Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.
This monthly wrap-up was brought to you by the letter ‘S.’
Let’s begin, shall we?
Well, here we are. It’s nice and warm outside, I’m only about a week and a half away from finishing my first year of college, and “Cool About It” is my most-listened-to song of the year so far, according to Apple Music. Yeah, I’m fine.
Somehow, I’m finally at the stage in the school year where everything is starting to wind down. My really stressful finals finals moment ended up happening…a good two weeks before I really should’ve been doing all that, but there’s something to be said for starting projects early and finishing them before everything is supposed to get stressful. (My secret? Overthinking and overestimating how close due dates are. Works like a charm.) Now that finals are right around the corner, I really don’t have a whole lot to do, blissfully. All is quiet. No stats tests to bomb at 7 am in a building I’ve never even set foot in before. I have achieved inner peace (becoming a humanities major).
That being said, working on all of these projects did eat up a good amount of time that I’d normally be reading, or blogging, and all of my other silly little activities, so my reading did take a relative hit. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t find some great books—I got to some anticipated releases, and I have another 5-star read to tick off the list! There were several non-review/Sunday Songs posts that I was eager to get to (see below), and I managed to get them all written, so I’m glad about that. Also, finally finished the Broken Earth trilogy…[incoherent, muffled screams intensify]
Other than that, I finished Dark (CORRECTION: IT FINISHED ME. GO WATCH DARK), watched Beau Is Afraid (forget Beau, dude, I’m afraid…also very overwhelmed…), had some fun on Easter, got a nasty cough (just now getting over it 😭), and started packing up my dorm. Time…time is a thing, huh?
READING AND BLOGGING:
I read 16 books this month! I wasn’t able to read as much because of finals season, but it’s been a decent, if slightly more on the “miss” side of hit or miss, bunch. I did get a 5-star read, but said book was Thom Yorke’s lyrics and poetry combined with Stanley Donwood’s older Radiohead art, so that was bound to happen.
Also, I unintentionally read an abnormal amount of books that start with the letter ‘S’…do with that what you will.
Casually just started coughing up a lung for a week, but at least the sun’s out for the first time in about 3 months, so a win is a win in my book. It would be nice to be able to sleep without waking myself up from said coughing, but maybe if I just listen to the record another time through…hmm…
Oh, the beauty of unflattering YouTube thumbnails.
I always feel guilty for not liking Kate Bush as much. She’s clearly been such a groundbreaking artistic genius for most (if not all) of her career, and she’s an undeniably incredible storyteller as well. But music taste is music taste, and everybody’s got a different one.
I used to think that Kate Bush was generally just hit or miss for me, but as I’ve started to listen to more of her work, I think the root of it is that I’m just more into earlier Kate Bush. I haven’t pinned down a rhyme or reason, really—I haven’t listened to The Kick Inside or Lionheart yet—but they’re really just so fun. There’s an infectious, early-70’s-inspired undercurrent that runs through all of them, combined with high drama that only a 19-year-old Kate Bush could produce. Take “Hammer Horror,” which combines an operatic, orchestral element in the first 30 or so seconds, but slips into a Hunky Dory-like groove, punctuated by lightning strikes of bright guitar—man, I miss how guitars sounded in the 70’s. It’s pure theatre—and even though I’ve never claimed to be a theatre kid, there’s something about the way that she leans fully into all of the clawing-at-the-camera drama that makes it all the more fun to listen to…if you just forget the music videos of that whole period. (*coughcough “Them Heavy People” coughcoughcough*)
can somebody pass the Dayquil? seems I’ve got some—*C O U G H*
Worry not: the Boygenius Breakdown is far from over. I’ll spare you from the rest of it after this week for the sake of adhering to my self-imposed color schemes, but behind the facade, I’m still curled up in the fetal position listening to “We’re In Love.”
Penned by Julien Baker and sectioned off for each of the powerhouse members of boygenius to shine, “Satanist” was an instant hit for me from the record after the singles had been released. Backed by steady guitars, this song stands as a fun, cheeky dare about pushing the limits friendship—”will you be a Satanist with me?/Mortgage off your soul to buy your dream/Vacation home in Florida.” It all feels like a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun, but with boygenius’ strong connection and shared friendship, there’s an intangible, genuine feel to it, as if the song could’ve stemmed from a genuine question. (Again: “Were In Love” feels like its lyrical twin, in that sense. Lots of callbacks and intertwining on this album.) But at its culmination, when Phoebe Bridgers’ sharp-edged scream fades into a hazy, sunset background, the music suddenly sinks underwater, all three of their voices seeming to fade under the waves in a haunting, enchanting conclusion. I can almost imagine that, with the image of the record, that the end of this song is their hands reaching up from the ocean—”you hang on/until it drags you under.”
