April Reads: Mini Reviews

I know there are still a few days left of April, but I am STUCK, slumped, stymied, and cannot read anything else, so here we have the mini reviews of what I have read this month.

The range of genres here is truly hilarious to me and I hope y’all enjoy it too. It’s like I can see myself getting progressively unhinged during the month in terms of what my brain needs. I’m not judging myself at all, just observing, with much amusement.


Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Legends & Lattes is a cozy, high fantasy novel that left me with all the warm feels. Viv, a retired orc barbarian, decides she wants to live a quiet life and sets up a coffee shop in a small town. She is introduced to a wonderful cast of characters who help make her dream shop come to life, but old frenemies and the town’s shady “boss” might keep it from flourishing. The blending of high fantasy characters (orcs, gnomes, succubi, hobgoblins, etc.) and the cozy genre really surprised me in the best way. I had no idea fantasy could be like this. Anyone who likes the cozy mystery subgenre should definitely give this novel a read.

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Verity is a romantic thriller that completely blew my mind and me repeatedly saying “I am not okay.” Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer who gets hired to ghost write Verity Crawford’s, a prolific mystery writer, final books. She stays at the Crawford house with a bed ridden Verity, her ridiculously handsome husband (who hired her), and their remaining child. This book takes the aspects of a book within a book, a writer’s life, and psychological distress and mashes them all together so perfectly that I just still can’t process it all. Anyone who wants disturbing, fast paced, and a tension filled novel should pick this one up ASAP. (Please, please check trigger warnings.)

A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova

A Deal with the Elf King is a stand alone fantasy romance with Hades and Persephone + Beauty and the Beast vibes. Luella is her town’s healer and has everything she wants in life, unfortunately for her she is about to be taken by the Elf King to a magic world where she doesn’t quite fit in and is thrown into a role she doesn’t want. The magical worldbuilding, the political drama, the complex relationship dynamics of Forced/Arranged Marriage, and the ever present question “what do I really want” is what brings this book to a new favorite. Anyone looking for a fantasy romance with well deserved angst and a happy ending should most definitely get this book.

Not So Innocent (The Real Thing #2) by Emma Lyon

Not So Innocent is the second book in a contemporary romance series that can be read in any order. I am a sucker for bodyguard/security falling for a client/client’s family member and this one delivered. Holden is a ex-Navy member who is back stateside for his estranged parents funeral and decides to take a job protecting a senator’s family as a distraction. Ethan is a lovely, younger distraction, one that Holden doesn’t need, but very much wants. This book is full of sexual tension, medium stakes in terms of the security job, and overall a fast read. If you like the taboo relationship of a security person and a client’s son, slight age gap (7 years), and a happily ever after, this is a good one.

Not So Perfect (The Real Thing #4) by Emma Lyon

Not So Perfect is the fourth book in a contemporary romance series that can be read in any order. Quinn is a lawyer/partner of a big firm in the city, who lives to work and wishes someone who just take control. He had that once and then ran away. Shane, the one who got away, is going after a client who refuses to pay for the job Shane was hired for on shoddy grounds. Of course, Quinn is the go to lawyer. I adored this one. Second chance romance, a hot lawyer, sexy construction business owner. Ugh. So much tension. Anyone who also enjoys those things should read this one too.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

A History of Wild Places is a beautifully written, magical realism thriller, full of the beautiful darkness that is that is the wilderness and the human psyche. Told from the POVs of Theo, his wife Calla, and Calla’s sister Bee, this book is a gorgeous suspense filled story of a community called Pastoral. A community that stays within it’s borders to protect themselves. I truly don’t have the words for how utterly amazing this book is, how it builds and builds a world that leaves you speechless and confused and desperate. If you like suspense within pockets of a wild forest, characters who you want to wrap up and stick in your pocket, a threat that becomes more and more unclear, then please read this damn book.

Creature Café novella series by Clio Evans

I read all currently published novellas in the Creature Cafe series and loved them! Before going into this series, please read the content warnings for each. I was originally going to only read the ones I was interested in from the synopsis, but there is a connecting thread that I wanted to know about so I ended up reading them all. There are seven books out with ten planned! I can’t wait to read the rest. If you like dark erotica, monster and human romance, tons of spice and kink, I highly recommend this series.


