Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.
I’d say it’s been a pretty fantastic week! Things are definitely looking up…I just wish that I could travel back a few months and tell my January-May self that everything would turn out okay in math after all.
Reading-wise, I got a great haul from the library! There was only one book that didn’t do it for me, and I enjoyed the rest. I couldn’t visit the library this week because it happened to be on the same day that I took my senior pictures (which were also lots of fun!!), so I’ll probably just mooch off the Kindle library this week. (And maybe re-read The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea…SHH I know it’ll be two re-reads in less than a month BUT IT’S FOR BOOK CLUB I SWEAR)
Writing’s been great too – I FINISHED MY SECOND DRAFT OF MY SCI-FI WIP!! It ended up at about 105,000 words and just under 400 pages! I’ll let it sit for a few months before I go ahead and edit it again, but I’m pretty proud of myself. Two drafts. Good for you, self.
Problem is, now I don’t know what to write now…I have at least three unfinished drafts of other projects and dozens more unwritten story ideas…
Other than that, I’ve just been getting my drawing inspiration back, eating ice cream, and watching more What We Do in the Shadows. Also, I saw Spoon live on Tuesday night!! Such a fantastic show, Spoon is an amazing live band
Oh, and I also had the experience of seeing a spider descend from the ceiling of my car while I was driving to school at 6:50 am…needless to say, that woke me up.
Last week, before my trip, I trawled the Kindle library for books to read to tide me over until I could get to the books I bought. I’d had it on hold at the library for a bit, but I realized that it was available on the ebook library, so I checked it out immediately. I was initially excited for it, but I had no idea what I was truly in for; The Darkness Outside Us is more than just a thriller or a sci-fi romance – it’s a heartrending and harrowing exploration of love and grief on a cosmic scale.
After waking up from a strange, deep sleep, Ambrose finds himself on a spaceship with a critical mission – rescuing his older sister, Minerva, who is trapped on a base on Titan. His ship, the Coordinated Endeavor, holds infinite mysteries – it has the voice of his mother, robots with minds of their own, and secrets hidden in every corner. But the most enigmatic of all is Kodiak, his isolated shipmate from a rival country on Earth. Kodiak is bent on keeping distance between them, but when the mission’s true nature becomes clearer, their only choice is to work together.
TW/CW: grief, loss of loved ones, violence, descriptions of illness, death
What can I say other than the fact that I’m truly in awe of this book?
The Darkness Outside Us started out like any other sci-fi thriller. We find Ambrose waking up and slowly realizing his surroundings, and figuring out that things about the Coordinated Endeavor are not what they seem. We witness his developing romance with Kodiak, and all the puzzle pieces seem to come together.
But trust me. Once you hit the halfway mark of the book, you may think you’ve predicted all the plots twists (I thought I did…), BUT YOU WON’T. Just as quickly as everything seems to go disastrously wrong, the real plot starts to come together. I don’t want to spoil anything for this novel, but it’s hard to say anything about what happens next without revealing the last half of the plot, but I’ll try my best. It’s better if you go in blind about this one.
For the first half of the book, I thought that I’d give it a 3-3.5 star rating; the characters were decent, the queer enemies-to-lovers romance was well-done, and the mounting tension was well-written. But the further I got on, the surer I became of my 5-star rating. The Darkness Outside Us is far more than what it was marketed as; yes, there’s romance, and yes, there’s a mystery to be solved in ✨space✨, but there is truly so much more than meets the eye. It’s not every day that I truly feel like a novel is a work of art, but this one was. It’s a testament to life itself, appreciating every minute of it while you still can, and the power of love that binds us and shapes us.
We don’t get enough sci-fi/fantasy novels that delve into these core human emotions quite like The Darkness Outside Us did. And if I’m being honest, I think sci-fi can sometimes be an even better vehicle to explore these kinds of themes. With the dizzyingly cosmic scale that this novel takes place over, there’s a unique opportunity to show the transcendental power that love can span over many years. There’s a bleakness to everything, and most of the last half was heartbreaking to read, what with all the grains of hope that were spread throughout being overturned and crushed in seconds, but Schrefer leaves us with a hopeful ending that nearly brought me to tears.
I’ve said several times that part of what makes a good sci-fi is that it makes you think. The Darkness Outside Us fits the bill in every sense of the word. I had…well [ahem] several existential crises over the course of the last half, but in all seriousness, this novel is deeply introspective and philosophical. It’s all about reckoning with our past choices and the choices of others, of breaking free of cycles that have controlled you for millennia (literally), and the enduring power of love and the complicated nature of relationships. I ended up staying up a *little bit later* than I intended to because I just HAD to see what happened, but all that time, I had the space to ruminate about life. Needless to say, this one had me staring at the ceiling and pondering the meaning of life until I fell asleep, despite my attempts to distract myself.
