A few months back, I was looking through my diary, and I stumbled upon an entry from around early December 2019. I was thinking about all of the movies that were (supposed to) come out this year, and I wrote something along the lines of “2020 is gonna be my year!”
Boy, I had no way of knowing how astronomically wrong I was about that.
But you’ve heard everyone say how unprecedented and generally awful this year was. And a lot of it sucked for me too–grieving, doing school online, general paranoia about the state of the world, and, well, the ongoing global pandemic. So I think we can all agree that 2020 definitely sucked on some level.
But I’m not here to talk about all that. For even though this year was awful for everybody, there were still some bright spots. I read some amazing books, discovered new music, got introduced to some amazing movies, discovered my new favorite show (Fargo!), and I even finished the first drafts of not one, but two of my WIPs!
And in terms of this blog, it’s been a pretty good year, I’d say. This was my first full year doing this whole book blogging (mostly) thing semi-seriously, and now I’m almost at 350 followers! I started getting eARCs through Edelweiss as well, so that’s been an adventure. Along the way, I’ve found so many like-minded souls and discovered so many unique and wonderful blogs. So thank you all for helping me get through this trash fire of a year. Lots of love to all of you. 💗
Now, as with last year, I have a few new year’s resolutions for this blog:
I’m going to start putting trigger warnings/content warnings for the books I review. I really should’ve started this earlier, but I think it’s a great way to inform readers of what they’re in for, and if there’s certain elements that they would react negatively to. Again, should’ve started this earlier…whoops…
I might do monthly wrap-ups, probably starting at the end of January. I already do weekly updates, but I like the idea of compiling everything I’ve read in the span of a month sounds fun. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how much I actually read in the span of a month…
But other than that, you can probably expect what I usually do here. I’ll try to do more original posts soon (I have one planned, so stay tuned!), but I promise that this blog in 2021 will have lots of bookish (and non-bookish) content and more.
So let’s get through 2021 together. Good or bad, we can all support each other to move past the dumpster fire that this year was. Let’s better ourselves, be kind to others, spread all the love we can, and for the love of all that is holy, PLEASE JUST WEAR YOUR MASKS AND LISTEN TO THE SCIENTISTS. IT REALLY ISN’T THAT HARD.
[ahem] anyway, I suppose this concludes 2020. We can do this, everybody. As always, lots of love. 💗
The final song of 2020:
That’s it for this year! (good riddance…)
As always, have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves. And a happy new year to all.
Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles, and more importantly, happy Bisexual Visibility Day!
Last week (September 15) was the start of Bisexual Visibility week, which blends with today (September 23), Bisexual Visibility Day. Even though we’ve made great steps as far as LGBTQ+ progress goes, there’s still a plethora of harmful stigmas surrounding bisexual people, and not to mention bisexual erasure in the media and elsewhere. But today is a day to celebrate bisexual love, and to remind ourselves and all our bi friends of this: you are loved, you are valid, and you are beautiful.
So today, I’ve compiled a list of books with bisexual protagonists! Sadly, I wasn’t able to find as many who had #OwnVoices bi authors, but I’m always striving to read and find more.
Let’s begin, shall we?
THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BISEXUAL VISIBILITY WEEK/DAY
There’s only one thing better than a bisexual protagonist…and that’s a bisexual protagonist who’s a necromancer! Reign of the Fallen will always have a special place in my heart, and I’ll always have a soft spot for Odessa.
Speaking of sci-fi with both bisexual and disability rep…
There’s seven (later six) different POVs throughout this series, two of which are LGBTQ+; and Kaufman and Kristoff confirmed that Finian, one of these POVs, is bisexual! (And honestly? It’s perfect, he is absolutely the OG Disaster Bisexual…)
Not only is one of our protagonists biracial and bisexual, it also tackles a variety of issues, such as biphobia, sexism, fat-shaming, and mental health issues. A wonderful read for anyone familiar with the Comic Con scene!
I got a notification this morning, and apparently I’ve had this blog running for…5 years? WHOAAAAA, OKAY, I FORGOT ABOUT THAT
I didn’t start semi-seriously book blogging until about a year ago, but thank you to everybody who has supported me along the way! (And for those of you who had to witness what this blog was like when I was in middle school…I’m terribly sorry for the horrors you experienced.)
ANYWAY, I figured I should start doing writing-related posts more frequently, so here’s my first(ish?) stab at it.
Many members of the writing community use music in a number of ways in the process of creating their WIP, be it picking specific songs or albums to listen to while writing, or creating book or character playlists. Music is an integral part of my life, and I’ve managed to weave it into my writing life as well. I always listen to music when I write, so I thought that I would first share some songs, albums, and scores that I like the most to get me writing my WIPs.
