Monthly Review

December 2022 Wrap-Up Post

Ah yes, December, the month of chaos where I am full of food, have no idea what day it is, and am perpetually stuck between finishing the year and looking toward the new year. This month was a bit weird because, of course, we had the holidays to contend with, classes ended (yay for grading a shit ton of papers), and my partner was dealing with some med changes/season affect disorder, so fun all around. I don’t want to be a downer, so I’ll try to reel myself in. This month was similar to November’s levels of exhaustion, but I’m finally starting to feel better. Fingers crossed January is when I finally perk up more fully. As a reminder before we begin, here were my goals for December:

  • Finish writing Flowers and Flourishing
  • Edit Flowers and Flourishing
  • Read 8 books
  • Blog weekly and send out my December newsletter
  • Finish Christmas prep
  • Have 6 weeks of lessons prepped/outlined for next semester
  • Set goals for Q1 of 2023

Books

The goal was to read 8 books, and that’s exactly how many I read.

  1. Last Gender (Vol #1) by Rei Taki- 4 stars, a manga that follows several people who all frequent a queer club. A bit grittier(?) than I expected, but I liked the frank nature of the portrayals of all the characters.
  2. Undercover (#5) by Tamsyn Muir- 5 stars, as with all Muir books, it’s gorey, sapphic, and so unexpected. If you liked Gideon or Harrow, hit this up.
  3. Masters in This Hall (#3) by KJ Charles- 4 stars, an off-shoot story from the Lilywhite Boys where a decorator gets tangled up with a killer and the only way out is to team up with an irate past flame and an unexpected ally.
  4. Afterlives: The Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages by Nancy Mandeville Caciola- 4 stars, nonfiction research for a future book. It is academic but incredibly interesting as we get to see different kinds of dead and the geographic/theological changes.
  5. She Loves to Cook and She Loves to Eat (Vol #1) by Sakaomi Yuzaki- 4 stars, an adorable sapphic manga following a truck driver who loves to eat and an office worker who loves to make pretty (and large quantities of food). Being neighbors sparks the potential for something more.
  6. Hen Fever by Olivia Waite- 4 stars, a new woman moves into a town with a chicken breeding contest and finds love in a quiet, sunny woman who is hellbent on winning the festival and raising a once-thought-dead breed of chickens.
  7. Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (#1) by Alexis Hall- 4 stars, a single mom enters a TV baking contest, falls for an asshole but eventually realizes she needs to take back control of her life and what she really wants.
  8. The Girl from the Other Side (Vol #12) by Nagabe- 4 stars, a volume that fills in with short stories. It was very cute and sweet, not a lot of substance but I loved seeing Shiva and Teacher again.

Admin/Behind-the-Scenes Stuff

  • Finished Christmas shopping, wrapping, decorating, *insert stressful holiday stuff*
  • Graded all my students’ portfolios and grades
  • Contacted ACX to get Kinship and Kindness changed from exclusive to non-exclusive (aka in the future I can publish the audiobook to sites besides Audible/Amazon and iTunes)
  • Listened to and approved the first 15+ minutes of The Reanimator’s Heart audiobook (same narrator as K&K!)
  • Worked on my lesson plans for my new class next semester and did 11/15 weeks worth of classes (aka I have 8 left to plan)
  • Set up my goals for 2023 Q1 and my 2023 bullet journal (it’s a lot of work)
  • Did an impromptu title reveal for the second Reanimator Mysteries book (I will do a more formal post here soon)
  • Edited Flowers and Flourishing. It’s currently in the let it rest stage before I go through and edit it again, but it will be coming to newsletter subscribers in late January. Join my newsletter to get it for free!
  • Edited what my newsletter automatic subscriber reply says in preparation for Flowers and Flourishing coming out. If you subscribe now, it’s the same, but I wanted to have the new copy ready for next month.
  • Played Lemoncake on PC (haven’t finished it yet), but if you liked Diner Dash or other timing based food/serving games, this one is basically the cozy version

Blogs Posted


Writing

I’m not going to do a week-by-week calculation because I wrote sporadically during the holidays and the numbers don’t make sense when you factor in editing and such. Instead I’m just going to talk a little bit about the writing process here. I struggled. Part of what sucks about what happened in November is that I sort of got out of practice/routine with my writing, so it ended up very much being done in small bursts, which is frustrating after having it be more fluid. I probably have a scene or two I will need to go back and add after I edit the second time, which is fine and expected. More than anything, I want to put out the best story I can for my newsletter peeps. Flowers and Flourishing has been fun to write and a far lighter (yet still pretty heavy) tone than The Reanimator’s Heart, and if you liked Kinship and Kindness, I think you’ll like this one too.


