Just a check-in, and a lament, and a checking off of an item on my to-do list.
First, the check-in. How’s it going? How is 2022 so far? I have started a new tradition, in which I myself refuse to acknowledge the new year’s arrival until January 14, which is the Old New Year in the Julian calendar, and live in steadfast denial until I am dragged kicking and screaming into a fresh set of resolutions. So really, nothing before tomorrow, including today, counts, have one last hurrah, indulge in the most depraved debaucheries tonight, and then simply begin again tomorrow, and if anyone sasses you, tell them where to stick in. Happy Russian New Year.
Second, the lament. I cannot read. The most inopportune time for a reading slump has to be January, when your shiny new Goodreads challenge silently judges you for being 1.5 books behind schedule. I don’t know why(*cough* screen addiction *cough*) but it’s driving me crazy and filling me with even more self-loathing than usual.
Third, a checking off of an item on my to-do list. Which is writing this blog post. So, done and done. Well done, me.
Back with an actual review, when I read an actual book. Wish me luck, poppets.
WELL WELL WELL. Look at me starting off 2022 sticking to at least one resolution – it’s a blog post!
A short one, though. Today I’m talking about goals. Reading goals, to be more precise. I know some people claim that setting a numerical goal for the year is intimidating, or robs them of the pleasure in reading, but not me. Give me all the numbers! Give me stats, percentages, data. Talk statistics to me, baby.
I’ve had a tradition of adding two books a year to the previous year’s reading, goal, which sets me at 129 books for 2022. A big number, but, still realistic, I think. Like I said in my last post, I am actually getting a lot of reading time in while I feed baby bookworm and while I rock her to sleep, and hopefully that amount of time only increases as she starts to settle into a more consistent nap schedule. I am living my best life, internet buddies – a baby, a cat, and alllll the books 🧿
Anyway, that’s my number. As usual, I have no set TBR. I’m a mood reader, I read whatever book calls to me, and I’ve stopped trying to find any logic in that lol. No reading challenges, either, I haven’t the energy for that, I’m a wizened old crone and set in my bookish ways. But since this blog suddenly seems to have actual readers who aren’t my mother (hi mom), I’m curious to know how everyone else is setting their reading goals for the new year. Let me know in the comments (or don’t, if that’s not your thing).
Coming soon – an actual review! And it’s a BIG one, one of my all-time favourites, and one of the few books I reread every single year. Oh, it’s god-tier monster-smut, as well. That’s right, it’s… COTTONWOOD! Woohoo!
Happy reading, my delicious slices of bookish baklava.
Sooo, big news, I am still the proud owner of this ridiculous little corner of bookish weirdness – surprise, surprise! But I will be honest, between a pregnancy, the baby that resulted from that pregnancy, a pandemic, a public facing job, and the million little things that make up a life, I actually kind of forgot about this poor little weirdo. But fear not, I have returned, and, in the great tradition of this blog, I am making it one of my 2022 resolutions to write semi-regularly here.
Let’s see how that goes.
But during my shameful abandonment of this blog, I have, at least, continued reading. I think the most accurate measurement of my reading list would have to be… a metric fuck-ton. Or is it fuckton? In any case, it was a lot. My goal for this year was 127 books, but, terrified that having a baby would slow down my reading, I crammed in as many books as I could before my due date. And then the littlest bookworm made her debut, and it turns out I actually have more time to read than I did when I was working? Because there’s not much else to do while you’re feeding a milk-drunk baby than scroll through your phone, and better an ebook than social media. So, as of 12:01 am, December 31st, I am sitting pretty at 165 books – 39 books over my goal.
I could do a top 10 or a top 5, or something thoughtful reflection exploring the ways that my reading changed during a pandemic, during pregnancy, during motherhood, and maybe I will, eventually, but right now, I want to just say, thank God for books. Thank God for stories. Thank God for the writers who write them, the readers who read them, and for weird little blogs that let weird little nerds ramble on about their favourite rearrangements of those 26 miraculous letters that save our lives over and over, every goddamn day. Amen.
