Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall 2021 To-Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is a series hosted on That Artsy Reader Girl! This week, we’re looking ahead to a season of books I hope I’ll finish (feel free to poke me until I do)…


1. Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

If you’ve read my incoherent babbling about Jane Eyre, you know I have a taste for the gothic, and Lauren Blackwood’s debut, an Ethiopian-inspired fantasy set in an old castle beset by a curse, looks poised to check each and every one of those boxes. Atmospheric, eerie fantasy in step with House of Salt and Sorrows and Down Comes The Night (which I also have to get to!) has seen a surge lately, and I couldn’t be happier to see this trend culminate in a fresh, diverse take on a time-honored setup. Sketchy manor, possible ghosts, and romantic tension? I’m in.


2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I’m still getting a taste for my opinion on Dickens’ canon. A while back, I read Our Mutual Friend, which I loved up until the last hundred pages, and A Tale of Two Cities, which I enjoyed all the way through, if rather mildly. Great Expectations, his penultimate complete novel, contains one of his most iconic characters in Miss Havisham and, in general, gets talked about a lot, so I’m anxious to see where I stand on it. It’s been too long since I’ve picked up a 19th-century doorstopper, frankly.


3. If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

Dark academia is very popular at the moment, but I think there’s a lot of potential in a similar subgenre, one with the psychological toll of the performing arts in the spotlight instead. M. L. Rio’s literary thriller follows a clique of Shakespearean actors reeling from a murder, and deeply beloved as it is in my bookish circles, I think it’s high time I crack it open and give it a try. If nothing else, my ego will have a field day feeling clever for spotting all the references.


4. Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Skyward, the young-adult space epic from Brandon Sanderson, has totally devoured my life. The deep love I have for Spensa and her wonderful supporting cast knows know bounds, and I have been reeling from the cliffhanger at the end of Starsight since I turned that last page. (Reviewed in my August wrap-up here.) I’m anxious to see where Sanderson takes us after that jarring and ambitious turn, and even more anxious to jump into another rousing adventure through a galaxy that’s become one of my new favorites to play in.


5. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South, Gaskell’s clear-eyed romance set in the North of England in a time of industry and turmoil, is beloved for a reason: with a strong moral core and powerful character dynamics, it’s a punch in the gut in the best way possible. Mary Barton is her first novel, similarly concerned with love, labor and class, and I can’t wait to dive in. In my limited experience with books from the 1840s, they’ve reliably tended to slap.


6. A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger

Last year’s Elatsoe (reviewed here), a brilliant murder mystery with a fabulist twist, was a rare treat. Following Ellie, a Lipan Apache teenager who, with the help of her dog’s ghost, uncovers a conspiracy in a magical America mostly like our own, it offers a surprising combination of elements that seem like they shouldn’t work together, but do, and like a dream, at that. Little Badger’s follow-up, a fantasy that takes its cues from Lipan Apache storytelling, sounds magnificent. If it’s anything like her first, I’ll be absolutely falling over myself with praise.


7. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I’m about halfway through Jane Austen’s body of work––Mansfield Park I adored, Persuasion I was rather fond of, and Emma…we don’t discuss. Sense and Sensibility doesn’t get talked about as often as its all-but-ubiquitous sister, Pride and Prejudice, but it has its loyal fans all the same, and for my part, I hope to be one of them. I’ll say this right now, though: I doubt it’ll top Mansfield Park (very little can).


8. The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

At great injury to my pride, this wildly popular series has won my heart in its entirety. (The saga is chronicled here.) Alas, all things must end, and it’s time for me to make my way to the divisive final book. I can’t say with any conviction what I think my opinion will be, but as it stands now, it’s been far too long since I’ve read about Jude Duarte, and I’m itching to return to Faerie, especially because that plot twist at the end of The Wicked King was just rude, on Holly Black’s part. Honestly.


9. Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare

For the past couple months, I’ve been making my way through my ancient Complete Works at about a play a week, and after adoring Measure for Measure, I’ve grown ever more intrigued by the two other comedies classified as “problem plays,” stories with a happy ending, technically, that still tow the line between comedy and tragedy. All three are later plays, generally thought to hold a healthy dose of complexity and contradiction, and with how gracefully Measure for Measure straddled these tonal opposites, I can only hope that Troilus and Cressida, Romeo and Juliet‘s more cynical cousin, serves up the same. I’m equally excited for All’s Well That End’s Well, though.