“[Clairo’s] a lebsian” was an easy sell from my brother’s girlfriend for this song before I could actually hear it playing, but it was a worthwhile sell beyond that. Most of what I know of Clairo comes from snippets of some of her viral songs and Lindsey Jordan (a.k.a. Snail Mail) making the crowd sing “happy birthday” to her over FaceTime during one of her shows, but I’m glad that I’ve been exposed to this song. It flows effortlessly, easily: never does it feel the need to elevate itself or explode entirely, and its gentle existence is what continues to endear me. The vocals scream 2010’s, but some of the instrumentals feel like they traveled in a time capsule from the 70’s—quiet as they are, the funky keyboard licks and bassline make me sway in my seat every time. Everything in this song is understated, but that’s its hidden power—if everything is quiet, no part can overpower another, making for a seemingly perfect melding of each element. I don’t know how much of that is Claire Cottrill and how much is Jack Antonoff (who my feeling are still divided on—he produced the betrayal that was MASSEDUCTIONand then the masterpiece that was Daddy’s Homeright after…?), but whatever the case, it’s a lovely, gentle pop song.
This song might as well be an endangered species. A hopeful Radiohead song? I almost don’t believe it…
I still have plenty of Radiohead’s discography left to trudge through, even after 4 years of them being second only to David Bowie for me, but the joy of that is that, for now, there’s always something new to discover. I’m just hoping that it’ll stay that way for longer—every cell in me is hoping that A Moon-Shaped Pool was their last project, but…hurgh, that’s a story for another day. Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood’s Fear Stalks the Land!: A Commonplace Book, a collection of lyrics, poetry, and art from the Kid A/Amnesiac era turned me onto this one, snugly tucked away on Knives Out – EP. Amidst…well, everything else that came from that period—a mass airing-out of early 2000’s paranoia and fear—”Worrywort” feels like the only light of hope that was produced at that time in Yorke’s life. Aside from how much I love the spelling of “Worrywort,” like it’s some sort of medicinal plant, there are so many delicate parts to this song, much like the tiny fibers inside of a leaf. All of the synths layered on top of each other feel like a visual representation of if you hooked up guitar pedals to plants and heard what tiny, thin sounds they made while photosynthesizing or spreading their roots. With that making up all of the instrumentations, Thom Yorke’s plaintive murmur stays shadowy, only resorting to his signature keening in tiny parts of the background. And as I said before, it’s one of the only Radiohead songs that I can think of that seems, at least on the surface, to feel lyrically optimistic (no pun intended); “There’s no use dwelling on/What might have been/Just think of all the fun/You could be having.” What? Who are you, and what have you done with Thom Yorke? Not that I’m complaining. Glad he was at least fleetingly cheery for a brief moment sometime in 2001.
Against the backdrop of…well, everything else that Radiohead has put out there, lyrics like these almost feel like a ruse, like there’s some sly, cynical commentary hidden in there. But there really doesn’t seem to be—if anything, it feels like Yorke confronting his own demons, a battle between the voice of depression and the reassurance that he’s trying to bring to the surface. But either way, it’s strangely comforting—there’s something of a beautiful mantra in the song’s outro: a repetition of “it’s such a beautiful day.” Sure is.
Nothing heals the soul quite like an excess of crunchy guitars.
Getting through my album list is proving to be a Herculean (but still enriching) task, so who knows if or when I’ll end up listening to Wednesday’s new album, Rat Saw God, but I’ve heard it’s been getting good reviews? Pitchfork, like Rotten Tomatoes, is always something I take with a grain of salt (JUSTICE FOR DADDY’S HOME), but an 8.8 from them is still pretty impressive. Laced with urban legends, Southern heat, and abandoned houses, the atmosphere of “Bath County” shines through, pioneered by Karly Hartzman’s mercurial voice—capable of being all at once smooth and soothing, but cracking and abrasive at other times. The guitars are an extension, screaming when the time is right (and even when it isn’t), making the whole song feel like watching a bonfire tower into the sky. I’ve seen Wednesday be compared to everything from grunge (makes sense) to shoegaze (…nah, I don’t see it), but either way, from my limited experience with the band, they’re very 90’s—but still very them.
Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s songs.
That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I’m not sure if putting Fiona Apple and Radiohead one after the other is the best way to start off the month (and I know I’ll never beat the manipulator music allegations), but that’s how it’s gonna be, so I’m sorry. You’re listening to (reading from?) the same person who broke into tears after seeing The Smile live, so keep that in mind for all future posts.
