tbrs

please stick to this for once —November TBR

Hey guys! It’s time for another TBR that I may or may not fail at actually completing. Let’s go!

— Early 2018 Arcs —

1. Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
received Nov 5, releases Mar 18
thanks to Little Brown publishing and Kepler’s for the arc!

This is another book about the #blacklivesmatter movement, and the cover is SO. AESTHETICALLY. PLEASING. I’m so excited to have an arc of this.

2. Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonzales
received Nov 5, releases May 18
thanks to Little Brown publishing and Kepler’s for the arc!

I see lesbians, I see darkly funny, and I see something I am definitely excited to read.

3. Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert
received Nov 5, releases Aug 18
thanks to Little Brown publishing and Kepler’s for the arc!

While I was definitely not a fan of Colbert’s most recent release, Little and Lion, I adored her debut Pointe. So I’m hoping this one doesn’t disappoint me! I mostly want to read it quickly because it’s so short.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
received Nov 5, releases Apr 3
thanks to Balzer&Bray publishing and Kepler’s for the arc!

I actually already finished this! Honestly, black zombie hunters after the civil war is definitely the best historical fiction concept of all time. And the fact that this totally, completely lived up to my expectations? Even better. Review is coming up.

— November-December Physical Arcs —

5. Rosemarked by Livia Blackburn
received June ?, 
releases Nov 11
thanks to Kepler’s for the arc!

I’ve literally just seen so much good about this book that I can’t imagine hating it. It’s speculative historical fiction about the rose plague, which sounds super cool!

— November-December E-Arcs —

6. Into the Drowning Deep by Seanan McGuire / Mira Grant
received Nov 2, releases Nov 14
thanks to Orbit publishing for the netgalley e-arc!

I’ve had this on anticipated releases lists for months now. Yes, this is the bi girls and demonic mermaids book, and yes, I’m desperate to read it. Right now.

7. The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraboty
received Jul ?, 
releases Nov 14
thanks to Hutchinson publishing for the edelweiss e-arc!

My friend Melanie @MelToTheAny absolutely adores this book, and I’m so excited to read it!! This is Arab-inspired fantasy, if I’m not mistaken.

8. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
received Jul ?, 
releases Nov 7
thanks to Hutchinson publishing for the edelweiss e-arc!

I know this is published by one of my icons, but I’ve actually seen decent reviews so far! So hopefully this thriller will be entertaining, if cliche.

9. The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle
received Nov 2, new release
thanks to Lifted Brow publishing for the netgalley e-arc!

This was an improv request because I felt like reading it randomly? Essentially, though, this is a short environmentalist dystopia book. That’s literally all I know. But it’s happening.

— Unofficial Tome Topple —

10. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
bought Aug 5, backlist

Please, I just need to finish this. I’m begging for the next 400 pages to be better than the first 100.

11. The Diviners by Libba Bray
bought years ago, backlist

I’ve started this and am so far really enjoying it! It’s a fast-paced read, especially for its huge size. (FIVE. HUNDRED. SEVENTY. EIGHT. PAGES.)

12. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
bought earlier this year, backlist

The second book in this series! I’m hoping to enjoy this one just as much as I’m liking book one so far.

Wrap-Up

I’m hoping to have good luck with this tbr, and I am begging you guys to actually hold me to it for once. Good luck to all of you!

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book chat

a very, very quick rant on freedom of speech

Uh, hi, sorry for being your local ranter! But today we’re going to talk about the fact that people hating your words ≠ censorship. Basically, some random person on the internet who hates you isn’t a government censor.

It’s even funnier when we get to the mode of people saying “I don’t CARE about trans people because I’M not politically correct and I don’t censor myself!! freedom of speech!!” That statement, in itself, isn’t about freedom of speech. It is about freedom to be shitty to entire groups of people – to be BIGOTED towards entire groups of people – and not get called on it by those people.

Especially when you’re from the U.S. and you’re expressing an opinion that’s literally been expressed by the president. You’re not special.

Come on, guys, it’s not about marginalized people taking away your freedom of speech or some bullshit. The U.S. constitution says “the government can’t legally censor you.” It does not anywhere say “no one is ever allowed to hate you for being a piece of shit.” The U.S. has freedom and speech and so do many other countries. None of them have “everyone has to like your speech” written.

Isn’t asking everyone to like your opinion censorship? Isn’t it interesting that we never talk about that?

book chat

shoutout Sunday #2 — aka wow, my friends rock

This is going to be a really short post, but I think it’s important to shout out others when they make great posts. So here we go with another shoutout post!

review

fairy tales are SAVED — The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo — ★★ — new release

These are so, so utterly beautiful.

I have not actually read the Grisha Trilogy, only Six of Crows, but Bardugo’s attention to detail in planning her Grisha world comes through in every one of her books that I’ve read. This one is no exception. Somehow, these stories are more than just folktales; they feel both like folktales told by your grandmother and ghost stories told by your friend beside a campfire.

