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

Daddy’s Home – St. Vincent album review

St. Vincent - Daddy's Home Bronze Vinyl Edition - Vinyl LP - 2021 - EU -  Original | HHV

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I’m ELATED that school’s over. Junior year online was awful, good riddance. I’m eagerly anticipating chucking all my math homework into the recycling.

And here I am with one of these album reviews that I only do once in a blue moon!

Ever since elementary school, St. Vincent has been a personal music hero of mine. From falling in love from tracks off of Actor, Strange Mercy and the self-titled St. Vincent, her music was a sanctuary for me during a time when, more than ever, I felt like an outsider. Her music shaped me, and seeing a confident queer woman quickly becoming the 21st century’s answer to David Bowie (and having her own line of signature guitars!!) was nothing short of empowering.

I lost a little faith in her after how much MASSEDUCTION disappointed me – the music was well-played, for sure, but the direction she went in just didn’t feel natural for her.

But I’m excited to say that I’ve completely forgiven her for MASSEDUCTION. I didn’t think I ever could, but Daddy’s Home is some of her best work to date, drawing inspiration from the early 70’s as she shifts into a darker, Young Americans-esque persona.

So let’s begin, shall we?

(NOTE: I’ll probably leave out reviews for “Humming (Interludes 1-3)” just because they’re only about 30 seconds long each)

St Vincent – Daddy's Home | Album review – The Upcoming

ST. VINCENT – DADDY’S HOME (album review)

TRACK 1: “Pay Your Way in Pain” – 10/10

[JOYOUS SCREAMING]

The first track of the album and the first single released, this song was almost singlehandedly responsible for my regaining faith in St. Vincent. From the opening notes of the piano to Clark hitting the high notes, repeating “I wanna be loved,” this song is perfection, pure and simple. 100% a highlight of the album, but there’s never a dull moment with this one.

TRACK 2: “Down And Out Downtown” – 8/10

GAAAAH. This is just one of those songs where the music makes you feel like all soft and warm and melt-y, but in the best way possible. Clark’s voice truly soars with this one, and the tempo seems perfect for driving with the windows down. The drums are incredible too! What a perfect beat.

TRACK 3: “Daddy’s Home” – 9.5/10

Where can you run

When the outlaw’s inside you?

– St. Vincent, “Daddy’s Home”

VERY NEARLY FLAWLESS. What’s not to love about this song? Some of Clark’s best lyrics, in my opinion, and the most 70’s vibes concentrated into a song since…y’know, a song that’s actually from the 70’s. I’m almost convinced that she’s a time traveller. And I’m not normally very enthusiastic about saxophones, but the ones in this one SOUND SO COOL?? WHAT THE HECK

TRACK 4: “Live In The Dream” – 10/10

Next to “Pay Your Way in Pain,” this is, hands down, my favorite song on the album. It has a very Pink Floyd sensibility about it, like the music of “Us and Them” and the lyrics of “Comfortably Numb” got together, which, as you can probably guess, is appropriately depressing.

IT IS.

It’s hard to listen to, but somehow, I can’t seem to stop listening to it. This feels like what “Young Lover” could have been on MASSEDUCTION – a dark tragedy of near-death and overdoses, drifting in and out of consciousness. It’s harrowing and haunting, but god, it’s beautiful.

TRACK 5: “The Melting of the Sun” – 7/10

To quote somebody in the YouTube comments section: “I don’t remember this Schoolhouse Rock episode…”

Out of the three singles that were released before the whole album, this was my least favorite, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t adore it. (Definitely the best music video of the bunch, though.) It feels a little slower, but it’s no less catchy and immersive, speaking to a lifetime of comparing oneself to others.

TRACK 7: “The Laughing Man” – 7/10 (shhh didn’t skip a track there was just a humming interlude in between)

[quietly] ohhhh ok so these are the lyrics on the sleeves of my hoodie

Next to “Daddy’s Home,” “The Laughing Man” dives headfirst into the 70’s aesthetic, and hits the mark perfectly. Warm, sultry and slow, it feels like slipping in and out of a dream. I can’t put my finger on why I don’t like it quite as much as the others, but it’s lovely nonetheless.

TRACK 8: “Down” – 8/10

Now this was a welcome reward for finishing my AP World exam…

My second favorite of the pre-released singles! Rhythmic and catchy, this is almost as cinematic and raw as “Pay Your Way In Pain.” No doubt that I’ll be playing this one on repeat quite a lot. AND THE GUITAR SOLOS! THE CLASSIC ANNIE CLARK GUITAR SOLO!

TRACK 10: “Somebody Like Me” – 9/10 (shh no worries there was another humming interlude)

Does it make you an angel

Or some kind of freak

To believe enough

In somebody like me?

