We are nearing the middle of the year, and I am exhausted.
I also feel, for the millionth time, like I am truly an Old. Which is to be expected, since according to teenagers and early twenty-somethings I am an Ancient One, but to truly old people (boomers, Gen X), I’m but a slip of a child. This is just another grumble from a middle-millennial. Ignore me as I crumble into existential despair.
Speaking of which, this month was fairly slumpy, and filled with rejections and the pervasive sense that I should be doing more, which, when combined with my ever-present thoughts of being not-enough and also too much, is just fantastic.
I should not be exhausted.
I have nothing to be exhausted about, other than my own thoughts.
But on to the books.
I only read 11 this month, but since I’ve been feeling slumpy and worthless and since a lot of these were long, I don’t feel that bad.
Not gonna lie, the month started off super strong, with three five-star reads coming one after the other. It was wonderful to delve back into the familiar worlds of the Grishaverse and Patricia Briggs’ werewolves, particularly when both were so fantastically written and gave me everything I wanted (and hope for the future).
And Jenny Lawson speaks me to in a way I can’t really put into words. She has a way of describing emotions and mental illness in a way where I go yes, that exactly, and I feel hopeful and ready to reface the world, yet again, instead of retreating and pulling away and reinforcing my walls against everything kind and gentle and sweet because I’m a horrible person and I deserve none of that.
I have adored Nghi Vo’s writing ever since I stumbled into The Empress of Salt and Fortune, and I was delighted to be approved for an ARC of The Chosen and the Beautiful. It was the perfect retelling of The Great Gatsby, perfectly capturing the tone and ennui of upper class life in the 1920s, a time of anxiety and change and freedom and restriction, while also balancing the intersectionality of being a person of color (specifically Asian) in this white world of privilege and fortune. Add in the magical elements, and it was just a long yesssss (but I needed a firmer ending).
Son of the Storm was a long and winding journey through the empire of Bassa, and I loved every minute of it. I loved the multiple points of view, the sheer scale of the story, the dynamics and the politics. It was slow, but once the story picked up it did not let go, and it not cease from how massive in scope and ambition it is. I love it.
Long Distance was a delightful romp through an introverted middle-schooler leaving her best friend and moving to a new state. I am not a middle-schooler, but since I am very introverted and making friends is hard and we are in the middle of moving and I am leaving behind a really great friend, I felt this one quite a bit. It gets bonkers as fuck in the end (love it!) with the weird camp, but the message shines throughout. Friendship is golden, and friends can be new, old, and otherwise. Friendship takes work, and the nature of the relationship can change and adapt (or go away), and that’s okay.
The Infinity Courts read alike a 2013 dystopian, complete with a love-triangle, masquerade & ballgowns, factions sorted by personality and a great rebellion with the teenage Chosen One to change it all and I loved it. Nami was a fantastic character, and I really, really enjoyed how Bowman tweaked these familiar tropes, breathing new life into them and making them feel new and excited and dynamic.
Okay, The Vanishing Half was basically just a shit storm of emotions and family ties. I have been feeling a kick for literary fiction recently, and instead of sating my feeling, this just fanned the flames some more. It’s an intergenerational story of two Black twins, who leave their tiny Louisiana town at sixteen to pursue the city life. One returns after several years with her daughter, while the other vanishes into the world of white people. What happens next is just…there are no words. Warning though: this book does deadname a trans character. Aside from that, go into this with as little information as possible.
Both For the Wolf and The Witch King were high on my most-anticipated releases of 2021, and they both fell flat.
I felt that both were too long for their rather simplistic plotlines, and both tried to do too much while ultimately failing to really follow through on their main storyline, which meant that the story dragged and the beats that should have hit failed to. They were enjoyable, but ultimately fell flat for me. There were powerful messages to both, but again. Flatness.
Also, the romance for both was just…well, the chemistry wasn’t there. Red was hit with the strongest punch of instalove I have ever seen, and was a carbon-copy YA character inserted into an adult fantasy, while the Wolf was an over-described ball of scars and loyalty and not much else. Wyatt was a teenager, and his love interest Emyr had no chemistry or much other characterization (he was a prince torn between two worlds, of ruling and…living in a cabin, I guess? I dunno it was confusing).
Shipped was…a disappointment. There’s not much else to say. I felt for Henley’s predicament, but I hated, hated, hated Graeme. He was an utter asshole, and yes, Henley misinterpreted a lot, but Graeme never apologized for his own condescension and assholery, and he criticized Henley for being sexually discriminated by her boss, even though he was a silent witness on a phone call and should have spoken up. His excuses (his tragic backstory, his rationale for accepting credit for her work, his dickishness, the condescending way he told Henley how she worked too hard and too often without living her life, without acknowledging the privilege he had within the company as a white man) never really hit for me, since again, he didn’t apologize. I just. No. Did not like him.
However, two stars instead of one (the romance aspect was a complete dud) because of how Henly rallies. I love her support team, and I loved the message she sent and her passion for her work.