I wish I could say that I didn’t steal this from both my brother (DUDE SORRY I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE PUTTING IT IN YOUR POST THIS WEEK TOO HAHAHA) and the second-to-last episode of Only Murders in the Building, but I HAVE HEARD IT BEFORE!! AND LIKED IT VERY MUCH!! It’s one of those songs that I have a very vividly mundane memory of; it was back when we used the radio in my mom’s car, and we were on the 90’s station. The grass looked unusually green in my memory, like some kind of saturated filter. It must’ve been summertime, but I guess my brain decided that the memory was worth turning up the brightness on. My mom made a remark about remembering the exact length of this song: 5 minutes and 42 seconds.
And 5 minutes and 42 seconds of pure artistry is what “Criminal” certainly is. There’s times that I feel like a fraud for liking a band’s most popular song, but sometimes, songs are that way for a reason—it’s a good song. Apple’s voice is immediately hypnotic, rich and sultry like silken fabric and smoky perfume. All at once sleek and eerie, it never loses a note of momentum in its nearly 6-minute duration, crawling along with the juxtaposition of an airy, resonant flute section and pounding piano notes. But behind Apple’s vocals is the creeping sense that something is inches away from going wrong (the…incredible discomfort of the video only adds to that, especially knowing how young she was when it was filmed…ick), but the music toes that line without falling over the edge. I’m almost afraid to get into the rest of Fiona Apple’s discography, in no small part due to the fact that she once held the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest album title (respect for that, though, but…whew), but this song will always remaining hauntingly alluring.
Yeah…right after “Criminal,” the vibes are…not the best, I’ll admit. Probably too late to break out the candles and the nice tablecloth to set the mood. This song knocked over the candle and set the tablecloth on fire. Chaos reigns.
There’s a reason why OK Computer has been one of my favorite albums for years now—for the first time, it was explosive proof of the range that Radiohead was capable of, and the results were often chilling. Songs like “Karma Police” and “Paranoid Android” will always be plenty sinister, but this is just spine-chilling. And yet, once it came on shuffle recently, I couldn’t stop listening. The way this whole album and this song were crafted will never cease to astound me: the distortion at the edges of Thom Yorke’s already creaking voice, the croaking, industrial echoes that form the fabric of the background, the way that the guitars have been destroyed to the point of no return, the screeching from both the electronics and Thom Yorke himself at the very end. It’s the musical version of an abandoned, crumbling shack in the middle of nowhere, complete with rusty nails falling off their hinges, a constant scratching at the walls, and wooden planks hanging on by a single fiber. I know that’s a terrible sell for the song, but if there’s one thing that Radiohead are the masters of, it’s building atmosphere. It may not be a nice, comfy atmosphere, but it sure is an atmosphere.
See? I told you that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. In the middle? Semantics. But either way, who’s more worthy of carrying that light than Ray Davies and company?
I’m frequently ashamed of how often I forget that this song exists, but then I feel silly for feeling ashamed, because nothing matches the feeling of remembering a great song after not listening to it for ages. Especially when it’s a song as delightfully sixties as this. Apart from the stylishly scratches edges of Davies’ voice, “jangly” is the most fitting word I can think of to describe it, and I love me some good jangly guitars—sometimes I find myself missing how guitars sounded in the sixties and seventies, but it’s not like you can’t replicate it. But knowing that this was some of the first of its kind to sound like this, it’s easy to see how much the Kinks have permeated into all kinds of branches of rock—the earliest forms of punk and even metal have taken some notes from them. You can’t deny the power of a 2-minute sixties song.
Back to the British Invasion, and back to one of my favorite albums of all time. See? I can be coherent!
Again, sometimes it’s good to let songs sit. This one happens to be my favorite Beatles song, off of my favorite Beatles album, and one of my favorite songs in general. I know it’s been said to death, but there’s something special about the hidden, secret-weapon power of George Harrison. Most every Beatles song is filled with magic, but there’s something instantly transporting about this song; the instrumentation, up until the solo famously contributed by Eric Clapton, it lets Harrison’s air-light voice soar to unseen heights, wailing—weeping, I should say—along with Clapton’s…weeping guitar. Gently weeping. Sorry. Every time I listen, it’s like being gently scooped up by a giant, benevolent hand, lifted in the air, and left to watch the clouds pass by for 5 minutes. The collective efforts of the Beatles can never be understated: despite their (many) quarrels, their genius put together contributed to a musical movement that really did change the landscape of rock music and beyond forever. And yet, sometimes, it’s more personal songs like these that leave an imprint—I know George Harrison certainly did. And a happy belated birthday to you, too.