– St. Vincent, “Somebody Like Me”

For some reason, the combination of the drums and the sample of laughing children at about 0:08 always sticks with me…

Even though the 70’s influence is clear, this feels like it could’ve fit just as well on Actor, Strange Mercy or even something as early as Marry Me. Delving further into haunting self doubt, Clark’s ethereal voice, combined with dreamlike instrumentation, backing vocals, and a steady drumbeat, this song just makes me feel so strangely good inside. I feel myself smiling as I’m listening right now…

TRACK 11: “My Baby Wants A Baby” – 9/10

But I wanna play guitar all day

Make all my meals in microwaves

Only dress up if I get paid

How can it be wrong?

– St. Vincent, “My Baby Wants A Baby”

This has to be one of her most personal songs in recent years; as the song progresses, we not only see her grapple with not wanting children, tenuous relationships, and moving away from self-reliance, but with being remembered only as “a woman in music.” It’s a classic tragedy, the injustice that is having “no legacy/Won’t have no streets named after me…they’ll just look at me and say/’Where’s your baby?'” There’s not a single lyric that doesn’t stand out in this one. LOVE IT.

TRACK 12: “…At The Holiday Party” – 6.5/10

(Did anyone else think that the title was a continuation of “My Baby Wants A Baby” just because of the ellipse at first? Like “My Baby Wants A Baby…At The Holiday Party?” No? Just me?)

Kind of like “The Laughing Man,” I can’t quite put my finger on why I don’t like this one at much, but it just doesn’t feel quite as potent as most of the others. I like the backing vocals and the steady beat, though.

TRACK 13: “Candy Darling” – 9/10

The perfect closing track to the album. Too short, but I guess that could be said about all of the songs on this album…

It feels like a bittersweet goodbye, a final descent into the dreamlike realm that the album consistently slipped in and out of. The musical equivalent of a hug goodbye and a kiss on the forehead.

(shh there’s one more interlude but that’s ok)

St. Vincent Teases New Single 'Pay Your Way In Pain'

I added up my ratings for the 11 tracks I reviewed, and it averaged out to about an 8.5. Which…huh? That can’t be right…

Nah. This isn’t an official review, right? And nobody here cares about how I round things, right? So I’ll just bump it up to a solid 9. It’s only 2021, but I think I already have my favorite album of the decade. All at once haunting, cinematic, and warm, it’s everything that I missed from St. Vincent: fantastic guitar solos, a soaring voice, and dark and clever lyricism. I just wanna give this album a hug.

In conclusion, FIGHT ME, PITCHFORK.

St. Vincent gets a new signature guitar model ahead of new album release

Since there’s a whole album packed in here, consider this entire post today’s song.

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (5/17/21) – Sisters of the Snake

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

(whew, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these…ap tests, man…)

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

For the remainder of the month, I’m going to feature some #OwnVoices AAPI books from my TBR for Goodreads Monday, starting with this one! I forget exactly how I came across this one, but it sounds like so much fun – I really need to read more mistaken-identity stories!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (5/17/21) – SISTERS OF THE SNAKE by Sasha and Sarena Nanua

Amazon.com: Sisters of the Snake (9780062985590): Nanua, Sasha, Nanua,  Sarena: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

A lost princess. A dark puppet master. And a race against time—before all is lost.

Princess Rani longs for a chance to escape her gilded cage and prove herself. Ria is a street urchin, stealing just to keep herself alive.

When these two lives collide, everything turns on its head: because Ria and Rani, orphan and royal, are unmistakably identical.

A deal is struck to switch places—but danger lurks in both worlds, and to save their home, thief and princess must work together. Or watch it all fall into ruin.

Deadly magic, hidden temples, and dark prophecies: Sisters of the Snake is an action-packed, immersive fantasy that will thrill fans of The Crown’s Game and The Tiger at Midnight.

So why do I want to read this?

Kermit Vs. Constantine (Dark Kermit) GIF | Gfycat
I can’t not put this gif in somewhere

First off, how cool is it that this book was written by twins? Something about that just makes the already amazing premise of this book even more amazing.

Mistaken identity is a trope that shows up quite a lot in fantasy, to varying degrees of success. But I love the concept of Rani and Ria’s situation here: two entirely different backgrounds, chaos ensues, reluctantly working together. I haven’t had much luck with YA fantasy lately, so I’m thinking this one will be great! I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high, though…

Eh, when has that ever stopped me?

Cat Shelves GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Sisters of the Snake is set to come out on June 15, 2021, so I’ll see you all then…

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

YA Books for AAPI Heritage Month

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I’m (almost) back! Today marked my last AP exam of the year (had four exams this week…hhhgh…), so now that I have most of the big tests out of the way, I can start getting back on a more frequent blogging schedule. Of course, I’m not *quite* done with the school year just yet, but the only finals I have left are for my easy classes, so I don’t think there’s anything terribly strenuous on the immediate horizon. 🙂

But I wanted to make this post because here in the U.S., the month of May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month! So for the occasion, I decided to compile some of my favorite #OwnVoices AAPI YA novels of all genres. As always, it’s essential to diversify your reading pool 365 days a year, but especially with the tragic hate crimes and harmful stigmas surrounding AAPI people in the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s especially important to uplift AAPI voices.

