Bloody, Bold, and Resolute: Reviewing If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

Hello everyone! I have officially survived my final semester of grad school and tomorrow I will have officially have a Masters degree. Needless to say, I am equal parts exhausted and excited. I am mostly looking forward to being able to read what I want for the foreseeable future. In all my excitement, I am going to give you my review of If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. (Side note: Many of the books I’m reading I found on the book side of Tik Tok or Book Tok).

Oliver Marks is one of seven eager Shakespearean actors attending the prestigious Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Their days are filled with friendly, but fierce competition as they rise above the ranks and get the leading roles. Each member, though, plays their own role in the group that reflects the characters they play on stage. As tensions begin to rise and the competition turns fierce, a mysterious tragedy strike the group. Now, Oliver and his fellow thespians must uncover what happened and use their skills as actors to convince everyone else of their innocence.

As a fan of Shakespeare (and theater in general) and dark academia, this book had my name written all over it. I also loved a good whodunnit mystery. If We Were Villains is a perfect combination of all of those elements. Rio does an excellent job combining the prose and play narrative structures while also emphasizing the richness of theater and the sketchy reality of prestigious university. You all may know that I am a huge fan of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and this novel is very much in the vein of that genre. Overall, I thoroughly enjoy the way this novel unfolds and I would consider it essential for any fan of dark academia novels.

Super Quick Update

Hello everyone! I noticed I haven’t posted since January (wow) and I have some more followers. Hello and welcome to the blog that I swear that I don’t ignore. A lot has happened since January (various life events of both good and bad) so being able to sit down and read my own personal TBR list has been the last thing on my mind. I want to sit down and read for fun soooo badly, but I am still swamped with school – related projects. In the meanwhile, I will give you a rundown of the books you can expect me to review in the (hopefully) near future.

  • If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
  • The Whisper Man by Alex North
  • Devolution by Max Brooks
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor
  • The Labyrinth of Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Those are my priorities once I finally wrap up my bigger grad school projects. I also have a few more books sitting on my shelf that I have been meaning to get to but just haven’t gotten around to yet. Thanks for understanding and I can’t wait to share more of my literary loves with you soon!

Most things aren’t. Most events haven’t: Reviewing It Devours! by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Hi everyone! We have officially left 2020 in the rearview and 2021 is ahead, uncertain but hopeful. I wasn’t expecting to get a book review out this soon, but I fell into one of those wonderful reading spells where you just don’t want to put down the book. In this case, the book is another one based off of my favorite podcast, Welcome to Night Vale. You can check out my review of the first novel inspired by the podcast, which has the same title. Now, let’s get into It Devours!

As an outsider, Nilanjana navigates her strange new home of Night Vale with logic and reasoning. Working with fellow outsider and Night Vale’s most handsome scientist, Carlos, she is sent to investigate the giant sinkholes appearing around the town. This leads Nilanjana to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, where she meets and develops feelings for one of its members, Darryl. The two must question their beliefs as they realize that there is something darker beneath the surface that could mean the end for Night Vale.

As for anything related to Welcome to Night Vale, I really didn’t know what to expect with this novel. I did, however, love the way it expanded on the already bizarre world of Night Vale. It was equals parts profound, bizarre, and romantic as the novel explored complicated topics like religion and science. There was also plenty of tension and action that made this such a compelling read. I love how Fink and Cranor put so much care into their world building. It’s somehow realistic among the trademark weirdness that one would expect. Any Night Vale fan in guaranteed to love this novel and, if you haven’t listened to the podcast, you may still be able to appreciate what the novel is saying.

My Favorites of 2020

Hello everyone! Well, 2020 sucked to say the least. I hope all of you are doing well, all things considering. If you are like me, you are maintaining cautious optimism for 2021. If you are also like me, you developed certain fixations during quarantine. My list is going to look a little different this year because there weren’t many new movies or tv shows this year. I’ll be including new things I discovered this year that may have come out previously. I will also be including books I read in class that I did not review here. I hope you enjoy my list and I wish you all a happy, healthy, and safe 2021.

