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.

Let Your Chaos Explode: Reviewing Blood of Elves (Book 1 in The Witcher series) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Hi everybody! I’m back far sooner than I thought I would be as I am suddenly incredibly motivated to get through my TBR list. I’ve also just loved reading any sort of source material if I watch a show that its based on. When I was younger, my mom came up with a rule that if I wanted to see a movie that was based on a book then I had to read the book first. That was obviously no issue for me and has only made me a bigger nerd as the years have went on. The Witcher is simply my latest in the long line of fantasy novels I have devoured so let’s talk about Blood of Elves.

Geralt of Rivia is the Witcher, a famed assassin with magical abilities, who hunts down monsters. His current mission, though, is to protect Ciri, the lost princess of Cintra and the Child of Surprise. Ciri possesses a great power that can be used for good or for great evil. With a war between elves, humans, dwarves, and others on the horizon, Geralt must do everything in his power to prevent this war and save as many lives as he can – no matter what the cost.

Like I said in my review for the prequel novel, this is definitely the perfect series to fill the Game of Thrones – shaped hole in your life. I thoroughly enjoyed the action in this book as well as the elaborate world building. Albeit, there were a couple scenes that involved politics which were pretty slow but, with this being the first official novel in the series, I am going to give in the benefit of the doubt since its important to establish these things. It all ties together nicely and creates a build up for the action, which is very well written. Even though the characters give off the impression that they are “perfect,” they are flawed in the best ways. Sapkowski managed to avoid the Mary Sue tropes that tend to pop up frequently in modern fantasy. It gives off a high fantasy air without any pretentious tropes. I am still thoroughly enjoying this series and have re-watched the Netflix series multiple times.

The folklore Book Tag

Hi everybody! It has been a while since I have done one of these but I saw this on @toastiebooks and couldn’t resist. I am a bit of a closeted Swiftie but her latest album fell right under my taste in music. Shout out to Taylor Swift for always knowing how to put together a great *aesthetic.* Feel free to participate in this tag as well and don’t forget to tag others!

the 1: a book you grew out of

I definitely don’t think I can appreciate The City of Bones series by Cassandra Clare like I used to. Also, I’ll throw in the Twilight series and the Vampire Diaries. I am definitely over any teen paranormal romance.

cardigan: a book you keep coming back to

My first choice for a re-read is American Gods by Neil Gaiman because it just surprises me every time. Following that, I also love can read The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Dracula by Bram Stoker over and over again.

the last great american dynasty: a book where everything goes wrong (in the best way)

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a great example of hilarious confusion and some poignant thoughts about love and romance. Any Shakespearian comedy embodies this. As for novels, I would pick Pride and Prejudice because Darcy cannot communicate properly to save his life but ends up with Elizabeth because she understands how awkward he is.

exile: ending you didn’t like (ship that sank)

I initially went into The Circle by Dave Eggers with some hope but the ending was super anti-climatic and lame. It’s a very boomer view of “wow! technology is evil!.” Also the main character could have escaped with a pretty nice guy but drove him away.

my tears ricochet: broke your heart

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller gets me every time. It goes right up there with The Book Thief, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and The Kite Runner for me.

mirrorball: a book that speaks to your soul

Honestly, I felt very connected with Jane Eyre as Jane is so confident in her own quiet way. I’ve never been a bold person so it is nice to see someone who is quiet and self-assured. I am using this book for one of my big projects for my final grad school portfolio. I am glad I chose this one.

seven: character that you want to take home and protect

I’m picking Aziraphale from Good Ones because the guy just wants to enjoy his books and spend time with his demon boyfriend. He may be kind of dumb but he must be protected at all costs.

august: summer love

I really don’t read a lot of romance but I would have to say This is How You Lose the Time War was actually really romantic in its own weird way. It’s a great enemies to lovers romance (that’s also LGBTQ+).

this is me trying: mental illness rep

I definitely clicked with how John Green depicts anxiety in Turtles All the Way Down. The main character, Aza, always gets stuck in these “thought spirals” where she keeps going through the what ifs and worst case scenarios. I know not everyone is a huge John Green fan but I really connected with this book in that aspect.