I think there’s been several studies about how instrumental scores help with studying, but for a lot of people, music without lyrics is helpful to focus on their writing, and is less distracting than music with lyrics. I use a mix of music with and without lyrics in writing, but for those of you who are strictly instrumental, here are some of my favorite albums–mostly film scores, mind you–that I use when writing:
Hellboy II: The Golden Army original score–Danny Elfman
Yes, yes, I know I blab about this masterpiece quite a lot, but hey, it’s Danny Elfman doing the score–what’s not to like? The score ranges from whimsically spooky to action-packed to tear-jerking, so it’s perfect for writing scenes of all kinds.
Russo has such a wide range, composition-wise, and every single score I’ve come across by him is nothing short of stellar. Some of my favorites include his scores for Legion (FX), and The Umbrella Academy (Netflix), but he’s also scored everything from Cursed to Lucy in the Sky and Fargo (the TV show)
NON-INSTRUMENTAL SONGS AND ALBUMS
I cram loads of music onto my writing playlists, but there’s several particular songs and albums that get me more focused/motivated/immersed in my writing than others, so here goes nothing…
Besides the fact that one of my WIPs features a character who is obsessed with this album, the sheer range of emotion in this album is stunning. Though it’s chiefly electronic, I’ve used these songs from everything from battle scenes to a funeral scene.
Another very emotional album, this one’s always great for writing scenes associated with any form of love, whether it’s the promise of it, being in the throes of it, or being apart from it. Then again, you’re talking to somebody who has had zero (0) experience with any sort of relationships, so take this as you will.
Apparently they called this album “the American Kid A” when it came out, so…did I cheat and put Kid A on here twice? If so, I don’t regret it.
Ranging from punchy, classic rock songs and dreamlike, melancholic hazes of emotion, I highly recommend this album for scenes charged with emotion–doesn’t matter what emotion we’re talking about, because there’s easily a song or two on here for everything.
I saw a piece of advice the other day about making two writing playlists: listen to one of them while writing it, and a different one when you’re editing or making the second draft, so that you’re put into a different mindset while re-reading it.
For making the playlists themselves, I usually just dump several songs I like, and go through songs as I write. If there’s a song that takes me out of the writing or has been in circulation for a few times too many, I take it off and replace it.
Just for fun, here are snippets of mine:
(Or, alternatively, “the one that I accidentally dumped all the Weezer on” and “the one without any Weezer at all”)
I also like to cobble together playlists for each of my WIPs: here, I include songs with lyrics that relate to the story, or that just have the general vibe of the WIP. For some of them, I also create character playlists going off of the same rule. For my sci-fi book, there are six different perspectives (or, I’m going to make it that way once I get around to editing it), so I have a playlist for each of them. For my current WIP, however, there’s only one perspective, so I just keep it at the protagonist.
What do you think? What are your musical techniques for writing? What’s your favorite music to write to?
Since there’s a boatload of music in this post, consider the entire thing “today’s song.”
That’s it for this writing post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I put this one on my TBR almost exactly a year ago (what are the odds?), forgot about it for a little bit, and once I remembered its existence, I got INCREDIBLY excited. I did a Goodreads Monday on it about a month ago, and it seemed like my dream book. (Aliens, secret libraries, music, and LGBTQ+/POC representation? Of COURSE you have my attention!) I recently bought it on my first trip to the bookstore since the pandemic started. And while it wasn’t without its flaws, The Sound of Stars was a beautiful and poignant tale of resistance.
⭐︎ A mini photoshoot I did with my copy (feat. some similar YA sci-fi books I own, as well as my trusty iPod and David Bowie) ⭐︎
Janelle–Ellie for short–Baker lives in a world not so far from our own, but one ravaged by the aftermath of an alien invasion. The Ilori now have control over most of the population, and have deemed all forms of creative expression, be it art, literature, or music, as dangerous. Ellie ekes out a living in New York City, running a secret library of her personal collection. She knows that if she’s ever discovered, it could mean execution for her and her parents, but her love of books keeps her business going.
M0Rr1s (Morris), an Ilori boy raised in a lab, knows that his differences could also mean the death of him. Unlike most others of his kind, he has the capacity for emotion–and a penchant for music. He finds solace in the old human music, illegally downloading it into his mind to hear. When he stumbles upon Ellie and her secret library, he knows that he should turn her into the authorities. But their shared love of literature and music leads them on a road trip, smuggling their artwork to a safer place, where they may be welcome and accepted. The journey won’t be without its obstacles–namely, the Ilori authorities–but Ellie and Morris will do anything when it comes to the fate of their art–and humanity itself.