So let’s begin, shall we?

Aapi Aapi Month GIF - Aapi AapiMonth AapiHeritageMonth - Discover & Share  GIFs

YA BOOKS FOR AAPI HERITAGE MONTH

Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire Series #1) by Natasha  Ngan, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

GENRES: High fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one, but I’ll never forget the impact it had on me. Raw, unapologetic, and resonant, Ngan builds such a rich world, unforgettable characters, and a plot that kept me at the edge of my seat. The sequel was a disappointment, unfortunately, but I think I’ll stick it out for book 3.

This Time Will Be Different – Misa Sugiura

Amazon.com: This Time Will Be Different eBook: Sugiura, Misa: Kindle Store

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

For anyone who seeks to make change in their community, this one’s a must-read! A beautiful story of family, history, and everyday resistance.

Love, Hate & Other Filters – Samira Ahmed

Love Hate & Other Filters - Social Justice Books

GENRES: Fiction, contemporary, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

After reading two of her books and a short story, I can now say that Samira Ahmed might just be a new favorite author of mine! She never misses, and her debut is no exception; a raw and beautiful tale of love, family, and fighting back against bigotry.

These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong

Amazon.com: These Violent Delights (9781534457690): Gong, Chloe: Books

GENRES: Historical fiction, fantasy, retellings (Romeo and Juliet), romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I tried (and failed) to set my expectations at a reasonable level after all the hype this one got, but I must say, this one is worth a good portion of it! A fresh and original spin on Romeo and Juliet set against the background of 1920’s Shanghai, complete with warring gangs and strange monsters.

Warcross – Marie Lu

Amazon.com: Warcross (9780399547966): Lu, Marie: Books

GENRES: Science fiction, romance, dystopia

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Marie Lu’s one of my favorite authors, and it was hard to pick just one of her books for this post, but I ended up on this one because a) it was my first exposure to her AMAZING writing and b) I don’t talk about it an awful lot, so why not give it some more love?

Besides that gorgeous cover, there’s something for everybody here: futuristic Tokyo, a clever and lovable heroine, mysteries within competitive video games, and secret plots.

Almost American Girl – Robin Ha

Amazon.com: Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir (9780062685094): Ha,  Robin, Ha, Robin: Books

GENRES: Graphic novels, autobiography

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

GAAAH, this one’s beautiful! This one’s an autobiography in the form of a graphic novel, centering around the author’s experience as a Korean immigrant to the U.S. and the transformative power of art and comics.

Ash – Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo

GENRES: Retellings (Cinderella), fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Amid the bountiful Cinderella retellings out there, this one truly stands out, with lush writing reminiscent of the narration of Pan’s Labyrinth and classic fairytales, and a warm and resonant sapphic romance. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a retelling worth reading!

The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi

Amazon.com: The Gilded Wolves: A Novel (The Gilded Wolves, 1)  (9781250144546): Chokshi, Roshani: Books

GENRES: Fantasy, historical fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you’re a fan of Six of Crows, I AM ONCE AGAIN ASKING YOU TO DROP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING AND READ THIS BOOK. Lovable and authentic characters, a complex world and system of magic, heists for famed artifacts, and political intrigue – this one has it all.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns – Julie C. Dao

Amazon.com: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress Book 1)  eBook: Dao, Julie C.: Kindle Store

GENRES: Retellings, high fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you love antiheroes, corruption arcs, or stories from the perspective of the villain, than this book is for you! Rich, dark and compelling, this is a must-read duology for any YA fantasy fan!

Descendant of the Crane – Joan He

Descendant of the Crane (9780807515518): He, Joan: Books - Amazon.com

GENRES: High fantasy, mystery

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I know I never stop blabbing about this one, but this is a prime example of genre-bending done right: a stunning blend of fantasy and murder mystery! I’m so surprised that more people haven’t read this one, I highly recommend it if you haven’t. (And I can’t wait for The Ones We’re Meant to Find! It looks amazing, but I can’t find it at my library…[impatient screeching])

The Henna Wars – Adiba Jaigirdar

The Henna Wars — Adiba Jaigirdar

GENRES: Fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, and I’m so glad to say that it delivered! A diverse, sapphic enemies-to-lovers romance with important discussions about cultural appropriation, the immigrant experience, and sexuality.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books, and what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by AAPI authors?

Aapi Heritage Month GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Today’s song:

Ok I think I can officially forgive her for MASSEDUCTION because THERE IS NOT A BAD SONG ON THIS ALBUM! Expect a review soonish…

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