Posted in Monthly Wrap-Ups

May 2021 Wrap-Up 🦊

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

May was equal parts relaxing and stressful (scratch that – more stressful, definitely), but it was a better reading month for sure, so let me elaborate…

GENERAL THOUGHTS:

As with April, I didn’t get to blog as much as I wanted to because of finals and AP testing. Doing three of the latter in the span of only a week turned my soul to mush, but I think I’m more of a sentient being now. And I’m finally done with school! Online was nothing short of a soul-crushing experience, but I’m proud of myself for weathering an entire year of it.

Reading-wise, I actually managed to have a better month! A whole bunch of holds from the library came that I’d been waiting a while for came, and I caught up on a lot of nice sequels. I had a lot of fun re-reading the Six of Crows duology as well. 🙂

Unfortunately, I also had my first 1 star book of the year… [sad harmonica noises]

I really hate to say it, but Wings of Ebony was a big letdown for me. I don’t think I’ll do a full review, but my quick thoughts are as follows: I really appreciated the unapologetic approach to colonialism and racism (which is why I added on the half-star), but the worldbuilding was sloppy at best, the time jumps were too frequent and made no sense, and the writing felt like it desperately needed an editor. Yikes.

Other than that, I’ve continued to do my volunteer work back at the library, and we’re starting to slowly go back to normal! Mask-wearing around there is encouraged but not required for fully vaccinated people (I still wear mine, don’t worry), and we’ve gotten rid of these little stickers we used to track the amount of patrons in store. Oh, and all three seasons of Fargo that have come out on DVD are all on the shelf…nature is healing…

Nicole Canada - Librarian – Alicia Canada – Tomball Junior High

And if you’re wondering about the fox emoji, I put it on to commemorate the fact that we found a family of foxes near our house! We saw all five fox kits on Mother’s Day 🥺

READING AND BLOGGING:

I managed to read 23 books this month! I don’t think I had any 5-star reads this month, but I did read several that came close!

1 – 1.75 stars:

Wings of Ebony (B&N Exclusive Edition) by J. Elle, Hardcover | Barnes &  Noble®
Wings of Ebony

Wings of Ebony (Wings of Ebony, #1) – J. Elle (⭐️.5)

2 – 2.75 stars:

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
Lost in the Never Woods

Scavenge the Stars (Scavenge the Stars, #1) – Tara Sim (⭐️⭐️)

Lost in the Never Woods – Aiden Thomas (⭐️⭐️.5)

3 – 3.75 stars:

Broken Wish (The Mirror, #1) by Julie C. Dao
Broken Wish

Aug 9 – Fog – Kathryn Scanlan (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Hellboy: The Lost Army – Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Velocity Weapon (The Protectorate, #1) – Megan O’Keefe (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

The Prison Healer (The Prison Healer, #1) – Lynette Noni (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Hellboy: The Bones of Giants – Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Broken Wish (The Mirror, #1) – Julie C. Dao (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Be Dazzled – Ryan La Sala (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

4 – 4.75 stars:

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (Wayfarers, #4) – Becky Chambers (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Elysium Girls – Kate Pentecost (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann (read for school) (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Magnificent Ms. Marvel, vol. 3: Outlawed – Saladin Ahmed and Minkyu Jung (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

We Free the Stars (Sands of Arawiya, #2) – Hafsah Faizal (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1) – Akemi Dawn Bowman (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know – Samira Ahmed (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25)

Love, Hate & Other Filters – Samira Ahmed (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) – Leigh Bardugo (re-read) (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2) – Leigh Bardugo (re-read) (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Sanctuary – Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE MONTH (NOT COUNTING RE-READS): Love, Hate & Other Filters4.5 stars

Amazon.com: Love, Hate and Other Filters (9781616958473): Ahmed, Samira:  Books

SOME POSTS I’M PROUD OF:

POSTS I ENJOYED FROM OTHER WONDERFUL PEOPLE:

SONGS/ALBUMS THAT I’VE ENJOYED:

This whole album (Green) is PHENOMENAL. the sheer power that the first four tracks hold…
There’s not a single bad song on this album, but this is hands down one of my favorites
(FIRST OFF: PLEASE DON’T WATCH THIS MUSIC VIDEO IF YOU HAVE PHOTOSENSITIVE EPILEPSY) I think I like this even better than the Oingo Boingo version…
I still don’t like this one as much as the other tracks on this EP, but it’s been growing on me big time
I forgot that this song existed?? And I love it???