Hopes for January

  • Figure out how quarterly taxes work
  • Start working on the second Reanimator Mysteries book
  • Book research
  • Read 8 books
  • Blog weekly
  • Finish editing Flowers and Flourishing
  • Send out Flowers and Flourishing with my January newsletter
  • Finally, a little relaxation via gaming or art regularly
Monthly Review

November 2022 Wrap-Up Post

This month was a struggle, as November almost always is. Between getting a lot of papers and work to grade, the time change, anxiety, and holiday stuff, I feel like I did not get as much done as I would have liked to. I’m trying hard not to beat myself up over it because I did the best I could with what I had in my mental reserves. This might also be a bit of a wake-up call to me [again] about making sure to refill the creative well instead of trying to steamroller forward even when I’m mentally exhausted. I also got into a minor car accident (got cut off and popped a tire running off the road), which made my anxiety skyrocket at the end of the month. If this is my “worst” month this year, I still think I did pretty damn good. Anyway, let’s see what my goals for November were.

  • Read 8 books
  • Blog weekly and put out the monthly newsletter
  • Keep marketing The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Word count goals for “Flowers and Flourishing”
    • Minimum- 10k
    • Intermediate- 12.5k
    • Stretch- 15k
  • Shop for majority of the Christmas presents
  • Actually work on that spring class’s lesson plans
  • Do something relaxing- not sure what exactly but video games, drawing, crafts count

Books

My goal for November was to read 8 books, and I read 8 books.

  1. The Ancient Magus’s Bride Vol. 16 by Kore Yamazaki- 4 stars, I like that we’re finally coming to a head with the antagonist in this arc. It could be its own manga series with how long it’s been.
  2. The Stand-Up Groomsman (#2) by Jackie Lau- 4 stars, loved this one. The MCs don’t hit it off initially when standoffish meets high energy comedian, but the way they truly see each other is *chef kiss*
  3. Even Though I Knew the End by C. L. Polk- 5 stars, demons, angels, and collected souls in 1920s Chicago with a queer cast? Yes please. Very short but very good.
  4. A Gathering Storm by Joanna Chambers- 4 stars, loved the disability rep with the MCs voice issue and [potential] neurodivergence along with the interweaving of spiritualism and grief.
  5. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell- 4 stars, a fiction/nonfiction interweaving of Shakespeare’s dead son, Hamnet, and his character Hamlet where the supernatural infuses the essence of the family’s life. Really interesting, definitely edges into lit fic stylistically.
  6. The Solstice Cabin (#4) by Arden Powell- 4 stars, magical 1920s Canada where one MC follows the other nearly to the ends of the earth for love.
  7. Skeleton Song (#7.7) by Seanan McGuire- 4 stars, a short story showing how Christopher fell into Mariposa and met the skeleton girl.
  8. What the Dead Know by Nghi Vo- 4 stars, fake psychics get more than they bargained for when putting on a seance at an all girls’ magical school.

Admin/Behind-the-Scenes Stuff

  • Marketed The Reanimator’s Heart a lot during the month
  • Sent out more audio review copies of Kinship and Kindness
  • Made a temporary cover for Flowers and Flourishing
  • Made a Goodreads page for Flowers and Flourishing
  • Wrote the blurb for Flowers and Flourishing
  • Did the majority of my Christmas shopping (very happy about this scrambling in December stresses me out)
  • Graded so a shit ton of papers *laugh sob*
  • Got a new tire put on my car because I got run off the road (yes, I’m fine, just freaked out)
  • Made email adverts for the class I’m teaching in the spring semester

As a side note, I did not touch my lesson plans for next semester at all. It has been pushed back once again. If I get through half of my plans in December, I’ll be happy.


Blogs Posted


Writing

How did writing go? Badly, lol. The sad part is that the words were good. The vast majority of what I wrote won’t require major edits or rewrites. It’s just the quantity that went wrong. As mentioned in my blog post on NaNoWriMo, I hate November. It’s the month when my brain nosedives due to seeing high NaNo word counts, the weather/time change, and all the grading I’m doing. I had wanted to write at least 10,000 words. Instead, I wrote 8,000 words, and the process was torturous. Luckily, I’m writing a novella, so I’m really not that behind at this point and will have it out on time as long as I don’t totally tank in December.

