Posted in Uncategorized

Book Review Tuesday (6/6/23) – If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This book came out around a month ago, and I figured it would be a great read to start off pride month (after a very disappointing biography of Josephine Baker). If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come was my first exposure to Jen St. Jude (it’s her debut, after all), but after this, I’m ready to watch for anything else she writes.

Enjoy this week’s review!

If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come – Jen St. Jude

The news has just broken that an asteroid capable of wiping out the population is headed towards Earth in nine days. Avery Byrne had planned to drown herself on her college campus that day—being closeted from her religious parents, the mounting pressure of college, and undiagnosed depression had become too much to bear. But now, she’s forced to flee her college and face her family. Among them is Cass, her best friend and longtime crush, who she’s been hiding the truth from for years. With nine days until the end of the world, Avery must come face to face with everything that she wanted to run from, but must also realize the hope at the end of the world—maybe she finally has time to make things right.

TW/CW: suicide, suicide attempt(s), suicidal ideations, homophobia, religious bigotry, mental health issues (depression), natural disasters/end of the world scenarios (impending asteroid impact)

This is a heavy one. That can’t be understated enough—I always put trigger warnings before my reviews now, but these ones are really important to keep in mind. If Tomorrow Never Comes is a devastating novel—but a deeply important one, as long as you’re in the mental headspace for it.

That being said, one of the best parts about this novel is how Jen St. Jude handles such topics. It would’ve been easy to romanticize or otherwise dramatize Avery’s very real struggles with mental health and queer identity, but everything was handled with such care and grace. It’s clearly a very personal novel; nothing is glossed over, but nothing is overblown to amp up the tension needlessly. We’re very slowly coming out of the post-13 Reasons Why romanticization of suicide and mental health issues, so it’s very important that books like these exist to counteract that—presenting these subjects exactly as they are.

All of the relationships were also done so well in this novel! Each character was crafted with so much care, and the interactions that each one had with the other really made them stand out. The forced reunion of Avery, her friends, and her extended family in the event of the asteroid created so many moments that felt refreshingly human—messy and hard to read at times (part of the ending made me cry, full disclosure), but authentic and genuine. Again—in the face of an onslaught of very dramatic apocalypse-oriented YA in the past, it’s so nice to see one that’s full of emotion, but more in the way of real, interpersonal relationships and not 2012 love triangles in the face of impending doom.

That being said, I did have one major problem with this novel. I liked the format that St. Jude had where the novel was split into Avery’s past and present, but the flashback chapters felt somewhat stilted compared to the present day chapters. They leaned a lot more on telling—giving us information about Avery’s life, friends, and family in a very rote way, as opposed to letting all that bloom naturally. It’s even stranger considering that the present chapters didn’t have this problem at all—maybe it was just some kinks to work out when writing in Avery’s past tense. With all of the heart that this novel had, it just left me wishing for something as fluid as the other chapters.

I’ve seen some people complaining about the ending, but I feel like this novel couldn’t have ended any other way. This novel was always going to be about relationships during the apocalypse, and the mechanics of the apocalypse weren’t meant to be the star of the show. I will admit that I had to turn back to check that yes, this really was the end, it felt like the quiet, tender ending that this novel deserved.

All in all, an emotional and deeply personal story of love at the end of the world. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a standalone, and it is Jen St. Jude’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 Uncategorized

YA Book Recommendations for Pride Month (2023 Edition) 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Here we are again in pride month! It certainly is a joyous time of year, but in the past few years, it’s been a difficult one, too. All across the country, we have seen waves of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and the rhetoric that queer people are unnatural and wish to convert your children has spread like wildfire. We’ve also seen a dangerous increase in book bans—particularly by queer authors and authors of color. Books with diverse perspectives aren’t harming children—depriving children of these books is the dangerous part. Now more than ever is it important to read diversely: there’s never any harm in seeing a different perspective through literature. And if you’re really that concerned about “protecting the children,” maybe you should advocate for stricter gun laws instead of worrying about drag queen story hour.

In past years, I’ve split this post up into multiple (organized by genre), but I decided to make it all one post this year to keep it all more organized.

For my previous pride month lists, see below:


  • MC: main character
  • LI: love interest
  • SC: side character

Enjoy this month’s Pride Month book recommendations!






TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite queer reads that you’ve read recently? Have you read any books on this list, and what did you think of them? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 6/4/23

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

And more importantly, happy pride to each and every one of you! I’ll say a bit more about that in my annual pride recommendations post (working on it as we speak), but for now, here’s what I have to say: the past year has been incredibly difficult for the queer community, but it’s important to remember that amidst all of the anti-lgbtq+ legislation, that they can never take away our happiness—queer joy is an act of resistance. We’re still here, so get used to it. And please, buy your pride merch from somewhere other than…y’know, Walmart. Queer small businesses make better stuff, anyways.

On a lighter note, I really wish I’d found this clip earlier…I would’ve used it to come out to so many people, you have no idea…

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Oom Sha La La” – Haley Heynderickx

There’s no whiplash quite like searching for this song on YouTube, and then seeing that one of the top results is “oom sha la la leafpool.” I kid you not. Glad to see that the Warrior Cats fandom is alive and kickin’ and making AMVs like it’s 2014. I did hear that the main series is still going (I stopped at the 5th series 🥴), and now there’s canonically…[checks notes] cats getting possessed? I’m not even gonna touch that. Call me an uptight old boomer, but everything was just fine back in the good old days, when it was just cats committing heinous war crimes against each other. Moving on…