DID I FOLLOW THROUGH ON MY MAY GOALS?

  • Take some time away for the AP exams and finals: that I did. Barely posted until the second half of the month, so…
  • Take care of yourself: …I think I did, at least.

GOALS FOR JUNE:

Bannerboy.com by Erik Brunner | Dribbble
  • Make a list with some Pride Month recs!
  • Read at least 20 books
  • Enjoy the first month of summer!
  • ACTUALLY start that first draft of the sci-fi WIP

At last! Summer!!

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Music

Little Oblivions – Julien Baker album review

Julien Baker → Little Oblivions

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles! I suppose this isn’t a bookish post, but I’ll keep my normal greeting, because hey, most of what I post is about books. But here’s something a little different.

So here I am, finally reviewing Little Oblivions!

I got into Julien Baker late last year, starting with Sprained Ankle after hearing her distinct voice as part of the supergroup boygenius (with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus). I was immediately hooked on Sprained Ankle, liked but didn’t love Turn Out the Light (Sprained Ankle > Turn Out the Lights, fight me Pitchfork), and so of course I was excited to see that she was coming out with something new. What stands out most to me about her music is the raw emotion of it; Baker never hesitates to explore the darker side of everything, and does so with such intense, palpable motion. Even with just a guitar or a piano, she can make a shrieking ballad of grief or heartbreak out of anything.

And I’m glad to say Little Oblivions is no exception. While Baker experiments with bigger, brighter sound, she stays true to the emotional aspect that defines her body of work, making a whole new set of resonant and soaring music.

So let’s begin this review, shall we?

Julien Baker is a queer, Christian, socialist — we had to talk to her by  Religion and Socialism Podcast

JULIEN BAKER LITTLE OBLIVIONS (album review)

TRACK 1: “Hardline” – 9/10

Say it’s not so cut and dry,

Oh, it isn’t black and white,

What if it’s all black, baby,

All the time?

– Julien Baker, “Hardline”

NOW THIS IS WHAT I CALL AN AMAZING OPENING TRACK! Baker’s foray into new, more electronic sound proves an immediate hit, paired with her signature raw lyricism. Plus, we’ve got an amazing stop-motion music video to match!

TRACK 2: “Heatwave” – 7.5/10

The last single to be released before the whole album, “Heatwave” is reminiscent of the boygenius EP. There’s a deceptively upbeat tone and composition to it, hiding some of Baker’s darkest lyrics. The instrumentation almost reminds me of Wilco.

TRACK 3: “Faith Healer” – 9/10

This one was the first single to be released before the whole album, and it has been a consistent earworm for MONTHS, let me tell you…

Such beautiful, concise instrumentation, a steady beat, and even the effects overlaid over Baker’s unique voice fit right in with the almost spacey keyboards. A completely new direction for her musically, but one I’m ADORING.

Wooohoooo!!! — Marvel Contest of Champions

TRACK 4: “Relative Fiction” – 9/10

‘Cause I don’t need a savior,

I need you to take me home…

– Julien Baker, “Relative Fiction”

It would be a bit of a stretch to call this a love song, but that’s almost how I interpreted it on the first listen. “Relative Fiction” delves into Baker’s quieter, more musically sparse roots for a tender and poignant song of grappling with emotions and questioning one’s own self worth, and the meaning one might hold for others.

TRACK 5: “Crying Wolf” – 7.5/10

Continuing “Relative Fiction”‘s trend of quieter and sadder introspection, “Crying Wolf” presents a piano ballad reminiscent of Turn Out the Lights that soars to a resonant conclusion. (That “OOOOOO” that starts at about 2:33…[CRIES])

TRACK 6: “Bloodshot” – 7/10

There’s no glory in love,

Only the gore of our hearts…

– Julien Baker, “Bloodshot”

The song where we get the album cover’s gorgeous lyricism, “Bloodshot” toes the line between the two musical themes of Little Oblivions so far, oscillating between the electronic experimentation and the sparser, quieter ballads. Another deceptively upbeat song, telling of messy emotions and shaky relationships.