Goodbye, dear 2021 – you were truly something. And hello, new 2022 – may you be filled with stories.
– xo, R
You didn’t think I would make it through this post without this, did you?
Finally – a review! I’m sure you’ve been waiting with bated breath for me to bless you with my keen literary insight and dazzling wit…
Anyways. Enough preamble. Let’s do this thing. Today, I’m reviewing A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn, the first book in her new-ish Veronica Speedwell series. To the review mobile!
This book has had a hell of a cover journey. There are a few different versions, this one being the most recent American version. I’m not a huge fan, but they do the job, and this is a rare instance where I prefer the American rather than the UK editions.
The Summary Heist
After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.
But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.
I had a bit of a grudge against this book, since this was the book that the author wrote immediately after announcing her publisher wasn’t interested in her continuing my beloved Lady Julia Grey series. Worst decision ever, those books are amazing, Lady Julia x Brisbane FOREVER.
And on that note, these books are… not the Lady Julia series. Similar era, late Victorian, and set in England with aristocratic-adjacent characters, but the Veronica Speedwell series is a very different book. That’s great for the author, who is clearly flexing her creativity and doing it very well, but if you’re a fan of her previous series, like me, it was actually kind of jarring.
So my thoughts on this book are difficult to articulate. I liked it, but that was it. It was slightly better than okay, for me, but it wasn’t great. And I was expecting great. My main quibble, which seems to be a common one with this series, is that I didn’t really like Veronica Speedwell. And don’t get up in arms, I don’t need a character to be likeable, I understand the complexities of characters perfectly well, thank you. So I’ll add that I also didn’t really care about what happened to her. I thought she was a bit too modern, and her very progressive views and attitudes were all a bit too wink-wink for me.
Another problem was the love interest, Stoker, a.k.a. inferior Brisbane. Tall, gruff, grizzled, with a secret gooey centre, I love it, I’m here for it, kudos all around for Stoker. BUT. This was was too slow-burn for me, guys. And you KNOW I love a slow-burn. Slow, though. Not GLACIAL. Although these are mysteries, there is a clear romantic set-up between the two leads. And of course you wouldn’t want that romance to happen immediately, in book 1 of the series, but, like, throw me a frickin bone???
As for the mystery… again, it was okay. I was very interested in finding out just why people were so hell-bent on murdering Veronica (even if I didn’t exactly care if she was murdered lol), and to be honest, I read this book in one day, but then when I got to the big reveal…
(Yeah, I’m not going to spoil it for you – surprising, I know – but it was a big ole eye roll from me.)
Read it, if you want a cozyish Victorian mystery with an agressively modern heroine and a glacially paced romance with a sexy taxidermist.
Not that kind of book, really, but I have one:
“I abhorred weakness of any kind but most particularly in my tea.”
Veronica Speedwell – Eve Hewson
Stoker – Henry Cavill
Book Boyfriend material
Stoker, obviously. The embodiment of my favourite romance trope – grumpy for the world but soft for her.
Seven out of ten secret royal children bad plot twists. (Lol you thought I wasn’t going to spoil it? FOOLS.)
ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT
Bring back the Lady Julia series, book publishing gods. And if you haven’t read them, go out IMMEDIATELY and remedy that huge error that I can barely forgive you for. As always, YOU’RE WELCOME. You’re all ingrates but I love and cherish you.
Yes, I have books to review, but not today. Today, I have some news… me and G are having a baby!
Have no fear, dear readers. Though I look forward to raising another bookworm, this blog will remain rigorously book-focused, because let’s be honest, books are way more interesting to review than babies.
I’m not even going to try to tackle a summary of 2020 as a year because really, what in the hell was that? But since my last post was at the end of October, I feel like I should do at least a cursory overview of what went down, and, in the grand tradition of this blog, make my excuses for my long absence.