  • Week 1- 0 words (6 day week)
  • Week 2- 4,000 words, 571 words/day, (didn’t write for 2 days)
  • Week 3- 1,300 words, 186 words/day (didn’t write for 3 days)
  • Week 4- 1,300 words, 186 words/day (didn’t write for 3 days)
  • Week 5- 1,400 words, 467 words/day (3 day week, didn’t write 1 of those days)

Hopes for December

  • Finish writing Flowers and Flourishing
  • Edit Flowers and Flourishing
  • Read 8 books
  • Blog weekly and send out my December newsletter
  • Finish Christmas prep
  • Have 6 weeks of lessons prepped/outlined for next semester
  • Set goals for Q1 of 2023
Monthly Review

October 2022 Wrap-Up Post

Most of October was taken up with release day preparations and anxiety for The Reanimator’s Heart. I was super hyped about it, but I’m not going to lie, it sort of stole my attention and ability to focus because I was constantly worried about something going wrong or forgetting something important. Overall though, the month went very well, and I want to thank everyone who preordered, reviewed, or shared the posts for TRH on social media. You all are awesome. Anywho, let’s check out the goals I made last month for October and how we did.

  • Have a good launch for The Reanimator’s Heart (aka release ebook and paperback and maybe hit my stretch goal for my preorders)
  • Start prepping the weekly notes for my spring classes as they are both new *laugh sob*
  • Writing goal
    • Minimum goal: 10,000 words
    • Normal goal: 12,500 words
    • Stretch goal: 15,000 words
  • Read 8 books
  • Blog weekly and put out my monthly newsletter
  • Enjoy doing fall/Halloween stuff

Books

My goal for October was to read 8 books, and I read 11 books.

  1. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren– 4 stars, a memoir about being a woman in STEM while dealing with mental illness and life. Very interesting, especially if you’re into trees/plant science. It was as much about her life as it was about the science she studies.
  2. Saga Vol 9 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples– 4 stars, rereading in preparation for volume 10’s release
  3. Saga Vol 10 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples– 4 stars, definitely worth the wait, though the body count is getting high. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and how things change/grow going forward.
  4. Three Kings by Freydís Moon– 5 stars, I had the honor of reading this book in order to blurb it. It is a M/M/M book featuring a trans main character, his husband, and a selkie that washes up by their lighthouse. Lots of magic and coziness to balance the sensuality.
  5. Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu– 4 stars, I read this as research for “Flowers and Flourishing” and greatly enjoyed it. Definitely has those sapphic vibes, even if Carmilla is a vampire who just wants to drain poor oblivious Laura. Highly recommend for vampire lovers.
  6. Obsidian Island by Arden Powell– 4 stars, a shipwreck, four castaways, and a lush island that is more than it seems, completely with a creepy tree, tropical birds, and giant bugs
  7. Lore Olympus Vol 3 by Rachel Smythe– 4 stars, Hades and Persephone are lovely messes, and I really enjoyed this volume as we got to see more of how the underworld works and the fits and starts of these two figuring out what they want.
  8. Temporary by Hilary Leichter– 3 stars (more like a 2.5), this was recommended by a friend and I didn’t love it. It’s just sort of the pretentious yet empty lit fic I would have read in my MFA program. There were moments where it had something going, then the author moved on and it disintegrated. Is it trying to be funny? Is it trying to be profound? I don’t think the author even knows, but it was short, so I finished it.
  9. Daniel Cabot Puts Down Roots (#3) by Cat Sebastian– 5 stars, a music reviewer (ADHD-er) falls into the life of an autistic doctor and their lives meld together seamlessly that only they don’t seem to realize they’re in a relationship. It was absolutely lovely, especially the bits about community and family (found and blood)
  10. Into the Riverlands (#3) by Nghi Vo– 4 stars, Chih (a cleric who records history) runs into a group of martial artists who are more than what they seem. Once again, the narratives in a narrative and unfolding of Vo’s layered plots held me rapt.
  11. Exodus 20:3 by Freydís Moon– 4 stars, a trans man is trying to get his life together only to find himself rehabbing a church with a man who happens to be a monstrous yet attractive Biblical-style angel

