Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! Hope this week has treated you well.
Well…things have been…put into perspective this week. I’m now only a few days away from moving into my college dorm, so most of this week has been preparing for that—physically and mentally. I’ve got most of my stuff packed up in boxes and bags in the next room. It feels so strange that the day’s finally here, but it was bound to come eventually. Wish me luck, everybody.
Reading-wise, though, I had some great reads! All of my books were in the 3-4 star range, and I enjoyed them all. This was my last library visit before college, so that was bittersweet, so I’ll probably end up with a mix of Kindle library books and re-reads for this week, especially since I’ll be moving. I finished draft 1 of the WIP I wrote for camp NaNoWriMo this year! It’s a little on the shorter side (~250 pages), but it’s a first draft, so I’m proud of what I’ve got.
Other than that, I dyed my hair green (as seen in my new pfp…face reveal, I guess?), played guitar, drew a little, watched What We Do in the Shadows and rewatched The Shape of Water (my all-time favorite movie…many tears were shed), and started packing for college. Soon…
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.
It’s finally summer and 2022 is already a little over halfway gone…HOW?
June was a great start to my break; I took a trip to California (Yosemite and then San Francisco) early in the month, and I had so much fun! Once I got back, there was still a ton of stuff to do in preparation for college this August (AAAAAAAAA), so I’ve been slowly chugging away at that. Had my first jury duty summons yesterday, too…nerve-wracking, to say the least. And I’ve been sad and furious at the U.S. government (well…more than usual) for the past week. But even amidst that, I’ve really enjoyed the past few weeks. Summer is one of my favorite times of the year, and the weather is finally warm enough here that I can go outside and read in my hammock. Bliss.
After school let out, I’ve had so much more time to read as well! I focused on LGBTQ+ books this month, and I found some great reads. My brother also lent me his Fantastic Four comics (after we saw Multiverse of Madness and he realized that I hadn’t read them), so I had a lot of fun with those too. As far as writing goes, I’ve been polishing my outline for my Camp NaNoWriMo project, and I’m so excited to get writing again!! Soon…
Other than that, I’ve just been watching the new season of Stranger Things (my least favorite season so far, but I am F R I G H T E N E D for vol. 2), Jurassic World: Dominion (came anticipating no plot, only dinosaurs, but there were…very few dinosaurs ), and the new season of The Umbrella Academy (I’m only halfway through, no spoilers!!!), listening to too much Spoon, T. Rex, and Soccer Mommy, and making an excessive amount of playlists.
READING AND BLOGGING:
I read 20 books this month! Summer has given me a lot more time to read, and I am all the better for it.
Carry On has been a favorite book of mine for years. Ever since book 3 came out back in July, I’ve been trying to find it in the bookstore and buy it. I went to Barnes & Noble recently and finally got my hands on it (the exclusive edition!! with the beautiful endpapers!! 😭), and although it wasn’t as strong as book 1 was, Rainbow Rowell’s endearing writing and characters continue to please.
Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review may contain spoilers for the first two books, Carry Onand Wayward Son. If you haven’t read either and intend on doing so, read at your own risk!
After their trip to America, Simon, Baz, and Penny are called back to Watford. A new threat has arisen that threatens to upend the World of Mages, and despite his hesitance to be magickal, Simon is once again pulled into the fray. All the while, Simon still has personal questions left unanswered—if he leaves the World of Mages, what will happen to his relationship with Baz?
Simon’s friends are no better off; Penny has smuggled Shephard into England, and now must grapple with a demonic curse to save his life, and Baz’s family has drawn him back into the vampiric fray. Was America the last time that they were together, or will they remain the tight-knit group that they once were?
TW/CW: blood, animal death, cults/emotional manipulation, surgery, sexual content
I’m now reminded of why I had a crush on Baz when I was 14—how can you resist a sexy vampire who plays Kishi Bashi on his violin and sings Beatles songs to his two-year-old brother to help him go to sleep? Specifically THE WHITE ALBUM Beatles songs?? I’m getting all sappy at the thought of him singing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”… 😭
I’ve been a fan of Rainbow Rowell for years, and Carry On is easily my favorite of her books. Wayward Son was fun, but it felt sloppy, and I hoped Any Way the Wind Blows would pick up the mess it made. However, this book had the weakest plot of the three; that being said, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it—it’s Rainbow Rowell, so no matter the plot, it’s guaranteed that I’ll still adore the writing and characters.