There’s something about The New Pornographers that I will never quite be able to put my finger on. Apart from their consistently and delightfully random-word-generator-sounding titles, their lyrics have always felt oddly off-kilter to me. Something about the particular word choices they use, hidden in exceedingly tight and steady indie rock beats. And I love them for that. It’s something that’s never really gone away through any of their discography—again, I don’t claim to be the ultimate New Pornographers historian (that would be a very…suspect title to have), but it seems like they’ve stayed true to that part of themselves, which, in a world where even some indie musicians are often forced to conform to a more palatable sound, is something I will never stop admiring.
As for “Angelcover” itself, it’s a song that took longer to grow on me than the previous single, “Really Really Light,” but is nonetheless a compelling addition to the forthcoming Continue as a Guest. A.C. Newman’s echoing vocals in the verses contrast with Neko Cases’s soaring notes as perfectly as they always have, and every instrument meshes in perfect harmony, from the foundational pianos to the ringing flute notes that accent the song throughout. And as always, the lyrics remain indescribably off-kilter, but in the best way possible: “angels on the bed/with their unplugged electric.” Does it get more indie than that?
Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.
That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I really enjoyed the first book in the Book of Tea duology, A Magic Steeped in Poison, because of its unique magic system and immersive world. Lucky for us, book 2 came out mere months after Magic (HOW), so I got to get my hands on Venom somewhat soon after reading book 1. However, a lot of what I loved about Magic was watered down in the sequel—Lin’s writing remained strong, but a good portion of what made Magic so unique had been sidelined.
Tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers forA Magic Steeped in Poison. If you haven’t read it and intend on doing so, read at your own risk.
For my review of book 1, A Magic Steeped in Poison, click here!
After the Banished Prince returns to take his place on the throne of Dàxi, Ning and the other exiled royals are forced into hiding. Evading the Prince’s systematic tea poisonings across the kingdom, it’s up to Ning to expose the fraud and treachery of the new ruler. But an even greater evil lurks in the shadows, and if Ning and her newfound allies can’t stop the hostile takeover of their kingdom, they may fall to an even worse fate than they could have ever imagined.
TW/CW: fantasy violence, death, substance abuse, torture
I really wished I liked A Venom Dark and Sweet more than I did; the series was off to such a strong start with A Magic Steeped in Poison, but this sequel bordered on lackluster in comparison. Without the novelty of the unique elements that made book 1 so memorable, there wasn’t much else to carry the plot, save for Lin’s excellent writing; nevertheless, it was still entertaining.
As with Magic, Judy I. Lin’s beautiful writing was the strongest point of the whole novel. Her prose continues to be as lush and immersive as the world she created, and even when the plot faltered, Lin’s words carried it afloat until the end of the book. It wasn’t quite enough to overshadow the weaker aspects of this book, but it gets an extra half-star from me—it largely picked up the slack of the rest of the book.
However, the rest of Venom didn’t seem to have much to it. Most of the book seemed to just be the two parties skirting around each other/trying to avoid getting killed, and it just felt like 350-odd pages of a wild goose chase. After how compelling the political intrigue and the magic system of Magic were, I expected so much more from this book, but there seemed to be hardly any payoff to anything that happened in book 1. We did get some bits of fascinating worldbuilding (the bamboo forest, for one, we needed more of that), but they were delivered in such brief, fleeting chunks that they left me feeling disappointed. It was decent on its own, but I just wanted more—more exploration of the world, more exploration of the magic system, more stakes.
And speaking of no payoff…did Lin just forget that she was teasing a romance between Ning and Kang? Venom was told in dual POVs between the two of them, but they didn’t end up meeting until about the 95% mark and then…nothing really happened? My issue isn’t that they were just platonic (in fact, I’d be all for that), but given that Lin was teasing a romance between them for a good portion of Magic, I really wished there had been some sort of resolution.
All in all, a promising sequel with beautiful prose, but a lackluster conclusion to the duology as a whole. 3.5 stars.
A Venom Dark and Sweet is the final book in the Book of Tea duology, preceded by A Magic Steeped in Poison. Judy I. Lin is also the author of the forthcoming Song of the Six Realms, slated for release in 2024.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Even though this blog is primarily about books, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that music has had an equally profound effect on my life. Raised by two music nerds, I grew up listening to tons of Beatles and Bowie, and as I grew older, I began to mark periods of my life by the music I listened to. But there are always certain albums that leave an unmistakable mark on our lives. Some of mine have been steadfast favorites, and others I’ve only discovered in the past few months. All of them, however, have had a profound effect on me, whether it’s just been the experiencing something that’s just so, so good or marking a specific period in my life. So here are, right now, my 10 favorite albums.