10. The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen

This sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow has a promising point of departure. I’m always down for overthrowing the reigning monarch in fantasy, and with Owen’s tightly-controlled scope and thoughtful take on magical caste at the helm, The Faithless Hawk‘s odds look really good. I’m hoping the prose holds up a little better in action scenes, but even if it doesn’t, there’s a lot to love about this story: dialect woven gracefully into the narration, a slow-burn, platonic hate-to-begrudging-respect subplot, and of course, the cat. I would die for Barf without hesitation. ❤


Thus ends the first TBR post of any kind I’ve written for the blog! How are your fall reading plans? I’d love to hear about the books you’re looking forward to, or your thoughts on any of mine, in the comments 💕

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the First Time

Top Ten Tuesday is a series hosted on That Artsy Reader Girl! This week, we’re beating on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past…


1. Dark Star by Bethany Frenette

For whatever reason, superhero fiction in the YA realm (unless it’s from an existing property or a wildly popular author) tends to get lost to time. Dark Star and its sequels are a tragic case study. When I picked it up in 2015, I fell headfirst into its unique mythos, charming romance, and community-heavy take on having––and sharing––magical powers. I wish I could revisit it with fresh eyes, if only because superhero stories that strike my fancy are so rare that I’m starved for them (Marissa Meyer’s delightful Renegades notwithstanding).

2. Matched by Ally Condie

The era of dystopians yielded many favorites for me, but there is much I owe in particular to Matched, a lyrical take on the genre that taught me the value of contrasts: poetic prose against a stark and oppressive setting, a distinctly literary sensibility against a category with fast-paced, eventful expectations. It’s striking how much of this approach ended up in my own writing, and I want nothing more than to rediscover it afresh, and feel eerily known by the way it’s already shaped me.

3. The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

This is a pick I make because, regrettably, I worry an actual reread might degrade my opinion. The risky ending is wistful and cathartic when it comes as a surprise, but I’m nervous that reading it with foresight will sap it of its narrative power. Paranoid? Perhaps, but there’s real credence to the “right book, right time” phenomenon, and, occasionally, it just so happens that the time can come only once.

4. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium is another case of bleak world/flowery prose, but one with totally different results. Where the world of Matched is sleek and futuristic, Delirium‘s is gritty and lived-in, more the faded remnants of our world than a brand-new one built atop its ashes. Discovering Delirium was a singular mesmerism, one I find myself grasping for with every subsequent reread.

5. Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel

At the helm of this honest, moving coming-of-age story is a tame, nerdy protagonist chafing against her family’s expectations of her: at fifteen, she’s still being stuffed into frilly pink dresses and thought of as the “kid” of the family, her inexperience taken to mean immaturity. Seeing someone like her on the page was such a relief for my high school self––one that’s become an unreachable standard for contemporary books, by the way––and while I don’t want to go back, necessarily, there was something really special about it.

6. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

This much-maligned classic (mostly for its protagonist) is another case of seeing my unspoken worries put to paper, and, where it concerns this book, I also suspect that the ending might not work its same magic on me again. To be sixteen and sobbing to Arcade Fire after turning the last page is a powerful experience, but sadly (or perhaps happily?) a fleeting one.

7. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Having read this at fourteen and found a lot of it to be almost impassably dense, I get the sense that my inexperience with classics at the time led me to miss out on some of the fun. It’s thought to be one of the more swashbuckling of the bunch, and I’m sure I’d think so now, but freshman-me probably bit off a bit more than she could chew, and lost some suspense to having been an extra in a stage adaptation of the story, besides.

8. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Meeting the Grishaverse through its very first entry, in eighth grade, was utterly magical. I raved about it in one of my very first reviews, noting the lush setting and delectable love triangle––arguably, the start of my multi-shipper sensibilities––and there’s no doubt the Netflix series would have absolutely devoured my life were it around back then. Luckily, Shadow and Bone has generally kept its delight for me, but there’s just no recreating the shock I felt at that, admittedly, rather predictable plot twist, and as much as I still adore those kiss scenes, having them more-or-less memorized isn’t exactly conducive to a thrill.

9. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

What can I say? The Lunar Chronicles was a powerful tincture for my fraught middle school years. With an adventurous kick and a setting that perfectly strikes the balance between futuristic and fanciful, these books breathed into me a passionate love for space operas, and I’ve been chasing something that can quench my thirst for them ever since. I want to chance upon Cinder again almost as much as I want to have seen “Jupiter Ascending” in theaters during its devastatingly short release.

10. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

My nostalgia for Percy Jackson and the Olympians is comparatively recent; I finished the series just last year. But even in so short a time, I’ve started thinking of these books wistfully. It was 2020 for goodness’ sake, but Riordan, somehow, has me wishing I could go back.


Thus concludes my first edition of Top Ten Tuesday! Thank you so much for reading, and feel free to tell me all about the books you want to return to, in the comments 💕

Let’s Talk Bookish: What Is One Book Everyone Must Read?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly discussion series hosted by Rukki @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic was suggested by Mikaela @ Mikaela Reads!


Reader, you knew this was coming.

What can a humble soul like mine do with the opportunity to tell you to read any book of my choosing, other than put forth my very favorite, my ride-or-die, my dearest, most beloved rant-starter––

I say this with all the conviction I can muster: you simply must get your hands on a copy of Jane Eyre.

When I did, in high school, it wrenched me out of my teenage stupor and showed me what magic looked like. I clung to my Vintage paperback edition, the one with the silhouette on the cover, desperate to discover if this guarded but deeply passionate girl would find the belonging she so craved. I wept when it escaped her and wept harder when it found her again.

I can’t say for certain whether the magic will strike you the same way, but I’ve collected five of what I think are the book’s best qualities for your perusal, and it is my delicate hope that you’ll find at least one of them will leave an impression on you in the pages of my favorite book.

1. Charlotte Brontë Writes Some Banger Prose

It’s often said that Jane Eyre is ahead of its time (it was published in 1847) for the agency it gives its female lead, but I’m of the opinion that its most modern sensibilities lie elsewhere: in its writing style.

Where I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d always find the classics I read to be dense and distant, the immediacy of Jane Eyre, the intuitive flow of its paragraphs, and the deeply personal way we get to connect with Jane as a narrator struck up a match against my mostly YA, mostly fantasy sensibilities, and brought me to a place where I could finally find myself in the books of the past.

This is why I’m always naming it as a great first-time classic, despite its length. Its digressions are artful, and not overwhelming. Its descriptions are rich, but pared down just enough to keep a deliberate, never-faltering pace.

I’m still amazed by how quickly the hypnotism of the first page sets in: two paragraphs and I’ve sunk into the book entirely. I’d never had a classic come to me so naturally before, and the best part? Every other classic has come to me more naturally since.

2. Jane Eyre Is The Gothic Standard

If you like dark, lonely manors with dubious histories, possible(?) ghosts, and fires with no discernible cause (or is there?), Jane Eyre is the best of the best. Brontë is an expert at using her setting to the fullest: from Lowood, the dreary boarding school where Jane spends her childhood, to Thornfield Hall, the mysterious estate where she finds work as a governess, every detail is gorgeously rendered.

The vivid atmosphere of Jane Eyre is precisely what I mean when I say books set in our world use worldbuilding, too. Brontë perfectly externalizes Jane’s inner turmoil with her brilliant use of weather and landscape, the very world built to give us her complexity made manifest.

I should mention, though, her handling of the maybe-paranormal is also excellent. She lets us sit with the discomfort of not knowing what is or isn’t, strictly, real, and the natures of some of her phantoms even go undefined permanently, yielding some wickedly fun arguments about just how much of the supernatural Brontë’s world allows.

3. The Romance!! Ugh THEM!

No discussion of Jane Eyre would be complete without touching on its complicated––and controversial––main couple. To those who find a power dynamic in a romantic subplot to be iffy, the Jane/Rochester thing most certainly will not be your cup of tea, but your honor I love them!!1!!!

For the uninitiated, Edward Rochester is the surly, secretive guardian of Adèle, the child Jane comes to Thornfield to teach, and over the course of her stay there, Jane develops a truly devastating crush on him that had me putting down the book to dry heave into the abyss over, because the Yearning was just too much.

Jane and Rochester are the slow burn of all slow burns, the blueprint of every stalwart-heroine-meets-absolute-Byronic-disaster pairing (Reylos, Jurdan shippers, and/or Darklinas, listen the fuck up), and they have absolutely wrecked my shit.

If any of this sounds good to you, you should’ve picked up Jane Eyre yesterday. I expect a full report on my desk next week.

4. …But There’s Also A Standout Supporting Cast

Despite my, uh, strong words about our romantic leads, neither actually wears the crown of my favorite character. That honor, dear reader, goes to St. John Rivers, an ethically conflicted priest who has a substantial role in the last third of the book. I find him so compelling because he illuminates what I consider to be the book’s central question (though this has been a point of contention for almost two hundred years’ worth of readers, mind you): in the face of our happiness as individuals, how much stock should we put into structures of conventional morality?

