November is over!
To my fellow writers who partook in the beast that is NaNoWriMo, congratulations! Whether you wrote 50k or not, you wrote words and created worlds from nothing but your imagination, and you did it during a pandemic.
I met my NaNo goal (last year was a dumpster fire of a failure for…reasons), but did a modified version. I have not started writing Book 3 of the Satura trilogy yet due to a couple things and I knew I was not ready to write it pell mell all out without giving it a lot of thought and planning. So this year I set myself an overall goal of 50k words, spread across my blog, short stories and a long-term WIP that I’ve started and stopped and restarted a lot.
I wrote about 27k words for the blog (didn’t count Instagram writing as writing, although it is) for November and December, I wrote three short stories (12k), and put down about 12k words on my longer WIP (bringing that beasty to about 30k words).
Two of my short stories were published this month (and a third that is released on Amazon but I’ve heard nothing from the publisher aside from my payment so I don’t know but I’m including it?), and a fourth will be published in December.
- “The Hidden Language of Flowers,“ Misspelled: Magic Gone Awry (Nov 2021). My sapphic historical fantasy about two witches who hurl insults and hexes at each other through coded floral arrangements. So many hidden things in this one that I have a reveal-post coming on December 9th!
- “Team Wolf Anxiety,” Gaia Awakens: A Climate Crisis Anthology (Nov 2021). A human who grew up alongside wolf-like people tries to figure out what’s next in her future as she navigates tough decisions, social norms, providing humanitarian aid in a dystopian rural Oregon, and a dangerous environmental disaster.
- “Jack, the Medbot and the Giant in the Sky,” Titanic Terastructures (Nov 2021?). A queer cyberpunk retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk.
- “Vasilisa and the Night Witches,” Mirror Mirror: A Compendium of Fractured Fairy Tales (Dec 2021). A mashup of Vasilisa the Beautiful and The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in a dieselpunk Eastern Front of WWII.
Anywho, to the books!
I read 18 books, seven books, ten audiobooks and one graphic novel, for 6,296 pages. I had hoped to finish Jade Legacy last night, but whew that book is kicking my ass.
November was a “themed” month for me, where I was intent on reading epic fantasy. Idealistic me thought I could read nothing but epic fantasy, but let’s be realistic here: while I adore epic fantasy and science fiction, I need a little brain purge (or two, or three) in between books. Something to settle me into the real world once again.
The Bone Shard Emperor was a stunning sequel to one of my favorite reads of 2020. While I didn’t love it as much as The Bone Shard Daughter, I still was swept away in this magical and wonderful world. I sincerely hope, however, that I get at least 100 pages of nothing but Mephi in the third book, because after that cliffhanger I sure as hell need it.
Year of the Reaper and The Goblin Emperor, however, are two reads that catapulted themselves to the tippy top of my favorite reads for the year. I am so stunned and amazed by both of these beautiful books.
Year of the Reaper is a YA/adult fantasy crossover novel that really should have been adult fantasy, but it gets a pass because it’s really good. It features a main character with PTSD (so well portrayed and handled), a mystery linked to the royal family with national security implications and a world recovering from a devastating plague that reshaped the structure of society. It gave me serious The Curse of Chalion vibes.
The Goblin Emperor is one of those epic fantasies where the author really goes all out in worldbuilding, from numerous titles to created words to an intricately structured political society with a glossary that does not cut it at all, and lots of thees and thines to boot. However, this is one where I’m glad I pushed myself through the first chapter, because the main character is absolutely adorable and the world is so fascinating. The book is heartwarming and I just want to hug Maia and neve rlet go.
I really enjoyed Parable of the Sower, which asked hard questions and gave even harder answers. Despite being set in 2025, this dystopia felt so real. This is a world of climate change and resource scarcity and governmental failures, where the already marginalized are marginalized further, and the question is asked: who is allowed to survive? Definitely a must-read in dystopian science fiction.
The Jasmine Project was a surprise five-star read! I anticipated that I would really like it because I enjoy the fake-dating trope and this brought in a fake dating where the lead doesn’t know it’s fake dating and then leveled up with some of the funniest and best family group chats on the planet. I’m still laughing at the line 32 people have entered the chat, because this right here is the massive, close-knit family read I wanted. Just 50 or so family members doing their absolute best to take care of their girl and royally fucking it up.
