Media Roundup May 2024

I’m still dealing with a huge reading block, but the last couple weeks have been…somewhat productive, but mostly only if you count rereading stuff I haven’t read in like, a long time. I was recently going through my kindle library, deleting stuff from authors who’ve pissed me off, and I found, way down in the depths, a bunch of books I decided I really wanted to reread.

It’s weird to reread books you haven’t even looked at in years. Like, knowing what happens without remembering any of the details is a weird sensation. Anyway, I reread Ginn Hale’s Cadeleonian series, or rather, the first four books–I knew there were two more but I never did get them, a problem I should remedy now, since these are really good books. Though they are definitely not for the faint of heart. Hale does not flinch from the ugliness of racism, religious prejudice, or the absolute grimy, bloody horror of living in a late medieval setting. But the characters are wonderfully, lovingly rendered, and the plotting is top-notch.

After that, I reread the Lynes and Mathey series, by Melissa Scott, which consists of two gaslamp fantasy mysteries set in a London with an interesting magical system. Then I started to reread another of her series, the Astreiant series. It’s another one with really interesting magic, this one based on astrology, and it’s a matriarchal setting, which is honestly so refreshing. I’ve got through three of the five books so far, but stalled out after that, because the problem with me and reading is that when I start a book there are only two outcomes: I hate it and quit, or I read until I’m done. And if I’m reading through a series of fairly long books, that can pose a problem for getting literally anything else done. I miss being able to listen to audiobooks, but since I went off my antidepressants, I can barely get through them. I have so many I’ve stalled out on halfway through and just can’t get back to them.

I did manage to listen all the way through the audiobook of Most Ardently, by Gabe Cole Novoa, though it was definitely an Experience. I kept having to rewind because I would just zone out without meaning to. Also the narration was done at such a low tone and volume that it was difficult to hear over the air conditioner unless I used my in-ear earbuds. That was my only complaint about the narration, though, the narrator did a good job otherwise. The story itself is a trans Pride and Prejudice, with Oliver (the Elizabeth character as a trans boy) as the POV character. It’s a very internal story for Oliver, rather than an attempt at a strict, period-accurate depiction of the trans experience, so it really feels more like a fairy-tale. This impression is only strengthened by the many instances of modern vernacular that might turn off a more historically minded reader.

That’s not to say it’s purely fluff. The focus on Oliver’s dysphoria was intense enough that even I found it upsetting, and the transphobia from the antagonist–let’s just say that there are certain parallels to my own orientation which made the threat of being forced to live as a wife and mother all the more horrifying to contemplate.

I also read K.L. Noone’s latest, a novella from her Magician series, and it was…fine. Would have been a much more interesting story if we’d been able to see the development of Van and Milo’s relationship as opposed to simply being told how they became friends. It functions better as a look at Lorre’s early character. Honestly my favorite part of the book was the list of story ideas at the back, especially ‘Five hundred years later, archeologists excavate the site of Lorre and Garrett’s first school’ which, if she doesn’t get around to writing, I definitely will at some point. I can’t stop thinking about how Lorre would react in a modern day setting, especially considering the climate change issues and how he would feel about all that with his connection to the natural world, and I think I just gave myself an idea for a novel. (because I needed another one lolsob)

Lastly, and the reason this is a media roundup instead of my usual reading roundup, I watched Pride and Prejudice and Zombies last night and…wow, what a bad movie. Like, I read the book, back when this silly publishing trend was actually booming, and it was just some good, ridiculous fun, but the movie was so badly edited and the dialogue and characterization was so minimal that it doesn’t even qualify as a popcorn flick. The way they were stringing together the most well-known lines of dialogue from the original just made the poor handling of the rest of the story all the more execrable.