Let’s begin, shall we?
🎵THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S TOP 10 FAVORITE ALBUMS🎵
10. Snail Mail – Lush (2018)
The summer of 2018 was a strange one for me—the summer before high school, and the summer I started seriously questioning my sexuality. I have Lush to thank for getting me through a lot of it, with Lindsey Jordan’s soaring guitar riffs and searingly vulnerable lyrics shining through in a debut like no other. Snail Mail is partially what inspired me to pick up the guitar—and I definitely think meeting her at a show that summer when I was a wee bisexual did something to my pubescent brain that I wouldn’t recover from…💀
9. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World (2001)
I remember hearing tracks like “Sidewalk Serfer Girl” and “(Drawing) Rings Around the World” from when I was about 5, but it wasn’t until this March that I appreciated this masterpiece of an album in its entirety. Something that makes me love a piece of media—be it a book, a movie, an album, or anything else—that much more is that if there’s clear evidence of how much love and care was put into it. And it’s blatantly evident here—Rings Around the World is brimming with creativity, and through all of the genres of music they explore, there isn’t a single miss. There’s something so fully-formed about it, like it just came into the world like Athena bursting forth from the skull of Zeus.
This album’s one that’s been a constant in my life; Wilco is one of my dad’s favorite bands, and I’ve been hearing them for so long that they’ve become inextricably linked to my personal history. (Wilco was my first concert, at the age of 8!) But this album in particular is the most special of theirs to me; like Rings Around the World, I’ve been listening to isolated songs from it for years, but the whole album is a true work of art, sonically and lyrically immersive and always emotionally moving and potent.
Another gem from the summer of 2018, this one always brings to mind dozens of fond memories—seeing Car Seat Headrest live (and subsequently tainting all of my concert videos from my off-key scream-singing), repainting my room, going on vacation in Chicago. Car Seat Headrest have been a favorite of mine since around 8th grade, but the more I think about it, the more Teens of Denial in particular stands out as my favorite album—clever, vulnerable, raw, and perfect for 14-year-old me to scream along to.
As I said earlier, I was undoubtably raised on the Beatles; some of my earliest memories are of hearing songs like “Good Day Sunshine” and “Yellow Submarine” in the car, and I’ve adored them ever since. I’ve flip-flopped between albums for a favorite Beatles album for years, and it feels like it changes with my mood; some days, it was Revolver, other times it was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But between having some of my favorite Beatles songs of all time and the solace it gave me in the early days of quarantine, The White Album takes the top spot for me—I think “I’m So Tired” is my most played song on my whole iTunes library. (somehow I’ve played it over 2,500 times?? didn’t even know I was capable of such a thing 💀)
5. Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997)
I fell in love with Spiritualized, as a lot of people seemed to do, after hearing the title track, “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.” Ever since then, they’ve held a truly special place in my heart; I rediscovered them in quarantine, and this album in particular has held a top spot for me ever since. Despite all the abject heartbreak, addiction, and general melancholy present through this album (and all of J. Spaceman’s music), there’s a cosmic, immersive quality to his music that swallows me like a wave with every song. Listening to Spiritualized is more than just music—it’s an experience in and of itself.
Like Super Furry Animals, I’ve been hearing scattered Blur songs throughout my childhood, “Song 2,” “Coffee & TV,” and “Charmless Man” being standouts. But it wasn’t until last summer that I got back into Blur—really into Blur. (You all witnessed the Blurification of this blog last year…) There’s something instantly hooking about their songs—the clever lyrics, the punchy guitars that seem to burst out of your headphones. But 13 is uniquely special to me; it was my musical companion in a strange, transitionary period of my life (the beginning of senior year and being a legal adult…somehow?). Beyond that, it’s so clear that so much time and love went into this record—through every high and low, there’s a consistent resonance that you can feel in your chest. It’s a masterpiece. It’s an album that I’ve come back to ever since when I’ve felt low—there’s a healing quality to it.
Favorite track: “Tender”—also my favorite song of all time, at the moment
3. St. Vincent – St. Vincent (2014)
St. Vincent, without a doubt, is responsible for shaping some of my most formative years. Middle school was a weird time for me—I was struggling with friendships, forming my identity, and getting teased for the things I loved so passionately. And here was St. Vincent, this confident, ridiculously talented musician who wielded her guitar like a sword into battle. So you can imagine how I got attached to her. Even if MASSEDUCTION made me lose a little faith in her for a few years, she’ll always remain as a hero of mine, and St. Vincent in particular will always be a daring, fierce masterpiece that sweeps me off my feet every time—and the album that got me through 6th grade.
