Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Releases I Was Excited To Read But Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday is a series hosted on That Artsy Reader Girl! This week, we’re looking back at tantalizing new releases from a year already past. I’m known to revive the backlist, so there’s a good chance I’ll still get to these in the years to come…

1. Jade Fire Gold by June C. L. Tan

June C. L. Tan’s epic fantasy debut turned my head from the get-go: worldbuilding inspired by Chinese mythology, a slow-burn romance between reluctant allies, and an exiled prince’s quest to reclaim the throne all make for a rather enticing pitch––a pitch made even more impressive by the fact that Jade Fire Gold goes after them all as a standalone. It’s rare that I see a recent YA, especially, try to capture that kind of scale between just two covers (and for good reason! It’s difficult to do justice in even two or more books!), and for that reason, as well as the author’s Zutara comparisons, I’m still eager to see how Tan manages it in her hotly-anticipated debut.

2. Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl…what more could one ask of a book, really? Margaret Owen’s thoughtful, textured Merciful Crow duology was enough to pique my interest in whatever she wrote next, but Little Thieves, a wicked, sharp-tongued retelling of “The Goose Girl,” invites its own enthusiasm. Following the crafty servant girl who stole the real princess’ crown in the original tale, this work of fantasy has earned plenty of praise from reviewers whose tastes I share, and it’s a promising potential romp.

3. Down Comes The Night by Allison Saft

Released in March, Down Comes The Night, another YA fantasy debut, offers enemies-to-lovers romance between characters trapped in a cursed manor. Besides my contractual obligation to pick up anything with even a passing resemblance to Jane Eyre, Down Comes The Night hooked me with promises of a snow-drenched wintry setting and a main character who knows her way around medicine, and its beautiful spine has been beckoning me from my shelf since its release date––perhaps I’m just waiting for the perfect stormy night to dive in.

4. The Skyward Flight Novellas by Brandon Sanderson & Janci Patterson

After beefing a little with Cytonic, the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s pilot-minded YA space opera, I stalled on picking up the novellas, all e-books following side characters that dropped in the months surrounding its release. I still want to hop back into this galaxy and follow FM, Alanik, and Jorgen (my inevitable favorite!) on their respective adventures, but for now, I’m happy to wait until they’re re-released in a paper-and-ink bindup in April, because me and e-books just don’t mix.

5. My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

My Lady Jane, the first in a series of zany, magical, ahistorical adventures involving famous Janes, was a fast favorite for me in 2016, and, on the authority of a 2020 reread, likely poised to be a lifelong one! Last year, one of the characters who appears in the book, a young Mary Queen of Scots, got her own story as the first in a trilogy of Mary-themed books, and My Contrary Mary landed itself on my ever-growing TBR pile. I can’t say when I’ll pick it up, but when the desire next strikes me to read about historical figures turning into ferrets, birds, and/or mice, this will certainly be the first place I turn.

6. Instructions For Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also A Star is a star among the few contemporary novels I find myself reading these days. It renders real-life settings in Manhattan with the wonder of fictional ones, crafts a love story that thoughtfully accompanies its romantic leads’ search for meaning, and totally made me cry. Of course I’d have my eyes peeled for Yoon’s follow up! Instructions for Dancing, released in May, follows a girl disillusioned with love after happening upon the power to foresee how a relationship is fated to end, as she stumbles into her own love story in the world of ballroom dance. Having a fondness for dance stories (and romance with magic-lite à la Instant Karma), I’m likely to fall in love with this, too.

7. The Lady or The Lion by Aamna Qureshi

Another intriguing retelling with a somewhat niche source, The Lady or the Lion puts a YA spin on the short story “The Lady or the Tiger,” a tale that, depending on how you read it, is about a princess who sends her beloved into a tiger’s jaws…or a happy marriage. Aamna Qureshi’s original take on it stages the action in a Pakistan-inspired fantasy setting, where a crown princess must decide whether she can trust a mysterious ambassador, or if her dangerous feelings for him will lead her astray. This book’s premise had me at “court intrigue” and “forbidden love,” and I can’t wait to be swept away by it.

8. Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Released in July, this fantasy by the author of House of Salt and Sorrows (the first title reviewed on the blog!) is set in an isolated small town where the surrounding woods are still believed to harbor demons. Promising eerie atmosphere, secluded horror, and bees (?), Small Favors gives me high hopes for another dose of the rustic, gothic-tinged chills of Erin A. Craig’s gorgeous, ocean-tossed debut.

9. The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The odd non-fantasy duck on this list, The Hawthorne Legacy is the 2021 sequel to 2020’s The Inheritance Games, a riotously fun thriller-lite about a girl who inherits a fortune from a billionaire she’s never met. It has puzzles, a compelling supporting cast, and some solid twists, but it’s the love triangle that has me chomping at the bit for book two, and since this gives me the chance to say it, Team Grayson. Obviously.

10. Once Upon A Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

I haven’t read Garber’s much-beloved Caraval trilogy, but the premise of Once Upon A Broken Heart, set in the same world with what I’m told are a few familiar faces, was too good to resist. I love a good “favor by a god in exchange for a kiss” story, and Garber’s reputation for bringing the spirit of fairy tales into her novels un-subtly suggests that this’ll be right up my alley. (Though a few people have told me I’d love Caraval, so it’s possible I’ll go for that first!)

Thank you so much for reading! What are some releases you ‘missed’ last year? Have you read any of these titles? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below 💕

Let’s Talk Bookish: How Many Books Is Too Many?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly discussion series hosted by Rukki @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week, we’re discussing purchasing habits…and whether or not we overdo them.

I should first say that my staunchest opinion on the ‘right’ amount of books is this: it is the right amount of books for you.

If you’re happy to buy more than you have any hope of reading, I agree. If you prefer to own none and opt for the library instead, I think you’re right there, too.

But, personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. While I’m more than okay with filling my bookshelves, I do sustain a hope, however naïve, that I can and will read all of them. In that case, my ‘too many books’ is yearly buying that outstrips my reading. I don’t have data from past years, but this year, according to my spreadsheet, I bought 43 books, which is under half the number I’ve read so far, total.

Now, barring the fact that I’ve only read 28 of them (🙈), I think this is a suitable number for a collection I’m trying not to grow too quickly. For instance, I’ve gotten rid of at least that many, for a thoroughly braggable amount of Zia Records store credit, and if you further exclude the titles I have locked in to future TBRs, only 5 truly slipped through the cracks. For someone who wants to read everything they buy, I think that’s pretty good. Ultimately, the numbers are on my side, which is certainly more than could’ve been said for me in past years.

Because, as my present fastidiousness may have suggested, I definitely used to buy too many books. (The above disclaimer still stands: too many books for me.) I made weekly trips to the bookstore, kept no track of my new books and whether or not I’d read them, and often allowed myself to bring home more titles over the course of a month than I’d ever have hope of finishing.

On its own, this wouldn’t be a problem, if it just happened not to bother me, but it later became an actual source of stress. I’d feel guilt, which I’d assuage with more books, thus amplifying the problem. I’d feel like I couldn’t check out books from the library with so many waiting for me at home (absurd; you can always check out books from the library). And I’d overbuy “smart” books that I was unlikely to actually get to––classics, which are only a moderate piece of my reading pie, and nonfiction, which won’t even break double digits for me this year.

And herein lies the true meaning of ‘too many books:’ it’s so many that owning them no longer makes you happy.

Look, we’re tired mortals who fill our nests with possessions and our time with all the little joys we can find. I think the pressure to read new, American publishing’s reliance on hardcover releases, and the arbitrary legitimacy attached to a larger book collection are troubling, but I also think that keeping books is one of life’s great pleasures; one I’m certainly not going to begrudge anyone enjoying.