Let’s start with the excuses for my long absence: first of all, NO, and second of all, how dare you, and third of all, fuck you bro. I will no apologize for my long absence. My excuse is 20 fucking 20 and the goddamn PANDEMIC we’ve been living through. My blog, as amazing as it is, was not exactly at the top of my list of priorities.
Moving on to what went down.
I read a lot. I read A LOT. We’ve been working at the library throughout the latest round of lock-downs in Toronto, and although my feelings on that decision are definitely mixed, one positive, partially making up for the daily risk to my actual fucking life, was the increased time for reading. No customers in the branch, no programs, no weeding for me, because suck it, I’m a Youth Hub Librarian and I don’t get rid of books – all that amounts to a hell of a lot of reading time. I ended up completing my Goodreads Challenge (duh), finishing at 163 out of 125 books.
My top three reads of the year were:
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, and
Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright.
Do with that knowledge what you will.
And now we’re in 2021 and to be honest, I am in a bit of a reading slump. I’m currently at 24 books, and I’m technically slightly ahead of schedule, but I’ve had some major duds, nothing really memorable. Send help. I’m going to lose my mind if I read another 3-star.
Wazzup, weirdos. Everything’s the same here. Never thought unprecedented times such as these could be so tedious on a daily basis. Knock of wood, etc. The last thing 2020 needs is another murder-hornet-esque plot twist. With our luck, it’ll be the zed word.
Anyway. I’ve finished my 2020 Goodreads challenge, yay me, and read a few truly fucked up books, but today, you’re going to suffer through another Thursday Thoughts and you’re going to like it or so help me God–
JK. I don’t actually care!
Today’s question, because Christmas is already on my mind, don’t @ me, is: What is your favorite book to gift to other people?
It’s one of two, a fiction and a nonfiction. For fiction, I will without hesitation fling a copy of David Benioff’s City of Thieves at your head. This is pre-Game of Thrones, pre-douchey production guy Benioff, and buddy, this book has everything.
War, action, romance, Russia, a life and death quest for eggs to make a cake, bromance, black comedy, identity crises, a story within a story – what else could anyone possibly ask for from a single book? Nothing, that’s what. This book is awesome, and I feel like, despite all the cannibalism, it appeals to a very broad range of readers – and non-readers as well. I’ve given this book as catnip for people (cough idiots cough) who claim they don’t like to read, and pretty much every single time, they’ve come back asking for more books like this. Which actually sucks because this is a hell of a book to find read-alikes for, considering all of the points it hits. Read it, and thank me later.
For nonfiction, I give Mediations by Marcus Aurelius. Why? Because it’s 2000 year old self-help that will actually help the self, and not some bullshit collection of platitudes thrown together by a self-annointed self-help guru who has teeth the colour of toilet paper and spews just about the amount of shit it will take to rope in unhappy idiots looking for a quick fix for their miserable capitalist-lackey lives. Fuck your self-help, you idiots. Read Marcus Aurelius and get the fuck over yourselves. Stoicism in a nutshell.
Well this post took a turn. Anyway. As always, you’re welcome. Happy reading
Subtitle: yet another nightmare that wouldn’t happen to a vegetarian.
Before we get into it, how are you? Like, how are you? Are you okay? Because I am not okay ell oh ell but the motivational instagram pages I follow have told me that this is okay, we are all okay to not be okay, OKAY? Okay.
Anyway. On to the book. Today it’s a brand spankin’ new horror book that I’ve been very eagerly anticipating: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones.
Very good, I like. So creepy, so very very creepy, and so on point. This is how you do it.
The Summary Heist
A tale of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.
Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.
Woweeeeeee. Okay, before we get into this, I’m gonna give you the warning that the internet gave me. Yes, the dog dies. In fact, multiple dogs die. And it is described, in detail, and it is gruesome, and I maybe definitely cried a lot. But… it is relevant to the story. So we will accept it and move on.
So where was I? Oh yes. WOW.
I am impressed. This was good. This was very good.
Compelling characters? CHECK. Fast-paced and original plot? CHECK. Suspense? Terror? Gore? CHECK CHECK CHECK.