Let me get my major complaint out of the way first—the plot. As much as I love Carry On, I stand by the argument that it should’ve been a standalone from the start. Wayward Son, even though I enjoyed it, was still unnecessary at worst, and it feels like Any Way the Wind Blows exists almost solely to tie up all the loose ends from the former. The concept of the whole Chosen One cult with Smith was an interesting premise, but it wasn’t nearly enough to carry over 600 pages. There are several plots going on in the book, but all of them felt like sideplots; maybe it’s the fact that all of the POV characters were separated to some degree, but all of them—even the main plot—came off like borderline afterthoughts.
As weak as the plot was, though, I will always love Rainbow Rowell’s writing! She has such a way with words that not many other authors have; every emotion feels genuine, her worlds are fleshed out, and her prose never fails to be endearing and poignant. It wasn’t enough to completely stitch up the plot problem, but I always enjoy reading her books.
Going off of that, part of what makes her writing so special is her characters. I already adored all of the gang™️ from this series, and they were just as delightful as they were in the previous books. Simon, Baz, and Penny are all so dear to me (Baz most of all), and everything that I loved about them from the previous books shone through just as much in Any Way the Wind Blows. These books have always explored how complicated relationships can be through the eyes of Simon and Baz, but I loved how Rowell didn’t hesitate to explore some of the messier sides of love; their relationship is far from perfect, but through it all, it felt messy in a refreshingly genuine way. The conflict felt realistic and wasn’t neatly wrapped in a bow, but through it all, Simon and Baz came through it. As abrupt as the ending was, I’m glad that their relationship got mended in the end. Gotta love my Snowbaz
All in all, the weakest addition to the Simon Snow trilogy, but still a sweet ending for the characters I love. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!
Any Way the Wind Blows is the third and final book in the Simon Snow trilogy, preceded by Carry On (book 1) and Wayward Son (book 2). Rainbow Rowell is also the author of Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Pumpkinheads, and several other books for young adults and teens. She also wrote the 2017 run on Marvel’s Runaways.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
It’s February again, and in the U.S., February is Black History Month! For the past few years, I’ve been making an effort to diversify my reading and read books from a variety of BIPOC authors all year round, but during this month, I like to take the time to uplift Black voices and authors. It’s crucial to open yourself up to new perspectives and insights, and all it takes is picking up a new book. (But as always, read books from BIPOC authors all year round!)
I made a list of YA reads from Black authors last year (you can find it here!), but I wanted to do it again since I’ve read so many amazing books since last year. So let’s begin, shall we?
THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH (2022 EDITION)
I’ll start this list off with a recent read from an author who is quickly climbing up the ranks of my favorites! Although this wasn’t quite as good as The Sound of Stars, The Kindred was such a sweet, feel-good sci-fi romance!
The Cost of Knowing is immensely powerful; through the perspective of a teen with the power to see the future of everything that he touches, Morris tackles a multitude of important topics, from mental health to police brutality to grief.
GENRES: short stories, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, LGBTQ+
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Phoenix Must First Burn is a beautiful anthology of short stories of all genres that depict the Black experience—particularly Black women and nonbinary people. There’s only one short story that I didn’t like as much, but all the rest are fascinating in their own right. My favorite was Amerie’s When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb.
I don’t read a lot of alternate history or historical fiction books, but The Good Luck Girls was a fantastic read! If you’re a fan of demons, ghosts, patriarchy-smashing, and sisterhood, this is the book for you.
Set in the same world as A Song Below Water, A Chorus Rises explores Naema’s side of the story. Not a lot of authors write separate books from the point of view of the story’s antagonist, and this book was testament to the fact that not everything is black and white—there are several sides to every story.
Every Body Looking, Candice Iloh
GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, novels in verse
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Raw and honest, Every Body Looking is a poetic coming-of-age story of growing up as a woman, growing up Black, and growing up as the daughter of an immigrant. It’s a rough ride, but it packs a punch.
I don’t go for mysteries most of the time, but Ace of Spades was the dictionary definition of edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. All at once a nail-biting mystery and a commentary on systemic racism, this is one you can’t let pass you by.
I guess I’ve bookended this list with feel-good reads…I don’t see a problem with that. You Should See Me in a Crown is a fun and tender LGBTQ+ romance about two candidates for prom queen falling for each other!
Tell me what you think! Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by Black authors? Let me know in the comments!