But if you want to keep to a number you can conceivably read, I’d advise: 1) buying for the reading habits (volume and genre) that you have, and not the ones you want, 2) keeping track of what you buy, and 3) only going to the bookstore with a plan in mind.

Otherwise, load your house with as many books as you like, and I won’t stop you. Only this: however you acquire books, don’t feel like you have to do it that way, and don’t feel like you’re not allowed to, either.

Thank you so much for reading! How do you feel about this topic? Where do you draw the ‘too many books’ line? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below 💕

Meet the Blogger Tag

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I’m coming to you today with a blog milestone: my very first tag! Hopefully, you’ll learn a bit more about me, as there WILL be a quiz at the end. (I kid. The semester is over. There is no quiz.)

The rules are as follows:

1. Who is your all-time favorite book character?

Miryem Mandelstam has full custody of my heart from now ’til forever. I spent hundreds of words singing her praises in my review, so I’ll make this quick: I love her pragmatism. I love the way it isn’t used against her. I love her love for her family, and her devotion to tradition, and how neither is ever framed as holding her back. I loved watching her fall in love. I loved watching her nurture her ties to a new community beyond just falling in love. She’s all but responsible for Spinning Silver becoming one of my new favorite books. I could honestly read about her daily chores for another six hundred pages.

2. If you were stranded on a desert island, which book would you take with you?

My (is this cheating?) 1000-page Complete Works of Shakespeare. It would keep me busy for a while, the language is challenging enough to reward, and even require, reread, and, uninterrupted by worldly distractions, I might actually stand a chance of getting through them all. I can do my favorite monologues for an audience of rocks, it’ll be fun!

3. What’s your most unpopular book opinion?

Love triangles are good, actually! I’ve been on this team since all three of the main romantic subplots in the Shadow and Bone trilogy swept me off my feet, and I almost always find a good love polygon more memorable than your standard, two-sided will-they-won’t-they. There’s just something incredibly compelling about placing a character at odds between two (or more!) opposing love interests, and using each to expose the shortcomings of the other. Jane Austen did this to graceful effect in Mansfield Park, Kiersten White sliced my heart in thirds with whatever the hell is going on in The Guinevere Deception, and Tracy Deonn’s angsty love triangle in Legendborn had me rattling the bars of my cage!! As a dedicated multishipper, I’m always game for a multitude of potential ships, and, just F.Y.I, if Deonn wants to go the poly route and let Bree Matthews have two boyfriends…that would be amazing; she should absolutely do that.

4. What’s your weirdest bookish habit?

What isn’t my weirdest bookish habit? I only reread books during the time of year in which I first read them. (There are some series I do this with, too!) I read in unbroken 50-page intervals almost exclusively, but still never let the book I’m currently reading out of my sight. Also, I never put a book in a backpack or purse, ever. I am fanatically careful about never bending or fraying the cover.

(And the dust jacket stays on. No exceptions.)

5. What character would you bring to a family event as your fake partner?

As a known aromantic asexual, I’d want someone as resistant to the idea of this turning into a fake-dating trope romance situation as me, so we’re taking Daniel from The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne! He, no joke, spends the entire book looking for someone to platonically marry so he can get his parents off his back. I feel like he’d be pretty chill about it.

6. What made you decide to start a book blog?

I’ve been reviewing books since middle school. There’s something about this form of writing that really appeals to me, and I like responding to what I read, instead of just putting the book down and never really thinking about it again. The blog is a more recent development, owing to my nostalgia for my school newspaper and my desire to connect with other readers in a place that’s not quite as dense as Goodreads. You’ve all been lovely, by the way––thank you!

7. What is your field of study/desired profession/current profession?

Having taken the pandemic off to stay with my parents (and get an unplanned Associate of Science degree, oops!), I’m up in the air right now, but I like my possibilities. I’m auditioning for drama school in the spring to see if acting is in the cards for me, but if not, I’ve developed a recent interest in geology, so we’ll see where that leads! (And, oh, I’d love to be an author, but I don’t see myself doing it full-time. Or very soon, frankly––my skills need time to grow!)