YOU GUYS. WHAT. A. BOOK. This is, without a doubt, one of the best books of 2020. And I don’t say that lightly.
The Sound of Stars is a powerful and poignant novel about the power of friendship and resistance–and the uniting power of music and literature.
Let’s start off with the characters. I ADORED both Ellie and Morris. Ellie’s strong will and love of books truly resonated with me, and it’s great to see characters with her representation (Mixed race/POC, demisexual, has anxiety) in literature. Her chapters always have lovely YA references and quotes from classic novels slipped in there, so I enjoyed every minute of her perspective. And MORRIS. MORRIS IS AN ABSOLUTE SWEETHEART. I also resonated with his love of music, and he was just such a tender-hearted character in general. His chapters were laden with GREAT music references–David Bowie, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, all the good stuff. And having Ellie and Morris in a romantic relationship was everything I’ve ever wanted–not only are they super cute together (adorable enemies to friends to lovers dynamic), it’s great to see LGBTQ+ characters in straight-passing relationships. There’s an awful stigma these days with bi/pan/etc. people that if they’re in such a relationship, they “aren’t valid,” and it’s great to see the stigma being broken down in the best possible way.
Beyond that, The Sound of Stars is just the kind of story we need for these times, in an age of bigotry and division. There’s a clear commentary against racism and colonialism, and to have Ellie and Morris fighting back against the system is something I love to see. Some of the more obvious political commentary was a bit ham-fisted at worst, but at this point, it’s probably what readers need to wake up and realize the situation around us. It’s the perfect story for those looking to make a difference in their communities–especially with the power of art.
For the most part, I found this book to be almost flawless–the writing, the characters, the representation, you name it. But I did have one problem, which, judging from the reviews I’ve read, seems to be common–the ending.
It’s…weird. Not in the best way, to be honest. It’s a bizarre, deus ex machina kind of deal, where the characters are on the brink of death, and BAM…well, I won’t spoil it, but it kind of had me scratching my head. The very end was hopeful, at least, but it still left a strange (metaphorical) taste on my tongue.
But all in all, The Sound of Stars was a phenomenal gem of a resistance novel. 4.75 stars, rounded up to 5!
At the moment, it seems like The Sound of Stars is a standalone novel, though it had an open ending that could *potentially* lend itself to a sequel. (I’d be happy either way, honestly.) This novel is Alechia Dow’s debut novel, but as of now, she has another book, The Kindred, scheduled to be published in 2022.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Happy Saturday, bibliophiles, and a happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans! If I’m being completely honest, most of the country is a disaster, but I believe that dissent and the wish to change one’s country for the better is true patriotism. I celebrate the good parts of the country, and IF YOU’RE OF VOTING AGE, PLEASE VOTE. WE NEED TO GET THE RACIST, MISOGYNIST, HOMOPHOBIC SOGGY CHEETO OUT OF OFFICE AT ALL COSTS.
Anyway, it’s 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 coming-of-age books.
UPCOMING SCHEDULE FOR JULY:
7/4/20 —Coming of Age
7/11/20 — Hyped Books
7/18/20 — Books You Own
7/25/20 — #OwnVoices Books
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.
I recently got this one as an eARC (it’s coming out in late September of this year), and it’s a wonderfully poignant novel of navigating grief, mental illness, friendships, and sexual and gender identity.
This week is the final week that I’ll be doing these recommendations, but no matter the month, I’ll always be recommending LGBTQ+ books, don’t you worry. 🏳️🌈
Historical fiction isn’t a genre that I usually delve into, but in the genre, I’ve found quite a few gems. If done well, historical fiction can be a wonderful insight and perspective into another time period, and books that can immerse us in the past more than any textbook ever can. With LGBTQ+ historical fiction in particular, it can give us insight on events that most textbooks don’t usually cover (looking at you, APUSH textbook…I found a whopping ONE mention of the LGBTQ+ community. ONE. IN THE ENTIRE TEXTBOOK. Granted, we had to stop at the 1950’s because of the COVID-19 situation, but still…).
LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: Two out of the three protagonists are gay, mlm relationship, several gay side characters
TIME PERIOD: 1989-1990 (AIDS Crisis)
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I know I blab about this one quite a lot, but quite frankly, this is easily the best historical fiction novel I’ve ever read. Period. A major tear-jerker, to be sure, but worth every bout of sobbing, 100%.
LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: Pansexual/Genderfluid protagonist, gay side character, queer relationship
SET IN: 19th Century (London, specifically)
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Why’d you put this in the historical fiction category?” And aside from the fact that I don’t read the genre as much, a good portion of the novel, though it leans more towards the fantasy/mythology side, is set in London in the 1800’s. Plus, Loki. Can’t go wrong with Loki, now can we?
Music references. I’ve grown up in a family of music nerds, and it’s been a passion of mine for almost my whole life–almost as fervent as my love of books. So you can imagine my joy to find a paranormal romance eARC that promised lots of them. But though I liked that aspect of the novel, most of it didn’t click with me.
1985. Lark Espinoza longs for an escape–from her stepmother, her popular sister, and her town where nothing seems to happen. But when a mysterious, cloaked stranger appears in her workplace, she knows something’s amiss–but even more so when she realizes that no one else can seem to see him.
It turns out she isn’t the only one. Auden Ellis, the boy Lark shares notes filled with song lyrics with, has also had an unexplainable experience–out of nowhere, he sees a stranger playing a flute that nobody can see–except for him and Lark. Auden and Lark sense that there’s a link between these unexplainable events–but would could they possibly mean?
Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Filles Vertes Publishing for giving me this eARCin exchange for an honest review!
For a while, I was teetering between a 3 star and a 2 star rating. The second half of the book pushed it towards the 2 star end, sadly. The Goodreads blurb pegs it as Pretty in Pink meets Stranger Things–both of which I love–but Lyrics and Curses felt weak in most respects. (Also, I…really don’t see the Pretty in Pink part? Maybe that’s just me, but…)
Let’s start off with what I liked. I loved Auden and Lark’s friendship/almost relationship, even though the latter felt forced and rushed towards the end of the novel. Their shared bonding over music was something I related to, and plus, they (I mean, I guess I should be saying Candace Robinson) had great taste. Jumping off of that, I LOVED the music references–David Bowie, Talking Heads, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Depeche Mode, Queen, all the good stuff. There’s a clear love of all things 80’s, and it really shines through in Lyrics and Curses.
But that’s where the good aspects ended for me. Speaking of said music references…I loved them, but most of the time, much of the 80’s references felt more like namedropping, like the author was just sprinkling them in to say “OH, and DID I MENTION that this is the 80’S?!? Would you look at THAT!!! 80’S!!!!!!1!!!” The more that were piled on, the more tired and forced the setting of the novel felt. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a big fan of most 80’s content as well, but some of the references only ended up dragging the novel down, and making the historic setting less genuine.
Aside from that, the plot generally felt weak. The paranormal aspect was barely touched on until the second half of the book, and even then, it felt like there weren’t any high stakes for the characters–at least until…maybe the last 90% of the book? I wasn’t invested in Lark and Auden’s journey, and the paranormal aspect was only mildly gripping. As a result, the last half of the book felt incredibly rushed, and I ended up skimming the last 75% or so. After Lark and Auden realize the source of these paranormal occurrences, the book got *slightly* more interesting, but by that time, the book was nearly over, and there wasn’t too much time to touch on it further. I suppose that’s what a sequel is for, but I still felt that most of the beginning could have been cut out, and the paranormal aspects of the plot been expanded upon more.
All in all, a novel that showcases a nostalgic love of music and the 1980’s, but fails to deliver on most other aspects. 2 stars.
I know I’m *primarily* a book blog, but most of what I post outside of bookish content is music related, as apart from being a bibliophile, I’m a major music nerd as well. I found this tag over at Margaret @ Weird Zeal , and the tag was created by Sophie @ Me & Ink.
Link back to original so she can see your answers and listen to the tunes
For every prompt you choose to do, name 1-5 songs (you can use my graphics)
Have fun and play your music LOUD
Let’s begin, shall we? (I skipped a prompt or two because I couldn’t find anything for some of them, but here we go…)
“Lazarus”–David Bowie:The day that David Bowie died, I remember my dad driving my brother and I to school in silence as this song played.
“Day Go By”–Karen O.:I listened to this whole album while I was in Canada last year, and I remember listening to this one in a hotel in Drumheller.
“Exit Music (for a Film)”–Radiohead:I discovered OK Computer last year, and I remember being curled up at the entrance of the cafeteria, reading a collection of Tennyson’s poems while blasting this through my headphones. (Yes, I am That Kid™️)
“Hunky Dory”–David Bowie: My favorite album of all time, hands down. Perfection.
“Twin Fantasy”–Car Seat Headrest: WHAT AN ALBUM…OH MAN…
“OK Computer”–Radiohead: See above. Pure genius.
Hmm, let’s see…
“Once in a Lifetime”–Talking Heads: …just watch the video. You’ll see what I mean.
