, and it really shows. Not only do we have classic fantasy settings filled with strange monsters, but there are also more industrializing parts of the kingdom, with buildings made of copper and automatons! There are tons of interesting creatures, from the hydra-like monster in the water system to giant eagles large enough to ride like horses. It all felt so imaginative, and even amidst the darker themes of the book, pure fun.
The main characters were so incredibly endearing as well! I haven’t come across a character quite like the Ankou/Lazarus in a while; his curse is so unique, and the way that Pentecost handles how it affects both his physical and mental health was so well-thought-out and detailed. He’s both caustically sarcastic and incredibly thoughtful and tender, which is a refreshing combination after years of male YA fantasy characters who were all aloofness. (Plus, can’t deny that he’s got a 10/10 wardrobe) Flora was also a lovely protagonist, so authentically written and wonderfully determined! I love the bisexual rep, and I also love the fact that Pentecost didn’t take the easy way out and automatically throw her into a romance with the Ankou; giving them a platonic relationship was a much wiser (and sweeter) decision, and romance would’ve been weird with him. (Still scarred by many years of authors pairing up their teenage protagonists with love interests who are 100+ years old…)
That Dark Infinity‘s depiction of trauma was also incredibly respectful, which was, again, very refreshing. It’s implied off-page that Flora is raped, but instead of that being a plot point just to amp up the drama in the book and give her a Tragic Backstory™️, her trauma and healing journey is a consistent part of the book. Her healing journey is one that I rarely see in fantasy books, and I’m so glad Pentecost included it as more than an afterthought. And another addition to why I love the Ankou—he was also incredibly considerate when her triggers resurfaced, making their friendship all the more strong. Again—I’d be hard-pressed to find a male protagonist written quite like this, and I’m grateful for both Flora and the Ankou as characters.
My only major gripe with That Dark Infinity was the ending. It was a…weird way to resolve the book, to say the least? Without spoiling it, I’ll say that it felt rather rushed, but in the end, the very last twist made me like it a little more. Even though it took a roundabout way to get there, I liked that Flora and the Ankou got their hopeful endings.
Also—the Ankou/Lazarus was such a fun character design-wise that I decided to draw him! I haven’t shared any art of mine on my blog since middle school (we don’t talk about how this blog was in middle school ), but I figured it would be an artistic challenge (since I’ve never really drawn skulls without a reference) and a fun addition to the review. So here we are—my interpretation of the Ankou!
and here’s my sketch/practice page, just for fun:
All in all, an inventive standalone fantasy that was tender, inventive, and truly one of a kind. 4.5 stars!
That Dark Infinity is a standalone, but Kate Pentecost is also the author of Elysium Girls.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.
It’s been another quiet week, and college is looming closer and closer still…don’t wanna think about that…I haven’t been busy, though, so that’s always nice. I’ve had a lot of time to read and draw, so that’s always good to be able to collect my thoughts like that. It’s been rather hot, though, so that’s…not ideal.
I finished up Camp NaNoWriMo last Sunday night, and I got to 45,000 words! I’ve been continuing with the first draft of this WIP ever since, and it’s at around 52,000 words right now, and I’d say it’s getting pretty close to being finished! Whew…
I wasn’t able to go to the library last week, so I ended up trawling the Kindle library for books to read last week. I was in a major fantasy mood this week for no particular reason, so that’s what I ended up reading. It was a hit-or-miss batch, but there were a couple of great books I discovered! (I also unintentionally read a bunch of autumnal/wintry books…in 80+ degree weather) I got a promising batch from the library this week too.
Other than that, I’ve just been playing guitar, continuing with What We Do in the Shadows, rewatching Severance, and finally getting around to Ms. Marvel (it’s one of my favorite marvel comics, so you can definitely expect a review of the show soon!), and seeing Nope in theaters (my first Jordan Peele movie—loved all the detail and the creature design!!). My other cat, Anakin, also celebrates his 15th birthday today, so everybody say happy birthday to our little crotchety old man 💗
I was in the mood for some sci-fi, and this one was available on the Kindle library and seemed fun, so it was perfect. I originally found out about it from a review by Kate @ Feathered Turtle Press (thanks, Kate!)
How much time do you think you will take to finish your current read?
August Kitko is on the longer side (465 pages on the Kindle edition), so maybe one or two more days.
What genre would you like to read next?