8. What are some book recommendations that became your favorites/obsessions?

A friend of mine who never misses made me read The Secret History, Six of Crows, The Cruel Prince, If We Were Villains, and The Inheritance Games, and those books own me now. She keeps pestering me about Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, so, if I know what’s good for me, I’ll read it.

9. What is the book you shove down everyone’s throat?

Jane Eyre. Always.

10. Who do you tag?

If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged 😌

Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to do the tag if you’re so inclined 💕 (Also: if we share any answers, let me know!)

Let’s Talk Bookish: Do You Keep Up With New Releases?

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…me! Anyway, you can’t *not* do your own topic, so I’m back from a long hiatus, and hopefully here to stay. (Though with a caveat––I’m taking some rather demanding classes this semester 😅)

There’s a lot to be said for reading books as they come out. Series hype! Supporting debut authors where it counts! Publishing buzz! The ever-rewarding boon of relevance! Fancy book box editions! (Not my thing, personally, but, by all means, if sprayed edges and reversible dust jackets are your thing––go nuts.)

But, as this seems to be the prevailing mode in online bookish circles, allow me to offer a path I find just as rewarding: walk into a public library and get your hands on a book from 2012. And not a bombastic bestseller that’s still in print, either: something by a midlister you’ve never heard of, with a modest amount of reviews on Goodreads, showing every sign of having all but disappeared off the face of the Earth.

That––as often as Publishers Weekly announcements, online hype, and table displays, if not more––is how I find my new favorite books. (I suspect it has a lot to do with the library part. I was raised wandering in and plucking anything/everything off the shelves, and I paid hardly any attention to publishing years until I started daydreaming about my own. Watch out, 2032! Or, at this rate, 2045.)

For one thing, there’s an immense pleasure to be found in delving back into past years and finding buried treasure. What I love about 2012 (and 2014, and 2017) is that it’s like tasting the other treats at the bakery that makes your favorites. I’ll see The Lunar Chronicles in Stitching Snow and Strange the Dreamer in A Crown of Wishes. And if you miss dystopians, as I do, there are hundreds––nay, thousands––of attempts at the next Hunger Games waiting for you in the archives. (If you’re a fan of witchy contemporary fantasy, may I suggest young adult from between 2016 and 2018? Or, if space YA is more your speed, releases from the summers of 2015 to 2018?)

Also, just incidentally, if you buy books, it’s entirely likely that you buy more than you can get to in a given year, and you probably have works from 2014 onwards sitting untouched on your shelf. That’s how I wound up devouring Snow Like Ashes in a single day. All too often, I think, our occasional failures in promptness can become a source of shame. But you bought those books for whenever (and if-ever) you feel called to read them! The last thing you need is book-guilt telling you it’s too late to get in on the Sawkill Girls action: seriously, Claire Legrand is a treasure, and once you read that, you absolutely have to pick up her 2012 romp The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls.

While it’s totally natural to lose interest in books you bought years ago, it is never, strictly speaking, “too late” to enjoy a 2009-era paranormal with a love triangle. You have my full permission.

And, on that note, I should admit that I feel a little bad for those 2009-era paranormals, if only because there’s something disheartening about how quickly things become old news in our media landscape. Movies from 2018 that no one talks about anymore, music that’s seen its day and faded, bookish copycats for phenomena long past––these places are where I turn when I’ve had enough of the scramble for the next big thing.

I’ll admit, too, that my backlog reading comforts me as a writer. Should I ever be lucky enough to publish something, it will, more likely than not, be largely ‘forgotten’ in short order. But once my distant debut year passes, I can find solace in the fact that someone, somewhere, will still pick it up and read it every now and then.

Thank you for reading! How do you feel about new releases vs. the backlist? Do you have a preference? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below 💕

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 no 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 uncovers a magical conspiracy with the help of her dog’s ghost, 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. 💕