“Life on Mars?”–David Bowie: This was my halloween costume last year…
“It’s Oh So Quiet”–Björk: Sorry to repeat a song, but this video always cheers me up 🙂
I TAG ANY OF MY FELLOW MUSIC NERDS WHO WANT TO PARTICIPATE!
Since this tag is all about music, consider this entire tag today’s song…
That’s it for this tag! Hope you enjoyed this dip into the weirdness that is my taste in music…
Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
If there’s one thing I love as much as books and reading, it’s probably music. I was raised in a family of wonderful music nerds, and as a result, music has grown to be an integral aspect of my life.
And so, it always brings me a rush of joy whenever I find music references hidden inside books I love, and by proxy, authors with similar musical taste. I thought I might compile a few of my favorite books with music references in them, just for fun.
Artists referenced: David Bowie, brief joke about Wilco/Jeff Tweedy
I mean, one can sort of tell from the get-go that this book is very Bowie-centric; The title itself (a reference to a lyric from “Changes”), and the Aladdin Sane lightning bolt in the ‘I’ in “Fascinations”. (On another edition, it shows Noah with the bolt across his face, just like the Aladdin Sane album cover!) Other than that, there’s a continual respect for Bowie throughout the novel. Other than the general wondrousness of the novel, I’m just glad to see that someone else holds Hunky Dory as highly as I do.
Also, the mention of Wilco is very brief, but it was still pretty funny to see. Even if it was poking fun at them.
Artists referenced: The Beatles, Nirvana, T.Rex, (!!!), David Bowie
Though music doesn’t play (no pun intended) as big a role in The Hazel Wood as it does in some of the others in this post, there’s wonderful references aplenty in this one, from a minor character being described as reminiscent of David Bowie to a discordant, chaotic scene in which the main villain sings an off-key rendition of “Yellow Submarine”. Also, I’m frankly so impressed that Albert slipped in a T.Rex reference in there. COME. ON. That’s the deep cut to end all deep cuts!
Weirdly enough, though I’d heard Radiohead here and there before reading The Final Six, but seeing the reference was ultimately what convinced me to listen to Radiohead! This is easily some of the best utilization of references I’ve seen in a novel, period. First off, in The Final Six, there’s a particularly chilling scene in which Beckett, the main antagonist, glimpses Naomi sneaking around, and after a tense conversation, he sings part of “Paranoid Android.” (“When I am king, you will be first against the wall/With your opinion, which is of no consequence at all…”) Already veeeery spooky, but the song’s title hints that Beckett knows more than what he let on. (No spoilers)
In The Life Below, Monir also uses “Sail To The Moon”–in particular, its musical structure–as the center point of one of the main subplots in the novel. And boy, it’s FASCINATING.
Artists referenced: St. Vincent, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac (I don’t really care about the latter at all, but hey)
Another dip into the realm of magical realism!
Music plays a semi-important role in this one, as part of the novel is set on a road trip; there’s a running joke where Sylvie’s friend’s brother (I can’t remember his name for the life of me) listens to one specific artist in the car for the month. His pick of the month is Fleetwood Mac; there’s a line (which I can’t find) where Sylvie makes a remark something along the lines of “why can’t we listen to something good, like David Bowie?” to which the other character responds that he’d already listened to him for all of April. And though the St. Vincent reference was brief, McNally perfectly captures the nature of her music.
Again, another Bowie-centric book. I related to this one in particular because Bowie is Jonathan (the main character)’s hero; the book is set in 1973, so it’s at the heyday of his Ziggy Stardust era. As someone who similarly worships him, this novel hit the sweet spot for me. There’s also a wonderful scene where Jonathan and Web soundtrack a school presentation with Pink Floyd’s “Time”, easily my personal favorite of their songs.
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.
While scouring the middle reaches of my TBR, this book stood out to me, especially from the synopsis; aside from the shenanigans that ensue from the switching of a creative writing teacher ([mournful sigh], oh, how I wish my school had more English options…[single tear slides down cheek]), the main character seems…a bit like me. Or, how I want to be, at least.
GOODREADS MONDAY (2/10/20)-FINAL DRAFT by Riley Redgate
The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.
At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.
So why do I want to read this?
As a young, aspiring writer myself, I’m intrigued to see how–or if–I relate to Laila. Beyond that, I’m interested to see how the near-fall-from-grace plotline is handled, tightroping the line between approval from others and mental stability.
Oh, hey, and I just noticed…
…IT’S SHELVED AS LGBTQ+ ON GOODREADS!
hadakjsdkajshkdjashdkjaskjhj such a good cover eeee
That just about wraps up this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!