I Need to Start a Garden has earned its place on my Sisyphean album bucket list ever since my brother turned me onto “The Bug Collector” by way of his girlfriend. I loved the latter, melancholy and full of creepy crawlies as it is, but this one immediately snagged me like a fish getting unceremoniously reeled up from the depths of a lake. There’s a comforting steadiness to this song; anchored by Heynderickx’s warm voice, it gently cups you into its hands like you’re a moth stuck in the house. Neat, glossy guitars buoy along a plethora of razor-sharp, wonderfully oddball lyrics—I doubt the words “arbitrary” and “sonogram” will ever be paired together again, unless Bon Iver or Ezra Koenig come along and steal it. (Obvious Bicycle 2?) But beyond that, “Oom Sha La La” is one of those songs that feels universally relatable. Judging from both my brother’s reaction and the YouTube comments, there’s a nugget of truth for everybody in this one—everybody’s had a moment in their life when they’ve come to the impetus that they need to get off of their butts, shake off the dust of the past, and get their lives together. For me, it reminds me of when I first started college—being so afraid to do anything and everything, but that saving voice telling me that “If you don’t go outside/well, nothing’s gonna happen.” And that impetus comes in the speeding catharsis train of Heynderickx’s cry of “I NEED TO START A GARDEN!”, which was apparently accompanied at one of her concerts with potting soil raining from the ceiling like confetti. There’s no use in waiting for the dirt to rain on you, in the end—you have the scream inside you, telling you that nobody but you can steer your life for the better. You have the power.

“Paprika” – Japanese Breakfast

I’m new-ish to Japanese Breakfast, but now that I’ve seen a video from a friend of mine who saw her a few weeks back, the best part of this song, by far, is that Michelle Zauner drags a whole gong onstage for this song. I really don’t think I need to justify that.

Every time I listen to “Paprika,” I get this voice in my head that slaps me upside the head, chiding me for not getting into more Japanese Breakfast right this second. Trust me, the only thing keeping me from it is my self-imposed need to get through a) some albums that are too hard to draw on a whiteboard (Here Come the Warm Jets) and b) get through all of the Blur and Peter Gabriel I have left to listen to before both of their new albums. This song, though, is absolutely enchanting—there’s no better word for it. Like so many of her other songs, it coats you in an intoxicating cloud of glitter, backed by faint steel drums and a bright horn ensemble. It really does feel like you’re “at the center of magic,” as Zauner chimes in at the chorus. It’s a shame that the famous gong is understated, but the sound mixing blends it perfectly with the rest of the instrumentals, paring it down to a clean crispness that seems to disappear into glittering sparks. I would’ve thought it was a cymbal, if it weren’t for said friend’s video footage. But that all works to uplift Zauner’s voice, bright and perfectly suited to the swirl of light surrounding her. Maybe she is the swirl of light.

“Breakadawn” – De La Soul

There’s something undeniably summery about this song. You can say that with certainty for the entirety of Three Feet High and Rising, with its carefree spirit and day-glo-colored album cover, but there’s a different kind of carefree slickness of “Breakadawn.” Smoothly collaged with samples from everybody from Michael Jackson (the backing track) to Smokey Robinson (the famous “breakadawn”), this song is proof of how seamlessly you can weave samples into a song—they all sound so natural together that they might as well have been borne together from the start. And what better soundtrack for watching Plug 1, Plug 2, Plug 3, and their many clones (?) walking along the beach and making camera moves that feel like proto-selfies? There’s no denying the shift in tone post-Three Feet High and Rising, but every song I’ve heard from Buhloone Mindstate is convincing me that this ethos never really left—in the end, this song is still filled with vibrant, summer colors that are impossible to deny. What better song to stick your head out a car window on a warm day to?

“Allison” – Soccer Mommy

We’ve got an Allison trifecta on this post, I guess? A song called “Allison,” made by my wife Sophie Allison, and an Al(l)ison Goldfrapp down below? Are we summoning Allisons here? (And can I summon the second one?)

Collection is Soccer Mommy’s first mini-album before her major label releases, and this was one of the few new songs amidst the other redone songs from when she self-released music on Bandcamp. Knowing this, it’s clear to see the sonic bridge between these periods of her career—the maturity of later albums like color theory comes through—this one reminds me of “night swimming”—but the young angst, painted with her tender, gentle touch, feels timeless. Allison’s guitar work has her signature, bedroom-pop touch of reverb and soul, and every bit of the song rings out like birdsong heard through the wind. It’s interesting that she likely named the song after herself—with that in mind, the song transforms from somebody else’s story to a mantra to her past self, a reminder of missed chances: “Allison, put down your sword/Give up what you’re fighting for.” There’s another layer of intimacy that manifests knowing that Allison crafted a lot of these earlier songs from pieces of her own diary entries—does it get more heart-laid-bare than that? It’s proof that from the beginning, Allison had no interest in being disingenuous—every song she writes is her, and nothing but—no airs put on, no glamorizing her life. I guess that almost comes with her bedroom pop, homemade roots, but I doubt that every single one of those musicians stay as true to themselves as she does.

“Monster Love” (Goldfrapp vs. Spiritualized) – Goldfrapp & Spiritualized

This is the only song that I’ve heard Spiritualized remix/reimagine, but it feels like he is to “Monster Love” what Denis Villeneuve was to Arrival: taking something that’s already beautiful, and artfully exceeding all of the qualities that made it so.

Goldfrapp and Spiritualized is a pairing that I never would’ve imagined, and yet, J. Spaceman has deconstructed her Seventh Tree album closer, already a beautifully introspective song, into…well, just pure J. Spaceman. All of the lyrics from the original have been stripped, save for this line: “Everything comes around/Bringing us back again/Here is where we start/And where we end.” Just from that, it already sounds like the words to a Spiritualized song, but it’s so fascinating to see the J. Spaceman Cosmic Touch™️ applied elsewhere. Alison Goldfrapp’s voice is cloaked in reverb, and the synths rise and fall like waves. Accompanying them is a series of chimes, harmonica, tambourine, which, if any other person was reimagining this song, would sound exceedingly out of place, but again—the J. Spaceman Cosmic Touch™️. His voice feels perfectly natural for the landscape he and Goldfrapp have created, his staticky harmonies melding smoothly into the music and drifting away just as quickly. It’s not surprising that Spiritualized would have such a Midas’ Touch on anything he lays a finger on, really.

Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

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

Posted in Monthly Wrap-Ups

May 2023 Wrap-Up 🌂

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles! Hope this month has treated you well.

How is it already the end of May? It feels like I was trying to get dust bunnies out of the corners of my dorm room just a few days ago…(so many dust bunnies 😭)

Let’s begin, shall we?


Whew! May has been pretty busy, but everything’s…temporarily winding down. I finished up my finals and managed to make straight A’s this semester—I just found out I got on the dean’s list, too! Still can’t believe I’m already finished with my first semester of college; it was such a scary and jarring experience at first, but I’m already finding myself missing parts of it. What a weird and wonderful year it’s been. Now that I’m back home for the summer, I’ve just been trying to soak it all up—I’ve had a few quiet weeks, but I’ll be going back to the library soon, which I’m so excited about!

My reading and blogging have both still been slower, with all of the bustle of finishing…everything, but I’m starting to get back on track now that summer’s started. I’m slowly trying to get back on a writing schedule as well—I ended up deciding to write the sequel to my main sci-fi WIP, and once I finish outlining it (which I’m in the middle of right now), I’ll get back on my writing schedule. That’ll probably be what I end up working on for Camp NaNoWriMo in July…

Other than that, I’ve just been drawing more, playing guitar, watching Kindred (Octavia Butler deserves a better adaptation), committing to binge-watching my way through Taskmaster (there’s strength in arches, y’know), and enjoying being home. We’re still in the “summer, but not disastrously hot yet” stage here in Colorado, so I’m enjoying that while it lasts…

And more importantly, I’m going to a virtual Q & A with the one and only AMIE KAUFMAN tonight!! I CAN’T WAIT!!


I read 18 books this month! My reading’s still a bit slowed down after finals and moving out (!!!), but I still feel like I read a good amount. It was a really mixed bag, though—two 1 star books (one was a DNF, the other would’ve been had I not been trying to wait out a lightning storm before going to sleep 🥴), but THREE 5-star (one rounded up from 4.75) books! Can’t remember the last time the former happened. Either way, I found a ton of great reads for AAPI heritage month, and finally got my hands on some of my most anticipated reads of the year!

If this month’s 1 star reads are any indication, maybe the word “monster” is the problem…?

1 – 1.75 stars:

Only a Monster

2 – 2.75 stars:

This Is Not a Personal Statement

3 – 3.75 stars:

The Art of Prophecy

4 – 4.75 stars:

The Isles of the Gods

5 stars:

A Thousand Steps into Night

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE MONTH: The Stonewall Reader 5 stars




[castanet insanity ensures]
Kindred was a disappointment but this cover is great
I don’t know if I’m completely committed to listening to this album all the way through yet but I WILL EVENTUALLY IT’S JUST LONG

Today’s song:

I have not felt peace since this was uploaded to bandcamp on Sunday night

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 (5/30/23) – The Memory Police

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I forget how exactly I came across this novel, but it was one of the first books that I put on my Libby wish list way back in March 2020, when I lived off of Kindle books. At the time it was always on hold for weeks when I tried to check it out, and so gradually, it faded to the bottom of the list. But after years of forgetting about it, I rediscovered this novel—and it was finally available! Usually, literary science fiction doesn’t always do it for me, but The Memory Police was a strangely quiet dystopia with a powerful undercurrent.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Memory Police – Yōko Ogawa (translated by Stephen Snyder)

A young writer leads a quiet life on a distant, unnamed island, grieving a multitude of losses. Her parents passed away many years ago, but it isn’t just people that are disappearing—it’s objects, animals, and ideas as well: hats, birds, ribbons, and all manner of things. Once they disappear, nobody on the island has any recollection of their existence—they simply fade from public memory. And to enforce this, the island is under the iron fist of the Memory Police, who are there to make sure that these forgotten things stay that way. But she seems to be one of the only people who still clings to the memory of what’s been lost.

When the writer’s editor falls under suspicion from the Memory Police, she hatches a plan to hide him under her floorboards, silently completing her novel as they evade capture. And as more and more objects begin to fade into obscurity, her writing may be the only thing left to cling to.

TW/CW: loss of loved ones (past), kidnapping, police brutality

The Memory Police has been compared time and time again to 1984, and the comparison is clear, but it seemed to take a more literary approach. And while the “literary” part initially made me suspicious, this was one of the most creative and wholly human dystopian novels that I’ve read in a long time!

What sets The Memory Police apart from most other dystopias that you can think of is its perspective. We aren’t given an extensive history as to how the unnamed island came to be under such totalitarian rule, and how everything began disappearing and why. Nor do any of the characters—save for the main character’s editor, referred to only as ‘R’ in this translation—have names, save for their roles or jobs (the protagonist’s parents) or their physical appearance (the old man). All this book seeks to do is give you an ordinary person’s view into something haunting—the protagonist is just as confused as you are, and she is moving through this world in the only way that she can. Naturally, I was curious about the main plot points (how and why everything was disappearing, and how the Memory Police came to be), but I got that the point wasn’t to explain such things, but to see it happening firsthand through somebody else’s eyes, when they may know about as much as we do. I assumed the Memory Police were in control of what disappeared and they had some degree of immunity, which I was curious about, but the decision to omit these details at least made sense as a stylistic choice.

Make no mistake—The Memory Police is certainly haunting, but there’s a quietness to it that makes it stand out from the rest. In this state-surveilled, isolated island environment, this novel is the closest thing that you can get to a slice-of-life story. Other than some chilling instances involving break-ins by the Memory Police, it’s the story of one woman flying under the radar and trying to write her novel as the world is crumbling around her. There’s a constant fear surrounding everything, but in between, she finds time to craft a novel, share secret memories about her parents’ world and what they loved, and hold parties from an elderly man who helps keep her editor hidden. Sometimes, frightening change doesn’t come in the form of something obvious—it’s often slow and goes unnoticed, and it is the small things that keep us going through it.