I read a lot of four-star reads this month, as I do most months (I also DNF like crazy which is why my ratings seem high). These are three books that I don’t remember very well, but I do remember that I enjoyed them.
A Holly Jolly Diwali was a delightful holiday romance of a Type-A person opening herself up to the possibility of life, love and more as she explores her Punjabi roots. It’s got great chemistry between the leads.
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry features a morally grey and very human protagonist as she navigates from telling one big lie and then following up with a lot of smaller lies, and is forced to gain the courage to suck the poison out, in the immortal words of Cady Heron.
And Wild Women and the Blues was a book that I was immediately drawn by because of that dress, which gave me Evelyn Hugo vibes but the book is as far from Evelyn Hugo as you can get. Still good though (although the plot and the summary don’t match up), and it’s a fascinating look at 1920s Chicago and Black history.
Squire was a thrilling fantasy graphic novel set in an Arabic-inspired empire, and it explores the effects of empire, colonialism and propaganda in a really cool way. Plus, it has girls with swords! Such a Fun Age was a big debut that I had been eyeing for a while but just never got around to reading for I don’t know—I’m a mood reader? And this is like BLM meets The Nanny Diaries by way of Philadelphia. It’s very, very good, sometimes funny and often a kick to the nuts with its insightful criticism of whyte feminism and upper middle class whyte society.
My Dark Vanessa was another book making the rounds on bookish media last year, and another book that I put off for reasons (although this reason was a little more personal). It was a hard read, and definitely one that got me thinking how awful internalized misogyny truly is, and what a fucking shit show the early 00s were. Seriously. What a fucked up time to grow up as a young girl during that era.
Reckless Girls was my second book by Rachel Hawkins that I’ve read this year, and while I was thoroughly disappointed by The Ex Hex, I’d seen so many good things about her first thriller The Upstairs Wife that I just had to request this one. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s good and twisty, although the ending was a little eye-rolly.
Clear to Lift was a book I’ve owned for a hot minute, one I purchased after reading Wilson’s debut, Hover, because I just could not find this anywhere! Anywho, it’s about a Navy helicopter pilot flying search and rescue missions in the Sierra Mountains, and while it suffers from the dreaded Bury Your Gays trope and a climax that’s a little over the top, the romance is solid and the helicopter stuff is absolutely breathtaking—mostly because Wilson is a Naval helicopter pilot herself.
I really enjoyed Pet (the audio narration, not so much). The writing was spot-on, and I thought how Emezi approached the idea of a utopian society was absolutely perfect (the monsters are not gone, but hidden). This is definitely a MG/YA crossover novel, and I can see where people put it as more YA due to Jam’s age and the content (TW: child abuse), but the writing style and the way Emezi approaches issues are very middle grade—scary, but able to be managed.
Okay, I’ve written a fuck ton of words in my wrap-up already, and so I’ll make it quick for these three. Come Fly the World was an interesting look at the history of Pan Am and its glamorous flight attendants, but I really wish Cooke had taken a more objective and less sympathetic look at her subjects (if that even makes sense). There’s a fine line to straddle when writing about other people, and I feel that Cooke veered a bit too far.
The Undertakers was one of my most anticipated sequels, and I will say that despite absolutely loving the way Glover has so carefully reconstructed and reimagined 1870s Philadelphia, the book needed a lot more editing and a tighter plot. It was good, but many of the gripes I had with the first book were enhanced in the second. However, I’m still team Celestial Magic. More of that, please!
I could see what The Guncle was attempting to be—sweet, heartwarming, grumpy-gay-with-heart-of-gold gets two kids for the summer and learns to live again while they all manage their grief—but it didn’t land for me. I think part of the reason was that it was so hyped, and I just didn’t feel anything special from it beyond the fact that Patrick was gay? The bigger part was because me and the audiobook narrator (who is also the author, btw) did not jive, and I really, really hated how he did the kids’ voices.
And The Shaadi Set-Up was just okay. I had a lot of fun with the fixer-upper aspect of things, but there were some very odd geographical errors, the chemistry between Milan and Rita was just not there, and the ending was a little head-scratching and didn’t really make financial or logical sense.
And look at that, I wrote way too much! Yet again.