Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/10/23) – The Heartbreak Bakery

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of A.R. Capetta ever since I read the Once & Future duology, and when I was looking for a sweet rom-com to read the other day, the opportunity presented itself in this book. I’m glad to say that this is proof that Capetta almost never misses—a tender and sweet (no pun. intended) celebration of queerness and baking!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Heartbreak Bakery – A.R. Capetta

Syd loves nothing more than baking—especially when it’s at the Proud Muffin, the queer-run bakery at the center of Austin’s queer community. After a nasty breakup, Syd deals with it in signature Syd fashion—by baking all the frustrations and bad feelings out into a batch of brownies. But when Syd’s frustrations works its way into the brownies and causes everyone that eats them to have relationship troubles, Syd has to fix the issue how it began—with baking. Throw in the cute delivery-person, and Syd has to avoid a recipe for disaster…

TW/CW: gender dysphoria

this book: has several jokes about the fact that it’s still possible to have a bad hair day even when you’ve shaved your head

me, having just shaved my head: [chuckles] “I’m in danger!”

I came into The Heartbreak Bakery just for a queer romance to tide me over, and I can now say with certainty that A.R. Capetta never misses! This piece of magical realism is a love letter to queer communities and spaces, and it made my heart so happy.

First off, this is easily one of the most diverse rom-coms that I’ve ever read! Syd is the first main character that I’ve read that’s agender, and the main relationship is between Syd and Harley, another nonbinary character! I think the entire cast is queer—a gay couple owns the Proud Muffin, there’s a polyamorous couple on the side, and there are queer characters of all identities as side characters, and many of them are POC as well! Capetta never shies away from unapologetic queerness, but it particularly shone in The Heartbreak Bakery.

The magical realism aspect was also fantastic, and it also culminated into a theme that I thought was incredibly important. I liked the ambiguity of where it came from, but the concept of putting tangible feelings into baking that have a visible ripple effect had me on board instantly. It served to show a great theme: the feelings that you put into anything, be it a project, a relationship, or a batch of brownies, is what you’re going to get out of it. If you pour all of your negativity into something, that’s exactly what’s going to come out of it. The Heartbreak Bakery takes the concept very literally—brownies that make couples break up, cakes that make you apologize, et cetera—but it was a great theme to explore. I do feel like some of the problems being almost immediately solved by the “apology cake” were a tad bit too easy for Syd to maneuver, but I’m glad Capetta made it more complicated—having Marisol eat the cake by accident, for example. (I wish I had a physical copy of the book on hand—some of those recipes looked good!)

My only major qualm with The Heartbreak Bakery was the pacing. I’m all for slower, gentler books, but it felt like the main points of conflict were unevenly spaced. For instance, the final climax of the bake-off felt far too rushed for me; given how much hinged on the outcome, it should’ve gotten a lot more page time than it did. Some of the interim scenes between the main points of conflict should’ve been shortened in favor of the more important, plot/character building scenes. It was a great novel to start with, but I could’ve done with a little tweaking with the pacing and the importance placed on certain scenes.

All in all, an incredibly sweet (no pun intended) magical-realism romance that reads as an ode to baking, queerness, community, and love itself. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

The Heartbreak Bakery is a standalone, but A.R. Capetta is also the author of The Lost Coast, the Once & Future duology (co-authored with Cory McCarthy), Echo After Echo, and several other books.

Today’s song:

man I have so many memories of hearing this song when I was a kid

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

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Posted in Music, Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 1/8/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!

I probably should’ve said something before tweaking my blogging schedule without warning, but I’ve decided to do a little something new instead of my weekly updates. I figured that I ended up saying most of the stuff I said in my weekly updates in my monthly wrap-ups, so this seemed like a more fun and creative use of my time.

Since last summer, I’ve been making graphics of songs that I’d been listening to during the week and shared them every Sunday, inspired by my brother. I’ve wanted to write about music more on this blog for a while, so I figured that I’d move my Sunday Songs to this blog as well to get the chance. As I said, these will probably replace my weekly updates, but you’ll be able to see everything that I’ve been reading in my wrap-ups at the end of each month. I know I’m going to enjoy writing about music more, and I hope you all enjoy the results!

the background format for this & all further Sunday Songs comes from a close up picture I took of the massive section of David Bowie CDs at Amoeba Records in San Francisco!