Literary science fiction like this often comes off like it’s trying to be better than “regular” science fiction, like it boasts some lofty message that your common novel can’t possible get across. I’m glad to say that The Memory Police does none of that—some of the writing does fit that style, but nothing about it comes across as belittling or haughty. In fact, it has an incredibly powerful message. With all of the plot centering around the loss of memory and holding on to the last remnants of a past world, the ending made an incredibly powerful statement: as long as there is somebody around to keep a memory of something alive, memories never really die—they always stay with us. It’s a beautiful message on loss, and about resistance in general—maybe the most powerful thing we can do in the face of tyranny is to know that there is a way to change things, and hold memories of what our forebears did in the face of similar situations. This book is proof that dystopias don’t have to be flashy and overtly gritty to get their themes across—quietness can be just as powerful.

All in all, a nontraditional dystopia that made an incredible impact from reveling in its quiet moments. 4 stars!

The Memory Police is a standalone, but Yōko Ogawa is the author of many other novels that have been translated into several different languages, including Revenge, The Housekeeper and the Professor, Hotel Iris, and more.

Today’s song:

Peter Gabriel Summer 2 is upon us

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

Posted in Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 5/28/23

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

This is gonna be a fun one. By coincidence, the fault lines of Palehound Panic™️ and my recently reawakened Blur Breakdown™️ have collided in the span of a week. Let’s hope the results won’t be cataclysmic.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Black Friday” – Palehound

I’ve finally finished my quest to catch up on Palehound (the albums, at least) before Eye on the Bat. Over the past week or so, Black Friday has been in heavy rotation—it feels like El Kempner’s most cohesive and lyrically strong album, and it might just be my favorite of theirs so far. It was a feat to pick just one song from this album—“Worthy,” “Aaron,” and “Killer” were all strong contenders (GO LISTEN THEY’RE ALL SO GOOD)—but the title track, “Black Friday,” stuck out to me in so many ways.

Palehound often leaves the introspection for a handful of songs at the end of each album, but the personal threads run deep throughout the entirety of Black Friday. This song in particular hits a particularly emotional note—it’s a continued story of catching up with old friends, all the while having a nagging feeling that they don’t care about you now, and that they never cared much about you before, either. Yet somehow, you still feel tied to them by some kind of desperate obligation, a lingering thought that maybe things can change, but knowing they won’t; Kempner sings that “I’ll take being the last one that you call/You’re Black Friday and I’m going to the mall.” The chorus of “Before you said we’d keep in touch/I don’t hear from you too much/If you need to call me, I’m too weak to hold a grudge,” with Kempner’s layered harmonies, glitter like the edges of stars and ring out like a faint sound of a jet flying overhead. It was a song that felt like a punch in the stomach, all while I was just trying to give myself a nice manicure. Afterwards, I had to sit back for a minute…there will always be those songs that hit a little too close to home for comfort, and they always come when you least expect them to. But songs like “Black Friday” give a voice to the feelings that we think, in our darkest moments, are isolated only to only us. So thank you for that, El Kempner. Here’s to making friends with people who really do care, and not chasing after people who don’t.

“The Narcissist” – Blur

All is right in the universe. Nature is healing. We’ve got a new Blur album out in July…everything’s okay again…

…and this song is testing my ability to spell the word “narcissist.” I could’ve sworn that there was another ‘c’ in there somewhere…

I’ve got to hand it to Damon Albarn at this point—he’s having not one, but two of his projects (this and Gorillaz) releasing albums this year, and even if Cracker Island was a bit of a disappointment, the sheer creativity and talent is all there regardless. Knowing that the forthcoming The Ballad of Darren was a spur-of-the-moment kind of reunion makes it all the more impressive—they didn’t plan on making another album in the first place, and then they come out with this?

That being said…I’m not sure if it’s Blur’s best, but it’s still a great song. I didn’t listen to it on repeat while cleaning out my closet last week for no reason. It’s such a catchy tune—the instrumentals are a little understated, but it’s clean, it’s smooth, and it’s proof that Blur have mastered the art of a polished Britpop tune. My only problem, as much as I’ll sing praises for Damon Albarn, is that there’s too much Damon Albarn. It’s not something that I’d ever picture myself saying, but we live in strange times. “The Narcissist,” delightful earworm that it is, feels more like a solo Damon Albarn effort than a Blur song. Even though we do get Graham Coxon’s backing vocals, I find myself missing his captivating, intricate riffs. You can hardly hear the presence of Alex James’ iconic basslines. And Dave Rowntree’s precise drumming is still there, but again: understated. I just want more Blur, less Damon Albarn.

All that is to say that, for once, the fact that we’re getting a whole new Blur album overshadows most of the nitpicks I have about “The Narcissist.” I have a feeling that I’m gonna enjoy Hot Blur Summer.

“I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to Be Nicer” – The Cardigans

If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought this was a Giant Drag song—it’s got a very similar kind of bite. I’ve only listened to First Band on the Moon, but this song has me wondering what happened between that and their final record, Super Extra Gravity. I wouldn’t call it a sea change—it’s still got the pop sensibility that Nina Persson perfected to a science, but there’s an undeniable roughness to the song that pushes it more towards the edges. Persson’s voice, although it retains her signature, dainty tone, curls into a rasp as the song begins with half-spoken dog commands—”Sit/good dog/stay/bad dog/down/roll over.” The rest of that song is as bitter as the intro suggests, singing of a relationship gone sour, dulled by alcohol and fleeting visions of lost love. The Cardigans have toyed with these kinds of songs, but this one really makes the feel come through—it’s still a pop song through and through, but the sharpening of the guitars on this one make the image really come to life. “I Need Some Fine Wine” is, in short, Nina Persson’s hairdo in most of the video—it coexists as the neatly braided crown and the spiky hairs coming out all at once.

