What Book Scarred Me As A Child

Hello, hello! How’s everything going on this wonderful Wednesday? Things here are pretty good. Can’t complain, though I usually do. Anyway, it’s time for another one of those pick a number things. This week is 2, courtesy of the fab Derek! I’ve done 13 (you can find the prompt list there) and 7. Numbers 8, 3, 10, 6, 14, 11, and 1 have all been claimed, but feel free to pick one of the remaining numbers. Today’s prompt is “tell me which book had a profound effect on you as a kid.” Honestly, most of you probably already know the answer.

I don’t remember being much of a reader as a kid. I read what I was told to read for school, but never had much fun with it. There were two “book report” projects I remember from elementary school where we got to pick our own books from the school library. For one, I chose The Séance by Joan Lowery Nixon. I don’t remember the story itself, but it was my first locked door mystery and I vaguely remember loving it. It was a little advanced for my age at the time (it’s recommended for 12 years and up and I was like 8 or 9), but my teacher and parents didn’t say anything, so murder and mysteries kind of became my go-to at an early age. But still, it wasn’t enough to get me hooked on reading.

The other book from elementary school was Ransom by Lois Duncan. It actually had a cripple dude who wasn’t useless or inspo-pornified. Of course, back then, I didn’t know what inspo-porn really was and I didn’t care that he was cripple. I just liked him because he was the angsty loner guy and I already had the beginnings of a type (which eventually transformed into my love of fictional psychopaths). But it was about a busload of kids getting kidnapped. I loved it. And it wasn’t enough to stoke my love of reading either.

It wasn’t until 1999 (I was 13) that I really got into reading. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King had just come out and Dad plopped it down in front of me and said to try it. It wasn’t the first time he’d tried to get me into reading (even The Hobbit had failed to interest me until later), but it was the one that worked. There was creepy stuff and normal stuff and it wasn’t super scary, but it was something that could happen and that made it awesome (yeah, I was a weird kid). I tore through so many Stephen King books after that. I remember sitting in the library/game area one evening during a hospital stay reading the uncut version of The Stand (I brought it from home, it wasn’t actually in a children’s hospital library) and a nurse came in making idle chit-chat while checking on me. The look of horror on her face when I showed her what I was reading (she didn’t like “scary” books) was priceless. It was my first time seeing a grown person get freaked out over a book. She just didn’t understand why I wanted to read scary things. It was hilarious. But yeah. My early reading habits were strange.

Anyway, I still wasn’t a constant reader after that. I’d go through periods where I would read everything until I burnt myself out, then I wouldn’t read for months. It went on like that until Stonecoast, actually. Ever since then, I’ve learned to read a couple of chapters every day so I don’t burn myself out. And I don’t scold myself if I miss a day or two here and there. But if a book grabs me, I don’t deny myself a good binge either. But I digress. This is all just a big ramble about having to find my way into reading. It didn’t come naturally to me. And it took a while to find the right fit. But that’s okay. What about you? What book(s) had the biggest impact on you when you were young? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts and comments and questions here or on my social media pages!

Stuck on Repeat

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing this Wednesday? Things here are about the same as usual. It’s time for all of those yearly meetings, so people know we’re still alive and I’m still cripple and poor (the government has to check, I guess). But half of those are still virtual, so that’s good. Anyway, if you read last week’s post, you know I’m doing one of those pick a number things. This week’s pick is courtesy of the beautiful Roxie with number 7! I’ve done 13 (you can find the prompt list there). And 2, 8, 3, 10, 6, 14, 11, and 1 have all been claimed. Feel free to pick one of the remaining numbers. But let’s get back on topic. The prompt is “Tell me which book you’ve re-read the most times.” That’s a hard one…

The thing is, I don’t re-read things very often. I don’t have comfort books that I keep returning to time and again. When I do re-read something, it’s usually for a reason. Like, if it’s a series and a new book is coming out after a couple of years. But even then, I’ll try reading the new book first and seeing what I remember. If I can’t remember certain things, Google is my friend. If I remember little to nothing, then I will read the other books again. Don’t get me wrong. I have a huge list of books I want to re-read, but there are just so many new books and books that are new to me. There’s not enough time.