The Darkness Outside Us is a standalone, but Eliot Schrefer is also the author of the Ape Quarter (Endangered, Threatened, Rescued, and Orphaned), The School for Dangerous Girls, The Deadly Sister, Glamorous Disasters, and many more novels for young adults and children.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Second month of summer? Hotter than I would’ve liked for it to be, but summer is summer. And this July was a good one, so I’m not complaining. (Except for when it’s 80 degrees in my room, even with the fan on and all the windows open…)
It’s been a fairly productive July for me, I’d say! I have nearly all of my summer homework done, and I had a lot of time to blog and do the things I like to do.
I got back into Camp NaNoWriMo this month as well! After a little trouble with fixing up my word count goal, I got back on track and reached my goal a few days ago! As far as that WIP goes, I’m nearing 250 pages, and I’m just past 66,000 words! It’s already a lot shorter than my first draft, which is…most certainly a good thing, because my first draft was nearly 600 pages long, and a good portion of it was filler. Guess I’ve learned from that…
This is also the first July that I had any idea that it was disability pride month! I looked around my TBR for some books with disability rep to read (and I’ll continue to look – always on the hunt for good disability rep!), and I’ve found some fantastic books as a result. And as always: AMPLIFY DISABLED VOICES 24/7/365. 💗
Other than that, I’ve just been drawing, watching Loki (AAAAAAAH) and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, going to the movies for the first time in ages, doing a little hiking, and attempting to cool down my room before I go to sleep. Also, after several years and at least 3-4 people begging that I watch it, I finally started watching Gravity Falls! Good stuff so far, I’m only about a quarter of the way through season 1, but I’m liking it, for the most part.
And it’s nearly August now! Leo season…
Also, I finally watched Yellow Submarine last night, and I LOVED IT! My eyes kinda hurt, but it was worth it for all the Beatles goodness.
READING AND BLOGGING:
I read 25 books this month! I think July has been my best reading month of the year, but at the cost of the first two DNFs of the year being among the ranks. At least I got to write a rant review about one of them. That was fun.
I also reached 450 followers recently, so thank you all!! 💗
I figured it would be fun to do a tag today, so I decided on this one that’s been sitting in my blog sticky note for a while. I found it over at One Book More, and the tag was originally created by Alyce on Booktube. It sounded so cute, so I figured I’d give it a try!
Let’s begin, shall we?
🔟COUNT TO 10 WITH ME BOOK TAG🔟
FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES
Gearbreakersis set to be the first book in a series, but I don’t know how many books there will be…I LOVED this one, though!
2. TWO OR MORE COPIES OF THE SAME BOOK
I bought Six of Crowson my Kindle, and then I got a paperback copy from the library (they’d gotten some extra copies), so I have two copies of this one. I normally don’t get several physical copies of the same book, but I have a few duplicates on physical and Kindle.
3. THREE COLORS ON THE COVER
Spellhackerhas blue, purple, and yellow on the cover! This one’s super underrated.
4. FOUR OR MORE PERSPECTIVES
A Dark and Hollow Starhas four perspectives, but they were…a little imbalanced for me. I feel like Aurelian didn’t get as much page time than the other POVs. I just finished this one yesterday, and it was a bit of a disappointment…
5. A FIVE STAR READ
Before the Fallwas my first five-star read of this year! Noah Hawley is an incredible writer.
As promised, here’s the sequel to the Zodiac Book Tag, the music tag. I love music almost as much as I love books, so this is a perfect fit for me! As with the book tag, this was created by Swift Walker @ Just Dreamland.
And YOU! If I didn’t tag you and you want to do this tag, then go ahead! And if I tagged you and you’ve already done it/don’t want to do it, my bad. (Consider yourself tagged for the book tag as well!)
Since this post is full of songs, just consider everything in here today’s song.
That’s it for this music tag! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I refuse to believe that it’s almost April…one year since the original quarantine, nope…
March has been…an interesting month, I guess. Definitely had its ups and downs, and it was super cold. It’s usually a really snowy month here in Colorado, and we got dumped on in the middle of the month…not quite the #Snowmageddon that everybody was saying it was going to be, but we got about two feet at my house. A lot, but we’ve had worse…
School’s been a bit rough, but I’m at least glad that everything had time to wind down before Spring Break. I have my SAT test coming up in April and my AP exams in May, so heads up, I’ll probably be less active in the next two months.
Other than that, I’ve definitely made some great progress! Mostly with my writing; I wrote my short story for the writing contest, shared it with family and close friends, got some feedback, AND I SUBMITTED IT ON MONDAY! AAAAAAAAAAAH
I also started on Falcon & The Winter Soldier (I didn’t like episode 1 very much, but 2 got better), watched the Snyder Cut, and drank lots of tea and hot chocolate. Here’s hoping that April will be a bit better. Not that March was awful, but I could’ve done without…y’know, precalc. I’ve been listening to the new Julien Baker a lot too, as well as more Mother Mother, thanks to a playlist my friend made for me.
Also, I rewatched Fargo in its entirety. I’ll admit to curling into the fetal position and sobbing several times.