AND it’s an own-voices read featuring exclusively POC characters that manages to address the past, present and ongoing horrors of colonialism as experienced by the Indigenous people of North America while also infusing the stale horror genre with new life by re-imagining Blackfoot mythology??? Hell fuckin yeah, buddy.
To put it lightly, this book was fucking awesome. YMMV, as always, but I was just hella impressed. I actually read this in one sitting, during one incredibly busy shift at work when I had a whopping zero teens to supervise (#pandemiclibraries), and let me tell you, I wasn’t in the library when I was reading this. I was fully immersed in this incredible story, so much so that when a colleague came by to relieve me for a break, I literally jumped out of my seat and squawked like a goddamn seagull. It’s that fucking good.
There were some parts I preferred more than others (DEER BABY POV FOR THE WIN) but damn, I really can’t find much to critique about this book. It is pretty much a perfect horror novel, and exactly what you should be reading to celebrate this grim 2020 spooky season.
READ IT. This is a Robyn-certified VGB (Very Good Book), and if it fails to live up to your expectation… don’t @ me. But it will. So READ IT.
So many good ones. Stephen Graham Jones, you are good with the word-smithing. A few of my favourites:
“For them, ten years ago, that’s another lifetime. For you, it’s yesterday.”
You hide in the herd. You wait. And you never forget.
Okay. Serious talk time.
Once again, reading a book by a minority author and attempting to fancast the characters demonstrates how limited our pool of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) actors is. I hate this. I really fucking hate this. As a BIPOC woman who actively tries to be a good ally each and every day, I do feel like I am constantly seeking out films and TV created by and starring ethnically diverse people, but even so, my familiarity with this underrepresented group is severely limited. I feel so ashamed, angry, and frustrated that I can’t summon up a fancast for these characters the way I could for a book starring white characters. It sucks.
/rant (but seriously.) (Also, check out #indigenous on TikTok for some amazing, creative, and educational content from Indigenous creators… and yes, I am amillennial on TikTok, shut up)
Anyway. Here’s my best attempt.
Lewis – Eugene Brave Rock, a Blackfoot actor from Canada
Shaney – Jessica Matten (who is not a member of the Crow nation like her character, but is an Indigenous actress of Métis descent from Canada)
Denorah – Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, a Canadian Mohawk actress
You Know Who – whatever the hell this is, thank you no thank you, Google image search
Book Boyfriend material
Definitely no one in this book, in which many men do many stupid things.
Nine out of ten vengeful deers. THIS IS WHY WE DO NOT KILL THINGS, GUYS.
ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT
It’s 10 years old but maybe give this a fuckin read and remember that if a murderous Deer Woman doesn’t come to kill you in an indescribably horrible way, we will all most certainly meet our demise in an equally horrible but largely avoidable manner directly related to climate change. Go vegetarian, stop hunting, and avoid death at the hands (hooves?) of supernatural cervine monsters while also stopping the current climate crisis and maybe avoiding the impending Holocene extinction. Feel free to google the fuck out of that shit and you’re welcome for the many sleepless nights I hope you endure. Same, buddy boy. Eat a fucking veggie burger and maybe turn off the goddamn lights when you leave a room and also stop ordering from amazon, vote, read some fucking Marx, and do your part to slowly dismantle the capitalist system that is arguably the sole cause of the afore-mentioned climate crisis and which could easily solve said crisis were it not for the unholy terror of a decrease in profit, which is, of course, precisely what makes it capitalism. It’s an ouroboros of existential terror.
Hey hey, my imaginary internet friendos. How freaking goes it? Are you, like me, clinging to the last shreds of your sanity with only your iron will and copious kitten TikToks to give you the strength to endure? Yes, I thought so.
Back at it with the Thursday Thoughts, but before we start, a wee update: am reading, but am reading too many things (#bookpolygamy) and so have no review for you this week, I know you’re all crushed, my infinite bad.
So. This week’s question: What’s your favorite sound to hear while reading?