I’ve read the Harry Potter books three times all the way through and Lord of the Rings twice that I remember. I believe I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon three times as well. But I’m a super slow reader (I get through 35 books a year if I push it), so if I do read things repeatedly, it’s usually short stories or poems. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Gilman) or “A Rose for Emily” (Faulkner). My favorite poetry collections are Cruelty by Ai (which I’ve read at least five times) and The Wild Iris by Louise Glück (also read four or five times). And I won’t list the individual poems I go back to all the time.

Now, if you count manga and the like, I’ve re-read way too much stuff. I go back to Kaori Yuki’s stuff more than I should probably say. Angel Sanctuary and Boy’s Next Door are my favorites. They’re disturbing and entirely fucked up, but I love them. BND was the first story I read that told you from the very beginning what the ending was and still managed to make me an emotional wreck by the time we got to the end. No, I don’t recommend it to everyone because of all of the content warnings it should have, but if you’re already a dark, twisted soul… go find it. Same with Angel Sanctuary, but for very different content warnings. I could also list some more normal things like Sailor Moon and Fullmetal Alchemist, but it probably won’t help you think better of me at this point. I like weird stuff. This is why I don’t include manga and manhwa on my GoodReads profile very often.

There you go. The stuff I re-read. It’s usually weird or would freak people out. Sorry, not sorry. What about you? Do you re-read soft and cuddly comfort books? Or do you prefer re-reading things that rip your heart out and wreak havoc on your soul? Or something in between? As always, feel free to leave your comments or questions here or on my social media pages!

Home Away From Home

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this fine Wednesday? It’s the first week of November. Can you believe that? Thanksgiving will be tomorrow, Christmas next week, and 2023 the day after that. At least that’s how it feels. Another year slipping by. But that’s okay! We’re not here to be all maudlin just because time’s a jerk. We’re here today to ramble about bookish things! I found another one of those pick a number things, so that’s what I’ll be blogging about for the foreseeable future. I only posted the request for numbers between 1 and 15 a few minutes ago, so I’ve only got 13 and 7 so far, but I’m sure at least a couple of more people will choose something. You can choose too by commenting here or on my social media profiles or telling me or carrier pigeon. Whatever. The first picture will be the prompts. It’s from national book lovers day (I’m late, I know), so you may have seen it already. Anyway, the lovely Ana chose 13, so I will be rambling about books that make me want to live in fictional worlds!

Which book made me want to live in a fictional world? Most of them? People usually say Narnia, Hogwarts, or Middle Earth and I can’t exactly argue. I know it’s a problematic world (it always was, even before JK went off the deep end), but I would’ve been down for Hogwarts as a kid. Magic provides a lot of work arounds to being cripple. It would’ve been great. Middle Earth would’ve been cool too. Who doesn’t want to live with elves? At least as a kid. Now, I’d be a hobbit all the way. Never have to leave the shire? Live quietly? PO-TAY-TOES! I am so there. Narnia, on the other hand, never appealed to me. Even as a kid. It was a fun story, but I never wanted to join in.

I’m trying really hard to think of worlds I wanted to join when I was younger, but considering I mostly read Stephen King… no thanks. I was perfectly happy watching those stories from the outside. And now that I’m older (read that as ancient), mostly of the fictional places that I want to live are idyllic small town USA spots or tiny English villages. Both of which are hotbeds of murder with some nosey chick who solves all the crimes before the police. I’d gladly be a background character in one of those worlds.

Mostly, I’m into worlds that are only slightly different from the one we live in. A medieval adventure sounds great, but even if I weren’t cripple, I wouldn’t survive a week. I’d eat the wrong berries or mushrooms and die. And a future world? Probably dead within a week as well. Not sure how it would happen, but it would. I love reading about those worlds, but nah.