“Sinnerman” – Nina Simone

Full disclosure: I hoard reaction images. Too many. But even a refined reaction image connoisseur such as myself knows that some images are only suited for very specific, sacred times. You can’t go about wasting them willy-nilly, even if they are just…well, sitting on your phone. It’s not every day that something can evoke the feeling contained in this image, for instance:

But that’s how “Sinnerman” feels. All the way through.

Every TV show and film that this song has been featured in has cut it tragically short; and no, I don’t mean to call Gerard Way and Taika Waititi cowards, because they clearly aren’t, but also…if you’re going to include this song in anything, you have to go the whole mile—the 10:19 mile, to be exact. And if there’s any song that commands the listener to sprint through its entire length, it’s this one.

I can take longer songs, but there’s a specific art to crafting them: for me, if a song goes past the 6 or 7 minute mark, there has to be something that keeps me listening—that applies to any song, technically, but if you have that long of a song that mostly consists of repetition, you’ve started to lose me (lookin’ at you, LCD Soundsystem…you can pull it off sometimes…). Oingo Boingo’s sprawling, nearly 16 minute long swan song “Change,” for instance, has plenty of recurring musical motifs, but it keeps you on your toes, whether that be with artfully-placed oddball instrumentation or bizarre samples. But there’s a way that long song repetition can be done—my favorite song of all time, in fact, does just that; Blur’s “Tender” has a somewhat tidier format, but they bypass the LCD Soundsystem syndrome not just with breaks for Graham Coxon’s bluesy riffs and choir, but by fueling it with nothing but Emotion with a capital E—”love’s the greatest thing,” after all.

“Sinnerman,” however, does both of those things—it’s essentially the mother of every epic, extensively long song that you can think of. Even knowing the years that Nina Simone was active, it still amazes me that this was released in 1965. I could almost understand it if it had been the late sixties, when everybody started to realized how freeing musical experimentation was. Simone’s musical career was defined by pushing against so many barriers, from her protest music to her incredible piano skills, but this song pushed the envelope in such a wildly different way. Through all 10+ minutes, there’s an energy that seems to live and breathe and never stop—even when the music begins to die down in favor of Simone’s piano and a chorus of clapping. It’s a song on a desperate mission, one that takes no prisoners and never stops to catch its breath. Even though the song is an amalgamation of scattered 50’s songs, gospel, African spirituals, and remnants from her own religious upbringing, it can be easily reduced to a single word, one that Simone famously belts out near the song’s climactic ending—”power.” I can’t think of many other songs that grab you by the shirt collar and keep you hanging there quite like this—nothing comes close to how propulsive Simone is, with how purely propulsive both her voice and her piano playing are. Again—take my word with a grain of salt, but this really is a masterpiece. And knowing that she used to end her live shows with this song…WHEW. What a song.

“Sea of Blood” – Palehound

Whether or not it was intentional, it’s fitting that this song shares space with a song called “YMCA Pool.” Two dubious bodies of liquid on one single.

With some songs that end up as singles after the released of an album, you’re left wanting—what could’ve changed if that track was on the album, as originally intended? (see: “Bicycle”) But some songs were made to be tiny, standalone packages, never leftovers for works past or teasers for what’s to come. “Sea of Blood” works exactly this way—it’s got the sprightly beats and guitar work of something circa Dry Food or even Bent Nail – EP, but there’s something about the short, snappy atmosphere of it that doesn’t confine it to any of Kempner’s previous works. It might fight the catchier, brighter side of Dry Food, but it doesn’t quite match the introspection. It’s got the experience that Bent Nail hadn’t fully achieved yet. And yet it still sounds like a home demo, but so fully realized—a neat drum machine accompanies Kempner’s signature rasp, sharp lyrics, and climbing guitar fingerings all come together in what has the sound quality just above an iPhone voice memo, but the polish that comes from nurturing a tune like this for a long time. And leave it to Palehound to name a song something like “Sea of Blood,” a title you’d expect to come with throat-burning, heavy metal screaming, but start off the song with a line as innocuous as “I’m every bit as fragile as a baby bird.” You sly dog, you…hound?

Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/23/23) – Only a Monster

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This book has been on my radar for quite some time—I’m always up for a good urban fantasy every once in a while, and the V.E. Schwab comparison had me hesitantly optimistic. I figured it would be a good read for AAPI Heritage Month, but…alas, it was such a mess, and ultimately not worth my time.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Only a Monster (Monsters, #1) – Vanessa Len

Joan is set to have the perfect summer. She’s staying in London with her late mother’s side of the family, amidst historical buildings, a steady job (with a handsome co-worker, Nick), and the smell of magic in the air. But when a disaster leaves most of her family dead, Joan is confronted with an ugly truth—she comes from a long line of time-stealing monsters. Worse still, the handsome Nick comes from a long line of monster hunters. Can Joan hone her powers before the monster hunters track her down?

TW/CW (from Vanessa Len): murder, violence, blood, loss of loved ones (on & off-page), substance abuse, xenophobia (fantasy), racism, interrogation, brainwashing, weapon use

DNF at 27%.

Before I get into my rant: I’ll always appreciate how much time and love it takes to write a book and put it out there. Any kind of creative output like this is highly admirable, and I can give this novel a certain degree of slack knowing that it’s Vanessa Len’s debut novel. That being said, Only a Monster really wasn’t it for me, and sometimes 1-star rants can be good for the soul as long as they aren’t actively hurting anybody. Gotta air it all out sometimes.

I went into Only a Monster expecting for it to be a nice break from some of the denser books I’d just read—something fun, something charmingly over-the-top. And…well, the over-the-top element was very much present, but not in a good way at all. From what I read of this novel, it was really just a mess that lacked any sort of nuance whatsoever.