Admin/Behind-the-Scenes Stuff

  • Made quite a few graphics for The Reanimator’s Heart, including ones for reviews and blurbs from Magen Cubed and Cat Sebastian (they both are awesome)
  • Posted weekly on social media until release day
  • Blurbed my first book as an author (Three Kings)! Blurbing is when an author gives another author a marketing tagline they can use on their books or social media. I was very excited to blurb for an author I really like and respect.
  • Revised my paperback for The Reanimator’s Heart and released it
  • Contacted my narrator about doing the audiobook for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Got a commission of Oliver and Felipe from Kay Fine. You can see it here. I’ll add it to the art page soon. As an FYI this is not cannon in book 1, but it will be in a future book (not spoilery)
  • One of my ARC readers is also an AMAZING artist, and she made fan art of Oliver and Felipe that is absolutely mind blowing. Definitely follow OblivionsDream on IG, Twitter, or Tumblr. You can see the picture here.
  • My partner and I split the cost of a cheaper tablet in hopes that I can get into digital art again (after like 15+ years of not doing it) and to do some writing away from the computer.
  • Turns out that I’m only teaching one new class next semester, which is a bit of a relief in terms of prep workload. Sadly, it isn’t the one I was super hyped about, but I didn’t start the prep for it yet this month.
  • Gazed longingly at the beautiful trees in my backyard and the farm behind it. Highly recommend this activity if you want to just mainline pretty colors and fall coziness while still void staring.
  • Sadly, the extent of my Halloween activities has been buying a Spooky Vibes Only shirt that has the agender flag colors from On Trend Tshirts on Etsy.
  • The launch/release of The Reanimator’s Heart– My baby is out in the world! I want to thank everyone who bought it, reviewed it, shared posts, etc. You all have been absolutely amazing and supportive of my weird little book. At some point, I might do a whole post about this book’s release because it went really well, like REALLY well. Like so well it freaks me out a little. My stretch goal for preorders felt like I was really dreaming when I made it, and I blew past it in the last week or two.

Blogs Posted


Writing

It has been a rough month for me in terms of grading and anxiety, which means writing is hard. A lot of the anxiety stemmed from The Reanimator’s Heart coming out, so for the past week, I’ve been sort of a mess. I wish I could say that was the only reason I’ve been a mess, but I felt like crap the first week of the month too. Luckily, I think I have caught up or will be able to. I only hit my 10k goal, but at least I hit it and am content with that.

  • Week 1- 710 words total, 2/2 days written, 355 words/day
  • Week 2- 345 words total, 1/7 days written, 49 words/day
  • Week 3- 2145 words total, 5/7 days written, 306 words/day
  • Week 4- 2050 words total, 5/7 days written, 293 words/day
  • Week 5 + the 31st- 4750 words total, 5/8 days written, 596 words/day

Hopes for November

Something I am really looking forward to next month is the lessening of my workload with my freshman writing class. The last big paper comes in during the first week, which means it’s all downhill from there. October was the month of giant papers (*laugh sob*), so this should give my brain a little more breathing room. That and The Reanimator’s Heart being out.

  • Read 8 books
  • Blog weekly and put out the monthly newsletter
  • Keep marketing The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Word count goals for “Flowers and Flourishing”
    • Minimum- 10k
    • Intermediate- 12.5k
    • Stretch- 15k
  • Shop for majority of the Christmas presents
  • Actually work on that spring class’s lesson plans
  • Do something relaxing- not sure what exactly but video games, drawing, crafts count
Monthly Review

July 2022 Wrap-Up Post

July was a weird month for me, mainly because it’s my birthday month and I ended up having to last minute prep for a summer class I wasn’t sure if I would be teaching. Surprise, I’m teaching it, and I found out like last week that it was a-go. If you aren’t in academia, everything depends on enrollment, and in this case, I was not privy to how many students had signed up until the admins told me. If it looks like I did A LOT in the admin section, I have been panic working in case I did end up teaching that class. Anywho, here were my goals for July:

  • Finish Writing The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Start Editing the beginning of The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Figure out what to do with old room furniture/prep for reno
  • Start drafting newsletter freebie, at least a little bit
  • Do the cover reveal
  • Start making release graphics
  • Read 8 books
  • Crochet something?? Or do some other art project??

I can already tell you, the last bit did not happen. I didn’t crochet or do any art projects at all this past month, but I did play some video games.


Books

I aimed for 8, nearly failed, but I did read 8 books this month. Thank god for graphic novels.