That’s it for this list! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
The last week of 2021 was a peaceful one for me; mostly just staying inside and doing nothing, which is nice for a change. We saw Spiderman: No Way Home on Sunday night, and it was AMAZING. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were quiet, and I watched Wes Anderson movies (The French Dispatch, Isle of Dogs, and Fantastic Mr. Fox) with my family until midnight.
I’ve had a lot more time to read over break, which I’ve been so grateful for! Unfortunately, all of my usual volunteer days at the library have fallen on days when the library’s closed for the holidays, so I’ve finished the last of my library holds. For now, I’m scouring the Kindle library until I can go back to the library, but I have two books that I preordered that both come out in two days, so… 😳
I kind of hit a wall with editing my WIP—I just felt unsatisfied with a lot of it and just went and played Minecraft for several days instead of looking at it. I looked back over some of it yesterday and tried to come up with solutions, but it’s gonna be a long editing period…
Other than that, I’ve just been drawing, petting my cats, watching Get Back (how is it that the MINUTE George leaves, EVERYTHING devolves into chaos?), and doing my best to stay warm.
Whew. It’s hard to believe that 2022 starts tomorrow, but I’m more than ready to start over. It’s been a Year™️.
December was rough at times, but I’m glad I got through it. What with that big AP Gov project and finals, I was exhausted by the time winter break rolled around, but I’m so glad to have some time off to myself. And we didn’t get the snow we wanted on Christmas, but we got…one or two snows here in Colorado, so at least there’s a little moisture. We’re supposed to get a big storm…right about now, though, so…
I took some time off from writing after finishing NaNoWriMo up so I could a) get some rest and b) focus on schoolwork, but after finals ended, I started looking back through the second draft of my main sci-fi WIP! It’s so strange how different the experience has already become from when I did this for draft 1; I’m relieved to say that I’ve improved a whole lot as a writer since then.
Other than that, I’ve been listening to the Beatles and Blur (well…more than usual), playing Minecraft, watching Hawkeye (eh, probably my least favorite Marvel show but the disability rep is nice to see), and going to see Nightmare Alley (is it really a Guillermo del Toro movie without babies in jars?)and Spiderman: No Way Home (AAAAAAAAAA). Christmas was lovely too, and I had a wonderful time spending a day with my family.
READING AND BLOGGING
I read 21 books this month! I probably only got there because I re-read Madman all over again—most of the month leading up to break felt a lot slower, reading-wise. However, I passed my Goodreads goal of 250 and read 258 books this year!
Survive that AP Gov project [heavy breathing]: I DID IT! Got a great grade, too!
End 2021 on a good note: well, I’m sitting comfortably and watching snow fall outside my window right now, so I’ll call that good.
JANUARY 2022 (!) GOALS:
Set a reasonable Goodreads goal
Start 2022 on a good note!
2021 was a tough year for me. Online learning, grieving, the pandemic, applying to college…all of it got to me. But what matters is that I’m still here, all in one piece. And that’s what matters most for all of us. I imagine that 2021 was tough for each and every one of us on some level, but what matters most is thatwe all got through it. We’re beaten-up and bruised, but we’re here. And that, to me, is the purest form of resilience, of resistance. And if we got through 2020 and 2021, we can get through next year too.
There were good things about 2021 for me too—I went to Glacier National Park, I got straight A’s for the first time in high school, I had a super fun birthday, and I discovered some great books, music, and movies! This is the light that always burns in the darkness—the little things that make us happy. And as long as we have each other, the light will never go out.
And with that, there are only hours left to go in 2021. Good riddance.
Wear your masks, get vaccinated (and get that booster!), don’t spread hate and fear, love each other.
That’s it for this month—and this year—in blogging! Have a wonderful last day of the year, and take care of yourselves.
Six Wakes is one of those books that’s been on the first shelf of my Goodreads TBR since the dawn of time. (Read: early 2017) I forget exactly when I fished it back out of the depths, but the premise looked interesting, so I figured I’d put it on hold at the library. Sadly, Six Wakes befell the same fate as most of the books that sit and wither in my TBR for too long: it didn’t live up to my expectations—average as they were—and ended up just being mediocre.
The spaceship Dormire is home to six clones. Each of them were convicted of crimes in their past lives, and by steering the Dormire to a new planet, they will be pardoned of all their past misdeeds. But when they wake up to find the corpses of their previous clones strewn around the spaceship, all six suspect foul play. But with their memories wiped and the Dormire’s AI malfunctioning, will they be able to find the perpetrator of the crime before they strike again?