And I’m SO CLOSE to 400 followers! I LOVE YOU ALL 🥺
I managed to read 23 books this month! (24, if you count reading a certain B.P.R.D. twice.) I’ve definitely had a great reading month; I re-read a few favorites, and I discovered several awesome reads! And I had very few books that I didn’t like, so that’s a plus. Here’s everything…
I’d had this novel on my TBR for a good two years or so, but I forgot about it until I saw it on display at my local library. I picked it up as soon as I could, and man, I’m so glad I did! I’ve started to lose faith in a lot of YA dystopian novels, but London Shah shows us all the way to do it almost exactly right.
London, 2099. The entire city has been swallowed by the rising oceans, and humankind ekes out a living, in fear of the evolved creatures of the sea and the genetically-modified Anthropoids who lurk alongside them.
Leyla McQueen makes a living as a submersible racer, and when she enters a prestigious competition, she doesn’t enter for the fame or the fortune – all she wants to do is save her father, who was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. But after the Prime Minister refuses her pleas after she wins the competition, she sets out on her own to find him, leading her through a dark, watery world of secrets and lies.
This bookwasn’t perfect, but man, I’d do anything to have a debut as good as this! London Shah restored my faith in dystopian literature, and The Light at the Bottom of the World is practically a guidebook on how to do dystopian YA right.
Shah’s worldbuilding is what stood out most to me. There’s rich history in every chapter, presenting a post-apocalyptic world swallowed by rising oceans, where the last pockets of humanity war with the deep and corrupt governments tighten an iron fist around the needy. I loved seeing how the inhabitants of this drowned London eked out a living, from the submersible races to the ruined architecture.
Leyla McQueen was also the perfect protagonist for this book! Besides having great #OwnVoices British-Muslim rep, she was just the kind of main character that we could root for – quick-witted, clever, sassy, determined, and fueled by a love for her father and a flaming desire to make things right. Her chemistry with Ari was great, and she was so spirited and authentic in a way that most dystopian protagonists aren’t. Plus, I may not be a dog person, but Jojo was so adorable and must be protected at all costs 🥺
The only pitfall about The Light at the Bottom of the World for me was the writing. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it just felt a bit lacking. Everything was quick and to the point, without much metaphor or dressing. Now, I’m not saying that it needed to be bright purple prose, but I feel like it could have used a bit more vivid imagery and language. The plot made up for it though; I truly felt the adrenaline of the characters for the whole book, whether it was in the breakneck submersible races or a daring prison break.
Either way, a fantastic YA dystopia with a lovable cast of characters and a fascinating world swallowed by the waves. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!
The Light at the Bottom of the World is London Shah’s debut novel, and it is the first in the Light the Abyss duology, followed by Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, which is slated for release on October 26, 2021.
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! 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 – LITTLE OBLIVIONS (album review)
TRACK 1: “Hardline” – 9/10
Say it’s not so cutand 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.
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.
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 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!
Happy Monday, happy March, and happy Women’s History Month, bibliophiles!
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.
I don’t usually talk about a whole lot of middle grade books on here, so I figured I’d give this one the spotlight this week. I’d completely forgotten that I’d put it on my TBR, but it sounds like so much fantasy fun!
Let’s begin, shall we?
GOODREADS MONDAY (3/1/21) – THE LAST SPELL BREATHER by Julie Pike
A stunning fantasy debut, enter the unique world of the Spell Breathers. Spell Breathing does not come naturally to Rayne – she loathes the hours of practice, the stacks of scrolls, and the snapping mud devils that cover her mother’s precious spell book. But it is spell breathing that keeps her village safe from the dreaded monster curse that plagues their world. It is ancient powerful magic, but as Rayne learns to her horror . . . it is also fragile. In one clumsy move, the magic that keeps them safe is broken, her village is plunged into danger, and an incredible adventure begins . . .
So why do I want to read this?
First off, look at how pretty that cover is! The color scheme, the font, THE LITTLE FOX AND THE SPELLBOOK 🥺🥺🥺
The Last Spell Breather certainly has an eye-catching synopsis; right off the bat, we’ve got some magical elements thrown at us – mud devils? Monster curse? Ancient magic? Spell-breathing? From the looks of it, Julie Pike has created an immersive and original world in The Last Spell Breather, and I’m eager to see what lurks inside of it!
Plus, I haven’t read much middle grade lately, and I figured I should give it some love, because I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again, the age of a book’s target audience has no effect on its intellectual depth, and Children’s/YA books should never be dismissed because they’re “for kids.” Somebody had to say it. Again.
That’s it for this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
The last week of February’s been a decent one, I’d say. The rest of my library haul was mostly 3-star reads, but there was still some good stuff in there. I had a lot more time to blog this week, and I had a lot of fun writing reviews and doing tags 🙂
Writing-wise, I finished up the outline for my short story, and I just started writing it last night! I’m at almost 800 words, and man, does it feel good to be actually writing again. Outline’s necessary and all, but nothing beats the real thing, does it?
Other than that, I’ve just been drawing a bit, messing around on Minecraft, watching more WandaVision (AAAAAH), starting to rewatch season 3 of Fargo, and obsessively listening to Julien Baker’s Little Oblivions since Friday morning. (I thought it came out sooner, and I usually like to sit with an album about a week before I review it, so expect…*something* next week…)