Have you read any of these? Or have any you want to read?

What did y’all read this month? Let me know! Even though I am putting myself on a book buying ban for May, I can still make wishlists.

In A Brown Study – 06

A Note on In A Brown Study posts: I plan on moving these to Substack with the first letter to go out on April 30, so please sign up if you want to receive these. Along with these normal ten things list posts, I plan on doing some creative non fiction writing as well, also updates on my writing projects.


1. Starting from scratch on my queer dark academia project feels right. Shifting from a full length novel to a novella series also feels right. I can’t wait to share more.

2. Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip.

3. I haven’t had a therapy session all month. Which could probably explain a a lot of things actually. But I finally have one scheduled for Wednesday.

4. My social media ads really want me to get Birksenstock sandals, a TomboyX swimsuit, and hair removal cream.

5. Netflix Watch Parties & Cry at The Owl House for it’s pureness and adorableness and queerness.

6. Currently in a reading slump once again. But I have so many books I want to read. I keep picking up different ones, reading the first chapter, and then putting them back down. lsajfgehgsaksk;fjskfjd

7. Binge reading the entire book club book before the meeting, as you do.

8. Oh look, it’s the Every Noise Is Annoying And I Could Commit Murders stage of my neurodivergence today. Cool, cool, cool, cool.

9. Favorite ASMR video right now.

10. That moment of yes, everything is changing, new season and the simultaneously moment of fuck, I literally just started settling in, gotta do this again?

(Mostly) Unedited, Unfiltered: Writing Brief Moments

Y’all don’t know this, but Thursdays are supposed to be my flash fics. Well, now you know this. Tuesdays for reviews, Thursdays for flash fics, Saturdays for In A Brown Study. But I’m moving my In a Brown Study posts to a Substack at the end of the month. So Saturdays have room for posts like this, even though it’s Thursday when you’re reading this.

I went back and read my four flash fics on this blog and am mildly impressed by them. And then deeply upset that I can’t seem to get back into that writing zone I felt while writing them. Something tells me I was starting to take myself too seriously with the flash fics when I intended them to be a fun writing practice. Not serious.

It’s a bad habit I have. Turning fun things into serious things and then getting caught up in the details and perfection that I end of freezing and not doing it at all. Maybe I should talk to my therapist about that. (Which reminds me I need to email her, she was supposed to email last week to schedule an appointment and never did.)

Anyhoo, I need to figure out this flash fic situation. Because I do have so much fun diving into the middle of a story and just writing what comes to mind with no expectation to ever finish them. Just glimpses, vignettes, passing by their window, if you will, of these characters in a brief moment.

Now to find a new window,
-A

Book Review: Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White


Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.

But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.

Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.


Thank you to Andrew Joseph White, Peachtree Teen, and NetGalley for a free e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Hell Followed with Us is a very queer YA dystopian novel set in a future that seems eerily familiar and plausible. Maybe not to the grand scientific scale that this book lays out, but I found myself cringing at familiar Christian extremist rhetoric and internal mindsets. The blending of trans dysphoria, forced body changes, and reclamation of being an “abomination” was truly well done and I found myself punching the air with my fist many times and shrieking with joy as I read through the ending.

This is a book I desperately wish I had when I was an angry teen. I read this book for my angry teen self, rooted for Benji for my confused teen self, and applauded him as my adult trans nonbinary self.

My favorite part of this novel is that it follows a group of survivors who are all queer teens. Seeing them interact with each other, interact with a militia, and seeing them grapple internally with a what is right and what is needed, was so real. The anger, the love, the confusion, the denial, it’s all there and all relatable.

AJW doesn’t shy away from the anger, the (literal) tooth and claws that are sometimes needed to fight and that is what I found most amazing in this book. While there are definite moments of “Sweetie, what are you doing?!” I couldn’t help but root for Benji, Nick, (the relationship between him and Benji is my favorite) and all the teens of ALC even watching the mistakes, watching the path they were taking.

Lastly: Please check the Content Warnings on AJW’s author page before reading. While I found it to be a cathartic read, there are some scenes that can be viscerally disturbing and you should be in a good mindspace before reading.