SUNDAY SONGS: 1/8/23

Gorillaz – “Left Hand Suzuki Method”

I can’t say anything about the whole album, but you know a band has endless talent when even the B-Sides (or G-Sides, in this case) sound just as good—if not better—than the original album material. I’ve been a huge fan of Gorillaz for years, but I didn’t hear about this one until it showed up in my YouTube recommendations out of the blue. And of all the things I expected to get from a Gorillaz song, Suzuki flashbacks was not one of them. I feel like I got whiplash the second I heard the sample of “Long Long Ago”, and suddenly, I was experiencing every piano lesson that I had from ages 5-7 (or something) as well as every recital that I ever attended at my old music school all at once. Whew.

But the way Damon Albarn utilizes this sample in “Left Hand Suzuki Method” is a testament to his creativity as a musician; building off a creaky sample that’s meant to teach kids how to play music, he creates a collage of funky keyboards and thick, punchy guitar intervals that transform a simple song into a collage of instantly catchy sound. Genius. Again, how was this a B-Side? (Sorry, G-Side…)

David Bowie – “All the Madmen”

I forgot up until a few days ago that this Sunday also happens to be what would have been David Bowie’s 76th birthday, so I’m glad I’m writing about him today. Happy birthday, sir. ⚡️

This one’s a bit lesser known than most of his (extensive) catalogue, but it’s crept up to become one of my favorite, underrated songs of his. Taken from The Man Who Sold the World, it’s loosely based on his schizophrenic half-brother, who was in and out of the institutions that the song fictionalizes. As you’d imagine, it’s appropriately chilling in that sense, but it has a lighter, almost nursery rhyme feel to certain parts of it—flutes and light drums that almost sound tinkling—before launching into epic, sweeping electric guitars that have come to define much of his early 70’s material. It all culminates into one of the most simultaneously creepy and catchy outros that I can think of in any song—as the guitars blend into synths as the song closes, Bowie begins a clapping chant of “Zane, zane, zane/ouvre le chien” (open the dog), a line which he later confirmed to be nonsense, seemingly the final nail in the protagonist’s loss of sanity. “All the Madmen” makes me appreciate Bowie so much more a songwriter—with his combination of sharp lyricism and musical craft, every song is a story.

Missy Elliott – “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”

At last…I finally know what my mom was referencing every time she said “Beep beep!/Who got the keys to the Jeep?”…

And my mom is also the reason why I found this song, after I told her about how I rediscovered “Get Ur Freak On”, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop ever since. Hip-hop isn’t usually my go-to, but even from the two songs I know her from, Missy Elliott is masterful at making a song so smooth and seamless that you miss the samples within—I just found out that the main structure of the song was sampled from Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” Like “Left Hand Suzuki Method,” “The Rain” creates a collage of smooth, instantly catchy sound out of a single, looped sample, creating a wider soundscape that keeps my head nodding through all 4+ minutes of the song. This phrase is definitely going to come up constantly in these posts, but…yeah, I need to listen to more Missy Elliott. So good.

Fontaines D.C. – “I Love You”

I know shamefully little about this band—before hearing this one on a friend’s Instagram story, the extent of my knowledge of Fontaines D.C. came from their glowing Pitchfork reviews (I think this album that this song is from came out on the same day as Everything Was Beautiful and got best new music instead of it? Come on, Spiritualized deserved it…I digress…why am I so fixated on these things?) and some guy’s hoodie that I saw in passing at the Smile show (“oh, the album with the elk on it?” – my internal monologue). I’m liking this song enough to explore more, though; through my first and only exposure so far, I love how “I Love You” slowly builds tension and breaks it just as quickly. With the faint bass and twinkling guitar notes in the quite first few minutes, the drums build to a slow, tight crescendo as the vocals intensify and then return to the peaceful, strangely sinister place where the song came from just as quickly, fading to nothing but a few strained strums in the very end.

So thanks, anonymous friend, for the new song and possibly new band to listen to! Maybe another album to add to my hydra-like list of albums that I have yet to listen to?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair (Acoustic Version)”

Going back to a mainstay favorite of mine for several years, here’s a beautifully uplifting song to take us into the rest of the new year. I know, look at the title, but stay with me: the song is more about overcoming despair than the despair itself, don’t worry. We’ll save my sadgirl songs for later. Although the original makes the uplifting message all the more prominent (because how else would Karen O. dancing on top of the Empire State Building in a rhinestone-studded jacket make you feel? Really?), there’s a certain intimacy that I glean from the acoustic version; whereas the original is a rallying cry for optimism and hope in spite of the darkness that life brings, this feels like a gentle comfort, a reassuring word whispered as you’re tucked into bed, promising that the monsters under your bed won’t hurt you after all. “Through the darkness and the light/Some sun has gotta rise.” Leave it to Karen O. and company to keep the light going in these uncertain times.