illicit affairs: forbidden romance

The Song of Achilles is going to have to go up here again but I will add on Celia and Marco from The Night Circus. They are supposed to be competitors but end up falling for each other.

invisible string: soulmates

Zachary Ezra Rawlins and Dorian from The Starless Sea have a fantastic “destined to be” relationship in a fantastical setting. For something even more fairy tail-esque, Tristan and Yvainne from Neil Gaiman’s Stardust fit the criteria.

mad woman: vengeful woman

Gone Girl may be a controversial book but Amy Dunne is certainly a woman on a mission who will stop at nothing to get her way. I also can’t not acknowledge basically every woman from The Song of Fire and Ice series, but especially Arya Stark.

epiphany: a loss you’re not over

I still have not forgiven JK for killing off Dobby or Hedwig. My biggest/most recent fictional loss that got me was (spoiler) Kara Resnik from The Themis Files series. That one was unexpected and hurt like a mother. I would still recommend that series, though.

betty: love triangle, f/f romance

I’m choosing f/f romance and This is How You Lose the Time War also gets this one. To summarize, it’s about two warriors, Red and Blue, who come from opposing futuristic societies. Both are sent to change the timeline so their society comes out triumphant but the two end of developing a playful (albeit violent) friendship that turns into romance. I would highly recommend it as its very poetic as well as immersive.

peace: found family

The Percy Jackson series is still a great example of the found family trope, including reliable parental figures. The Unwritten Library by AJ Hackwith is more recent but includes a bizarre but lovable group of misfits that include a feisty librarian, an ex-muse, a novice demon, and an angel who is trying to figure out where he belongs. I’d highly recommend that book.

hoax: a character that fooled you

When I was reading The Shades of Magic trilogy, I really thought Holland was just an *sshole but I actually ended up getting really attached to him. I guess that’s kind of the reverse of this question but Holland had an incredibly tragic past and some valid reasons for his actions. I’d recommend this trilogy too.

the lakes: a book written in verse

I really haven’t read a lot of books written in verse, but the one I am familiar with is Girl, Woman, Other. I’d highly recommend it is as it is intersectional as well as feminist. The style is very unique but easy to follow and incredibly profound.

Mini Double Review: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and Passing by Nella Larsen

Hello everybody! While I work on finishing up the first novel in The Witcher series, I thought I would do a review of some of the novels I have just finished for two of my classes this semester. I am only on week two but these novels (or novellas, rather) are worth me sharing my opinion on as there are some classics that others might be interested in. Now these novels aren’t really related to each other but they both just so happen to be short enough to include in a single post. Let me give you my brief in put on Conrad and Larsen.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Conrad’s most famous and controversial novel explores the bloody colonization process in the Congo. This novel follows Charlie Marlow as he follows the charismatic and ruthless Kurtz through the jungles, while trying to understand what the British really want out of Africa. This novel is certainly shocking and graphic. It is definitely not a casual read by any means, but it is worth a read. The subject matter is important when getting into the field of colonial and post-colonial literature. I would recommend it if you want a complicated but brief novel. It is ideal for analyzing, if that is what your interest is. There is a lot to uncover when reading Heart of Darkness that no one can really answer and that is what makes it so intriguing.

Passing by Nella Larsen: Larsen’s sophomore novel follows the struggle of Irene Redfield, a black woman who is able to “pass” as white. When Irene reunites with a childhood friend, Clare Kendry, she must face the reality of her situation and come to terms with her insecurities that she had worked so hard to hide. This novella was particularly compelling in its subject matter. It also offers a look at a complicated subject with Larsen’s eloquent writing highlighting the social minefield that Irene must navigate. I enjoyed this one more as far as just reading it goes but the analyses is just as interesting too.

Between the two, I would say I actually enjoyed Passing more even though it still dealt with darker subject. Larsen has more tact whereas Conrad is very ambiguous and hard to truly understand. Both are equally important in their respective literary fields so it is worth discussing both.