Yeah, okay. I fully admit that my toxic trait is genuinely enjoying certain kinds of male manipulator music. But Radiohead will always be an immensely special band to me. “The Daily Mail” was my first exposure to them (thanks, Legion!), but OK Computer opened my eyes to something I’d never experienced before—or, something that I’d overlooked before, but now fully appreciate. Like Spiritualized, every Radiohead song is a fleshed-out landscape, an experience that lifts you off your feet, even when the lyrics are unbearably heartbreaking. OK Computer is an album that I wish I could listen to for the first time again—it’s an unforgettable, dystopian masterpiece, and it’s proved itself to stand the test of time.
David Bowie has been a constant companion in my life; one of my earliest memories that I can think of is hearing “Kooks” in the car. He’s been another hero of mine for years—again, he came to me in middle school, at a time when I was an outsider and unsure of myself, and stood as a glaring reminder to be myself—no matter what. This album in particular is, in my opinion, a perfect album; there isn’t a single bad song, and each one is a world of its own, spinning lyrical tales that span from the cosmic to the tender and everything in between. It’s an album I always come back to, and one that I’ll always hold close. Some of the other albums lower on the list may change or switch orders over the course of my life, but I doubt I’ll ever come across something quite as stellar as this.
In my endless hunt for books with good disability rep, I found this one recommended in several places. I’m not usually one for historical fiction, but I was glad to see a disability book in a genre other than realistic fiction. To my surprise, it became a rare 5-star read for me—tender, heartfelt, and so unabashedly queer and disabled!
Norway, 1904. Even though marriage is what traditional society expects of her, Asta has no interest in marriage, and especially not in Nils, the rude boy her mother has set her up with. Her mother sees a life of domesticity as her only path, but Asta is determined to carve her own way. After Nils’ recklessness cements her wish to not marry, she runs away with her two friends, Gunnar and Erlend. They make a life caring for Gunnar’s family farm, but with the money running out and the rest of their village against them, it will take all of their strength to create their own destinies.
TW/CW (from Carly Heath, inside book): ableism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, suicidal ideations, violence, descriptions of injury, references to alcoholism, abuse, and self-harm
what if 😳 I melted down a priceless family heirloom 😳😳 and made it into a prosthetic arm for you 😳😳😳 (and we were both boys)
I picked up The Reckless Kind for the promise of queer and disabled rep, but I didn’t expect it to become a 2022 favorite of mine so quickly! It’s rare that I enjoy historical fiction this much, but this novel was a success on every front imaginable.
The diversity of The Reckless Kind is what drew me in, and it was such a central and beautiful aspect of this novel! This book focuses on not one, but four characters who are disabled—Asta has Waardenburg syndrome (includes single-sided deafness), Gunnar has Brown-Séquard syndrome and has a prosthetic arm, Erlend has an anxiety disorder, and Fred, one of the secondary characters, has Post-Concussion syndrome! On top of that, Asta is asexual, Gunnar and Erlend are in an mlm relationship, and the three of them are in a queerplatonic triad! Does it get any better than that? I think not. Just what I needed as a queer, disabled reader.
Each and every aspect of said diversity is handled so thoughtfully and lovingly; you can tell from the first page just how much love and care Heath put into writing this story. Even though their traditional society looks down upon them for a number of reasons, the journey these characters take to make their own way is heartwarming to read. Everything from the special modifications on Gunnar’s car to the life they carve out for themselves on the farm is filled with such palpable determination and love that only a bunch of outsiders making their own way can make me feel. Found family trope for the win, as always.
All of that would work fantastically on its own, but it’s Heath’s characters that made The Reckless Kind truly shine. Asta was an absolute DELIGHT. Just an absolute sweetheart. Even though the world has beaten her down so much, she has this consistent spunk and contagious kindness to her that she brings everywhere she goes. I loved the way she cared for all of the animals on the farm, and her story is sure to resonate with so many. Gunnar and Erlend were equally wonderful, and they balanced each other out perfectly, what with Erlend’s theatrical charm and Gunnar’s droll, self-deprecating humor. Their relationship made me giddy more than not; I loved how Heath depicted all the messiness of relationships, as well as two characters who did their best to work with each other’s problems. All three of them together made for the recipe for a near-perfect book.
Through it all, Heath presents a story of persistence despite the odds and the love it breeds between outsiders. All three of the characters faced parents, peers, and others who shunned them for parts of themselves, but this book was all about self-love and living in a world that doesn’t love you. It’s fiercely queer and disabled, and it’s the perfect story for anyone who has ever felt like the world is against them.