I was in a fantasy mood for the first half of the week, but I think I’m leaning more towards sci-fi now (hence August Kitko). I think I’ll pick up some more sci-fi before my library books come in.
What would you like to pick: a long read or a short read?
It doesn’t matter much to me, but I think I’d prefer something in the middle—something that’ll keep me going for a while, but not something overly long.
Mention some books you’re eyeing!
I just got a notification that the copy of Alone Out Herethat I put on hold at the library came in! This will be my second Riley Redgate book—I thought Final Draftwas alright, but this sounds like a very different book, so I’m excited.
I’d seen this book floating around for a while, and the promised blend of sci-fi and fantasy hooked me in. But soon after I started The Blood Trials, it proved to be a disappointment to me—although there’s a great discussion of systemic racism and misogyny, the rest of the book lacked steady worldbuilding, and the writing tried too hard to be gritty.
Ikenna is the granddaughter of a prominent politician; both of them drew scrutiny from within the Republic of Mareen for their Khanian heritage, so Ikenna was trained in self-defense and blood magic by her grandfather in secret. But when her grandfather is assassinated, Ikenna suspects foul play—none other than the Praetorian Guard, the elite military might of the Republic of Mareen, could have orchestrated his murder. Determined to find his killer, Ikenna climbs through the ranks of the Praetorians, fighting her way to the top to avenge the death of her grandfather. But what she finds deep within the Praetorian Guard is worse than she could have ever imagined.
TW/CW: graphic violence, murder, loss of loved ones, racism, misogyny, substance abuse (alcohol)
The Blood Trials had a ton of potential, but it ultimately felt like an early draft as opposed to a finished book—although it had some great commentary on systemic racism and misogyny, the lack of worldbuilding and the writing style made for a book that failed to hook me once I got started.
I’ll start with the one thing I did appreciate about The Blood Trials—there were some great themes of how racism and misogyny, more often than not, run deeper than surface interactions and are embedded into the very fabric of a society. Ikenna’s experience in the Republic of Mareen mirrors so much of the sociopolitical climate of the U.S. and beyond, and it served as a timely and cogent commentary on how society systemically oppresses women, people of color, and other marginalized groups.
Beyond that, however, The Blood Trials consistently fell flat. I was excited to see how Davenport would blend sci-fi and fantasy into her world, but other than a base conflict that served as the origins for the Republic of Mareen and the surrounding countries, it left a lot to be desired. There wasn’t any indication of how magic and technology existed, what role technology played in this society, or how humans existed in this place in the first place. The magic system was even more so—all I could glean was that the blood gift was passed down genetically and very few possessed it. For such an interesting concept, I’m sad that The Blood Trials left me wanting more.
Additionally, the writing style did little to invest me in the story. I’ve seen a lot of reviews mix this up as YA, and that’s understandable—even though this book is technically billed as adult, it did feel like a YA book masquerading as an edgy, gritty adult novel. And this is coming from someone who predominantly reads YA—even from me, it felt like Davenport was trying too hard to make it “adult,” what with the excessive, graphic violence, the frequent swearing, and the sex. I don’t have a problem with any of those, but they all felt intentionally amped up to make the book more “adult” as opposed to making it more of a fleshed-out story.
Ikenna’s character was also an example of how Davenport’s writing style failed to hit the mark. She should, in theory, have been a character that would be easy to root for, especially given the themes of the story. But she tragically falls into the trap of a “Strong Female Character™️” who just ends up being a woman written with traditionally masculine traits without any sense of vulnerability. Even though her motives were good enough to move the plot along, Davenport was, again, trying far too hard to make her tough, and left her without any other character traits. Her main motive was to avenge her grandfather, and yet her grief was glossed over to the point of nonexistence in favor of making her tough and stoic. Similarly, most of the other characters seemed to come and go without consequence, only having a few base traits and disappearing and reappearing seemingly at Davenport’s will.
The Blood Trials also could have done with a little slimming down; for me, it could have easily ended after Ikenna beats the Praetorian Trials. The last 100 pages felt like they could have been a setup for the second book in the duology, but they were shoehorned sloppily into the last quarter of the book. I’d already lost my faith in most of the book by then, but those last pages only served to make it even less cohesive.
All in all, a sci-fi/fantasy novel that brings great commentary to the table, but lacked in worldbuilding and writing. 2 stars.
