Belated Romance: Reading in February

Here we are, mid-May, and I’m finally getting around to blogging about shit I read in February. Because I’m as bassic as the next bitch, I ended up reading a bit of romance; to make me even more bassic, my favorite was by Emily Henry.

It started in the beginning of the month. I received an e-ARC from Netgalley of Curtis Sittenfield’s Romantic Comedy.

Synopsis: Sally Milz doesn’t need love. She has a fast-paced career as a writer on a show that is clearly a thinly-veiled SNL. She lives in NYC, she can afford her apartment, and she has Tinder and her vibrator when the nights get lonely. But then… she meets a singer of one of the cheesiest songs that has haunted her since high school and feels *the spark.* She really does like her job, though. She really doesn’t need a man. But… like.. does she want one?

This book was fine. Just over half of it occurs over the span of a week as Sally works with the guest host she’s got butterflies in her stomach over and her co-workers to put together a show. Then, there is a fairly long section of e-mail exchanges that didn’t feel very realistic. But it’s a romance, you can suspend disbelief. Unfortunately, once the show that starts off the book ends, my interest in the story began to wane. I wanted to like this book; I thought the premise sounded intriguing (not my synopsis above, the actual premise) and I think I like Sittenfeld’s writing. Overall, though this book was a bit mediocre and disappointing.

I shifted to the YA romance/mystery Ghosted.

This book was heavy on the mystery, light on the romance, includes a supernatural element that is unnecessary and twists that I always saw coming well beforehand. It’s also written from the perspective of its’ teen protagonists, which is appropriate, but not necessarily a tone of voice I am invested in as someone who is now a couple of decades removed. If I want a YA mystery book/series, I’m going to default to Truly Devious. If I want a YA romance, I’d rather swoon over Stephanie Perkins’ non-horror work. And if I want a supernatural book with a supernatural element just for the hell of it, I’m going to ty to find some vintage Christopher Pike. Overall, this book was fine, but a bit underwhelming on all fronts.

I next pivoted to Katherine Webber’s The Revelry.

Every year, the seniors throw a huge rager in the woods. It’s called “The Revelry,” and no one gets to know what goes on until their senior year, and no one talks about it afterward. Bitsy Clark has lived in Ember Grove her entire life; she knows the rules are there for a reason, and has no desire to go against those rules… until her friend Amy is desperate for a good time and convinces her they need to crash. This book’s possibly not a romance at all; it’s a book about friendship and teen drama, with a twist of the supernatural. However, the entire time I was reading it, I though maybe Bitsy was devoted to her best friend due to romantic feelings. This is not explicitly stated, but the subtext of thwarted romance is, and I actually kept kind of hoping that this subtext would materialize because I thought that might give the book a bit more depth. Alas, it did not. Another underwhelming book, from a YA or a romance perspective.

The last romance book I read in February was Emily Henry’s Book Lovers.

I’m not going to insult you with a synopsis. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Book Lovers. And if you have been living under a rock, congratulations on getting away from the parasitic influence of technology and social media, your skin looks amazing, and finding out what the popular book everyone’s talking about is exactly what Goodreads is for.

I was skeptical, going into reading this one. I had already been burnt by Beach Read, which had a premise I was so excited about I was salivating, akin to a lecherous cartoon wolf who sees a buxom blonde or a delicious-looking pig. My experience reading Beach Read was less Looney-Tunes-esque; it was more of a deflating balloon feeling as I became increasingly disappointed at the utter mediocrity of the novel. Book Lovers dealt with a lot of the same themes – enemies-to-lovers, publishing industry, swoonworthy romance. Maybe Henry just needed practice, because Book Lovers was good. One of the best romances I’ve read in awhile.

Definitely the best romance I read in February.

What about you? Any good romances lately? Or just book recommendations, in general? I’m always on the lookout for good writing!

Fickle Intentions

I meant to post a poem a week

This National Poetry month;

Yet I grew ill, and even still,

I’m disorient’d as drinkers of absinth.

So please, dear reader,

if you are true,

and not just hallucination;

forgive me now,

I hold out the bough

though I won’t lie to you…

No promises can I extend

that faithfully will be kept

of posting more; now, don’t be sore,

it’s something to accept.

Or not, I s’pose –

it’s your time to use

as you so choose; you can refuse

to peruse

my fickle,



(Thank you for reading.)

Becoming a god(dess)

Beauty was a curse Io had grown up with,

and at first,

Hera was just another woman who jealously hated her,

Zeus just another man who would not listen when she said no.

As the god’s child grew within her womb, Io somehow grew more lovely – 

Her cheeks flushed,

her curves more full,

her eyes looming large

out of her small heart-shaped face.