  1. The Unmatchmakers by Jackie Lau- 4 stars, parents with baggage try to break their adult children’s budding romance and create havoc in the process (Kobo only)
  2. The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris- 4 stars, fascinating read about the man who became the leading plastic surgeon during WWI and the people who influenced him
  3. A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall- 5 stars, I LOVED this book, a Regency story featuring a trans woman who falls for her ex-best friend. It is just so emotional and lovely.
  4. Saga volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 5 stars, rereading for volume 10
  5. A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske- 4 stars, an Edwardian MM story where a civil servant stumbles into the world of magic
  6. Lore Olympus volume 2 by Rachel Smythe- 4 stars, I love watching Hades and Persephone get closer, letting their walls down while also dealing with less than savory characters
  7. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Stephen Brusatte- 4 stars, highly interesting read about the evolution of dinosaurs from their origins to their extinction
  8. Saga vol 6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading for volume 10

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Finished throwing out all the trash from my room/office reno. Everything is empty at this point and ready to go, but now, that room is hot and hard to work in. The reno is now on haitus until September because I’m not sweating to death and having paint peel off the walls from the high temperatures.
  • FINISHED WRITING The Reanimator’s Heart! The main draft of it is DONE. I AM FREE.
  • Made lots of promo graphics for TRH
  • Made a book trailer for TRH
  • Finished beta reading a book for a friend and send them their feedback
  • Prepared for that summer class that was semi sprung on me by creating a Blackboard, tweaking the syllabus, setting up my virtual workspace in the basement (I look like I’m in a hostage video, but it’s better than the 100 degree office)
  • Made the syllabi for my fall classes
  • Got all my cover stuff squared away for TRH
  • Had the cover reveal for TRH and launched the preorders (see blog post below for links)
  • Set up the preorder for TRH at all major retailers
  • Started working on a freebie story for my newsletter subscribers (won’t be out for a while)
  • Edited some bits of TRH that I had on my list that were in need of tweaking (larger things like resplicing a chapter)

Blogs Posted


Writing

I feel like I spent a good chunk of July feeling behind, panicking, catching up, falling behind, repeat. Luckily, I managed to pull ahead and finish The Reanimator’s Heart at 97,680 words (pre-edits). This total is also not counting work I’ve done on the newsletter freebie story during the last week of the month.

  • Week 1- wrote 3/3 days, 1,000 words total, 333 words/day
  • Week 2- wrote 6/7 days, 3,200 words total, 533 words/day
  • Week 3- wrote 5/7 days, 2,700 words total, 540 words/day
  • Week 4- wrote 5/7 days, 4,100 words total, 820 words/day
  • Week 5- wrote 4/7 days, 3,680 words total, 920 words/day (finished the book on Thursday)

I am very proud of the work I’ve done on The Reanimator’s Heart, so I’m really hoping you all will like it too when it comes out in October. As you can see, once I got toward the end, I sort of hurtled through the last few weeks. I’m finding it interesting to track the speed and fluidity of my writing at different stages in the story. Act I takes forever, Act II part 2 takes a long time, but Act III seems to flow so well once I get going.


Hopes for August

  • Stay on top of my summer class stuff (that runs from the beginning to the middle of August)
  • Set up the Blackboards for my fall classes (*quiet sobbing because I hate doing it*)
  • Edit the majority of The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Continue working on the newsletter freebie story
  • More graphics for TRH
  • Set up Google form for ARC copies of TRH
  • Read 8 books
Book Reviews · Uncategorized

Reading Rec: A Duke in Disguise

In A Duke in Disguise, we get a long-lost nobleman, a saucy book about historical figures, and a woman who loves cheese nearly as much as I do.

adukeindisguise

Verity wants nothing more than to keep her family’s paper open despite her brother heading recklessly toward the gallows with his seditious ramblings. The only thing that seems to temper him is their dear friend, Ash. Ash is adrift. His ex-guardian and dear friend is headed off to Italy to improve his health, and after moving in with Verity and her brother, he finds himself unable to maintain the distance he once was able with her. The attraction is mutual, but they fear what might happen should their friendship become more since neither has many friends or relations to spare. That is until a chance meeting sends Ash into a crash course with a family full of secrets, some that will illuminate his past.

I received an ARC of A Duke in Disguise in exchange for an honest review and have been a fan of Cat Sebastian for a while, so take that into consideration when reading this review. Verity and Ash have a special place in my heart. Both are so earnest and sweet in their own ways, oblivious to the depth of each other’s feelings in a way that makes you want to simultaneously bash their heads together and hug them.