It wasn’t the cannibal witch that bothered me. It wasn’t even the selfish stepmother. For me, the real villain was Hansel and Gretel’s father, a man so weak-willed, so cowardly, that he let his wicked wife send the children into the woods to die not once but twice.Don’t go back, I would whisper as we approached the inevitable final illustration—happy father reunited with children, evil stepmother banished—and I was always left with a feeling of unease as I turned the last page.

Above all, this collection subverts its source material in ways clever and creative and, always, compelling. If you’re a fan of trope subversion, you’ll love this.

// THE STORY REVIEWS

# Ayama and the Thorn Wood: 5 stars. This is like a mashup of Cinderella and Beauty & the Beast. It’s a story about the power of being heard in a world that wants to shut your voice off. It’s brilliant, and all the stories within are even more so.

# The Too-Clever Fox: 4 stars. I can’t believe a story this short managed to make my spine tingle. Here, Bardugo tells the story of a clever fox and a hunter who is just as clever. This novella reads exactly like a word-of-mouth-tale, with an archetypal trickster character and several minor plot twists. This gets a five because I happened to guess a major plot point.

# The Witch of Duva: 5 stars. This is one of the best short stories I have ever read. I ended in near tears. It’s filled with Leigh Bardugo vibes. You can read this here.

# The Little Knife: Another five. Oh my god this was just beautiful? It’s a story about agency, especially of women. And the last illustration is genuinely one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

# The Soldier Prince: Yet another five! This story is eerie and heart-tingling and utterly fabulous. I adore how each fairy tale changes in vibe based on what country it originates from; this is a Kerch myth, and you can completely tell.

# When Water Sang Fire: A four, sadly. This was very good, and the artwork – especially the mermaids – was some of my favorite from the whole book. I also love the subversive nature of the retelling. But… idk, I feel somewhat baited? I thought the two girls were a couple for around ten pages when they’re in fact just friends.

VERDICT: What a collection. Highly recommended for anyone who’s a fan of the Grisha world.

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non-book posts

Hamlet @ ACT San Francisco – theater review

Some of you may know my English literature class (feat. our unimaginably good teacher) has been working on the play Hamlet for the last few weeks. As a reward for working so hard, we all took a trip up to the city via Caltrain and saw ACT SF’s production of Hamlet. And I had… some thoughts. Let’s talk.

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Hamlet’s dad is creepy, Hamlet is angsty, and that’s their entire depth of characterization. save three hours of your life.

Here’s the thing about this show: if you see it and you hate it, you saw a terrible Hamlet. I don’t care if it’s given critical acclaim – fuck off, Kenneth Branagh – Hamlet is supposed to be compelling, and if you didn’t find the character compelling, that actor didn’t do their job. You need a Hamlet who knows the character, not a Hamlet who wants to do grace to the character or some shit.

Hamlet shouldn’t be an asshole. Hamlet is a very complex character, and yeah, he does a lot of screwing around with people. But his interactions with Horatio, all his interactions excluding Claudius in 1.2, his love letter to Ophelia, and other’s descriptions of his newfound madness as being out of character paint a very different picture. It is not compelling to watch an asshole be an asshole for four hours. You know what’s far more compelling? A kind young man struggling with grief and anger, informed suddenly that he must become cruel and unkind.

You know, when I typed this rant, I meant it to be mostly about Kenneth Branagh. But while we’re at it, why not just send it to John Douglas Thompson as well?

It makes me sad, because Douglas Thompson is clearly quite talented. But he is not performing this role because he loves it. He is performing to perform rather than performing to connect.

Actors for other roles were a mixed bag. I mostly just felt the other character were underused. In this play especially, every character’s pain should matter. Every character needs to matter, every character needs to make you feel. Gertrude ( was terrible. She did not make a single face the entire night that wasn’t “vaguely confused and distraught.”

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the face she’s making here? she didn’t make a different face the whole damn night. this is her whole range of emotion.

The Laertes (Teagle F. Bougere) and Ophelia (Rivka Borek) were each clearly talented, but the show did not give them the time of day. Neither were given the depth they deserve at ALL. While Borek absolutely nailed Ophelia’s mad scene, her character arc felt very weak because it was tailored exclusively around Hamlet’s.

American-Conservatory-Theater-ACT-San-Francisco-reviews.jpg
they didn’t deserve their fates and they also didn’t deserve to be in this derivative ass show

This just felt like a Hamlet that had been done before. While the main actor was undeniably talented, and I’d love to see him – or Borek and Bougere, for that matter – perform in other things, the derivative nature of the production was just too much in the end.

review

A NEW FAVORITE BOOK — Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore — ★★ — new release

Each spring felt like all of them, not just the gardens, coming back to life. They spent winters giving their flowers to ceramic pots they kept indoors, or pulling snowdrift roses out of patches of land soft enough to grow. But now all of La Pradera was theirs. They had every acre to let out the blooms that had been waiting in their hands all winter.