All in all, a tender, powerful, and heartwarming story of disability, queerness, and making your own way that quickly found its way to my 2022 favorites. 5 stars!
The Reckless Kind is a standalone and Carly Heath’s debut novel.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
For the past two years, I’ve started to read more nonfiction (though still not much, admittedly), but it’s rare that I ever review any of them. But I figured I would review this book since a) I’m a major Radiohead fan, and b) I have Some Thoughts™️ on it, so here goes nothing…
From its tumultuous inception to its profound impact on release, Radiohead’s 2000 album “Kid A” is seen as a landmark of modern music. Though critics and fans alike were divided on it when it first hit stores, its impact stretches far beyond the world of music—for many, it was an unintentionally prophetic vision of the future. 20 years later, music critic Steven Hyden dives deeper into the mythology around this iconic album, from its creation in the studio to the cultural impact it had in the years after its release.
TW/CW: this is nonfiction and it’s mostly just music history, but be aware that there are some (mostly brief)mentions of mental breakdowns, suicide, 9/11, and substance abuse.
This Isn’t Happening reads like a 244 page Pitchfork review, but I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing. What’s clear, though, is that it’s by Radiohead fans and for Radiohead fans, which is exactly what it should be.
It’s clear from every page of This Isn’t Happening that, like many Radiohead fans, that listening to “Kid A” was a life-changing experience for Steven Hyden. Hyden’s love for the album bleeds for the page, and every bit of analysis was so clearly crafted out of love and admiration. This isn’t simply bare analysis: it’s imbued with a well-deserved appreciation for a band that may well have changed the fabric of modern rock music forever. Every track—even “Untitled“—gets some degree of attention (although I’m stunned that more praise wasn’t given to “Motion Picture Soundtrack”—come on, now), and the most minute details are reported on with simultaneous tact and love, from Thom Yorke’s inner conflict while creating the album to the many bands whose influences shine through on the album.
However, the price of This Isn’t Happening clearly being from the heart of a Radiohead fan is that it tends to ramble. Smaller, more unimportant points during the course of the book were often extended to a near-ridiculous degree, digressing from the subject matter of that particular section. This resulted in passages like “yeah, I just mentioned post-rock here. You know what my favorite post-rock band is? It’s this obscure band that you’ve never heard of, beat that!” or “Many wonder what ‘Kid A’ would have been like had it been a double album with ‘Amnesiac.’ You know what? Screw it, here’s how I would organize it if it was a double album. Ooooh, look at me, I’m putting in all the singles that got cut from the album…”, etc., etc., etc. With how short This Isn’t Happening is (only around 244 pages on the hardcover edition), a lot it felt like nothing more than stream-of-consciousness digressions that only served to plump up the page count.
What was also fascinating to me was some of the more cultural aspects of This Isn’t Happening and the aftermath of “Kid A.” All of this happened just before I was born, and from a younger perspective, it was so interesting to see Hyden’s picture of the cultural landscape. It’s not from the perspective of a historian—it’s from the perspective of a music critic, and something about this view, from somebody who knows everything just from living through it, made it all the more engrossing to read.
Through it all, there’s a profound appreciation—not worship, but still immense admiration—for music as a whole. Hyden’s writing is full of dry humor and clever references, and it makes for a read that wholly appeals to the music nerd in all of us. Hyden treats listening to “Kid A” as an almost cinematic experience, encouraging the reader to sit back, relax, and start playing “Everything In Its Right Place” as he dives into the creation of the album. This is the kind of book that only a music critic could write—otherwise, it would sound disingenuous.
All in all, a loving but flawed exploration into the most groundbreaking albums of the 21st century. But before I go:
Jeez, it’s still so hard to believe that 2021 is almost over. It doesn’t feel like it should be over, but really…good riddance. As of now, there were good parts, but the burnout from online school, precalc, taking the SAT, and everything else in this mess deserves to go in the trash with 2020.
Okay, maybe I went too negative there. But this year did sort of suck. The first half, at least.
As a whole, I’d say November’s been alright. The pinkish-purple part of my hair has faded to this cool silvery color, and I’m liking it a lot.
NaNoWriMo has been a major part of this month, and it was a wild ride! There were times that I felt, in the words of Colin Robinson, “like I [had] the power of a thousand cowboys running through my veins,” but there were major slogs as well. But through it all, I managed to reach my word count and finish up the draft of that particular WIP! Looking at it now, it’s fairly short (only around 150 pages), but I’m more comfortable with it at a novella length like that. I feel like anything else that I could put in there would be filler.