What about you? What fictional worlds did you want to live in growing up? What about now? As always, feel free to leave your questions or comments or whatever here or on my social media pages! And pick a number. Since I’ve been writing this post, we’re up to 13, 7, 2, 8, 3, and 10!

Thoughts on A DOOMFUL OF SUGAR

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this wonderful Wednesday? Things here are about the same as normal lately. But it’s the last Wednesday of October, so at least I have something to ramble about. It’s book review time! I was boring and went back to my comfort zone this month with the first installment of a new cozy mystery series. A Doomful of Sugar by Catherine Bruns was released yesterday (the 25th) from Poisoned Pen Press. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Cute cover and pretty relevant to the story.

A Doomful of Sugar follows Leila Khoury as she returns home in the wake of her father’s unsolved murder only to discover that he’s left her the family maple business. As any daddy’s girl would, not only does she accept the challenge of the farm, but she also takes it upon herself to solve the murder, no matter who she has to risk alienating along the way. Toss in a hot new employee that may just be a murderer, an overbearing mother, a brother with a chip on his shoulder, and a bestie that supports all the shenanigans and you’ve got yourself a cozy mystery.

Honestly, the plot is pretty standard. The big bad sticks out way too much from the get-go, then kind of fades into the background until a little bit before the big reveal. I mean, why else would Leila’s dad do what he did? Super obvious, but fine. I was willing to believe it without much thought. The twist was where the story lost me. It was also really heavy handed, which is probably why it felt like more of an ‘ugh’ moment than an ‘aha’ moment. It just wasn’t particularly necessary and felt like a leap. It might just be a me thing, but it made the ending too convoluted.

As far as the characters go, I was mostly unimpressed. I think Leila was supposed to be quirky and headstrong and someone who jumps into things without thinking, but she’s kind of a douchenozzle. She insults people all of the time and they magically forgive her. When she isn’t being rude, she’s accusing people of murder with zero evidence beyond the fact that they exist. And, of course, according to her, everyone else is always judging and being mean to her. I liked her mother and Noah. They were the only reasonable adults in this book. Everyone else ranged from flat and stereotypical to immature and annoying.

The writing itself was okay and made for a quick read despite my lack of motivation to finish this one. And there was maple syrup in it, so at least there’s that.

Ultimately, I didn’t care for A Doomful of Sugar. It’s not going on my list of cozies to keep up with and didn’t spark an interest other series by Bruns.

starstarstar outlinestar outlinestar outline

Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. One and a half is more accurate. Mostly because it wasn’t my thing, but other people seem to like it. If you enjoy immature characters and an easily decipherable plot, go for it. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

Summer Reading

Hello, hello! It’s June already. How’s everyone doing? Are you ready for this month? I don’t really have much planned. I’m going to try to find a couple of more publishers to submit to before I decide whether to trunk DS1 or do something else with it. Going to try to force myself to write more, but I’ve had no luck there. Mostly, I’m going to read. So, I present you with a list of books that I hope to get to over the next few months. This doesn’t include the books I’ll review, so I probably won’t get through them all, but maybe.

1. Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen. It’s one of the books I’m currently reading and I love it so far (I’m about halfway through). Luckily, book two is due out in September, so I don’t have to wait too long for more.

Book blurb:
A way to survive.
A way to serve.
A way to save.

Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata–a mermaid–collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.

But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable–she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.

To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail . . .

Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she fails, she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.

2. In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens. I recently read something else by them (So this is Ever After), which was super predictable, but adorable and basically the fluffy stuff of happiness. That’s all I’m really hoping for from this one too.

Book blurb:
Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.

Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.

That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming—and secretive—as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…

3. The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna. I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. I’m pretty sure I still remember the important bits from The Gilded Ones, but I might have to Google stuff. We’ll see.

Book blurb:
It’s been six months since Deka freed the goddesses in the ancient kingdom of Otera and discovered who she really is… but war is waging across the kingdom, and the real battle has only just begun. For there is a dark force growing in Otera—a merciless power that Deka and her army must stop.
 