Books

  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Dracul by Dacre Stoker and JD Barker
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • Trumpet by Jackie Kay
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • Blood of Elves (Book 1 of The Witcher series) by Andrzej Sapkowski
  • Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
  • The Tower of Nero (Book 5 of The Trials of Apollo series) by Rick Riordan
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Movies

  • Onward (dir. Dan Scanlon, 2020)
  • Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn (dir. Cathy Yan, 2020)
  • Hamilton: An American Musical (dir. Thomas Kail, 2020)
  • The Lighthouse (dir. Robert Eggers, 2019)
  • Jennifer’s Body (dir. Karyn Kusama, 2009).
  • Jane Eyre (dir. Cary Joji, Fukunaga, 2011)
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (dir. Patty Jenkins, 2020)
  • The Devil All the Time (dir. Antonio Campos, 2020)

TV Shows

  • The Mandalorian: Season 2
  • Supernatural: Season 15
  • Doom Patrol: Season 2
  • The Boys: Season 2
  • Batwoman: Season 1
  • The Flash: Season 7
  • The Good Place: Seasons 1 – 4
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Seasons 1 – 7
  • The Umbrella Academy: Season 2
  • Stargirl: Season 1
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Season 5
  • Black Lightning: Season 4
  • Blood of Zeus: Season 1
  • Supergirl: Season 5
  • Lucifer: Season 4

Music

  • Manic by Halsey (album)
  • After Hours by The Weekend (album)
  • folklore by Taylor Swift (album)
  • evermore by Taylor Swift (album)
  • No Time to Die by Billie Eilish (single)
  • Cape God by Allie X (album)
  • Positions by Ariana Grande (album)
  • Level of Concern by Twenty One Pilots (single)
  • Light of Love by Florence and the Machine (single)
  • Petals for Armor by Hayley Williams (album)
  • WHAT YOU GONNA DO??? by Bastille (single)
  • my future by Billie Eilish (single)
  • Dreamland by Glass Animals (album)
  • Use Me by PVRIS (album)
  • color theory by Soccer Mommy (album)
  • Ferris Wheel by Sylvan Esso (single)
  • Let Me Love You Like A Woman by Lana Del Rey (single)
  • Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers (album)
  • Death of an Optimist by grandson (album)
  • Maps by Wednesday’s Wolves (EP)
  • Afterglow by Ed Sheeran (single)

Podcasts

  • The Magnus Archives
  • The Penumbra Podcast
  • Wolf 359
  • King Falls AM
  • Motherhacker
  • My Brother, My Brother, and Me
  • Passenger List
  • SCP Archives

Poor strangers, they have so much to be afraid of: Reviewing We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Hello everyone! I’m back at it again with another book review. I have been enjoying my break and needed to ease back into reading. I wanted to read this one for October since it is a horror/mystery novella, but stuff happens. Hopefully, I can get in one more novel before the New Years. Anyways, here’s my review of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

Mary Katherine Blackwood, who is affectionately known as Merricat, lives happily on the edge of town with her sister Constance and Uncle Julian. Merricat’s quaint little world is shattered when their estranged cousin Charles Blackwood comes into town in hopes of gaining his inheritance. Now, Merricat and Constance must come to terms with their gruesome past in order to deal with their uncertain future.

Shirley Jackson uses some great techniques in her writing, as she lures you in with something seemingly ordinary but leaves you questioning who or what the real threat is. There is an interesting element of not knowing who to be afraid of by the time you finish one of Jackson’s stories. We Have Always Live in the Castle left me questioning who I should sympathize with and I loved that aspect of the story. It’s short but complicated in the most interesting way possible. There is a lot of reading in between the lines for this novel. You really have to pay attention, particularly since the story is told through Mary Katherine’s point of view. Jackson’s novellas and short stories are endlessly re-readable and We Have Always Live in the Castle absolutely fits the bill.

The Anti-TBR Book Tag

Hey everyone! I’m officially done with my fall semester and I am enjoying every minute of my holiday break. I am also catching up on my TBR list but I wanted to do a tag while I was at it. I found this one on @Embuhleeliest blog so feel free to check her out. Also, I now tag you tag so join in on the tag. (By the way, if someone could create a book tag for evermore now that the album has dropped then that would be great).

A Popular Book That You Have No Interest in Reading: Everyone seems to really love Sarah J. Maas right now and I really don’t think I could ever get into her novels. I am also not terribly interested in any sort of “white woman leading a perfect life has a deep secret” type of novel.

A Classic Book (or Author) You Have No Interest In Reading: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, or any Dickens novel at that. I have heard that they are just really dry novels.