St. John (hence the profession) is used really elegantly in Brontë’s exploration of what it means, and what it costs, to devote yourself in totality to a doctrine. He’s a great foil to the fraught relationship with religion Jane’s childhood gave her, and a deliciously complicated subplot all his own, besides.

Beyond him, his sisters Diana and Mary, Helen Burns, Mrs. Fairfax, Blanche Ingram, and Adèle are always a pleasure to revisit, and I glean more from them every time.

5. It Doesn’t Tidily Fit Into One Interpretation, And That’s Great, Actually

If you’re familiar with the book, you might notice one very conspicuous absence in all my gushing about it: I’ve made no mention at all of Bertha, a supporting character whose very spoilery role in the story has been the subject of much debate. If you happen to share my interpretation and don’t allow for any contradictions, she more or less gets erased in your reading of the book, and there’s really no accounting for her in a way that shines a favorable light on some of the other characters.

Is she the shadow to Jane’s conflicted soul? What about her feelings, then? Is she the narrative’s condemnation of [redacted]? Why, then, does that person get to [spoiler]?

If you let it, Brontë’s apparent neglect on Bertha’s part can grow to encompass, and then, effectively, ruin your reading experience, but if you take your cues from her handling of the maybe-paranormal, maybe-not elements, there’s room for plenty of contradictions in the world this book builds. Bertha, in fact, is the one who makes room for them: this is the right thing to do, but yet this is the consequence.

I don’t think I fully appreciated this until Brontë’s last novel, Villette, found its way into my hands this summer, with intentional contradictions abounding. Looking back at Jane Eyre, it became my favorite all the more, even considering the fair fight Villette gave it.

It’s just too splendid of a book to ever have true competition in my eyes, and, in the end, I love it far too well to foist anything else into your hands.

Enjoy, reader. You have quite the treat ahead of you.


Join the conversation! Have you read Jane Eyre? What did you think? And, if there is one book you think everyone must read, what is it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 💕

Let’s Talk Bookish: What is your posting type?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly discussion series hosted by Rukki @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic was suggested by Nicole @ Thoughts Stained With Ink!


This week’s topic gives me a unique opportunity to take you behind the scenes of my humble blog, and give you a glimpse at my rather nit-picky process, so, sit back, relax, and make sure to hit me up about any typos. Here on The Pigeon, we (me, my glasses, and my third coffee of the day) are constantly vigilant 🧐


How I Write

Each post begins in just about the last place you’d expect someone to draft a blog entry: a good old fashioned lined notebook.

I started doing this, ironically, because my first book review was for school credit, in eighth grade. From there, I reviewed a good chunk of the books I read the same way, long before I started posting them. After experimenting with length, I landed on about four full pages of longhand every time. This size is just enough to go into detail in my reviews, but it (usually) keeps me under a thousand words.

Every time I sit down to write a review, I do it all in one go, like an in-class essay. I’ve done it enough that the process, arduous as it might sound, has become almost frictionless for me, and I always come out of a review-writing session refreshed. (Other posts, like wrap-ups and Let’s Talk Bookish entries like this one, are newer to me and thus a little rockier on the draft, but I write them all out on paper in their own special notebooks, too.)

I’m rather biased on this count, but I find paper to be indispensable in any attempt to work through my bookish thoughts: it’s a tactile, kinetic experience, demanding more care than just typing, and it forces me to think about where I’m going before I get there, in a way that I just don’t when I’m at the keyboard.

My pages are certainly filled with cross-outs, but it’s definitely more costly with this method to start from scratch when I hit a wall, so I often find myself working a little harder to move on with what I’ve already written rather than scrapping it at the first sign of difficulty.

Ultimately, though, I keep using pen and paper because it yields some of the things I seek out most in writing: depth, structure, and a decisive ending.


How I Edit

The great thing about handwriting (I know, this whole thing is just an ad for ballpoint pens, but bear with me) is that it builds in a layer of editing. After the piece sits in the notebook for a day or two, I type it into a text file, and rephrase and rearrange as I do so. I’ll like my self-referential last word, but maybe I want to add an example to soothe the English teacher that lives in the back of my mind, so I’ll slide that in, or take this chance to ctrl+F for repeat phrasings or word choice, so that a particularly apt piece of diction doesn’t lose its bite.