Yet hidden secrets threaten to destroy everything Deka has known. And with her own gifts changing, Deka must discover if she holds the key to saving Otera… or if she might be its greatest threat.
 
The Merciless Ones is the second thrilling installment of the epic fantasy series in which a young heroine fights against a world that would dare tame her.

4. Three Shots to the Wind by Sherry Harris. It’s a beachy cozy mystery, so definitely appropriate for summer. Not one of my absolute favorite series, but cute enough that I keep reading it.

Book blurb:
Saloon owner Chloe Jackson appears to have a secret admirer. She’s pouring drinks at the Sea Glass Saloon in Emerald Cove when an airplane flies by above the beach with a banner reading I LOVE YOU CHLOE JACKSON. She immediately rules out Rip Barnett. They are in the early stages of dating and no one has said the L word. Then a bouquet of lilacs—her favorite flower—is delivered to the bar, followed by an expensive bottle of her favorite sparkling wine. It couldn’t be…
 
Sure enough, her ex-fiancé from Chicago has flown down to Florida for an accountants’ convention. But is he trying to mix business with pleasure and win her back? Unfortunately he’s not in a hotel conference room, he’s floating facedown in the lake next to her house, clutching a photo of Chloe. Who murders an accountant on a business trip—it just doesn’t add up. When Rip becomes the prime suspect, Chloe is determined to find the secret murderer. But if she isn’t careful, it may be closing time and lights out for her…

5. Chef’s Kiss by Jarrett Melendez. I haven’t read a graphic novel in a while. Well… technically I guess I have. Do webtoons count? Anyway, I was just looking for something fun and ran across the alternate cover for this by Kevin Wada (posted below) and immediately bought the book (because yum). Don’t judge me.

Book blurb:
Now that college is over, English graduate Ben Cook is on the job hunt looking for something…anything…related to his passion for reading and writing. According to the hiring committees, he doesn’t have enough experience. But when he stumbles upon a “Now Hiring—No Experience Necessary” sign outside a restaurant, Ben jumps at the chance to land his first job. He’s actually not so bad in the kitchen, plus, he can keep looking for a writing job in the meantime. But when he begins developing a crush on Liam, one of the super dreamy chefs at the restaurant, he’ll start to feel torn between wanting to stay and cook and following his original post-college plan to be a writer. Watch things start to really heat up in the kitchen in this queer YA debut graphic novel!

I have other books I want to read, but these plus the review books will be more than I can get through. Probably. What’s on your summer reading list? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

Poetry Month Again

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out what to blog about, but absolutely nothing is coming to me. I doubt you want another post about Mardi so soon. She’s doing good. Things are quiet. Dad’s redoing some stuff in the kitchen (pics when he’s done). It’s gloomy and there are some storms supposedly heading this way. And I’m super tired for no reason. Even my Pepsi isn’t helping. Anyway, I realized it’s April, which means it’s poetry month. Instead of rambling about nothing, I thought I would share one of my favorite Poe poems.

The Sleeper

By: Edgar Allan Poe

At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin moulders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not, for the world, awake.
All Beauty sleeps!—and lo! where lies
Irene, with her Destinies!

Oh, lady bright! can it be right—
This window open to the night?
The wanton airs, from the tree-top,
Laughingly through the lattice drop—
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully—so fearfully—
Above the closed and fringéd lid
’Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,
That, o’er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come o’er far-off seas,
A wonder to these garden trees!
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress!
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And this all solemn silentness!

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
Forever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold—
Some vault that oft hath flung its black
And wingéd pannels fluttering back,
Triumphant, o’er the crested palls
Of her grand family funerals—

Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portals she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone—
Some tomb from out whose sounding door
She ne’er shall force an echo more,
Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
It was the dead who groaned within.

Thoughts on CHEDDAR OFF DEAD

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Allergies are kicking my ass, but otherwise things are okay. I’ve been on a music kick. It’s about the only thing I can focus on with my sinuses throbbing. But enough complaining (maybe). It’s the last Wednesday of the month! That means it’s book review time. I went back to the safety of a cozy mystery this month. Cheddar Off Dead is the first in Korina Moss’s Cheese Shop mystery series. It was released yesterday (the 29th) by St. Martin’s Press. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s do the thing!