Oh, and I just realized that the original is almost 10 years old now, OW…

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

I hope you all enjoyed my first time doing Sunday Songs! I love writing about music almost as much as I like writing about books, so hopefully you can enjoy it too. I look forward to writing more about music in the future outside of just album reviews (although I’m VERY excited to review Cracker Island when the day comes). Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/3/23) – Across a Field of Starlight

Happy first Tuesday of the year, bibliophiles!

My first review of the year also happens to be the first book that I finished this year! I hadn’t heard anything about it before I came upon it while browsing the YA graphic novel section of Barnes & Noble. I’m always all in for queer sci-fi, and that, combined with the art style, was enough to convince me to buy it. I’m so glad to say that it was a wonderful graphic novel, full of heart, bright colors, and queerness aplenty.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Across a Field of Starlight – Blue Delliquanti

Lu and Fassen have been friends since childhood, after a chance meeting when Fassen’s spaceship crashed onto Lu’s peaceful planet. Though they came from entirely different backgrounds, they kept in contact even as Fassen was forced back into their duty as a soldier. But when the tyrannical Ever-Blossoming Empire begins a siege on Fassen’s resistance front and endangers Lu’s planet, the two are reunited. Together for the first time in years, they must set aside their differences to escape the Empire’s clutches—and discover truths about each other.

TW/CW: sci-fi violence, depictions of injuries/blood, war themes, vehicle crash, loss of loved ones (off-page)

Across a Field of Starlight was the perfect book to start my year off with! With its beautiful art, tender story, and unapologetic queerness all the way through, this is a graphic novel that you won’t want to miss.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how wonderfully diverse Across a Field of Starlight is. I don’t think I’ve read anything—graphic novel or otherwise—quite this diverse in such a long time! Both of the protagonists are nonbinary and POC, Lu is plus-sized, and there is an array of POC and trans characters all throughout the story. I especially loved that Delliquanti didn’t shy away from giving their cast of characters a variety of different body types, and it made their world and story all the more rich.

Delliquanti’s art style made Across a Field of Starlight shine as well. Although the book gets into some dark themes—war, colonization, etc.—the colors are vibrant all the way through, giving it a very fantastical feel. It especially suited Lu’s more peaceful, utopian planet and its welcoming nature, as well as Lu’s caring personality. Delliquanti’s depiction of outer space has a beautiful vibrance to it, making for an incredibly inviting story.

art by Blue Delliquanti
art by Blue Delliquanti

The perspectives that Delliquanti chose gave the story a more compelling angle as well. Instead of most sci-fi/fantasy war stories, Across a Field of Starlight focuses on the Firebreak resistance front and a party completely outside the main conflict; most media (Star Wars comes to mind) focuses just on the tyrannical empire and the rebellion, but I liked that they largely left the Ever-Blossoming Empire as more of a looming threat. It also made the point that even though Firebreak was fighting to free the galaxy of colonization, they weren’t all pure and good either, and although the aim was good, the motives for some of the authority figures may have been less so. Never meet your heroes, kids.

That being said, I would’ve liked more context for the intergalactic conflict that this novel sets up. I did like that we were thrown right into the action, but I would’ve liked more historical context on how the Ever-Blossoming Empire and the Firebreak came to be, how long they’ve been at war, and the consequences for the rest of the galaxy. Across a Field of Starlight is great on its own, but with a world as expansive as the one Delliquanti has created, it’s begging for a few sequels or spin-offs, or at least some more background.

All in all, a highly enjoyable graphic novel filled with heart, diversity, and vibrant color. 4 stars!

Across a Field of Starlight is a standalone, but Blue Delliquanti is also the author of the comic series O Human Star, which currently has three volumes, and has contributed to several other comic collections.