In A Brown Study – 05

A Note on In A Brown Study posts: I plan on moving these to Substack by the end of the month. Along with these normal ten things list posts, I plan on doing some creative non fiction writing as well, also updates on my writing projects.


1. Note to self: Hot Pockets are snacks, not meals.

2. Thinking about names again. Renaming. Names for certain people, names for certain environments, names for certain stages of life. Insert a non-binary/trans joke here about naming yourself a noun. All I know for sure is Story. Story will stay.

3. I injured my hand while opening a jar of honey. I wish I were joking, y’all. This is the second time this year!

4. Currently reading a book about a virus, religious zealots, with a heavy dose of body gore/body horror. But also about being trans, being queer, finding pockets of survival. It’s a journey and is leaving me with much feelings.

5. The loading circles are my nemesis. Just fight me. – says the Aries Rising

6. Alternating between reading a whole book all at once or reading a chapter at a time and taking weeks. It’s rather annoying, really.

7. Ta-Done lists versus To-Do lists. Ta-Done…like Ta-dah! Because I did the thing. Get it? Please laugh. It’s funny. It’s clever. You’re very amused right now. Thank you.

8. Thought about finally watching Killing Eve and then saw how they ended the series. I’m fucking pissed and don’t know if I should put myself through that. Might need to just read the books instead.

9. I need to sort through my clothes again. But maybe not when I’m bloated and everything hurts my skin.

10. Crunch crunch crunch goes my hand bones. Not good.

(Mostly) Unedited, Unfiltered: What Is This Blog Exactly?

A blog post in which I write (mostly) unedited, unfiltered, because I very much need to write something.

A Dear Heart told me that they had no idea what my blog was about and that made me realize I’ve done a poor job of communicating that. What once started as a blog for myself to just write (in list format) turned into a space that I want to share more.

More creative writing (in form of flash fics), more book love (in form of both long reviews and mini reviews), more Self shares (in form of these unedited, unfiltered posts), and my favorite monthly wrap ups (in form of, you guessed it, monthly wrap ups).

I would like to say that I will post on a semi set schedule: blog posts up on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays. Wrap ups and mini reviews whenever they make sense for the end of the month. But as it goes with many chronic ill babes/mental health cycles, these postings may vary.

A Note on In A Brown Study posts: I plan on moving these to Substack by the end of the month. Along with these normal ten things list posts, I plan on doing some creative non fiction writing as well, also updates on my writing projects.

Hopefully this short and sweet post gives more insight into the types of writings you will find here. If this sounds like something you would enjoy, you can follow via WordPress or (go the home page, scroll down a bit and) enter your email address for blog posts directly to your inbox.

Now for my third cup of coffee.
-A

In A Brown Study – 04

in a brown study – A state of deep contemplation or rumination, as of a reverie, daydream, or meditation. It originally meant a melancholic or depressed mood or state (dating from at least the 1500s), but has since largely lost that association.

The Free Dictionary

Back in the day, the color brown was associated with being melancholy, much like the color blue is today. And while my list making posts aren’t always on the depressing side, I think “In A Brown Study” is a cheeky nod to this idiom and my Dark Academia aesthetic.


1. “Oh my god, am I Pillow Princess?”

2. I only have one Dr. Pepper left. And one chocolate. I start my period soon and I need to stock up on those immediately.

3. Thinking about the difference between physical attraction and sexual attraction, also sensuality and sexuality, from my own asexual perspective. Hopefully I’ll find the words to write a full post about this soon.

4. I. Loathe. Spring. Pastel. Palettes. Where are my Spooky Spring Season clothes please?!

5. BlackBonnet/GentleBeard. That’s literally all I can think about and still an too anxious to watch the full show until the second season is confirmed because I’m already emotional about the ending.

6. Florals and Theys.

7. I have nibling fever so bad today. Just wanted to hug all my babies please.

8. Archiving, not deleting.

9. Currently on season 17 of Midsomer Murders. Not sure what show to watch after I finish it. Probably rewatch Murder, She Wrote again, to be honest. Oh, but also need to finish the first season of Only Murders in the Building.