Verity is what I love in a heroine: strong-willed, driven (to the point of distraction), and a bit messy. I particularly love a heroine who has an appetite. In this case, food and sex (and we get some bi rep!). Ash is equally endearing. He is an artist who also has to deal with epilepsy. This features into the story’s plot, but it is handled realistically and doesn’t dominate the narrative. Ash is a softer hero, which I appreciate greatly in romance and is one of the reasons I love Cat Sebastian’s stories. He’s capable, tactful, and warm without being domineering or rude. The side characters, like Aunt Caroline and Roger are some of my favorite characters in this story. I am still hoping for short stories featuring the older characters because I’m a softy and love them as much as Ash does.

Overall, A Duke in Disguise has a wonderfully strong cast filled with characters devoted to each other. If you’re looking for a romance with reluctant nobility, an examination of power dynamics, and lots of wine, cheese, and cranky cats, you’re in for a treat.

A Duke in Disguise comes out April 9th, so grab a copy on Amazon now and have it delivered to your Kindle next week.

Book Reviews

Reading Rec: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White reframes Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to show Victor for who he truly is.

dark descent

It’s rare that I read a rewrite or retelling that I truly love, but The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein (to be called TDDoEF from here out) does an absolutely fabulous job of making sense of the original story and tweaking it for a modern audience. I have been a fan of the original Frankenstein since I first read it in high school, but if you’re someone who cheered for the monster rather than Victor, you’ll enjoy TDDoEF.

The story is told from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza, a ward of the Frankenstein family and Victor’s eventual angelic wife in the original tale. The novel artfully stitches together the original story with new material to create a new being more twisted and dark than one could have imagined. It rips Victor from his status of hero and elevates poor Elizabeth to something between an anti-hero to a heroine.

What I especially loved about this work was that White interweaves old with new so well, to the point that I often forgot where the old story left off and new information picked up. Using Shelley’s material, she explains why Elizabeth acted more like a puppet than a real person, why the monster was as eloquent as he was, why he and Victor took off to the north in an unending chase. The tragedies from the original story are worked into the new story, and I think it makes more sense than the original Frankenstein. Things that a modern reader struggle with in the Regency original are smoothed over and made sense of in TDDoEF rather than being ignored or glossed over. The original is revealed to be source material from Victor’s journals, where life has been fictionalized and certain exploits left unsaid.

It is wonderfully modern and takes Shelley’s feminism further. After reading The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, I think Mary Shelley would approve– her mother certainly would have. Besides an extra dose of feminism, it grapples with privilege and how we enable others. It is a fantastic sequel/companion to the original story, and I give Kiersten White kudos for being able to cobble together old and new better than Victor ever could.

Grab a copy of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein here.

Book Reviews

Reading Rec: When the Moon Was Ours

In When the Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore once again casts us under her spell and fills our world with pumpkins and roses.

wtmwo

Miel met Sam the night she magically appeared out of the the town’s fallen water tower. As children, they were inseparable, Honey and Moon, and while Sam hung painted moons all over town to make Miel happy and keep the nightmares of the other children away, Miel became known as the girl who grew roses from her wrist. Every few days I new rose would burst forth, but soon, the town’s it-girls, the Bonner Sisters, believe they need Miel’s roses to keep their powers of enchantment and romance and they will use all of Miel and Sam’s secrets against her to get them.

First off, if you aren’t new to this blog, you know I love Anna-Marie McLemore’s work, so keep that in mind as you read this review.

Now that fall is upon us, When the Moon Was Ours becomes extra atmospheric, evoking all of the hallmarks of fall with bright moons, pumpkins, leaves, and shades of orange. The scenery of this story is lush in detail and magic without becoming overwhelming or too strange. With all of McLemore’s books, you need to be open to magic and strange things happening in the normal world. It’s a hallmark of magical realism I know some have a hard time dealing with. My advice is: magic happens, so don’t question it, just enjoy it.

One of the things I loved about this story is the different ways magic is explored. We have Miel’s caretaker, Aracely, who helps to cure love sickness using traditional means like eggs, herbs, flowers, etc. Then, there’s Sam’s mother who has the uncanny ability to get children to do their lessons and practice their instruments even when they give others a hard time. Sam makes his beautiful moons while Miel grows flowers from her wrist and the four Bonner Sisters ensnare lovers as easily as breathing. Each character has a different magical quality and while some are more overt than others, it’s obvious that each has more going on than meets the eye. This leads to a discussion of who is a considered a bruja. Bruja has a bit of a different connotation than simply saying someone is magical; it’s typically seen as more of an insult or something to be feared. Behind their backs, the Bonner Sisters are referred to as brujas while Miel and Aracely hear it to their faces despite how many people come to Aracely for help with their love lives. The discussion of race is fairly subtle but certainly there.