Today’s song:

good mindset for this year, I think

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: December 26, 2022 – January 1, 2023

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles, and happy new year!! I hope this last week of the year treated you well. 🎇

It’s been a nice, relaxing end to this year, I would say. After Christmas, I went to Barnes & Noble and got some amazing-looking books with my gift card, and I’ve had lots of time to draw, read, blog, and decompress overall. With all of the snow that’s still here, Ringo’s been swimming in the snow with his little legs…corgis are so funny lol

I finally feel like I’ve broken out of my reading slump from this month! I really enjoyed Gleanings, and the one book I finished from the B & N haul (House of Hollow) was fantastic, and all of the others look similarly so! I finished 2022’s reading challenge, beating my goal of 200 books and reading 224 books in 2022! I didn’t want to make that drastic of a leap this year, so my goal for 2023 is 215 books!

Other than that, I’ve just been drawing, playing guitar, watching Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (emotionally destroyed me, but leave it to him to make the creation of Pinocchio look like something out of Frankenstein) and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (the SWEETEST), and rewatching Isle of Dogs. Certainly a nice start to the year, I think. Here’s to a happy 2023!

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:

Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe – Neal Shusterman et. al. (anthology) (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty – Florence Given (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

DC: The New Frontier, vol. 1 – Darwyn Cooke (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

House of Hollow – Krystal Sutherland (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

POSTS AND SUCH:

SONGS:

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

Across a Field of Starlight – Blue Delliquanti

The Heartstopper Yearbook – Alice Oseman

To Each This World – Julie E. Czernada

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 Monthly Wrap-Ups

December 2022 Wrap-Up 🧣

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles, and happy New Year’s Eve!

Whew. This strange, chaotic year is coming to a close, but what matters most is that despite everything, we’re still here. Whoever you are, I’m proud of you for making it through another year. You did it!

GENERAL THOUGHTS:

December was certainly a little stressful at the beginning, what with my first finals season in college. Most of my classes were fine, seeing as all of my English *finals* were mostly essays and portfolios, but stats and bio anth were a little tougher. But in the end, I got out with good grades, and I won’t have to take a math class again in my college career. You have no idea how happy I am about that.

The great thing about being in college (in my case, at least) is that we have a really long winter break! After the chaos of finals, I’ve had a lot of time to settle down, relax, and spend the holidays with family. I’ve been in a major reading slump since finals, but the combination of some finds from my dad’s comic shelf, some Christmas gifts, and the haul from my Barnes & Noble gift card, I’m back into my regular reading rhythm! I’m so excited to read the rest of my haul!!

Other than that, I’ve been drawing more, putting together a puzzle (of David Bowie, who else would it be), watching Andor (SO GOOD), Glass Onion (I cannot stress enough how wonderful this movie is), and Decision to Leave (I still don’t completely know how I feel about this one), seeing The Smile live (CRYING CRYING CRYING), and enjoying spending time at home with my family over the break.

And yes, I know it’s New Year’s Eve, but there is a MUCH more important holiday going on today, and that’s Ringo’s first birthday!! My boy turns 1 today!! Everybody say happy birthday to Ringo

Also, I figured it might be fun to share some highlights from my apple music wrapped, sorry, replay—I’ve always wished that apple music had a wrapped equivalent, so, uh, Christmas miracle, I guess?

unsurprising, given that I spent a 2-hour plane flight listening to “Metal Guru” on repeat and nothing else 🥴
I am nothing if not predictable (David Bowie was #6 and Radiohead was #7 lol)
PFFFFFFFF ROCKY HORROR MADE THE CUT
Do I get Welsh street cred for this one?

READING AND BLOGGING:

I read 15 books this month! It was my worst reading month as far as reading goes, but it was also finals week, so it’s all fine. I completed my reading challenge of 200 books and read 224 books in all this year!

2 – 2.75 stars:

Aces Wild: A Heist

3 – 3.75 stars:

Hellboy: On Earth as it is in Hell

4 – 4.75 stars:

House of Hollow

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE MONTH: Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe – 4 stars

POSTS I’M PROUD OF:

POSTS FROM OTHER WONDERFUL PEOPLE THAT I ENJOYED:

SONGS/ALBUMS THAT I ENJOYED:

fantastic on its own, but it was incredible to hear live with The Smile!!
unpopular opinion—this is my least favorite Blur album that I’ve listened to so far, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. this is certainly the best track
I never thought I’d say this in my lifetime, but new Sparklehorse just dropped?? and it’s not sad??????
again, this was so much fun live, but it’s great to finally hear the album version!!
I stumbled upon this one while trying to cite On a Sunbeam for my final comics paper—according to Tillie Walden, this is the song that inspired the title! fits the vibe of the comic for sure
SUCH a creative cover, wildly different from the original but in the best way possible
a great album to end the year on!