The Blood Trials is the first book in the Blood Gift duology, followed by the forthcoming sequel The Blood Gift, set for release in April 2023. The Blood Trials is N.E. Davenport’s debut novel.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! Hope this week has treated you well.
It’s been a fairly uneventful week on my end; other than tagging along with my mom to run some errands, I haven’t left the house much this week. I’ve been trying to exercise a bit more—and I have, a little bit—but most of my days have been spent reading on the couch. Not complaining in the slightest. I was gonna go hiking, but after some storms, there was apparently a flash flood AND snow (???) at the place we were going to go, so…nope.
Reading-wise, I’ve had another prolific reading week. Most of it’s been in the 2-3 star range, but by the end of the week, I’d read something incredibly powerful but that made me feel rather sad (Man o’ War), and a sudden 5-star read that made me cry, but…in a good way? (The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects—the short comic “The Magician and the Snake” was the tearjerker in question). I didn’t have a chance to go to the library, so I’ll be trawling the Kindle library for books to read this week.
And now, Camp NaNoWriMo is almost done! I’m about 97% of the way to my goal, and I’ll finish it up tonight!! This year’s Camp was all about feeling my way through—the story, the website, and everything else—and I think it’s gone relatively well!
Other than that, I’ve just been drawing, playing guitar, watching the new episodes of What We Do in the Shadows, and giving one of my cats an extra chicken treat for her birthday. Hobbes turned 6 on Monday.
As you can see above, the melting emoji represents my slow melting, a la the Wicked Witch of the West, because July in Colorado always threatens to melt me into a slushy puddle. At least we got some rain. (And hail, one time? got enough that it looked like snow in certain parts of the yard…)
Hot as it was, I’d say that July was another good month of summer. I’ve had tons more time to read and relax, and even though college is always on my mind nowadays, the time off has been good to collect my thoughts. I’ve gone hiking a few times, seen some fun movies, and tried to exercise a little more.
I got to read tons this month, and although it was generally a mixed bag (a lot more books in the 3-star range than usual), I still found some gems in the mix. For Disability Pride Month, I tried to focus on books with disabled characters, and I’ve found some reads with great disability rep—including the first book I’ve ever read with SPD rep! (Thanks, Carolyn Mackler!!) Camp NanoWriMo is nearly over—it’s had its ups and downs (couldn’t find the stats page for a while and fell behind on my word count, hit command v instead of command b and accidentally pasted the whole Pinnochio trailer into my document), but I’m so close to 45,000 words now!!
Other than that, I’ve just been playing my guitar, recovering from the last two episodes of Stranger Things (OW), seeing Thor: Love and Thunder (pure Taika Waititi fun), drawing, and listening to an excess of Peter Gabriel.
Also, I figured I’d give everybody an update on Ringo, since I haven’t posted about him much since we got him; he’s 7 months old now and even more of a menace to society, but he has the sweetest face…
READING AND BLOGGING:
I read 25 books this month! This is probably gonna be the most books I’ll be able to read in a month, since it’s the middle of summer. It was a mixed bag, as always, but I found a few amazing 5-star reads in the bunch.
I wish I could put this one in flashing neon letters or skywriting or something, because my awesome brother has a blog too!!! he writes tons of short stories, poetry, and music/movie reviews, so go follow him!!!
Even though this blog is primarily about books, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that music has had an equally profound effect on my life. Raised by two music nerds, I grew up listening to tons of Beatles and Bowie, and as I grew older, I began to mark periods of my life by the music I listened to. But there are always certain albums that leave an unmistakable mark on our lives. Some of mine have been steadfast favorites, and others I’ve only discovered in the past few months. All of them, however, have had a profound effect on me, whether it’s just been the experiencing something that’s just so, so good or marking a specific period in my life. So here are, right now, my 10 favorite albums.
Let’s begin, shall we?