10. Will I go to bed at a reasonable time tonight? All signs point to “hah, you wish”.

Book Review: The World Cannot Give by Tara Isabella Burton

The World Cannot Give by Tara Isabella Burton
Genres: Dark Academia
Publication Date: March 8, 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: E-ARC via NetGalley

Synopsis from GoodReads:

When shy, sensitive Laura Stearns arrives at St. Dunstan’s Academy in Maine, she dreams that life there will echo her favorite novel, All Before Them, the sole surviving piece of writing by Byronic “prep school prophet” (and St. Dunstan’s alum) Sebastian Webster, who died at nineteen, fighting in the Spanish Civil War. She soon finds the intensity she is looking for among the insular, Webster-worshipping members of the school’s chapel choir, which is presided over by the charismatic, neurotic, overachiever Virginia Strauss. Virginia is as fanatical about her newfound Christian faith as she is about the miles she runs every morning before dawn. She expects nothing short of perfection from herself—and from the members of the choir.

Virginia inducts the besotted Laura into a world of transcendent music and arcane ritual, illicit cliff-diving and midnight crypt visits: a world that, like Webster’s novels, finally seems to Laura to be full of meaning. But when a new school chaplain challenges Virginia’s hold on the “family” she has created, and Virginia’s efforts to wield her power become increasingly dangerous, Laura must decide how far she will let her devotion to Virginia go.


Review

The World Cannot Give left me emotionally devastated for days. I mean this in the best (worst?) way. I will try to review this book as best I can without spoilers. This is one book that I will read again when I want to be devastated and in my obsessive feelings.

A queer, dark academia novel set in a boarding school in Maine, centered around a group of choral students led by a cold, yet alluring girl named Virginia, Laura, the new girl, is immediately taken. We get to witness her fall for a girl who is everything that she sees in their favorite author, Sebastian Webster. We get to see Laura grapple with her feelings, her sexuality, her perceived failings. It is such an experience and I truly loved seeing the imperfection, the problematic representations, and the outright denial of reality until it was impossible to do so.

This book is set into three parts spaced out over the school year. And this story lays out what it looks like to put someone (fictional and real) on a pedestal and to watch the fall from grace. It was such a disturbing journey at times, but I enjoyed and hurt my own feelings by connecting so deeply to the characters, even as problematic and unlikeable as some of them are.

I do want to note about the topic of AroAce representation in this book. I have seen many reviews blasting it for having Virginia represent an aroace character under the guise of her being aroace because of religion. That was not something that I personally interpreted. (As a sidenote: the ONLY queer identity even explicitly stated is Isabel and her girlfriend being lesbians.) Speaking as an ace queer, the topic of sex in book is more about power and manipulation than by an individuals queerness and identity. Not saying that a queer person cannot use sex as a power tool, because that can definitely be the case; and so far as aro, there is a conversation about how she doesn’t love people “in that way” but again, I don’t feel it has to do with religion. In general, I do feel like Virginia’s character flaw/problematic behavior is so much more about her manipulation than about her wielding her religious identity. I hope that makes sense.

When I tell you the ending wrecked me, I do not mean this lightly. I did not see the ending coming and it absolutely devastated me; I cried, I yelled at the characters, and felt so many emotions after closing the book.
It is an emotionally charged story and I highly recommend being in a good head space while reading it (fun fact, I was not, which may be why it hit me so hard).

Semi-spoilery, please remember this is a Dark Academia book. Common tropes include cult like/secret society rites and behaviors, obsession, betrayal, death, unhealthy attachments to people both literal and fictional, unlikable and unreliable characters.

Minor complaint: I have no idea why this book is compared to Fight Club? Someone please explain that to me.

Thank you to Tara Isabella Burton, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for this e-book in exchange for a honest review.

February & March Wrap Up

“In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: it goes on.”

Robert Frost

February was such a slowfast month. I spent the majority of it in Texas with my sister, niblings, mom, and stepdad. Post partum care is a lot, four children are a lot, and I miss their hugs so much.