Some other notes: I had to give up listening to Gideon the Ninth a few weeks ago right as the plot was starting to kick in, because my brain is trash, but the ebook was available from the library so I plan to try that and see if I can’t get through it this time. Also the next Psycop book is out, and I still have KJ Charles’ latest, and I got one of Cat Sebastian’s books on sale, and two Astreiant books left, one of which I never did get around the reading when I bought it. Fortunately for me I did buy it, apparently they’re out of print right now :(

Reading Roundup, August 2023

First proper book for August is The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Book cover for The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

This was another friend rec—Kit Kat has good taste in books! This was such a cute, sweet, extremely queer-friendly fantasy. It occupies an interesting cross-section of genre: romance, and a kind of cozy-ish rural fantasy. A lot of found family, and inter-generational trauma, which is why I describe it as cozy-ish. (I have a weird relationship with the term ‘cozy’ since it seems to be targeted largely at middle class neurotypicals who don’t get triggered by things like feeling horribly othered by society, the constant fear of losing everything because you live in an extremely disadvantaged economic bracket, or the fact that a majority of my country’s states are currently trying to criminalize people like me while the seas boil and the weather is actively trying to murder us all to balance things back out. Also, cozy mysteries are 99% about murder, which is the most un-cozy thing imaginable. But whatever.)

I’ve finished my relisten to Boyfriend Material, which I remember being entertained by but finding the ending a bit unsatisfying. I forgot how clever and amusing the dialogue got between Luc and his friends; it made me laugh out loud a few times on this listen. Since the sequel is out, I can forgive the abruptness of the ending.

Husband Material was about as far from what I had imagined it to be as possible. I feel like Alexis Hall was trying to say something about the performance of romance and heteronormativity but perhaps a romance series is  it the best place to do that? I feel like I’d need to listen to it again to formulate a more coherent opinion. I don’t think it was a bad book, per se, but I totally get why there are people in my book groups on FB who don’t like it.

I’ve also reread a bunch of things. The Wes and Finn shirts by KL Noone, plus a lot of other shorter stuff from her backlist—I really needed some comforting fluff. I also finished rereading Jordan L Hawk’s Hexworld series. I have some mixed feelings about cop stories these days, but at least these stories portray police, both regular and magically inclined, as the problematic and imminently corruptible forces they are? It’s not exactly a nuanced portrayal, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the series. I heard that the second book in the spin-off series is finally in the works, so I might reread the first one soon.

My last real reading entry for august was probably Subtle Bodies by Jordan Castillo Price, the thirteenth installment of her Psycop series. It was interesting to see Jacob’s development! I have trouble keeping interest if series get too long, but I think I’m still interested in these guys’ stories enough to keep on, even if I have trouble relistening to the middle books .

I didn’t get much more reading done, I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump since the last week or so of August. Been going back through a lot of old fic I’d saved into my iBooks library. Some of that stuff holds up pretty well, even if She Who Must Not Be Named has totally ruined the Wizard School books for me forever.

Reading Roundup, July, Part 2

Clawing my way out of the slump continues apace. I made a collection in my Audible library of all the books I’ve been intending to get around to reading (or finishing *side-eyes the Clockwork Boys duology that I was almost done with last year*).

I’m also trying to actually read my library books. I finished Fourth Wing, found it pretty meh, unsurprisingly.

Audiobook cover of Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell

Somewhat less surprising but equally disappointing was Ocean’s Echo. It got really good about halfway through but then the end just kind of…fizzled out. You just cannot drag out that level of slow burn and then leave it on the literary equivalent of unread. The emotional catharsis of Tennal and Surit coming back together at the very end just wasn’t there. Tennal is still going to be gone for six months, extremely far away, and we only have the suggestion of Surit starting up a new career. Nothing about the fallout of all the literal galaxy-spanning political issues. No future implications about the dissolution of their sync, which I would expect to have some serious neurological consequences. On the one hand I’m really glad Maxwell didn’t go down the whole ‘super romantic mental bond’ thing that’s so annoyingly popular with certain romance readers/writers, but at the same time I’d like to see a literarily competent writer showing how that would work between two people. It’s not something that happens often; the trope usually has the bonded pair finding a deep emotional connection without bothering to go into things like the lack of privacy such bonds would create, or what it would be like to know intimately every time your partner is annoyed, angry, disgusted, etc with you. (Admittedly that wouldn’t have worked with the nature of these syncs anyway, which is part of what made the idea so interesting to me.)