While this is a story of magic, it is certainly one of identity as well. Miel struggles to remember who she is before she appeared in the water tower while the Bonner Sisters deal with losing their identity after their oldest sister leaves and returns a different person. It is also the story of Sam’s identity. Sam is transgender, but he hasn’t quite come to accept himself and his identity yet, despite identifying as a boy for the majority of his life. Sam fears what it means for him to fully accept that he is a boy/man and not a bacha posh, a Pakistani tradition where a family with no sons dresses a daughter as a boy and treats her as such until she reaches adulthood and returns to being a woman. The arc about coming to terms with a shifting identity was handled incredibly well and McLemore states that the essence of Sam’s character was pulled from her husband’s experiences coming to terms with his identity. The realism behind Sam’s struggles are obvious and well done.

Overall, When the Moon Was Ours is a beautiful story about love and identity wrapped in a blanket of moonlight and pumpkins. If you’re looking for a seasonal tale to sink into for fall, I highly recommend it. You can grab a copy here.

Book Reviews

Reading Rec: The Craft of Love

The Craft of Love is a sweet novella featuring two artisans falling for each other in early Victorian New York City.

love of craft

When Benjamin Lewis stumbled across some of his mother’s old sewing projects, it dredges up painful memories from his past. Unable to part with the old dresses, he decides to have them transformed into something new: a quilt. Luckily, his lace-making sister knows just the seamstress for the job, Remembrance Quincy. Remembrance is a woman of strong convictions and even stronger skills. At her studio, she and her girls produce pieces for New York’s upper class, but something about the soft-spoken Mr. Lewis catches her attention. He proposes a trade: the quilt from his mother’s dresses for a silver teapot worked by his hands. Soon it’s silver for fabric and craftsman for craftswoman.

Sometimes I really crave a drama-free romance, and The Craft of Love hit the spot. Remembrance is a strong, confident woman who prides herself on her skills and her principles. She’s an abolitionist who practices what she preaches by staying away from goods produced by slaves, like cotton and sugar, and within her own community she tries to give women a voice. Mr. Lewis is also more than what he seems. Some of you may have been curious why I have a male-female romance on my blog when I mostly read LGBT+ romance. Well, Mr. Lewis is transgender, which is revealed early on and isn’t made a big deal over. This is incredibly refreshing as there’s no traumatic reveal or obsessing over the character’s sex. It’s woven in with skill and no muss, which I think speaks to the fact that Ottoman is an own-voice writer.

What I absolutely loved about this novella is how much of early nineteenth century New York City is brought into it. We hear about William Cullen Bryant doing a poetry reading, the New York Botanical Society (and how the city couldn’t care for their plants), and Sunday promenades in the park. It makes for a lush yet familiar atmosphere, especially for someone living in the Tri-State Area like myself.

The other highlight of this book is how Ottoman focuses on the characters’ crafts. The same amount of gravity is given to quilts as to silver-working. Remembrance is seen as someone who is incredibly skilled even if her works bear no maker’s mark or end up in a museum in the twenty-first century with the name anonymous where her name should be. It speaks to a changing tide in how women’s handicrafts are now being taken more seriously and are starting to get the scholarship they deserve. This book took me back to the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum where silver tankards sit in display cases in the sun, maker’s mark highlighted and explained on a card while sewing and quilts are indoors within their period rooms behind glass, easily missed as one passes down the hall to the pieces of furniture and grand portraits. It’s easy to miss the skill and time needed to make a piece when we have been taught to ignore that craftsmanship. The same can be said for Benjamin’s pieces, which are domestic as well. Do we ever stop and give a teapot its due? Probably not, but after reading The Craft of Love, I know I shall pay more attention.

The Craft of Love comes out Friday, so grab a copy now and have it delivered to your Kindle.

Book Reviews

Reading Rec: The Descent of Monsters

Have you ever read something called silkpunk? An infusion of Asian flare with a punch of magic and technology. If not, you need to get your hands on JY Yang’s Tensorate series beginning with The Black Tides of Heaven. In the third book of the series, The Descent of Monsters, Yang takes us further into the world of tensors and strange hybrid creatures.

descent of monsters

Part Jurassic Park, part noir-ish crime story, The Descent of Monsters begins where The Red Threads of Fortune leave off but from the point of view of an investigator charged with figuring out why everyone at the Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods was slaughtered and how a naga raptor hybrid escaped. Told through file entries, diaries, letters, and interrogations, it fleshes out not only the mystery of the murders but what happened to Rider’s twin and how it is tied to the institute.