We had the setup right from the start—a monsters versus monster-hunters conflict, “Joan is not the hero of this story,” et cetera, et cetera. Before reading this, I figured a lot of that language was just going to be for the sake of putting a nice hook on the front cover and other marketing purposes; I assumed that the book was going to get into some of the morally gray (as much of a buzzword that’s become with books these days) aspects of that conflict, but…no. From the get-go, we’re hit over the head with a comically large sledgehammer that JOAN IS NOT THE HERO OF THE STORY!!! and that BEING A MONSTER IS BAD BAD BAD!! and that MONSTERS AND HEROES!!!! DO NOT MIX!!! EVER!!! It’s not so much a theme so much as it is a metal pipe that gets painfully shoved down your throat. It got to the point where I felt like it was insulting my intelligence—I didn’t need to be told all this over and over. I really didn’t. Jeez. It could’ve been developed somewhat compellingly, but….no.

Beyond that, I didn’t know going in to Only a Monster that there was going to be a dreaded love triangle, which…[EXTREMELY LOUD INCORRECT BUZZER]

If there’s anything that can instantly ruin a book, it’s that. THERE’S NO NEED. And the setup wasn’t even anything that hasn’t been done before—each love interest is on one side of the conflict (monster and monster-hunter), and while I didn’t care to stick around to find out how it was resolved, I had a feeling that it would end up as a trash fire. What I did manage to get, however, was the description of Nick as “stupidly good-looking.” Can we please, as a society, get rid of this? Please? It’s starting to become just like “she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding” at this point. Again: zero nuance.

All in all, a bitter disappointment of a book that lacked the creativity and nuance that the blurb and reviews promised. 1 star.

Only a Monster is the first in Vanessa Len’s Monsters trilogy, which will continue with Never a Hero (slated for release this August) and an untitled third book.

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 Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 5/21/23

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

This post was brought to you by the never-ending Dark brainrot (it consumes), my disappointment in Kindred’s TV show adaptation, and the continued Palehound Panic™️. But this is all merely the calm before the storm, because now we’ve got the news that Blur is coming out with a new album in July…BRACE YOURSELVES

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“What a Wonderful World” (Louis Armstrong cover) – Soap&Skin

Somehow, it was this song, and not the original, that made me realize that the line was actually “the dark, sacred night” and not “the dark, say goodnight.” Whilst I was crying my eyes out at the Dark finale. Whatever it takes.

It’s been about two weeks now since I finished Dark and got through that gut-wrencher of a finale, and I can say with absolute certainty that I doubt I’ll ever emotionally recover from…well, anything about that show. I’ll spare you any spoilers, other than the fact that this song is present. But hopefully that part shouldn’t be a surprise, at least, with how the show-runners have now tripledipped with the Soap&Skin needle drops, including the theme song itself. I may be an atheist, but the atmospheric covers of Soap&Skin and the eerie, dew-covered-forest, small-town-murder-mystery-that-turns-into-something-way-worse aesthetic of Dark together is a match made in heaven. There’s something that she brings to this near-untouchable song (except for a third grade singing program that I did? I think), that no one else could have—it’s got all of the makings for the same haunting instrumentals of her cover of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil,” but it’s impossible to take any of the love or hope out of this song. The synths make it sound like something that would’ve been in the running for a Golden Record candidate (or at least the backing track to a shot of a satellite in space), and Anja Plaschg’s rich, cavernous voice create a shadowy atmosphere, but one illuminated by an undeniable light at the end of the tunnel. It’s impossible to make this song sound anything but hopeful, but there’s different ways that hope can sing—and this was a perfect fit for the tearful, bittersweet ending to a series that’s taken up a welcome amount of space in this brain.

But while I’m here, I will offer the following…this was a great song to send off Dark with, but consider: “Blood of Eden?” Again, no spoilers, but…it’s all right there.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” (Beatles cover) – Junior Parker

Except this time, one show is a time-travel masterpiece, and the other is FX’s adaptation of Kindred. Octavia Butler deserves better than THAT. (@ the showrunners: Kevin being a somewhat static character in the book was NOT a sign to make him into a total dudebro. The X-Ray Spex shirt isn’t fooling anyone.)

However, as generally peeved as I was with that show, if there was one great thing I got out of it, I’d point to this deliciously eerie Beatles cover. I’ve since given up the whole “don’t cover the Beatles” mindset, even if we are living in an uncharted sea of awful “Here Comes the Sun” covers, because with how influential they were on…well, almost every aspect of rock music that you can think of, there’s infinitely many things that can be done with these songs, classics as they are. Take picking this song to cover—the original song is nothing short of experimental, psychedelic insanity, deliriously noisy and filled with rubber duck noises at random intervals, as one does. It’s glorious. It’s a childhood staple of mine. But Junior Parker’s taken all of the trimmings off of it, slimming it down like a tree stripped of its bark. When the dust settles, all we’re left with is bass, soft drums, scattered keyboard chords, and Parker’s sonorous, bluesy voice. The bare-bones construction of this cover makes “Turn off your mind/Relax, and float downstream” feel like a chilling whisper of coercion, not a famous allusion to psychedelics. I never thought that this song could get quite this ominous—and, despite my general beef with the Kindred show, it was a perfect fit for the show’s atmosphere—definitely the best needle drop of the show, right at the end of episode 2. It wasn’t all bad, I guess.

“Night Time is the Right Time” – Ray Charles

Listen. I only know the basics of studio recording technology, but somehow, it’s “Night Time is the Right Time” that makes me appreciate what they were trying to do in the 50’s—not necessarily what it could do, but what it caught. The version I have on my iTunes library is plenty scratchy, cloaking almost everything in that signature fuzz you get from most recorded music up to the 60’s or the 70’s. It’s charming—it’s the sound of the era. But here’s the thing—the key word is almost. In almost every recording that I’ve listened to, no matter when it was mixed, Ray Charles’ voice sounds as clear as day. You could probably chalk that up to the main goal of said recording technologies being to record his voice first and foremost, but I can’t help but romanticize that in my head, Charles’ resonant voice soaring through any technology and defying any attempts at being aged. But no matter how fuzzy or remastered any recordings get, it’s always a beacon, the foggy gleam of a lighthouse across the sea.