The gods’ eyes were on her,

lust and jealousy combining dangerously – 

forcing Io onto all fours,

widening her hips and elongating her ears,

shifting her breasts down over her abdomen,

replacing her skin with fur,

supplanting her facility for speech

with the ability to emit a sad lowing

that matched the sadness in her eyes.

Hera took possession of her,

placing her under the ever-watchful Argus,

whose 100 eyes were never simultaneously at rest,

but looked the other way when Hera visited

and ran her hands over the cow’s silky smooth hide,

despite the distressed sounds – 

lack of consent was even easier to ignore

when she was in bestial form.

Io fled when Hermes killed her guard,

although she was not free;

espying her visage in the surface of a lake when she bent for a drink,

she was more alarmed by her appearance

than she was by the face of the fury that loomed behind her,

the eyes of Argus continuing to watch over her

through the peacock headdress the fury wore,

compensation for chasing down an innocent woman

instead of unfaithful, lying, violent men.

Io fled the Fury,

but no matter how quickly she ran,

could not flee herself.

Faster and faster they ran,

the snakes from the Fury’s head nipping at Io’s rear hooves,

until they reached the Nile,

where Io, catching sight of herself once more,

called out – a loud, anguished, terrible sound

never heard from a cow before nor since.

Zeus took pity and apologized to his wife,

swearing by the river Styx he would never touch Io again.

Hera, placated by her husband’s pleas

and the madness lurking in Io’s bovine eyes,

allowed the nymph to resume the two-legged form into which she had been born.

Io had a moment of happiness

before the realization that she was still unable to speak;

she mooed in agony at her inability to form words,

and shortly after, she mooed in agony as labor pains started.

Epaphus was born early in the rosy-golden hue of early morning

beside the Nile.

Mother and child were discovered by two local healers,

who bowed before Io,

seeing in her predicament signs of divinity,

placing her in a luxurious bed covered in silken sheets in a temple,

and helping to care for Epaphus.

Beauty was a curse Io learned to live with,

grateful for her luxuries,

recognizing they came from her inability to speak,

yet still,

wishing she could do more than moo.

Re-post: Becoming Fearless

April 1, 2023 Note: Re-posted in honor of National Poetry Month… even though I’m not currently living in the US.

The world is bright.

The sun, midway in her journey ‘cross the sky,

sends warmth and light

to the meadow below,

lush with verdant, sweet-smelling grasses

and variegated wildflowers.

The nymph,

slender and young,

brunette curls trailing down her back,

espies a bloom fit for the crown she is weaving;

she plucks it, heedless of the thorns

until she feels the prick of pain,

sees the blood trickling from her finger.

The god,

looking for diversion,

espies a nymph fit for play,

and gives chase.

But fair Daphne knows how quickly a bud,

once picked,

can begin to wilt,

and how the world is

cruel and negligent

to those who are hurt and withering.

So she runs.

The mythical beings move ever faster;

he, demanding,

nipping at her heels.

She, frightened, feels


already causing her limbs to shake.

Why must she be so weak?

How can someone

so fair, so bright,

so full of potential,

be out of options

and powerless

so quickly?

She does what all young do,

if they can;

face red with shame,

she appeals for assistance

from her father.

The strong, possessive fingers of the divine grasp her shoulder,

and she learns that, in the face of complete terror, she screams –

with a power that seems to force Apollo to retract,

that shakes the buds resting in bushes and growing from the ground

with its volume and emotion.

But no –

it was not acknowledgement that she,

as a person with her own thoughts and feelings,

did not desire his touch

that had caused Apollo to retreat;

it was, instead, another man’s

imposition of himself upon her.

Granted, she had asked for his help.

Not realizing that he,

preferring that his daughter remain an untouched vessel

for eternity,

or at least, as long as trees live,

would cause her being to harden, thicken, and hollow,

her arms to grow lanky, darken, and sprout

thick green leaves

that Apollo, not to be thwarted of his prize entirely,

would tear from her being

as he had yearned to tear off her clothes,

and wear as a crown upon his head.

Ground suddenly unreliable,

her feet sank into the soil beneath her,

firmly entrenching her into the particular spot

on which her transformation had begun.

The sun continued to shine, until its’ journey was complete,

and Daphne drank in its rays and warmth,

spreading her branches far and wide,

secure in the knowledge that she needn’t fear

any longer.

ARC Review: The Mystery of Rufford Abbey

Let me tell you about this fever-dream of a book I was lucky enough to receive an ARC for on Netgalley:

The Mystery of Rufford Abbey is creative and ambitious. With multiple points of view and timelines, the book shifts from medieval primary source translation occurring in the academic world to a suspense-ridden police investigation to other plot twists that I didn’t see coming but won’t tell you about because it could ruin the experience if you want to read this novel.

This book may be for you if:

  • You like plot-driven novels;
  • You like alternative timelines;
  • You do not need your story to be believable;
  • You are looking for a story to read and enjoy without thinking about it too much.