And this is the last year of NaNoWriMo that I’ll be doing in the Young Writer’s Program…by the time next year comes around, I’ll be doing the full 50,000…
Other than NaNo, November has felt…strangely slow. I guess it’s the calm before the storm, since I have a big project coming up for my AP Gov class very soon [screams into the void], but it’s been an alright month; I finished up season 3 of What We Do in the Shadows (I’m sorry WHAT WERE THOSE LAST TWO EPISODES), saw Soccer Mommy live, drew more frequently, and listened to the abundance of new music that came out! Snail Mail, Spiritualized, Radiohead…life is good, folks. Life is good. Plus, Aurora’s End finally arriving brought so much joy into my life, and I’ve been gushing about it ever since.
It’s been strange, though…we’ve had almost no snow this fall here in Colorado; by now, we’re usually having a little bit of snow almost every week, but since October, we’ve seen…maybe only three or four snows? And out of all of them, only one of them accumulated, and even then, it melted the next day, and it was barely an inch. It better snow come Christmastime. It better. I’m not much of a cold weather person, but you just can’t have Christmas without snow.
READING AND BLOGGING:
Counting my re-read of Aurora’s End, I read 21 books this month! Pretty good, all things considering. Also, I’m counting the fact that I’ve only re-read Aurora’s End once as a step in the right direction.
Use the tag “Chapters & Melodies Tag” in your post
Let’s begin, shall we?
🎵CHAPTERS & MELODIES TAG🎵
A SONG AND A BOOK THAT SHARE A TITLE
This prompt took a WHILE of digging through my read books on Goodreads, but I’ve found one: Supernova (Marissa Meyer) and “Supernova” by Liz Phair!
A SONG THAT REMINDS YOU OF A BOOK
At the time that I read The Final Six, I was somewhat familiar with Radiohead, but seeing the reference to “Paranoid Android” is what made me dive deeper into their music—OK Computer in particular. OK Computer is one of my favorite albums now, and Radiohead is one of my favorite bands. So, uh…thanks, Alexandra Monir!
A BOOK THAT FEATURES MUSIC IN IT
Ziggy, Stardust and Megets its name from David Bowie, and his music features prominently in the novel, which I loved! (Bowie’s my favorite) There are also a few Pink Floyd references, from what I remember—I think specifically about “Time.”
A SONG THAT REMINDS YOU OF YOUR OTP
Auri and Kal from Aurora Risingare 100% my OTP! They’re the sweetest, most tender pair together, and over the years, both of them—especially Auri—have become such important characters to me. I associate “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” with them for a few reasons—the lyrics (in this version, at least), fit, and the sweeping, space-y atmosphere fits the feel of the book itself. But if there’s one thing, ONE THING that I would give anything to see in the TV adaptation, it’s this song playing in the scene with Auri and Kal in the pollen fields. THAT’S ALL I ASK.
FAVORITE SONG FROM A MOVIE THAT WAS ADAPTED FROM A BOOK
Technically, this song is a) a cover, and b) was only in the trailer, but for me, it’s a fantastic cover! Gives me chills every time, and it has ever since I first saw the Dune trailer last year. Great book, great movie.
Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you all well.
It’s been a good start to November, I’d say. My reading week was a little slow, but I got some promising books from the library, so I’m confident that it’ll pick up soon.
The most important thing about this week, though, is the start of NaNoWriMo! I’m still in the Young Writer’s program right now, but this’ll be my last year…[sniffles] I’m shooting for 45,000 words this year, and somehow, I’ve managed to get in my 1,500+ words in every day this week! Knock on wood that I’ll be able to keep up the pace for the whole month…[aggressively knocks on the table]
It’s also been a fantastic week for music, if I do say so myself! First off, we got a new Spiritualized single, and he confirmed that a new album is on the way!! For me, it’s the best music he’s released in years, and I’m so excited to hear everything else!! We got new Snail Mail and some reissued Radiohead BOTH on Friday, and both of them are fantastic! I’m especially happy about Snail Mail—expect an album review soonish! (If Nano lets me…)
Other than that, I’ve just been drawing, watching a few more episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender (very slow progress, oops…), finishing and puzzling over season 3 of What We Do in the Shadows (I’m sorry WHAT were those last two episodes??), seeing Soccer Mommy live (she was amazing! The crowd…wasn’t.), and eating leftover Halloween candy. Also, I’m seeing Last Night in SoHo this afternoon, and I’m excited for it! My brother said it was even better than Baby Driver, which is really saying something…