And on the other side of the coin, there’s Margie Hendrix’s iconic voice—not spared the fuzz, but with what I’d argue is an almost equal amount of power. She put everything into that first call of “BABY!” and never slowed down. Her voice did fall victim to the scratchy fuzz, but her declarative growl of a voice almost fits with it; there’s a rough edge to Hendrix’s voice, the kind that makes my throat raw just thinking about belting out those notes. Knowing she was in her early twenties when she sang that makes it all the more impressive. It’s a voice that instantly conjures an image—screwed-up eyes, mouth open wide, putting every ounce of lung power into the verse that you have. The song is a testament to both of their talents, what little that I know about either of them—but either way, there’s a reason that they called Charles “The Genius,” and just as much of a reason for the influx of YouTube comments declaring their love for that iconic shout of “BABY!”

“See a Light” – Palehound

Another find on my quest to absorb as much of Palehound as I can before Eye on the Bat comes out, here’s a single that El Kempner released about a month before it all went wrong. February 27, 2020, to be exact. Yeesh. Simpler times.

I noticed a pattern after listening to both Dry Food and A Place I’ll Always Go—indie-rock lightness and guitar fun are the main priorities, but Kempner always has a few melancholy, slower tracks to balance everything out, nudged just past the middle (“Dixie”) or nestled at the end (“Feeling Fruit”) of any given album. “See a Light” allows this breed of Palehound to stand on its own. It’s the perfect vessel for Kempner’s whispery voice to flourish, drifting along like fog amidst the homegrown, shoegaze-y, bedroom production. It gently crawls along to a slow drum machine and glossy guitar notes, settling in your lap like a kitten. Distortion creeps in at perfectly calculated moments, fuzzing up the edges of the instrumentals and Kempner’s voice. Beyond all of that, it’s one of the best instances of album covers (or single covers, in this case) perfectly matching the feel of the song(s) itself—the combination of the handwritten typeface and the basketball hoop taken over by bright green vibes, set against a cloudy, gray sky, matches all of the bits that make me go back and listen to this song.

“Cubist Castle – Part 1” – Alan Peter Roberts (a.k.a Jim Noir) and Steve Wareing


Ever since Jim Noir has started said Patreon, we’ve gotten a handful of his older catalogue in between the new EPs. One such offering is this—a collaboration from 2000, between himself and a longtime friend, now remastered from the original ten tracks and expanded to 30 (!). (For reference, the tracks are grouped into four chunks on the Patreon link.) It’s not the first time that Jim Noir, under whichever name, has offered up his experience with making ambient music (see Omission Sound, also available on Patreon). I’m not as well versed in ambient music in general, but I’ve gotten tastes of it from him over the years; usually, I’m ambivalent about it—for me, his ambient music functions mostly as background music, plus the odd sample with a nice layer of distortion thrown in. But “Cubist Castle – Part 1” feels different than Omission Sound’s Solutions—there’s something cheerier about it that sets it apart. Including an early version of “Everytime” (a bright soundtrack to many a painful hour studying during the pandemic), “Cubist Castle – Part 1” has calm woven into it. Although some of the later parts get plenty ominous, there’s something so gentle about this first chunk—the tinny, bubbly synths, samples of birdsong and beach sounds…it’s just nice, simply. Nice. Nice is often such an inadequate word, but given the background-music nature of this album, it fits. It’s like the auditory version of a baby sensory video. I’m just glad that all of the essay writing that I did to the tune of “Cubist Castle” didn’t ruin it.

Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

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

Posted in Book Tags

Ben ‘n’ Jerry’s Book Tag 🍦

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

I haven’t been able to do a book tag in a bit, so I figured that it would be a good time to do it now that I’m out of school! I found this one over at Laura @ The Corner of Laura, and the tag was originally created by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks. I am a devoted Ben ‘n’ Jerry’s lover and a lover of ice cream in general, so this looked like the perfect tag to do!

Let’s begin, shall we?


VANILLA CARAMEL FUDGE: pick a light, fluffy contemporary

Contemporary usually isn’t my go-to, but Perfect on Paper is one of the best YA contemporary romances I’ve ever read—truly excellent bisexual rep!

MINT CHOCOLATE COOKIE: a new release that you wish everybody would read

The Isles of the Gods is my most recent 5-star read—Amie Kaufman never misses with any of her novels!

CHERRY GARCIA: an ending that was bittersweet

The Loves & Lies of Rukhsana Ali was a very emotional read, but the last part of the ending was at least hopeful.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE: a book containing your OTP of OTPs

Not to commit author double-dipping on these tags (I always do…oopsie), but my love for Kal and Auri from the Aurora Cycle knows no bounds. (I’m getting all excited about these books all over again because I got a friend of a friend to pick up a copy of Aurora Rising at the airport…WE CONVERTED HIM)

MILK & COOKIES: two authors, who, if they collaborated, would go perfectly together

I feel like Leigh Bardugo and Roshani Chokshi could do something really interesting together! They’re both excellent at YA heist fantasy novels, so I’m sure their powers combined would result in something super fun…

BOSTON CREAM PIE: a book that had you turning pages late into the night

I got House of Hollow from a Christmas gift card last year! Even though my expectations were low (I tried to keep them low so all of the hype it got wouldn’t disappoint me), Sutherland’s prose was incredible!

CHOCOLATE THERAPY: a book that makes you feel better after a long day of life

As intense as parts of it get, The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea has become something of a comfort read for me in the past few years.