Cute cover and pretty relevant to the story.

Cheddar Off Dead follows Willa Bauer, cheesemonger and owner of Yarrow Glen’s newest shop, Curds and Whey. A cheese shop. She’s new to town and inexperienced when it comes to putting down roots and making lasting friendships. It doesn’t help that a well-known (and severely disliked) critic is murdered outside her shop with a custom cheese knife she had planned to give out at an event. Not trusting the detective, Willa feels compelled to clear her name before any lasting damage can be done to her reputation. The problem? Her investigation means potentially alienating the handful of people she’s started bonding with, including the attractive mead maker across the street.

Let’s start with the plot. Instead of our heroine returning home after a bad breakup, she decides to start over in a new town. There’s still a bad breakup, but it’s unclear how recent it was. A lot of her past is unclear timeline-wise. Anyway, her newness doesn’t stop Willa from finding the best friend who encourages her shenanigans. There are two potential love interests. Future love triangles? Probably, but I doubt it’ll be the fun kind. Of course there’s an overprotective detective. Plenty of red herrings. I admit I didn’t catch onto the murderer until later, mostly because we don’t learn anything about them until pretty much everyone else is ruled out. I honestly felt a little cheated by that, but this isn’t the first cozy to do it that way. I’m just glad it wasn’t a random person who only got mentioned once. They’re there throughout the book, just not really expanded on until super late. So, standard cozy fare with a couple of little twists.

The pacing was off. The first third was beyond slow. Like, if I had been reading it for fun, I probably would’ve given up after three chapters. It was that slow. But it picked up after a while. I think when the cheese talk finally ran its course, everything smoothed out. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning about cheese, but when it’s not even interesting facts, it gets boring. But less is more. The first third of the novel was like cheese info dumps. Later on, there was still a bunch of cheese talk, but it was spread out in a way that felt natural.

Most of the characters were likeable. Willa occasionally annoyed me, but that’s just because she’s a busybody. That’s why most cozy mystery heroines annoy me. Otherwise, she was fine. I preferred Baz, Archie, and Mrs. Schultz. I would’ve loved to learn more about them. Detective Heath was a little flat, but he has potential. Same with Roman. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m saying this because I love cheese, but there could’ve been a bigger focus on character development and less on cheese.

The writing was fine. Like I said, the pacing was off and the characters were flat. But the actual words were fine. Nothing memorable. I finished it about a week ago and am already forgetting most of it. Ah well.

Ultimately, I was just meh about Cheddar Off Dead. If I come across the next book, I’ll pick it up to see if it’s any better, but I doubt I’ll actively look for it.

starstarstarstar outlinestar outline

Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. Two and a half, really. If you’re super into cheese and enjoy average cozies, pick it up. But you’re not missing anything if you don’t.

Escaping Reality

Hello, hello! How’s everything going? Hard to believe we’re already this far into March. It actually feels like a super busy month and I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because it’s the Jailbird’s (my oldest sister) birthday, so I had to do a couple of extra things for her instead of forgetting she exists like I usually do (yes, I’m a horrible sister, but I’m okay with that). Going to pick up new glasses today. But otherwise, it’s just my usual schedule. I don’t know why I feel overwhelmed. All I want to do is escape into a fantasy world. So, since I have nothing else to ramble about, let’s talk about methods of escape!

This! This is why everything is overwhelming right now.

1. Music. I went from barely listening during the day for months to blasting it just about every time I’m in the house alone. I’ve been on a Beatles, Kansas, Queen, and Buck-Tick kick lately. It’s weird because I only like two Kansas songs and a handful of Queen songs (gasp! Blasphemy, I know. Sorry Freddie). Oh, and like everyone else my age and younger, I’ve been obsessive about the Encanto soundtrack. It helps that I usually play mindless games while listening to music as loud as it will go. I can just listen and sing along and not think about anything in particular. It’s nice.