It’s been a scary and jarring year, but it’s been wonderful too. I graduated high school and started college, and I pushed myself out of my comfort zone more than I have in ages. I made new friends, I went to so many amazing concerts and read so many fantastic books. It’s been weird and uncertain (and I cried a lot), but in the end, what matters is that we got through it. No matter how good or bad of a year you had, I hope 2023 brings hope, love, and good things to each and every one of you. We got this.

Have a wonderful new year. Spread love, be kind to each other.

— madeline

Today’s song:

came for the Gorillaz, stayed for the Suzuki flashbacks

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (12/27/22) – Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I only found out that Gleanings existed about a month ago, so naturally, it landed right on my Christmas list. More stories from one of the most creative and chilling YA dystopian worlds? SIGN ME UP. I got a copy for Christmas and immediately started reading, and while there were a few missteps, Gleanings was just the thing that I needed to get out of my reading slump.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe – Neal Shusterman et. al. (anthology)

(summary from Goodreads):

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman—along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman—returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

TW/CW: death (central theme), descriptions of injury, suicide, past descriptions of mass death, attempted killing of an animal

What better book to get me out of my reading slump than a collection of short stories set in one of my favorite dystopian worlds? I’m so glad that Neal Shusterman made the decision to delve even further into the fantastic, multilayered world of the Arc of a Scythe, and even though the anthology had a few weak points, overall, it was a highly enjoyable glimpse into the unexplored corners of a trilogy I adore.

(For this review, I’ll be doing a mini-review for each short story.)

“The First Swing” – Joelle Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Having a poem as the first installment in the collection was an interesting decision, but I would’ve liked it more if the poem…had something more to it. It was…alright? There didn’t seem to be a whole lot to it, but it was at least an interesting direction to go with.

“Formidable” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was the first fantastic story in this collection—I loved seeing the early days of Scythe Curie before she became a fully-ordained Scythe, and I loved how Shusterman made her determined, fiery personality come off on every page. Reading stories like this make me wish that it wouldn’t take six coats of bleach to dye my darker hair silver.

“Never Work with Animals” – Neal Shusterman and Michael Payne – ⭐️⭐️

The weakest point in the whole anthology, without a doubt. It seriously baffled me that Shusterman had any part in this story—it was hokey, the writing was clunky as all get-out, and the story itself seemed to have no point. It was honestly just ridiculous, and I really don’t think it had any place in the anthology. Just…why? Why does it exist? However, I’d say this is just a fluke in a sea of mostly amazing stories, so the others successfully overshadow it. But still. Why.

“A Death of Many Colors” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Not the best out of the collection, but I liked the stance that it took. I loved the framing of the mythos of Scythes against the backdrop of a futuristic misunderstanding of a Halloween party, as though Scythes had faded into the same category as any other Halloween monster many years in the future. Given how prominent the Scythes were in the original trilogy, it didn’t even cross my mind that there were some people that would think that Scythes were fake, so that was also an interesting angle to work from—especially from the perspective of teenagers trying to scare each other at a Halloween party.

“Unsavory Row” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Again, not my favorite, but it was at least an interesting perspective to go with. Cheesy futuristic gang names aside (it’s the kind of cheese you kind of have to get used to with a Neal Shusterman dystopia—he sort of pulls it off), it gave us a glimpse into the criminal underworld of the Unsavories. Kila was the perfect example of an audience surrogate, and she worked excellently for the role.

“A Martian Minute” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

WOW. Without question, one of my absolute favorites of this collection! I’m already keen for a good villain origin story, but Shusterman executed the mind of a teenage Scythe Goddard so wonderfully. From the descriptions of Mars to young Goddard’s inner turmoils and how they translated to the very beginnings of megalomania, every part of this story shone. Also, I loved the foreshadowing with Xenocrates’ robes and The Pool Scene…yeeeeeeeeesh…

“The Mortal Canvas” – Neal Shusterman and David Yoon – ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

What’s great about this anthology is that a lot of its stories use this world to talk about art, which, given the other themes of the books thus far, was an unexpected surprise. Although the writing in this story wasn’t quite as strong, I love the statements that it made about the connection between emotions and art, especially the rise of AI art. AI art may be a crowd-pleaser, but true art comes from stirring up complex emotions in the viewer—emotions that a human artist imbued into the canvas.