TRACK 7: “Ringside” – 6.5/10

I still enjoy this one, that’s for sure, but it felt a little bit like a lull in the middle. The lyricism is still stellar, but something about it doesn’t pack as much of a punch as the rest of the album so far has.

TRACK 8: “Favor” – 8.5/10

You pulled a moth out

From the grill of your truck,

Saying it’s a shame,

How come it’s so much easier

With anything less than human,

Letting yourself be tender?

– Julien Baker, “Favor”

As with “Graceland Too” on Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher, this boygenius collaboration truly shines. The combination of the voices of Baker, Bridgers and Dacus never fails to make my heart soar to the clouds, and paired with such poignant lyrics, “Favor” is absolutely a highlight of this album.

TRACK 9: “Song in E” – 10/10

My favorite song on the album, hands down. This one again harkens back to Turn Out the Lights, but something about both the piano and Julien’s vocals takes it to all new heights. It’s just…[sniffles]

And something about the way she says “name” at about 0:40 just makes my heart go 🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺

TRACK 10: “Repeat” – 9/10

Ocean of strip malls,

I help you swim across

To the other side…

– Julien Baker, “Repeat”

Another example of Julien’s decision to go more electronic with her sound paying off 100%. Catchy, but continually poetic in its lyricism, this was one of my favorite songs that wasn’t released as a single before the album’s released. Again, can’t put my finger on it, but I love the way Baker sings all of the words past the 3/4 mark with the long ‘e’ sound (ex. means, speak, street, dream, repeat). My brain can’t be troubled for a concrete reason, but it’s so beautiful.

TRACK 11: “Highlight Reel” – 7.5/10

Not my favorite on the album, but the instrumentation itself is what shines for me. I love the drums, the guitar, the…well, the everything. I can’t quite pick out what instrument (probably keyboard?) it is, but the part from about 3:21 to the end reminds me a bit of St. Vincent’s “Teenage Talk.”

TRACK 12: “Ziptie” – 6.5/10

Not the best ending for this album and a lower point overall, but still lovely. The lyricism is still painfully beautiful, but it just seems to wander about almost aimlessly. A good listen, but maybe something like “Repeat” or “Bloodshot” would have been a better end to the album.

Julien Baker is just being honest | EW.com

I averaged out all of the scores for each track, and they came out to almost exactly 8! I’d say that’s accurate; Little Oblivions wasn’t without its occasional low points, but even those were songs that I’ll surely come back to. A stellar album, and a bold new direction that payed off with every song.

And even though this wasn’t on the album, I can’t not talk about this…

I–

I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. This is a transcendental cover. And hey, Julien Baker and Radiohead: two of my favorite things.

Since this post is full of songs, consider this whole album today’s song.

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

Posted in Books

YA Reads for National Latinx Heritage Month

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

As some of you may have known, National Latinx Heritage Month started yesterday (September 15th), and ends on October 15th. So for the occasion, I figured that I would compile a list of some YA books of all genres! (All of the books listed are #OwnVoices in that respect.) As someone who’s half Latinx, this month is definitely close to my heart, and I always love seeing latinx characters on the YA scene.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR NATIONAL LATINX HERITAGE MONTH

The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

GENRE: Poetry/novels in verse, contemporary fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This one was recommended to me by a friend, and it’s easily one of the best–if not the best, period–novels in verse that I’ve ever read. I know it’s gotten quite a lot of hype in the past few years, but I can say with certainty that it deserves it all.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Hardcover) |  Politics and Prose Bookstore

GENRE: Contemporary fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, coming-of-age

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been years since I’ve read this one, but it’s such an important novel–not just in the Latinx representation, but in the LGBTQ+ representation as well!

Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic, #1), Maya Motayne

Amazon.com: Nocturna (9780062842732): Motayne, Maya: Books

GENRE: High fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Although I wasn’t as big a fan of this one as some of the others on this list, I loved the Latinx inspired world/magic system! One part that stood out to me was the fact that all the spells were Spanish verbs, which…okay, not gonna lie, took some of the surprise away from what the characters were about to do when I understood the words, but it’s an interesting aspect. And you can’t deny how gorgeous that cover is…

When the Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore

Amazon.com: When the Moon Was Ours: A Novel (9781250058669): McLemore,  Anna-Marie: Books

GENRE: Fantasy, fiction, magical realism, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I swear, Anna-Maria McLemore can do no wrong. Her prose is so beautiful, and it’s wonderfully diverse as well. There isn’t a book by her that I wouldn’t recommend, though I haven’t read Dark and Deepest Red or The Weight of Feathers yet…

Fire With Fire, Destiny Soria

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria

GENRE: Urban fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ+, paranormal, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I recently received this one as an eARC, and I don’t regret it! Both of the main characters are mixed race (half Latinx/half white), and Dani is bisexual! It’s the first time in a bit that representation in a book got me THAT excited. Plus, there’s the general fantasy fun of butt-kicking girls teaming up with butt-kicking dragons.

With the Fire on High, Elizabeth Acevedo

Amazon.com: With the Fire on High: From the winner of the CILIP Carnegie  Medal 2019 (9781471409004): Acevedo, Elizabeth: Books

GENRE: Contemporary fiction, realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Another powerful tale from Elizabeth Acevedo, another gorgeous cover! This book is not only guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings, but guaranteed to make you REALLY hungry.

They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera

Amazon.com: They Both Die at the End (9780062688514): Silvera, Adam: Books

GENRE: Contemporary fiction, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Absolutely worth a read, but it’s one of those books that you have to be in a good, stable mood to read. I mean, they tell you exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s no less rough…[sniffles]

Wild Beauty, Anna-Marie McLemore

Amazon.com: Wild Beauty: A Novel (9781250124555): McLemore, Anna-Marie:  Books

GENRE: Fantasy, magical realism, LGBTQ+, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This was my first exposure to McLemore, and it’s left a lasting impression on me to this day. It’s the kind of prose that makes you smell flowers and grass and want to dance through fields of colorful wildflowers.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels? What did you think? Are there any other great books by Latinx authors that you recommend? (Everybody’s putting Cemetery Boys on their lists…I still haven’t gotten around to reading it, but I have it on hold at the library…)

Another announcement before I go–guess what else started yesterday? Bisexual visibility week! Bi visibility day is September 23rd, so I’ll be compiling another list, this time for books with bisexual protagonists and authors. Stay tuned!

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books, Top 5 Saturday

Top 5 Saturday (9/12/20)–Science Fiction Books 🛸

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

Time for another Top 5 Saturday! This was originally started by Devouring Books, and it sounded like such a fun post to take part in. Today’s topic is sci-fi…

You know what that means…

AHAHAAAAAAAA MY FAVORITE GENRE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

But anyway, I have lots of sci-fi on my TBR, so I’ll take some picks from there for this week’s Top 5.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE FOR SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER: 

9/12/20Science Fiction Books

9/19/20—Award-Winning Books

9/26/20—Guilty Pleasure Books

10/3/20—Intimidating Books

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic– these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post
  • Tag 5 people

Let’s begin, shall we?

Dune, Frank Herbert

Check Out the Artwork for a New Edition of Frank Herbert's Dune | Tor.com

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a year or so; my brother read it for an English project (the same one that lead me to Frankenstein) and liked it. And the new trailer got me SO excited, so of course I’ll have to read it before December! (Did that Pink Floyd cover give anybody else chills, or was that just me?)

Seven Devils, Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

Amazon.com: Seven Devils (9780756415808): Lam, Laura, May, Elizabeth: Books

I’ve been eager to read this for a good year and a half, ever since the first tiny synopsis compared it to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (Star Wars? Of COURSE you have my attention, shut up and take my library card…)

Unearthed, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Unearthed – Amie Kaufman

Two words: Amie Kaufman. I put this one on hold at the library recently, so I might get to read it next week!

Struck, Jennifer Bosworth

Struck (Struck, #1) by Jennifer Bosworth

This one’s been on my TBR for years, and I really need to get around to reading it…

Landscape with Invisible Hand, M.T. Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

I almost picked this one up about a year ago, but I set it aside because of how short it was. Nonetheless, this still sounds like a unique and fascinating sci-fi!

I TAG ANYONE WHO WANTS TO PARTICIPATE!