An Author Whose Books You Have No Interest In Reading: I was forced to read an Ayn Rand novel in high school and I never want to read another novel by her. From what I understand, she is mostly just rude to poor people. No thanks.

A Problematic Author Whose Books You Have No Interest In Reading: I have heard too many things about Chuck Palahnuik being pretty racist and misogynistic in his novels, so I am not terribly interested in reading his stuff any time in the future.

An Author You Have Read a Couple of Books From and Decided They Weren’t For You: I really tried to get into Dean Koontz. I just couldn’t get super interested in any of his novels. There was one I liked, but I didn’t care for the others I tried to read.

A Genre You Have No Interest In or A Genre That You Tried to Get Into but Just Couldn’t: I really just can’t do contemporary romance. I think the books are so freaking boring and way too similar to each other.

A Book You Have Bought but Will Never Read: I do have a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale but I really don’t know if or when I am going to read it. I would rather read other novels by Margaret Atwood.

A Series You Have No Interest in Reading or DNF’d: I didn’t care for The Maze Runner series, the Cormoran Strike novels, or the Artemis Fowl series.

A New Release You Have No Interest in Reading: I have no interest in reading Ernest Cline’s Ready Player Two or anything released by Cassandra Clare within the last five years.

How (Not) to End a TV Show

Hello everyone! I’m so close to the end of my semester and I should be able to squeeze in a novel or two before the year is over. Like everyone else, I have been using television to help me escape the reality of COV!D this year. Last night, one of my favorite shows ever, Supernatural, ended and, wow, it was something. I rarely get to see a show come to an actual series finale since either a.) I don’t finish the shows or b.) the show gets cancelled. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different series finales I’ve watched and where they’ve gone very right or horribly wrong. The following is a list that no one asked for about things that should (or shouldn’t) be done to properly end a show, especially one with a dedicated fan base.

Kill Your Darlings, but Nicely: Since I watch a lot of sci-fi/fantasy/action/etc., character deaths are to be expected. If you are going to kill off a character at the very end, however, make it as poetic and dignified as possible. No one wants to see a character who has been through the wringer die in a completely mundane way. It doesn’t have to be a sacrifice, but it should make the audience and the other characters feel okay with the loss.

Remember the Lore: This mostly applies to the fantasy genre as a whole but canon is also important to any show. If you have elaborate backstory, the least you can do is keep the main threads going and keep in mind all of the important plot points or foreshadowing that has been established. The whole point of a prophecy is it has to come true in some way so make it happen! Fans can theorize all they want but the writers are the ones who get to make these things come to life on the screen.

Cycles Matter: We love seeing a story come full circle and homages are really nice for all of the fans who have stuck around. Easter Eggs and references are great for this. Even inside jokes can help ease us to the end. It’s okay to poke a little fun at the show’s past and reminisce. Let the characters go back to the start in some way then have them learn from the past.

Make Every Minute Count: Whether the show if half an hour, an hour, or two hours, every second counts if it is the end. Do not pad out the show with a montage unless it is super relevant. I don’t want another montage that only exists to show the passage of time. It rarely works. I also especially don’t want a montage about the past. I was there! I saw it! Give me new stuff!

Legacy? What is a Legacy?: Leave the fans something behind to enjoy. The legacy of a show doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a spin off or an open ending. I don’t always need a hint at something more. Sometimes, a show just needs to be done. Epilogues are fine and all, but they are all trying to copy off of Harry Potter where someone has a kid who is named after a deceased character. It’s become a weirdly specific trope that I am starting to get tired of. Just let us have the memories and let me enjoy my rewatch without thinking I’m going to be disappointed again.

To Ship or Not to Ship?: Quit teasing a relationship. Either make them friends, put them in a relationship, or at least address it in an appropriate manner. I am all for emotional complexity in a show, but it does get tiring after a while. By the end, we should know whether two characters are going to end up together or not. Please just decide or not, writers. It’s exhausting and I don’t want to read any more fan fiction.

CAMEOS: Give me some indication that the past characters mattered. A cameo is great if the actor is available. If not, at least, acknowledge the fan favorites that weren’t main characters. I get so excited when I see a cameo and I would love even more. Please give me cameos!!!

And that is the end of my post that no one asked for. I hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear your opinions in the comments. Thank you and stay safe!