I didn’t particularly care for the characters or the writing style, personally. But I did appreciate the creativity and that there are a lot of readers out there who will freakin’ love this book. Looking for a wild ride that doesn’t necessarily add up but enjoys itself as it twists around curves, dives down into the water, and leaves you a little dizzy and slightly dazed when done, as you wonder what exactly you just experienced?

Look no further.

My Reading Year in 2022

Courtesy of Goodreads

In 2022, I read 66 books and 20,460 pages, or an average of 310 pages per book. In comparison to 2021, my reading decreased by 10 books and 3,104 pages, and the average number of pages per book remained exactly the same.

The shortest book I read in 2022 is We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I did not enjoy this novel as much as Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, although it is a well-known and renowned story and is so for a reason. As someone who aspires to writing, myself, I do find it commendable that Jackson is able to accomplish so much through the novella, and think it is can be a lesson for all writers out there that writing shorter works does not mean writing lesser works.

The longest book I read is The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn. This book featured great writing and good characterization… but I didn’t enjoy it was much as I was hoping. This book is well written, but sad. Read when you’re in the mood for a sad book.

In comparison to 2021, Jackson’s work is 44 pages longer than Hannah Lee Kidder’s Starlight, and Quinn’s work is 48 pages longer than Tana French’s The Witch Elm.

The most popular novel I read is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. In my opinion, worth the hype. Flynn is a great writer, her characters are fascinating and terrible and purposefully unreliable. I devoured this novel, and would recommend it to anyone and everyone. The movie is also decent – Rosamund Pike is an excellent Amy, Ben Stiller is a meh Nick, but Carrie Coon does an impeccable job as his sister. Plus, Missi Pyle is in it, and y’all know I like Missi Pyle. Like many works, however, the book is better.

The least popular novel I read is The Wake and the Manuscript by Ansgar Allen. This one was an ARC I received through Netgalley, and I think it is well done for what it is, but it’s not for me. It’s very stream-of-consciousness, philosophical, unreliable narrator. If you don’t mind meandering through the inner workings of someone else’s mentally unhinged mind, this one may be for you, though! Of the people who have read it, most who have rated it on Goodreads have enjoyed (this book actually has the highest rating on Goodreads of everything I read in 2022).

My average rating for 2022 is 3.4 stars. So I liked the shit I read this year .1 stars more than last year.

The first book I reviewed in 2022 was Marion Meade’s biography on Dorothy Parker, titled Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This? I really enjoyed this one.

The last book I reviewed in 2022 is Carrie Adams’ The Godmother. I didn’t much care for it.

Overall, I read a lot more than I should have, wrote a lot less than I wanted to, and feel pretty mediocre about 2022. Let’s hope 2023 is better.

Photo by cottonbro studio on

5-Star Reads in 2022

Honestly, 2022 was not a great reading year for me. There were only five 5-star reads, one of which was a re-read, one of which is considered a classic literary read, and two of which are by well-established authors.

  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch – A re-read. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s utterly delightful book about armageddon. The physical book is good. The audiobook is good. If you haven’t read this one yet… you should.
  • Boy: Tales of Childhood: A memoir of Roald Dahl – Roald Dahl, writer of amazing children’s books including James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Witches, BFG, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and, of course, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, has a fascinating background. Did y’all know he was a spy in WWII? This book is before all of that – it details Dahl’s pretty difficult boyhood, including the time he almost got his nose sliced off, the horrors of English schools and their reigns of caning terror, told with a matter-of-factness that displays a pragmatic lens through which to view life that is refreshing and will probably make you feel like you’re at least a little bit of a wimp.
  • The Haunting of Hill House – I don’t know why it took me so long to read Shirley Jackson’s Hill House, but this book was absolutely beautiful. The dialogue does feel a bit dated (which the book is, having been penned in the late fifties), but the story and the writing still shines. The book’s influence on horror is evident and astounding. In short, Jackson was a genius, and thus far, this is the best work of hers that I have read.
  • Autoboyography: This book kind of snuck up on me. The publisher was allowing readers to download e-reader copies around Halloween, and I picked this one on a bit of a whim. And it was sweet and funny and charming and sophisticated, and I loved every single bit of it. It’s a YA, coming-of-age love story set in Salt Lake City. LGBTQ+ elements, parental and religious expectations factor into the storyline, and while I didn’t grow up Mormon, I also had a fairly Midwestern religious background and the feeling of community that can so quickly be taken away was still recognizable.
  • Book of Night: I have enjoyed Black’s work since her debut novel Tithe, which I grabbed a copy of when it first came out. Holly is an amazing writer. This novel is her considered her first “adult” novel, and it. Is. Fantastic. Fantasy is not one of my go-to genres, but when I read it, this novel is the type of fantasy novel I enjoy. The beautiful writing would make it a commendable book no matter what, but on top of that, the book includes a magical world that is quickly and easily graspable, it is peopled with characters who are too cool for me but a shitload of fun to spend time with, and the storyline is bracing. It goes at a quick pace, and keeps that pace throughout the novel, and I truly enjoyed every bit of this novel (except for the last few pages) so very, very much.
Holly Black signs a book for a fan at the National Book Festival, September 3, 2022. Photo by Elaina Finkelstein/Library of Congress.