“Cirri” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

An unexpectedly emotional story about the Thunderhead’s AI “children” shepherding pockets of the human race out into the universe in search of new worlds. It makes a beautiful statement about humankind as a whole, and through the eyes of a conflicted Cirrus, emphasizes that despite our faults, we are worth saving, and that all hope isn’t lost.

“Anastasia’s Shadow” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A fascinating look at the fate of Citra’s younger brother Ben, his failed training to be a Scythe, and the fraught romance he fosters during that time. It was interesting to see how Citra’s transition to Scythedom—and the trauma that it wrought—shaped Ben, and how it influenced his training and who he became now that he’s reached his sister’s age when she became a Scythe.

“The Persistence of Memory” – Neal Shusterman, Jarrod Shusterman, and Sofía Lapuente – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Another favorite in this collection, and another wonderful statement about art and spectacle. There were so many elements that made this story as charming as it was, but I especially loved the concept of Penélope, our resident goth, being so obsessed with death that she hangs around a Scythe, who becomes her surrogate uncle. There’s so much tenderness and wit in this story, and it all culminated in a theme that, now that I think about it, is very similar to the theme of Jordan Peele’s “Nope”—the lengths that we will go to achieve a spectacle. Without spoiling anything, they also resolve themselves in…shall we say, very similar ways.

“Meet Cute and Die” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This story easily could’ve fallen into the same fate as “Never Work with Animals,” but the dry gallows humor of this story made it so much more memorable and funny. As shrouded in death as this whole universe is, this story takes a lighter approach to it and makes an unexpected romance out of the absurdity of life itself.

“Perchance to Glean” – Neal Shusterman and Michelle Knowlden – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Another story that explores uncharted territory—the Antarctic settlement of Ross Shelf, and the system of collective dreaming that the citizens undergo. Not only was the worldbuilding fascinating, I loved the main twist of the dreams. Again, without spoiling anything, we see just how scarily powerful the Scythes are, if that wasn’t already obvious.

“A Dark Curtain Rises” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This works well as the last story of the collection—eerie and more than a little twisted, but still hopeful in its culmination. Combined with “Cirri,” this just makes me want to know more about this world post-Arc of a Scythe. (Mr. Shusterman PLEASE tell me you have some more plans for this universe PLEASE)

Averaged out, my ratings came out to just around 4 stars! A must-read for fans of the Arc of a Scythe, and a wonderful addition of vignettes in Neal Shusterman’s cleverly crafted, dystopian world.

Gleanings is technically #3.5 in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, as it contains spoilers for the original trilogy. It is preceded by Scythe, Thunderhead, and The Toll. Shusterman is also the author of the UnWind dystology (UnWind, UnWholly, UnSoulled, and UnDivided), the Skinjacker trilogy (Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound), and many other books for middle grade and YA readers.

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 Books

The Bookish Mutant’s 5-Star Reads of 2022

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

2022 was a strange, messy, and transitional year for me—graduating high school, starting college, and all of the chaos in between. It’s been an unusual reading year for me too—I haven’t been able to read as much, what with college and finals throwing me off of my reading rhythm for most of the second half of the year. I didn’t have as many 5-star reads as I have in previous years (not counting re-reads, for which there were many), and that might be a consequence of how weird this year has been, but that maybe the more I read, the more selective I get with my 5-star ratings. It’s not every day that a book changes your life, rocks your world, or shifts you in some other way. But there were still several books that deserved that rating this year, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give these truly wonderful books all my love as the year reaches its end.

(NOTE: re-reads that I previously rated 5 stars will not appear on this list.)

Let’s begin, shall we?

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S 5-STAR READS OF 2022⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Wide Starlight – Nicole Lesperance

My first 5-star read of the year, and an unexpected one as well; a beautiful story of northern lights, fairytales, and family.

Read my review here!

Art Matters – Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

An essential read for anyone with creative aspirations of any kind. Neil Gaiman never misses.

Alone in Space: A Collection – Tillie Walden

A beautiful collection of vignettes and short comics from one of my favorite creators in recent years!

The Reckless Kind – Carly Heath

Another 5-star read from a new-to-me author, The Reckless Kind captured my heart with its tale of queer love and disabled identity.

Read my review here!

The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects – Mike Mignola

Another beautiful anthology from one of my favorite artists and storytellers. The Magician and the Snake always gets me choked up.

Call Us What We Carry – Amanda Gorman

At this point, Amanda Gorman is incapable of writing anything that doesn’t immediately awe me; Call Us What We Carry is filled to the brim with creativity, wisdom, and timely insight that will surely stand the test of time.