On the other hand, they didn’t seem to gain any real emotional intimacy from the experience either, which only exacerbated the lack of emotional impact in the way she chose to end their story. So unless she writes a sequel in which she illustrates how they end up building their life together, I will continue to view this as a good story with a disappointing ending.

Audiobook cover for Unknown by Jordan L Hawk
The third volume of Jordan L Hawk’s Rath and Rune series came out early in audio last month, and it was every bit as good as the previous two installments.

Audiobook cover for Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, The Complete Collection

I’ve been slowly making my way through the complete collection of Hercule Poirot short stories. I’ve also been watching the BBC Poirot series with my mother, and it’s been interesting seeing all the differences they made from story to tv adaptation. I’ve almost finished the audiobook, after months (it’s a whopping 35 hours)

I’ve just acquired the Complete Miss Marple Stories in the latest Audible deals, looking forward to that when I’ve finally finished the last hour or so I’ve got left of Poirot.

I finished the first four books of the Amelia Peabody Mysteries too, but unfortunately the library did not have book five in ebook, so I have to wait for inter-library loan to read it. Sigh.

Everything else from the end of July and beginning of March is a reread. After finishing Unknown, I to reread some of Hawk’s older stuff, so I read  The Thirteenth Hex, Hexbreaker, and Hexmaker. And I had a mental heath blip at the end of July so I reread KL Noone’s Kitten and Witch novellas, which are short and sweet. (I really hope she gets the third volume out soon, I want to read that so bad.) then I was scrolling through my Audible library, deleting books I’ve already finished to make room on my phone, and decided to listen to Rhys Ford’s Murder and Mayhem series again. That another series I’d  really like to finish. The author had some severe health issues that stalled the progress of the third book. She’s slowly get back to writing so I’m quietly rooting for her continued health.

Up next on my Audible playlist (as chosen by the Random Number Generator) is Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall, which will be a relisten before finally getting to Husband Material. I’ve also got three library books through Libby out just now: The Sunbearer Trials by Aidan Thomas; The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall; and The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna, which was recced by a friend.

July Reading Roundup

Thanks to the massive depressive episode, and the massive anxiety issue that followed it, my reading habits have fallen into a bit of a slump  I spent the last few months mostly rereading/relistening the fluffiest stuff in my libraries. But now that I’m feeling almost normal, I’ve been slowly getting through some of the things in my backlog.

Mortal Follies by Alexis Hall

Book cover for Mortal Follies, by Alexis Hall

I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The omniscient narration did give me a really good idea for that one series I’ve been poking at for a while, so that was nice. Thanks, Alexis!

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, also by Alexis Hall

Book cover for The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall

This was a weird little book, a sort of fantasy Sherlock Holmes by way of Lovecraftian horror, a really fascinating ride. I got it back in 2019 when it was published, but I kind of zoned out of the story about three quarters of the way through and just never got back to it. Finally finished it, and I have to say, I have mad admiration for Alexis Hall’s vocabulary.

Broadway Butchery by CS Poe

The third volume in the Memento Mori series, and it was just as good as the first two. This is one of the best murder mystery series I’ve read in a long time, highly recommend.

Apprentice’s Luck by KL Noone

Another excellent installment in this world, I think it might be my favorite so far. A really sweet romance, and Talis’ journey to discovering his  magic’s true power was wonderful. There is to be another story with these two, which makes me happy!

I’ve also listened to Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell again, prior to finally starting the sequel, Ocean’s Echo. I’m liking it well enough so far, though it has yet to really capture my attention. I’ve also got Fourth Wing from the library, and I have to say, it doesn’t live up to the hype. Can’t say I’m surprised, YA as a genre is middling at best, and nothing that’s that popular on Book Tok could possibly be good. It’s not as awful as my Booktubers led me to believe, but I’m personally finding it kind of boring. *shrug*