🎵THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S TOP 10 FAVORITE ALBUMS🎵
10. Snail Mail – Lush (2018)
The summer of 2018 was a strange one for me—the summer before high school, and the summer I started seriously questioning my sexuality. I have Lush to thank for getting me through a lot of it, with Lindsey Jordan’s soaring guitar riffs and searingly vulnerable lyrics shining through in a debut like no other. Snail Mail is partially what inspired me to pick up the guitar—and I definitely think meeting her at a show that summer when I was a wee bisexual did something to my pubescent brain that I wouldn’t recover from…💀
9. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World (2001)
I remember hearing tracks like “Sidewalk Serfer Girl” and “(Drawing) Rings Around the World” from when I was about 5, but it wasn’t until this March that I appreciated this masterpiece of an album in its entirety. Something that makes me love a piece of media—be it a book, a movie, an album, or anything else—that much more is that if there’s clear evidence of how much love and care was put into it. And it’s blatantly evident here—Rings Around the World is brimming with creativity, and through all of the genres of music they explore, there isn’t a single miss. There’s something so fully-formed about it, like it just came into the world like Athena bursting forth from the skull of Zeus.
This album’s one that’s been a constant in my life; Wilco is one of my dad’s favorite bands, and I’ve been hearing them for so long that they’ve become inextricably linked to my personal history. (Wilco was my first concert, at the age of 8!) But this album in particular is the most special of theirs to me; like Rings Around the World, I’ve been listening to isolated songs from it for years, but the whole album is a true work of art, sonically and lyrically immersive and always emotionally moving and potent.
Another gem from the summer of 2018, this one always brings to mind dozens of fond memories—seeing Car Seat Headrest live (and subsequently tainting all of my concert videos from my off-key scream-singing), repainting my room, going on vacation in Chicago. Car Seat Headrest have been a favorite of mine since around 8th grade, but the more I think about it, the more Teens of Denial in particular stands out as my favorite album—clever, vulnerable, raw, and perfect for 14-year-old me to scream along to.
As I said earlier, I was undoubtably raised on the Beatles; some of my earliest memories are of hearing songs like “Good Day Sunshine” and “Yellow Submarine” in the car, and I’ve adored them ever since. I’ve flip-flopped between albums for a favorite Beatles album for years, and it feels like it changes with my mood; some days, it was Revolver, other times it was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But between having some of my favorite Beatles songs of all time and the solace it gave me in the early days of quarantine, The White Album takes the top spot for me—I think “I’m So Tired” is my most played song on my whole iTunes library. (somehow I’ve played it over 2,500 times?? didn’t even know I was capable of such a thing 💀)
5. Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997)
I fell in love with Spiritualized, as a lot of people seemed to do, after hearing the title track, “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.” Ever since then, they’ve held a truly special place in my heart; I rediscovered them in quarantine, and this album in particular has held a top spot for me ever since. Despite all the abject heartbreak, addiction, and general melancholy present through this album (and all of J. Spaceman’s music), there’s a cosmic, immersive quality to his music that swallows me like a wave with every song. Listening to Spiritualized is more than just music—it’s an experience in and of itself.
Like Super Furry Animals, I’ve been hearing scattered Blur songs throughout my childhood, “Song 2,” “Coffee & TV,” and “Charmless Man” being standouts. But it wasn’t until last summer that I got back into Blur—really into Blur. (You all witnessed the Blurification of this blog last year…) There’s something instantly hooking about their songs—the clever lyrics, the punchy guitars that seem to burst out of your headphones. But 13 is uniquely special to me; it was my musical companion in a strange, transitionary period of my life (the beginning of senior year and being a legal adult…somehow?). Beyond that, it’s so clear that so much time and love went into this record—through every high and low, there’s a consistent resonance that you can feel in your chest. It’s a masterpiece. It’s an album that I’ve come back to ever since when I’ve felt low—there’s a healing quality to it.
Favorite track: “Tender”—also my favorite song of all time, at the moment
3. St. Vincent – St. Vincent (2014)
St. Vincent, without a doubt, is responsible for shaping some of my most formative years. Middle school was a weird time for me—I was struggling with friendships, forming my identity, and getting teased for the things I loved so passionately. And here was St. Vincent, this confident, ridiculously talented musician who wielded her guitar like a sword into battle. So you can imagine how I got attached to her. Even if MASSEDUCTION made me lose a little faith in her for a few years, she’ll always remain as a hero of mine, and St. Vincent in particular will always be a daring, fierce masterpiece that sweeps me off my feet every time—and the album that got me through 6th grade.
Yeah, okay. I fully admit that my toxic trait is genuinely enjoying certain kinds of male manipulator music. But Radiohead will always be an immensely special band to me. “The Daily Mail” was my first exposure to them (thanks, Legion!), but OK Computer opened my eyes to something I’d never experienced before—or, something that I’d overlooked before, but now fully appreciate. Like Spiritualized, every Radiohead song is a fleshed-out landscape, an experience that lifts you off your feet, even when the lyrics are unbearably heartbreaking. OK Computer is an album that I wish I could listen to for the first time again—it’s an unforgettable, dystopian masterpiece, and it’s proved itself to stand the test of time.