Then, and only then, will I crack open a draft file on WordPress. (The idea of composing or doing large edits in a post draft fills me with a gnawing anxiety rivaled only by my stage fright. Seriously.)

Going in and adding italics to any titles mentioned, or including headings and pictures where needed, gives me an opportunity to check spelling and grammar one more time, and, because nothing is ever enough for yours truly, I have to read it aloud, just in case.

Things will slip through the cracks––things always do––but I’ve always found editing to be its own joy, and it gives me such delight to rifle through old posts and not find anything I feel needs changing.

I do make a point of checking in on my backlog often, though. Just in case.


How I Post

My “schedule” is Tuesdays and Fridays, but as I’m sure is apparent, I don’t make a point of keeping to it. The way I see it, I’d rather have the quality than the consistency. If there’s not enough time for me to really sink my teeth into whatever I’m making (if today is post day, for example), I take a deep breath and let it slide. I tend to want to leave the anxiety of rushing to get things done at school, if it’s up to me, and since it is, I miss a post sometimes. So be it.

One thing that’s helped recently is branching out from reviews––something this very series is a part of! Try as I might, my process isn’t always conducive to full reviews twice a week, so having some other stuff in the mix keeps every writing session fresh and the blog at large more colorful.

After a long stretch of not posting last year, I’m very glad to be at it again, and especially glad for you, reader, because you’ve kept me at it.

So, thank you. And here’s to more.

Let’s Talk Bookish: On Reading Slumps

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly discussion series hosted by Rukki @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic was suggested by Rafaela @ The Portugese Bibliophile!


Ah, the dreaded reading slump––weeks, months, years, with finished books nil-to-none, an estrangement from a beloved hobby, the sap of a once fruitful love of reading run dry…

It’s a miserable place to be, if you have books to finish and nothing left in you that wants to finish them, but I’m lucky enough to call this mostly a phenomenon of my past, owing to a simple but valuable realization: I am a reader who needs order.

I should acknowledge here that it’s often circumstances out of our control that put us in slump territory––school, jobs, life stress, and the like––but it’s also possible that your reading life is running counter to your needs in ways that you can fix. I used to read on a more sporadic, spontaneous basis, with long dry spells where my will to read would just dry up, but as soon as I dropped more planning into the equation, I got the consistency I craved.

Here, I share my preventative measures, with some modifications for the just-recovering reader:

1. Mix it Up!

It is my opinion that variety is the key to a self-renewing reading habit. I tend to overdo it on the fantasy, seeking out read-alike after read-alike in order to sate the desire a recent favorite spawned. After I started planning my reading, this tendency faded in favor of line-ups with a more even spread across genre and category (while emphasizing favorites, of course). A middle-grade fantasy is a light at the end of 500-page classic literature tunnel, and the classics keep the adventures from blurring together. Likewise, it becomes easier to appreciate each book on its own merit, rather than also needing it to stand out against all the similar books that came before it.

In a reading slump: read outside your usual. The novelty might be the very thing to draw you back in.

2. Limit Your Mileage

Reading a book in one sitting is a wonderful feeling––one I still engage in from time to time––but in my experience, it’s not conducive to consistency. And when your passion for reading occasionally fades, consistency is how you recover the spark. When I dislike a book, I don’t have to read more than 100 pages a day. When I love a book, I don’t let myself read more than 100 pages a day. Over the past couple years, it’s gotten progressively easier to meet that number, simply because treating reading like a muscle makes finishing a goal an act of muscle memory. Whatever the book, the end is always in sight, and it takes little more than the force of habit to get there.

In a reading slump: set a manageable goal, and meet it every day. I’d start with ten pages, or a chapter, and work up from there.

3. Keep Track

I’ll be perfectly honest: variety and habit are both incredibly useful, but the real gamechanger came in the form of a spreadsheet. I’d been reaching for and missing my Goodreads goal of 100 books in a year for a while at this point, but, suddenly, the reward of logging the titles myself (and ctrl+F-ing various symbols as a way to keep numbers on genre, publishing year, and page count, which aren’t exactly at your fingertips on Goodreads) made up the difference. For some, tracking books adds to the pressure, but my school-warped mind simply needs all those checks in a row, and feeling like I get “credit” for finishing books is a more powerful incentive, even, than closing that back cover.

In a reading slump: if you haven’t already, try a list or spreadsheet. (Star stickers are optional but encouraged.)


How do you feel? Have you clawed your way out of similar slumps with dissimilar methods? Are you a fellow spreadsheet-keeper? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 💕