TW/CW: murder, blood, gore, poisoning, descriptions of death/corpses
From the premise of Six Wakes, I expected a sci-fi thriller. The sci-fi box was ticked off, without question, but the further I progressed in the novel, I was more convinced that all I was reading was 50% fictional cloning history, 48% backstory, and 2% plot.
I’ll give Six Wakes one thing, though; the worldbuilding, at its best, was incredibly thorough and well thought-out. Mur Lafferty clearly spent so much time on creating a rich, century-spanning history of cloning and its ethics, as well as the effects it had on world governments and the criminal underworld. It’s the kind of worldbuilding that made me think, “wow, I doubt I could ever have the patience to create something that detailed.” It was fantastic, really. However, it ended up being a bit of a curse to the rest of the book.
This worldbuilding, extensive and detailed as it was, ended up being delivered in such long chunks that I found myself forgetting what the novel was supposed to be about in the first place. There was so much content shoved in that it distracted from the plot as a whole, leaving it suspended in time for so long that I had to go back and re-read just to remember where we left off before the clone rambling started.
Along with the blessing/curse of the worldbuilding, the other 48% (excluding the plot) that bogged down Six Wakes was the excessive backstory. I may not be a frequent mystery reader, but I’ve read enough to know that the whole point of figuring out the mystery is to very slowly realize key details of the characters. And yet, Six Wakes went and did the EXACT opposite. Almost half of the book consisted of multi-chapter sections of backstories for the characters. Not only were they the most inorganic way possible to learn about the characters, they dragged away from what was supposed to be the main plot, and contributed to my lack of enjoyment for the book.
Even with all that backstories, none of the characters really had much of a personality. At all. We got their stories, sure, but save for maybe Hiro (whose personality seemed to be solely for comic relief), I got no sense for what made any of them tick, or what any of them were like as people. I will say in Lafferty’s favor that at least the cast was diverse—two of the main characters were Latinx (Mexican and Cuban-American) and one character was Japanese, so that was a plus.
All of those lacking plot aspects ultimately numbed me to what could have been an inventive and chilling mystery. By the time I’d trudged through all of the backstory and clone history, the plot twists made me feel nothing. And I still don’t have a clear picture of how the book was even resolved. Maybe that’s because by then, I was just skimming, but it still felt so weak and lacking as a whole.
All in all, a sci-fi thriller that had the potential for greatness but got bogged down by excessive backstory and info-dumping. 2 stars.
Six Wakes is a standalone, but Mur Lafferty is also the author of the Afterlife series (Heaven, Hell, Earth, Wasteland, War, and Stones), the Shambling Guides series (The Shambling Guide to New York City and The Ghost Train to New Orleans), the novelization of Solo: A Star Wars Story, and several novels.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Happy Sunday, bibliophiles, and happy first day of August! I hope this week has treated you all well.
I feel like this week has been nice and productive – I read a lot, I finished up Camp NaNoWriMo and passed my word count goal, and I’m almost done with all my summer homework! As far as the reading itself, it’s all been in the 3-4 star range, which I’m not complaining about.
I had a lot of fun blogging this week too – I loved making my Popular YA Books that I Couldn’t Get on Board With post (linked under “Posts and Such”), and I had a lot of fun reviewing and cataloguing some of my books.
Other than that, I did some hiking on Friday, drew, and watched Yellow Submarine! (OKAY BUT THE “LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS” SEQUENCE AAAAH) I’m also going to go see The Green Knight this evening, which I’m pretty excited about!
Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope you’ve all had a lovely week, and that you and your families are all safe and healthy.
[dons a pair of sunglasses] IT’S LEO SEASON…
Aaaaaaanyway, I’d say that it’s been a nice week. I can’t believe July is almost over already…
I’ve been practicing with putting on my new contact lenses with…[ahem] varied results, but hey, I suppose these things take time. Even though my reading week started off disappointing, I got around to reading two good eARCs (I’ll review the other one next week). I’m SO CLOSE to being finished with my Iron Giant puzzle, and I finished my short story for Camp NaNoWriMo! It’s nearly 10,000 words, and I think I made it appropriately depressing. I’m still working my way towards telling people coherent summaries of my various WIPs, but I will say that it’s a bit of a fairytale, and one that involves quite a lot of bad luck and an unexpected, amphibious child.
I also finished the Netflix adaptation of Cursed (expect a review of that soon), and I’m SO excited for season two of The Umbrella Academy!