David Bowie has been a constant companion in my life; one of my earliest memories that I can think of is hearing “Kooks” in the car. He’s been another hero of mine for years—again, he came to me in middle school, at a time when I was an outsider and unsure of myself, and stood as a glaring reminder to be myself—no matter what. This album in particular is, in my opinion, a perfect album; there isn’t a single bad song, and each one is a world of its own, spinning lyrical tales that span from the cosmic to the tender and everything in between. It’s an album I always come back to, and one that I’ll always hold close. Some of the other albums lower on the list may change or switch orders over the course of my life, but I doubt I’ll ever come across something quite as stellar as this.
Ever read a book because of one aspect people have been telling you about? That was me about Follow Your Arrow—I don’t know if I would have picked it up if not for several people telling me how good the bi rep was. And you know how much of a sucker I am for good bi rep. So I picked it up—and yes, the bi rep and discussions around biphobia were great, but the rest of the story I found to be a little lacking.
CeCe Ross is an influencer with nearly a million followers. Her relationship with her girlfriend of two years, Silvie, has gained an extensive following, with thousands of fawning followers making #Cevie all the rage. But when she and Silvie break up, her life is turned upside-down—both on and offline. To make matters more complicated, she’s met Josh, a musician who has no idea about her online following. Will she be able to reckon with the storm she’s stirred up online—and keep her secret from Josh?
TW/CW: Biphobia, cyberbullying,homophobia
My feelings about Follow Your Arrow can essentially be summed up by that one Reductress article—“Why I Couldn’t Care Less About Your Relationsh—Oh, It’s Gay? Tell Me More.” I don’t think I would’ve picked up this book if not for several people telling me about how great the bisexual rep was, and I liked it on that front. However, it was definitely lacking for me in some of the other departments.
So, the bisexual rep! That aspect of Follow Your Arrow was what stood out most to me, and it was the most well-executed aspect of the book! Verdi did a fantastic job of discussing so many aspects of bisexuality and biphobia, especially about the stigmas of bisexual people in straight-passing relationships. Even though some of the social media aspects of the book weren’t very well-done (more on that later), the backdrop of social media was a perfect setting for CeCe to come into her own. There’s so much discussion about how bisexual people are pigeonholed as simply straight or gay, depending on their relationship, and how even within the queer community, there’s still so much biphobia present. Follow Your Arrow is a solid book for anyone who wants to learn more about bisexuality, and Verdi did a great job of representing it respectfully.
As far as the other aspects of the book…I wasn’t quite as invested. The romance, although the representation of bi people in a straight-passing relationship was great, didn’t hold a lot for me. It’s a pretty standard setup—”she’s an influencer, he’s a hipster musician who doesn’t even have social media! oh boy, how will this work out? he doesn’t even know what ‘ship’ means, tee hee!” It didn’t help that neither CeCe nor Josh were characterized much more beyond a few base character traits. The combination of the cliche pairing without much of an original spin on it (other than CeCe being bi) and the lack of characterization for both parties made me lose interest more than not.
I also had an issue with the writing—it tried way too hard not to date itself, but it ended up backfiring spectacularly. Even though app names (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) weren’t specifically mentioned (there was only the mysterious App…oookay) , the slang peppered in and the excessive use of hashtags at the end of every other paragraph made it feel painfully like a Gen X-er trying to sound “hip.” (How do you do, fellow kids?) CeCe’s status as an influencer didn’t make the hashtags make any more sense—I doubt that even influencers think in random hashtags. It felt weird. Additionally, Follow Your Arrow couldn’t seem to make up its mind about the message it was trying to share about social media; all it got was that there are good and bad aspects of social media, but it never got much more nuanced than that. Given how large of a role social media played in this book, I wish that were more developed.
All in all, a decent rom-com with great discussions around biphobia and bisexuality, but not-so-great writing and an underdeveloped romance. 3 stars.
Follow Your Arrow is a standalone, but Jessica Verdi is also the author of And She Was (really hoping that’s a Talking Heads reference lol), The Summer I Wasn’t Me, What You Left Behind, and several other novels.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!