Now we are well into the beginnings of spring here in Michigan and it is giving me spring allergies and headaches already. Time to put the allergy meds next to my bed so I can take them when I wake up and before I go to sleep. *deep sigh* But I am glad to be out of winter. Seasonal depression is so real (fun fact: I get it in the winter and summer, so that’s great) and I am enjoying the cool breeze of spring this morning. Even though my toes are not.

So, let’s wrap up my winter season, shall we?

Books Read

  • The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson & the Olympians #4) by Rick Riordan
  • Girl A by Abigail Dean
  • The Legacy (Birthright #1) by Necole Ryse
  • If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier
  • The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson & the Olympians #5) by Rick Riordan
  • Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
  • Heartstopper Volume 2 by Alice Oseman
  • Heartstopper Volume 3 by Alice Oseman
  • Heartstopper Volume 4 by Alice Oseman
  • Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door (Riley Thorn #1) by Lucy Score
  • The World Cannot Give by Tara Isabella Burton
  • The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

I had 2 DNFs which was incredibly disappointing, but it did remind me to not accept/request everything on NetGalley just because I can. Lesson learned there. But overall, really proud of what I was able to read these past two months.

Posts Written

What do y’all think of these In a Brown Study posts? My book review style? Is there anything else you would like to see on the blog?

Currently Thinking About

How spring time cold feels different than winter time cold

Time, in all it’s wibbly wobbly timey wimey vibes (and that I’m due for a Doctor Who rewatch very soon)

How my brain craves structure until it craves chaos until it craves structure until it craves chaos

Ballet classes for adults

Babies grow up so damn fast

Lastly

How are you entering this new season? Aries seasons always gives me a huge burst of energy as an Aries Rising. Even while it’s currently raining outside.

Also. What is bringing you joy, making you laugh, making you cry? I love to hear it all.

Until next time, dear hearts.

Book Review: If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier

If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Publication Date: Jan 26, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Format: Ebook via Kindle Unlimited

“You are the hero of the heroless stories. You will save people; will they save you?”

Eliza Jane Brazier, If I Disappear

Synopsis from GoodReads:

Sera loves true crime podcasts. They make her feel empowered in a world where women just like her disappear daily. She’s sure they are preparing her for something. So when Rachel, her favorite podcast host, goes missing, Sera knows it’s time to act. Rachel has always taught her to trust her instincts.

Sera follows the clues hidden in the episodes to an isolated ranch outside Rachel’s small hometown to begin her search. She’s convinced her investigation will make Rachel so proud. But the more Sera digs into this unfamiliar world, the more off things start to feel. Because Rachel is not the first woman to vanish from the ranch, and she won’t be the last…

Rachel did try to warn her.


Review and Favorite Quotes

I almost put this book back on the first page and I am so glad I didn’t. Second Person POV is not my favorite and I very rarely feel like it works. But I would say it fit this story quite well. It lends an extra sense of unease and insight of an unreliable narrator.

My favorite part of this mystery is the fact that you are forced to grapple with the Crazy Women stereotypes WHILE watching Sera, our narrator, become more obsessed and a bit unhinged. Such a brilliantly added layer to this mystery.

“I’m not perfect. I have made mistakes and compromises, but I have fucking tried. I fucking care. Maybe sometimes I don’t care enough about myself; maybe sometimes I care too much about other people.”

Eliza Jane Brazier, If I Disappear

I also love that each chapter is the title of a podcast episode, with a snippet of that episode. On the Murder Line, She’s Being Watched, All the Girls, The Killer Comes Home. So brilliant. I love when books have that extra tie in/parallel that lays over the entire story.

And the side characters! All I remember, is that every single one is suspicious. The Cold Distant Mom and the Dorky Funny Dad, but with a deeper sense of malice from both. The Unbelieving Cop that you want to shake silly. The Handsome Married Ranch Worker on the ranch alone. A Preacher Brother who gives Weird Vibes. I loved the conflicting stories we get from them about Rachel as Sera is trying to discover what happened.

The ending is twisty and I think it fits the story well. I very much enjoyed this book, oddly enjoyed the unreliable/unlikable main character, and was glad I kept reading past the second person narrative. A truly interesting, bizarre read.

“I am those bodies. Those bodies are me. I am every woman who has ever disappeared.”

Eliza Jane Brazier, If I Disappear