Honorable Mentions (4.5 stars):

Today’s song:

probably the last album I’ll listen to in 2022, and it was a great one!! this definitely my favorite track

That’s it for my favorite books of 2022! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Weekly Update: December 19-25, 2022

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles, and a very merry Christmas to those who celebrate! I hope this week has treated you well. 🎄❄️

It’s been a peaceful week, if not a ridiculously freezing one. It got to a balmy -14 degrees on Wednesday, so we stayed inside that day (and most of the week). The weather’s been somewhat normal after that, luckily. I’ve just been relaxing around the house for most of the week and doing some baking and cooking for Christmas.

As far as reading goes, I’m still in a slight bit of a slump; I’ve read a few good books, but I haven’t read anything that’s really wowed me in a couple of weeks. It’s been a slow reading month as is, what with finals earlier in the month, but hopefully I’ll strike gold soon. Luckily, I got Gleanings and Women Don’t Owe You Pretty for Christmas, and my brother, while on his noble quest to reorganize my dad’s comic shelves, found an older Hellboy paperback and a few other things, so I have plenty to read soon. (because nothing says Christmas like Hellboy, right?)

Other than that, I’ve just been drawing, playing guitar, baking for Christmas (and subsequently eating said baking), watching Andor (I’M SO CLOSE TO FINISHING IT’S SO GOOD) and Glass Onion (the whole film is basically a giant middle finger to Elon Musk and I loved it), and staying warm in the way-too-wintry weather.

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:

The Genesis of Misery – Neon Yang (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Last Night at the Telegraph Club – Malinda Lo (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Deep in Providence – Riss M. Neilson (⭐️⭐️)

Hellboy: On Earth as it is in Hell – Brian Hodge (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

POSTS AND SUCH:

SONGS:

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe – Neal Shusterman et. al. (anthology)

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty – Florence Given

DC: The New Frontier, vol. 1 – Darwyn Cooke

Today’s song:

MERRY CHRISTMAS FRIENDS

That’s it for this week in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, take care of yourselves, and merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

Posted in Book Tags

Random Number Book Tag

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles, and merry Christmas Eve to those who celebrate!! Lots of baking to look forward to today…

This tag was created not long ago by the wonderful Laura @ The Corner of Laura, and it looks like a ton of fun! My TBR is out of control, so this’ll be a good chance to comb through it and clear off the dust.

RULES:

  • Link back to the original creator (The Corner of Laura) and link back to this page (otherwise, the original creator won’t get a notification).
  • Thank whoever tagged you and link back to their post
  • Go to your preferred random number generator, set the number limit to the exact number of books on your TBR list (on Goodreads or any other equivalent list) and generate 7 different numbers.
  • Find the books on your TBR list that correspond with those numbers
  • Explain why you added it, try to predict what you will think of it now and decide whether you’re going to keep it on your TBR or delete it.
  • (Optional) Challenge yourself to read the ones you decide to keep within seven weeks
  • (Optional) Tag 5 or more other people.

Let’s begin, shall we?

🎲RANDOM NUMBER BOOK TAG🎲

RANDOM BOOK 1: Queer Ducks (and Other Animals): The Natural World of Animal Sexuality – Eliot Schrefer

This is obviously a very different kind of book than The Darkness Outside Us (also by Schrefer), but it sounds like a really sweet book; there’s a notion that queerness is only a human concept, which is entirely wrong, and I’m glad that this book is aiming to dispel that myth, especially for a younger (YA) audience.

Keep or delete? Keep!

RANDOM BOOK 2: The Light in the Lake – Sarah R. Baughman

I’ve been meaning to get to some of the more middle grade-leaning books on my TBR, but looking back at this one, I forget why I added it, and it doesn’t seem all that compelling to me now.

Keep or delete? I think I’ll delete this one.

RANDOM BOOK 3: Why Bowie Matters – Will Brooker

It’s no secret how much I love David Bowie, so I don’t need to explain why this one’s on my TBR. This one has some mediocre reviews, but I’m interested in the stance that Brooker takes with this book—tackling the art and people who made Bowie who he is.

Keep or delete? Definitely keep!