Those were my five-star reads for 2022 – what were yours? I would desperately like 2023 to be a more enjoyable reading year, so please give me potential additions for my TBR! (I also hope your 5-star list is bigger than mine!)

Drown the Positive

Polly Tremaine has spent 30 years trying to avoid the drama that came from her short stint at childhood stardom, but in a matter of days, forced to do an assignment she doesn’t want, she will realize that it doesn’t matter that she changed her name, changed her career, altered her appearance and moved to another country – once she’s set foot in L.A., she’s once more surrounded by death as something, or someone, seems out to get her. Will Polly be able to Burn the Negative, or is she destined to become a victim herself…?

Josh Winning’s Burn the Negative is campy good fun. Written in homage to the seventies, eighties and nineties horror books and movies that were not always well done but were usually enjoyable to certain stans (you know who you are), this book is for the fans. With a style reminiscent of My Best Friend’s Exorcism, this book is delicious – the beluga caviar of horror novels. It’s rich and full, and you should pay your $27 at the bookstore, and sit back and enjoy the twists and turns Winning throws at you.

If you do not like older horror films, don’t know what a Final Girl is, and are not a fan of gore — this book’s not for you, and I don’t want to go so far as to say that you definitely will not enjoy it, but I also cannot guarantee that you will. This book was written by someone who stared Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jason and his mother in the eyes through a pre-Roku TV, felt a thrill in his heart, and decades later, took that thrill and weaved it into a novel. This book is for those who secretly wondered, just a tiny bit, in the dark recesses of their being, if they were taunting a serial killer by losing their virginity. This book is for the people who understand that of course Alex had to kill all of the kids who thought they were his friends on Prom Night, because he knew what they had done and they didn’t even feel sorry for it.

I truly enjoyed this book, and if you are a fellow retro-horror stan, I highly recommend, as I think you will too.

Ravenfall: ARC Review

Have you been on the hunt for a new middle-grade series featuring supernatural elements, the inception of life-long friendship, and wholesome family values? Kalyn Josephson’s Ravenfall may be the book for you! Released in early September, and presumably intended for the Halloween crowd, spookiness is not relegated to the early autumn months, so why limit yourself?

Ravenfall has a fairly authentic (i.e.: somewhat annoying*) female protagonist, and a less authentic (i.e.: less annoying*) male protagonist. These kids have seen some shit – to be more specific, they’ve given Haley Joel Osment a run for his money. HJO may have gotten the opportunity to act opposite the hunky Bruce Willis, but these kids get to live in a knock-off Encanto house and flaunt their supernatural abilities in life-threatening ways that will make anyone who is a parent reading this novel shudder.]

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

At the end of the day, of course… this is a middle grade series, with the expectation for some form of continuation. But the annoying and the less annoying characters become friends, engage in dangerous shenanigans that endanger their lives, and these high stakes are resolved in some form. There’s also a helpmate that looks like a cat, creepy psychic twin sisters, warm cider, and a showdown at a raging Halloween party.

It was not the best thing I’ve ever read, but it was pretty good. Recommend!

*Don’t pretend middle school aged children don’t annoy the shit out of you. I see you, and more important, Santa Claus sees you. & you can bet your ass he lets the Elf off the Shelf to take a shit in your stocking when you lie, because you’ll assume it’s coal and what the fuck are you going to do with coal other than throw it in the trash or light it on fire anyway? So unless you want elf shit all over your footwear, you should be real with me. Also, this metaphor got super weird, and a little out of hand…

ARC Review: Killing Me

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be abducted by a serial killer? Well, Amber Jamison doesn’t have to wonder, because it has happened to her before the beginning of Michelle Gagnon’s cozy-ish mystery Killing Me.

Amber had always prided herself on her street smarts… but feels distinctly less smart after she is abducted by a killer who first turns his fetish-female type into Pokemon doppelgangers before slicing and dicing.

She narrowly makes her escape, with the help of a gorgeous woman, who could be her savior… or something darker altogether.

Peopled with a cast of colorful characters, Gagnon’s Killing Me will keep you interested, keep you guessing, and keep you on your toes as you continue to read to discern whether Amber and all of her friends will manage to survive.

Slated for release May 2023. Trigger warning: It does primarily take place in Las Vegas, so… if you’ve done shady shit in Vegas you don’t want to be reminded of, this book probably won’t help.