I have never, never, never read anything more deeply beautiful in my life. This is the type of book I’m not quite sure how to review; something about it just hit me. The characters, the love story, the writing, the atmosphere, the imagery. I don’t particularly know, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the other two members of this buddyread – my faves Melanie and Destiny – both five-starred as well.

Wild Beauty follows a family of women who lose everyone they fall in love with. While they live in a gorgeously decorated set of gardens, the Nomeolvides women are incapable of leaving, and under control by a family called the Briars.

Estrella – One of the youngest of the sisters, and the arguable protagonist. And my icon in every way possible. Her story is one of personal agency and self-hate. Her starflowers appear when she sleeps, unwelcome, unlike those of the rest of the family, and I loved how McLemore balanced. Also, I ship her and Fel so hard. I ship her and Fel so hard.
Fel – Fel’s story is, again, one of agency. I won’t spoil his exact character arc, but I really appreciated that he’s SoftTM but doesn’t feel emasculated by Estrella’s boldness.
Dalia – I just really appreciated her, as a side character. Again, no spoilers! But the narrative around recognizing those you love as people was so powerful.
Bay – My fav genderqueer girl! She was just absolutely lovely. I love her narrative about being an outcast.

All these characters are so well-written and easy to connect with, which is something I think is hard to achieve in magical realism novels. All this beautiful imagery and lovely prose can easily be used to cover up a situation in which not much is happening, but that’s not the case with this novel. The prose is beautiful, but the story itself is just as important.

For months, Bay had been choking. Her flourishes had grown stiff, her smiles more nerves than charm. But with every meal in the Nomeolvides women’s stone house, with every plate of mole poblano, Bay sat up a little straighter.

This is an interesting book because it’s not explicitly about racism or about the oppression of queer people. But those themes are there, woven throughout every aspect of the book. It’s such a quintessential queer fairy tale, and I adoredit. So, so much.

They had pretended they were there to clean it, and because men who stood so proud in pressed slacks and wrinkled shirts were used to having brown-skinned women wait on them, he seemed not to notice.

I love that we can have books like this now: books that aren’t explicit coming out narratives or Issue Books – not that those aren’t important – yet still manage to fundamentally tie all of these issues in. It may not be the explicit conflict, but marginalization is at the forefront of this book and this narrative. This is a narrative marginalized people have been writing for years and years. Look at so many narratives about agency or forbidden love – A Streetcar Named Desire, even Beauty and the Beast – and you’ll discover marginalized people behind the scenes, writing those narratives. But it’s a narrative we have never gotten for ourselves. And it means so much to me that we finally have these.

The robbery of agency of queer women and colonized peoples is right there, right at the forefront, and this time, we get to star.

I am so grateful for how far we’ve come.

Hearts that loved both boys and girls were no more reckless or easily won than any other heart. They loved who they loved. They broke how they broke. And the way it happened depended less on what was under their lovers’ clothes and more on what was wrapped inside their spirits.

This book speaks to so many different things, from environmentalism to agency, but all I can say is: you need this. It is such an important book, but it never ceases being enjoyable. And while I’ll admit this took me a long time to read, I adored every minute, and the last 30% sold me completely on a new all-time favorite. I’m sure not everyone will enjoy it as much as I did – the lyrical writing isn’t for everyone – but personally, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

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book chat

author meeting experiences #2

Hey guys! I’ve had the chance to meet some truly amazing authors recently.

Stephanie Perkins – She was there with Nina LaCour, and I’m so sad I didn’t get to meet either of them!! The line was so. long. I figured it was no problem because I had almost two hours, but… the signing line lasted around three hours. I’M NOT KIDDING. She had so many interesting things to say about horror movie tropes and how There’s Someone Inside Your House came to light. In fact, I think I came out of the talk with a much greater appreciation of that book than I’d had before. She particularly emphasized the element of shame in any great horror book and how she’d tried to put that in her writing, which definitely explained some of the elements of that book.

Maggie Stiefvater – I heard that this author wasn’t great in person, but I kind of loved her? She’s maybe not the most personable being of all time, but she was incredibly funny. I loved her ghost stories.

Mindy McGinnis, Katharine McGee, and Kendare Blake – I have actually only read books from ONE of these authors. But all of them seemed really sweet. Kendare Blake is basically the chillest person ever and has many stories about her terrible horse. I liked Katharine McGee’s personality, despite my passionate hatred for her book. (There’s honestly a part of me wondering if she’s read the review, considering it’s something like the fifth review on the page and the top one-star.)