“Get livid.” The Descent of Monsters begins with a call to arms from its readers. Investigator Chuwan has seen the atrocities the government has not only covered up but sponsored and she wants your rage. This call sets the tone for the story, and it’s one of the things I absolutely love about Chuwan. While most of the characters in the Tensorate series have been very human, Chuwan is at times the most relatable. She is angry and fed up and just wants to get to the bottom of what’s going on, especially since the government put her in charge of the investigation figuring she would cave and sweep the evidence under the rug. WRONG. She has the investigative chops and enough moxie to go against the government.

What I love about this series is the slow building of rebellion. With the first book, we get the inner workings of the government from the view of the children of the ruler. Then from the point of view of exiles, and now, we’re getting bits and pieces from an investigation from the government and a detective going rogue. I look forward to seeing what will happen when the fourth book comes out, and hopefully this interesting progression will continue. This is where I should comment more on the format. There are interrogation scripts, files from the investigation, letters, and Chuwan’s diary/memories. If you don’t like that format, you may not like this book, but Chuwan’s voice is strong and has that no-nonsense detective noir vibe. It’s hard not to picture the scenes in dramatic black and white.

One of the things I love about Yang’s books is how effortlessly they create their world. It’s rich in the sights and textures of Asia while still being infused with futuristic technology and magic. Somehow Yang manages to make them live side-by-side without feeling awkward or mismatched. The magic, or tensing, is intricate yet simple at its heart. It makes for an interesting magical system, especially regarding how different characters interact with the slack (the magic in everything). Within their world, queer characters are commonplace, and there is even a coming-of-age ceremony where children choose their gender and name. Other characters appear as nonbinary and/or non-straight, and there is even a brief discussion of pronouns in Descent of Monsters.

If you wished the latest Star Wars trilogy was even more daring, political, and had cooler creatures, you should check out JY Yang’s Tensorate series, beginning with The Black Tides of Heaven. Grab their latest book, The Descent of Monsters, now.

Book Reviews

Reading Rec: Salt Magic, Skin Magic

I received an ARC of Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch in exchange for an honest review.

saltmag

When Lord Thornby was dragged back to his father’s estate, he never imagined he wouldn’t be able to leave. Fearing his sanity is slipping when he can’t move past a seemingly invisible barrier, Thornby worries he has no chance of escaping until John Blake arrives. Masquerading as a guest, Blake has his own mission, to figure out what witchcraft is going on at the estate. When Thornby realizes Blake is the key to his escape, the men team up to fight the forces at play only to discover Thornby is more than he appears.

In the tradition of writers like Jordan L. Hawk and K. J. Charles, Lee Welch takes us on an adventure of magic, romance, and of course queer characters. Don’t mistake my reference to other authors of queer historical-fantasy as saying Welch’s work isn’t original. The magical system is wholly her own. What I loved about it was how it artfully combined the mystique of Victorian beliefs in faeries and paranormal creatures while also aligning with the heavy industrialism of the era. Magic can come in several ways, through faerie folk, demons, and by utilizing commonplace objects. This comes with a set of preconceived notions involving class and misconceptions about magic due to this rigid structure. The interweaving of these aspects of the Victorian Era keep us grounded in a historical reality while expanding it [logically] to contain magical elements.

Thornby and Blake are charming characters, each determined to find their way out of this magical muddle, and while there is a little friction at first, they quickly become a well-oiled team. They have fantastic chemistry, and more importantly, I loved how quirky they both can be. Thornby seems like an eccentric at first, but as the story progresses, his behavior begins to make more sense. With Blake, he is like Thornby’s foil and offsets his emotional and quirky side with a more utilitarian calm.

My only real quibble with this book was at times I found the romance aspects a bit gratuitous. I know that is a convention of the genre, but even for paranormal romance, it felt like a lot. This may have been because I read the book rather quickly and it only felt compressed. The scenes themselves though are written well and varied in terms of emotional and physical intimacy.

If you’re a fan of noblemen in emotional crisis or magic in a unique form, then Salt Magic, Skin Magic should be moved to the top of your to-be-read pile. Grab a copy here, and congrats to Lee Welch on their new release!