Don’t Thank Me. It’s Cool: Reviewing The Tower of Nero (Book Five of The Trials of Apollo) by Rick Riordan

Hi everyone! I’m back with another review sooner than I thought, but I buckled down on this one in between my required novels. For those of you who don’t know, this novel is the last in the Percy Jackson universe so it is sad to let go of this part of my childhood. At least we’re getting the adaptation we truly deserve. Let’s finish up The Trials of Apollo.

It’s been the longest six months for Lester Papadopoulos, formerly known the god Apollo. After fighting emperors, defeating monsters, and freeing the Oracles, it is time for them to face Nero and save New York, then the world. To make matters even worse, Apollo’s nemesis Python is lurking in the shadows, waiting for him. It is time for Lester to defeat Python and regain his godhood or possibly die trying. Hopefully, it’s the latter.

This was a perfectly written ending for this particular series, as well as the Percy Jackson series in general. Again, I was still genuinely surprised by how good this series was as well as how mature it was. Rick Riordan has always done a good job adding some sort of lesson or moral to his story without it being too preach-y. As an adult, I appreciated what Riordan had to say through Apollo/Lester’s trials. This particular book was action packed and heartfelt. I still can’t recommend this series enough. Never grow up, my fellow Greek myth nerds.

When we crash, we intertwine: Reviewing Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Hello everyone! It has been a hot minute since I’ve posted. I promise I won’t abandon this blog any time soon. I’ve just been all caught up with university, anxiety, social distancing, and all that other fun stuff (See? Sarcasm). I’ve still found enough time to go out a little and enjoy things. Of course, I wasn’t about to give up on Tomi Adeyemi’s series. Feel free to check out my review for the first novel, Children of Blood and Bone. Now it’s time to talk about the recently released sequel.

Zelie and Amari had finally succeeded in bringing back to Orisha, but they were not prepared for the other consequences it might bring. Now, Zelie must unite all of the maji in order to defeat Inan and put Amari on the throne. When the monarchy launches an attack on the maji, it is up to Zelie to protect her people and avoid the war or else everything she loves will be destroyed.

Even though this book took me a little while to get through, it is actually very fast paced and has tons of action. The magic system in the novel is incredibly well thought out, which helps add to the incredible world building that Adeyemi has done. When it comes to fantasy, though, a lot of authors tend to make their characters either too powerful or neglect any consequences that their characters may have to deal with. Adeyemi completely avoids that pitfall by making her characters understandably, albeit frustratingly, imperfect. I wouldn’t enjoy the book if I couldn’t sympathize with Zelie, Amari, and the rest. That is why I love this series. It harkens back to my love of shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Though this is a YA fantasy series, I think adult and teen readers alike can bond over this series with it’s incredible action, high stakes, and emotional beats that will keep you wanting more.

Blank, lovely eyes. Mad eyes. A mad girl: Reviewing Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Hello everybody! I’m back with another novel that I am reading in class but this one will be a full review since it fits into my area of studies. I am currently doing a critical history of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for my grad school portfolio. As much as I love the British Romantics, it is important to acknowledge where it is problematic. Trust me, it is rather problematic. That is why I am glad to hear and read new angles about these classics that everybody has loved in one dimension for so long. So let’s talk about Jean Rhys’ take on Bronte’s “madwoman in the attic.”

Before she was Bertha Mason, Antionette Cosway was a young girl struggling to survive in Jamaica. After the Emancipation Act, her mother is driven to madness and her father to drink. When she reaches adulthood, Antoinette is then sold into marriage to an Mr. Rochester. As more of the past comes to light, Antionette finds herself in a downward spiral that threatens her dreams of moving to England.

This novel, though short, is incredibly compelling in its feminist and anti-colonial narrative. I have always liked the “other side of the story” genre. I am not sure what else to call it but I am talking about novels that re-tell a story from the perspective of another character. Anyways, Rhys delivers a powerful look at a character who has been written off for so many years. The novel is has beautiful visuals that pair with a unique story that is not explored often. Post colonial novels have only come to light in recent years and Rhys offers one that anyone who has read Jane Eyre should read. Now, this isn’t meant to bash Charlotte Bronte. It is meant to give a more in depth-look at the feminist critiques that lie within Jane Eyre and other novels of the time. This is a short read, but there is so much to talk about. I would recommend this to any fan of Charlotte Bronte or those who are a fan of period pieces but are tired of the marriage and/or manner novels.