Star Wars Chewie GIF by Nerdist.com - Find & Share on GIPHY

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Top 5 Saturday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

Nobody’s perfect, but that doesn’t excuse privilege: Carve the Mark, Mosquitoland, and being a more conscious and careful reader

Happy Friday, bibliophiles! I’ve been writing out this post in my head since Tuesday night, so here goes nothing…

The other day, I was reading Aditi’s post about 20 of the most popular YA books on Goodreads. Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark was among the ranks, and she mentioned that there had been several reviews saying that it had some racist elements, and had a problematic depiction of chronic illness. I had to do a bit of a double take; I read that book at least two years ago, but I didn’t remember anything like that. My whole memory of the book was hazy, really, and even though I’d given it a four star rating back then, it was probably one of those books I just sped through because I was just thinking something along the lines of “haha sci-fi go brrrrrrrrrrr”

Carve the Mark eBook by Veronica Roth - 9780062348654 | Rakuten Kobo United  States

And so I read some reviews–some from bloggers that I follow, some from strangers, and there were indeed a lot that pointed out several problematic elements and stereotypes. I found myself being incredibly ashamed of my past self for not noticing them. I’ve been going back and forth between removing my rating, and I never got to the sequel and thought Divergent was overrated, so I doubt I’ll be picking up a Veronica Roth book in the future. But I ended up putting myself between two spaces:

First off, nobody’s perfect. As much of an intersectional feminist that I strive to be, I still make mistakes. We all do. I’m sure everybody’s had an instance like this one.

But secondly, I still must acknowledge that I have privilege, and that this privilege is part of why I didn’t spot the highly questionable elements there. And since I am privileged, I have to do my best to better myself, and read more carefully, and become better at spotting and making note of problematic elements.

Amazon.com: Mosquitoland (9780147513656): Arnold, David: Books

I’d like to think that I’ve gotten better at reading carefully since I read Carve the Mark, but this example also jumped out at me as something that’s controversial. I read Mosquitoland a few months back; I thought it was a well-written novel, but there is some highly questionable–and I mean HIGHLY questionable and offensive representation of Down syndrome, and some problematic elements regarding the depiction of Native American characters, as well as some poor handling of sexual assault. I still hold the writing highly, but I know that I have to also recognize that Mosquitoland, though powerful, is still a deeply flawed novel. No matter its impact, there is NO excusing some of the content of this novel. (if you’re interested in someone else’s thoughts on the matter, I’d highly suggest checking out The Inside Cover’s Mosquitoland, Three Years Later: A Coda.)

All this got me thinking about reviews. Part of what’s key to reading/picking your reads more carefully is reading reviews before you dive in. Of course, you have to be careful to avoid reviews that have been paid to get a 4-5 star rating (for bias); the 3-2 star range is usually the most reliable source for me, as they usually cover the good and the bad in equal amounts. (1 stars tend to dive into rants, which I fully admit to doing, but it’s better to see both the pros and cons, personally.) It’s just like checking your news sources: seeing both sides of the argument, and getting perspectives from reviewers who have lived some of these experiences. It’s what made me take The State of Us off my TBR, and a few others.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel (The Carls): Green, Hank:  9781524743444: Amazon.com: Books

And sometimes, there’s no way out of it. I went into An Absolutely Remarkable Thing expecting a read as great as everybody seemed to say it was, but I ended up being infuriated by how poorly the bisexual representation was handled. (Personal opinion, here) Hardly anyone (except for one reviewer, so shoutout to them) noted the bury-your-gays trope, as well as the killing off of most of the POC characters (all but one or two) in Four Dead Queens. There will always be times when we’re roped into something problematic, even if we’ve read a variety of reviews.

Four Dead Queens - Astrid Scholte - 9781760524418 - Allen & Unwin -  Australia

The bottom line? Don’t beat yourself up about reading a problematic book, but don’t brush the problematic parts aside like they don’t exist. If you see something uncomfortable depicted in a novel, talk about it, whether it’s in the comments of a review or in a review of your own. Let your voice be heard, but recognize that all of us have at least a little bit of privilege.

Alright, let me step off the soapbox for a minute. I also have a short announcement: I have A BUNCH of books that I’d like to review soon, so as well as my Book Review Tuesdays, I’ll be packing several books into mini-reviews, starting next week. So stay tuned…

Today’s song:

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