COFFEE, COFFEE, BUZZBUZZBUZZ! : a book not yet released that you can’t wait to get your hands on

I was so excited to hear about A Song of Salvation! Anything by Alechia Dow automatically has to go on my TBR, and I can’t wait to have more adventures in her established universe. It comes out in about two months…


Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/16/23) – The Isles of the Gods

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

If my constant blabbing about Aurora Rising from the past four years should bring you to any conclusion, it’s probably that I’m a massive Amie Kaufman fan. So when I heard that she was making her solo YA debut this year, I was BEYOND excited!! I immediately preordered, and it came right when I’d just finished up my first year of college—the perfect present! And even though I’ll always pick sci-fi over fantasy, if anybody can make a fantasy that I’ll give 5 stars, it’s Amie Kaufman.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Isles of the Gods (The Isles of the Gods, #1) – Amie Kaufman

Selly has the ocean in her blood.

She’s been tagging along with her father on the high seas since she was a baby, but now, he’s left Selly to her own devices in the port town of Kirkpool. Intent on tracking him down, she tries to set sail, only for her plans to go awry at the hands of Prince Leander, who wants to hitch a ride for his own gain—to seek out the storied Isles of the Gods, where the ruling deities of her world are fabled to be laying in a restless, dormant sleep. But when a disastrous assassination attempt leaves Selly and her crew stranded, she has no choice to trust Leander—and make it to the Isles no matter the cost.

isles ft. some rainy trees

TW/CW: murder, graphic violence, abandonment, assassination, fatal vehicle explosion

From what I can tell, The Isles of the Gods is a book around a decade in the making, a passion project that Amie Kaufman had been crafting relentlessly in between releasing some of her other collaborative novels. So there’s automatically 10 years of love in this novel—and boy, it really did show.

I’ve preferred sci-fi to fantasy for years, but leave it to Amie Kaufman to craft a fresh setting that kept me turning the page for hours! I’m already a sucker for pirates in fantasy, and that aspect was executed with just the right balance of campy fun and nail-biting stakes. And after parsing through all of the rich facets of the world that Kaufman created, it’s left me with one question: what’s keeping authors from creating more industrial/advanced fantasy settings? Consider me done with fantasies with automatically medieval settings, can we do more 1920’s-inspired fantasies that don’t just focus on the jazz age stuff? I didn’t know I could possibly yearn for the melding of magicians and old-timey cars quite this much, but I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: if anybody can do it, IT’S AMIE KAUFMAN.

Kaufman’s writing, as it always is, was the real star of the show in The Isles of the Gods. There’s something instantly transporting about her prose—from the first sentence, I felt dunked headfirst into this lush, rich world, from the gripping prologue to the delightfully suspenseful final sequence. Maybe this is just a consequence of me being so attached to her writing style, but she has such a way of drawing you into the story in record time. Every book is a little world in and of itself, but hers never cease to feel tangible. Reading fantasies with sea settings are always fun for me, being about as landlocked as you can get here in the U.S., but reading this reminded me of a passage from Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, about the protagonist imagining that the rain pattering against his window at night was waves on the hull of a ship. Good thing it was pouring rain when I was reading this book.

And speaking of Kaufman’s writing—now that I’ve seen her solo and collaborative works, I can say with certainty how clever of a writer she is. She sets up common conflicts that threaten to drag down the book, but whips them into cunningly-subverted left turns that kept me guessing all through the novel. A whole bunch of characters that you *can’t* quite tell apart, but are still personally relevant to the protagonist? Oh look, a botched assassination attempt that gets rid of them! Have a lovable but borderline one-note character who hasn’t had the chance to prove themself? Put that sorry little man in a Situation!™️ It may be diabolical, but it made my enjoyment of the book increase that much more—nothing like trope subversion and avoidance left and right to keep you on your toes.

As for the characters, I’m not quite as attached to them as I was with the squad of the Aurora Cycle, for example, but that’s way too high a bar, even if it’s still Amie Kaufman, but I did adore a lot of them! There was clearly so much love and care put into Selly, and it showed—she had a beautiful arc, and she was such a determined and lovable character to root for. Leander’s type of character—the charming, spoiled prince that the protagonist can’t help but fall for—has been done since time immemorial, but Kaufman’s take on the trope resulted in some lovely laughs and a slow-burn romance done right!

And…yes, I felt a little too called out by Keegan. The “bookworm who hasn’t seen the light of day in way too long” was already there, but…dude. I just shaved my head in January. DUDE. AMIE KAUFMAN, STOP PEEKING INTO MY BRAIN LIKE THAT. YOU COME INTO MY HOUSE, AND YOU MAKE A GENDER-SWAPPED CHARACTER OF ME?

Jude and Laskia (especially the former) didn’t get quite as much page time, but they were incredibly intriguing as not-quite-antagonists, but puppeteering each other and subsequently being puppets to political forces beyond their control. I kept getting hints that Laskia was going to turn to Selly/Leander/Keegan’s side, but now that we’ve seen ✨the cliffhanger,✨ the future is uncertain…hmm. I didn’t quite get the promised “squad” vibe that the blurb promised, but I have a feeling that the two camps are going to merge sooner than later…

Also, we love an absolutely Indiana Jones final sequence. NAILED the fantasy brand of campy.

One sidenote—Amie Kaufman said several times that Isles was going to have LGBTQ+ rep, and all we really got was the lesbian couple that appeared for a total of…maybe three pages? Which, yeah, that’s all well and good, but the question that many readers had about said rep was if any of the protagonists were going to be queer, and…so far, nothing? As much as I loved this book, I can’t help but be a little disappointed on that front.

All in all, a gripping, cinematic, and utterly lovable solo venture from one of my favorite authors. 4.75 stars, rounded up to 5!

bonus Hobbes content

The Isles of the Gods is the first in a planned duology, concluding with an unnamed final book slated for release in 2024. Amie Kaufman is also the co-author of the Illuminae Files, the Aurora Cycle (with Jay Kristoff), the Starbound trilogy, and the Other Side of the Sky duology (with Meagan Spooner). On her own, she is the author of the middle grade Elementals trilogy.

Today’s song:

loving this album hnnnnngh

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