RANDOM BOOK 4: Borne – Jeff VanderMeer

After watching Annihilation, I ended up putting several of Jeff VanderMeer’s books on my TBR, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading any of them. This one sounds super out there (as all of his books seem to be), and despite how long the synopsis is, I think it’ll be an interesting read. Plus, it has much more positive reviews than most of his other books, so I guess that’s a good sign?

Keep or delete? Keep!

RANDOM BOOK 5: Bloom – Kenneth Oppel

It’s been ages since I’ve read anything by Kenneth Oppel, but I remember liking The Nest and some of the Silverwing books when I was in elementary/middle school. This one sounds like it’s right in between middle grade and YA, which should be interesting, especially with the sort of post-apocalyptic premise.

Keep or delete? I think I’ll keep this one.

RANDOM BOOK 6: The Wise and the Wicked – Rebecca Podos

This one’s been on my TBR forever, and I’ll have to look for it again now—we’re all for queer witches in this house.

Keep or delete? Keep!

RANDOM BOOK 7: Missing, Presumed Dead – Emma Berquist

This one has also been on my TBR for ages, but other than the queer rep, I’m not sure if there’s anything about this one that’s really grabbing me.

Keep or delete? Delete, sadly.

I TAG:

Today’s song:

we love it when shuffle just slaps you in the face with childhood nostalgia…good stuff

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 (12/20/22) – A Venom Dark and Sweet (The Book of Tea, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I really enjoyed the first book in the Book of Tea duology, A Magic Steeped in Poison, because of its unique magic system and immersive world. Lucky for us, book 2 came out mere months after Magic (HOW), so I got to get my hands on Venom somewhat soon after reading book 1. However, a lot of what I loved about Magic was watered down in the sequel—Lin’s writing remained strong, but a good portion of what made Magic so unique had been sidelined.

Tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for A Magic Steeped in Poison. If you haven’t read it and intend on doing so, read at your own risk.

For my review of book 1, A Magic Steeped in Poison, click here!

A Venom Dark and Sweet (The Book of Tea, #2) – Judy I. Lin

After the Banished Prince returns to take his place on the throne of Dàxi, Ning and the other exiled royals are forced into hiding. Evading the Prince’s systematic tea poisonings across the kingdom, it’s up to Ning to expose the fraud and treachery of the new ruler. But an even greater evil lurks in the shadows, and if Ning and her newfound allies can’t stop the hostile takeover of their kingdom, they may fall to an even worse fate than they could have ever imagined.

TW/CW: fantasy violence, death, substance abuse, torture

I really wished I liked A Venom Dark and Sweet more than I did; the series was off to such a strong start with A Magic Steeped in Poison, but this sequel bordered on lackluster in comparison. Without the novelty of the unique elements that made book 1 so memorable, there wasn’t much else to carry the plot, save for Lin’s excellent writing; nevertheless, it was still entertaining.

As with Magic, Judy I. Lin’s beautiful writing was the strongest point of the whole novel. Her prose continues to be as lush and immersive as the world she created, and even when the plot faltered, Lin’s words carried it afloat until the end of the book. It wasn’t quite enough to overshadow the weaker aspects of this book, but it gets an extra half-star from me—it largely picked up the slack of the rest of the book.

However, the rest of Venom didn’t seem to have much to it. Most of the book seemed to just be the two parties skirting around each other/trying to avoid getting killed, and it just felt like 350-odd pages of a wild goose chase. After how compelling the political intrigue and the magic system of Magic were, I expected so much more from this book, but there seemed to be hardly any payoff to anything that happened in book 1. We did get some bits of fascinating worldbuilding (the bamboo forest, for one, we needed more of that), but they were delivered in such brief, fleeting chunks that they left me feeling disappointed. It was decent on its own, but I just wanted more—more exploration of the world, more exploration of the magic system, more stakes.

And speaking of no payoff…did Lin just forget that she was teasing a romance between Ning and Kang? Venom was told in dual POVs between the two of them, but they didn’t end up meeting until about the 95% mark and then…nothing really happened? My issue isn’t that they were just platonic (in fact, I’d be all for that), but given that Lin was teasing a romance between them for a good portion of Magic, I really wished there had been some sort of resolution.

All in all, a promising sequel with beautiful prose, but a lackluster conclusion to the duology as a whole. 3.5 stars.

A Venom Dark and Sweet is the final book in the Book of Tea duology, preceded by A Magic Steeped in Poison. Judy I. Lin is also the author of the forthcoming Song of the Six Realms, slated for release in 2024.

Today’s song:

finished learning this on guitar today, so much fun

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