Oh. Oh that’s a GOOD one. But so easy to answer. It’s just this gif, really:
These are the sounds I want when I’m reading:
a purring cat
rain on the windows
Of course, you could throw in a crackling fireplace, maybe some oldies coming in from another room, the boom of thunder that’s far enough away that I don’t have to worry about my lights going out. But really, I just want those three things. The combination of all three somehow makes time stop, and as long as I have a good book in my lap there is no surer guarantee of happiness.
And thanks to the magic of the internet, I can summon these sounds at any time, even when the weather is wrong or the cat is being uncooperative or I remember that I do not and never will own a wood fireplace. And because I’m so nice (ha), I’m sharing my favourite insta-happiness sounds with you:
Y’all. Y’allllllllllllllllll. For the first time ever in my life, I reenacted that stupid Bradley Cooper gif. You know which one I’m talking about:
Except the book I was reading didn’t go out a window, it hit the wall, left a tiny orange mark, and scared the shit out of poor Koschei.
Which book, you ask? Prepare yourself for a shock… twas the new Elena Ferrante, The Lying Life of Adults. IT’S A ONE START REVIEW KINDA DAY, LADS. Buckle up.
Better than the Neapolitan covers, but still not good. I do not appreciate the sudden acceptance of orange and pink as coordinating colours. They don’t go, stop trying to make it happen.
The Summary Heist
Giovanna’s pretty face is changing, turning ugly, at least so her father thinks. Giovanna, he says, looks more like her Aunt Vittoria every day. But can it be true? Is she really changing? Is she turning into her Aunt Vittoria, a woman she hardly knows but whom her mother and father clearly despise? Surely there is a mirror somewhere in which she can see herself as she truly is.
Giovanna is searching for her reflection in two kindred cities that fear and detest one another: Naples of the heights, which assumes a mask of refinement, and Naples of the depths, a place of excess and vulgarity. She moves from one to the other in search of the truth, but neither city seems to offer answers or escape.
Named one of 2016’s most influential people by TIME Magazine and frequently touted as a future Nobel Prize-winner, Elena Ferrante has become one of the world’s most read and beloved writers. With this new novel about the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, Ferrante proves once again that she deserves her many accolades. In The Lying Life of Adults, readers will discover another gripping, highly addictive, and totally unforgettable Neapolitan story.
Well shit. To say I’m disappointed in this book would be a huge understatement. I’m fucking devastated, my dudes. This was probably my most anticipated read of 2020, so maybe it actually fits. This shit year begets a shit book, so let it be written, etc. I even BOUGHT this book, this fucking $40 rip-off of a hardcover (okay so I returned a whole passel of shitty birthday gifts from some frenemy morons who should just learn to give Chapters gift cards instead of trying to buy books for a librarian and used the store credit but still), and then read it in two days, that’s how excited I was. And the worst part was that I, naive idiot that I am, kept waiting for it to get better, for it become the kind of book I expected from Elena fucking Ferrante.
It was mindbogglingly shitty all the way up to the last sentence.
Horrible characters – truly vile, and worse, not at all interesting or even that well-developed – who acted illogically, a plot that wasn’t really a plot at all but just a bunch of terrible interactions, an ending that brought no revelation or insight… like, what the fuck happened, Ferrante?
I can’t even one-star this properly because it wasn’t a hate-read. I really wanted to love this novel, and I tried to find something redeeming, but even the writing was just so banal and self-aware. I’m sure there will be readers who loved this book, or claim to, but call me low-brow if you want, this book was a pile of rotting fish guts.
Don’t read it. If you want good Ferrante, read the Neapolitan series.
I got nothing.
The characters were never fully formed in my mind, so again… I got nothing.
Nightmare fuel but okay.
Book Boyfriend material
Literally no one.
One out of ten very troublesome blue floral bracelets. Seriously. That shit is cursed, fam. Just give it away.
ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT
2020, the year of fucking disappointment. Now you come for my books, too, 2020? How are dare you. For shame. And please for the love of God stop already.