2. Reading. I actually found another series to be obsessed with already (but Simon and Baz are still my current favorite boys). The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black. I’ve had book one (The Cruel Prince) sitting in my TBR pile for like two years now, so I decided to give it a try. I figured I’d read it and move on to something else I owned, but no. I had to buy the next two books in the series and binge them. I’m currently halfway through book two (The Wicked King) and not regretting my choice to spend money at all, which is weird. And apparently there are at least two other books that are connected to the series that I will eventually talk myself into buying. Reading is an expensive habit.

3. Beta reading. It’s technically reading, but I get to be useful (I hope). What’s beta reading? It’s when you read a friend’s (or however you’re related) manuscript and offer feedback. So, not only do I get to read an awesome story, I get to offer encouragement and advice on how to make the story stronger. It’s a really helpful thing for me because 1) I get to feel like I’m actually useful to someone (you know who you are) and 2) it gets me into a revision mindset, so it’s easier to come at my own work with the editor scissors. But mostly, I get to escape into a cool story.

4. Staring into space. I basically just tell myself stories when this happens. Or I relive stupid moments that I’d rather not think about. My brain is an asshole sometimes. This usually happens while I’m trying to fall asleep or if I’m watching TV and can’t get into the show. I find it happening more often lately, but I try to shake it off. Meh.

Definitely the fourth one.

Anyhoo, how’s it going by you? How are you coping with the state of the world? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments or questions or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on THE CICADA TREE

Howdy, howdy! I hope everyone is doing okay as February comes to a close. It’s been a strange month where each day bleeds into the next without warning, but at the same time, it feels like the month is dragging. No idea why. Anyway, it’s book review time. I stepped outside my comfort zone a little bit this time with an historical fiction book. The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney was released yesterday (the 22nd) from Moonshine Cove Publishing. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it.

Nice cover.

The Cicada Tree follows Analeise Newell, an 11-year-old who is trying to navigate life in 1956 Georgia. Emotions run high as she struggles to figure out how everything she loves fits together: her friendship with Etta Mae, her crush on Abel Darlington, and her newfound obsession with the Mayfields. As Analeise digs into her obsession, she finds more darkness than she bargains for in that Mayfield shine she’s so attracted to. It’s all set against the backdrop of summer in Georgia when the whine of the cicadas can either lull you to sleep or drive you crazy.

I’ll be honest, this book wasn’t for me. I’m all for southern gothic and blending supernatural into regular fiction, but something about this book kept me from getting into it. I think it’s because the ages of the characters just didn’t feel right. Analeise and the rest of the kids all seemed more like teenagers than 11-year-olds. I’d go as young as 14, but honestly I kept thinking they were closer to 16 or so. Yes, I realize that younger kids can be stupidly vicious too, but the vocabulary and most of the actions just felt older. There were a few scenes where I thought “okay, these are younger kids,” but they were few and far between.

The fact that the book was written in first person from Analeise’s perspective didn’t help with the age issue. If we’re that close to a character, I expect the narrative voice to fit the age of the character, but it didn’t. Maybe the story is being told from grown-Analeise’s perspective. If that’s the case, fine. But there was nothing to suggest that in the book. At least not the version I had access to. I saw somewhere that the final version is supposed to have an epilogue, so maybe it becomes clearer in there.

Actually, an epilogue would be really helpful because the ending left things super vague and not even in a “create your own ending” kind of way. It was completely unsatisfying. Like, I might look for it at my library just to see if anything is cleared up in the final version. I’m not tempted enough to buy it, but I’ll definitely check the library system for it.

The writing itself was a little purple for me. It wasn’t bad by any means, just a tad overly descriptive for my tastes. And I normally talk about the characters, but I had zero sympathy for any of them, except maybe Abel. He was an okay kid. Etta Mae was too angelic. Everyone else was too selfish for me to get behind.

Ultimately, I wasn’t a fan of The Cicada Tree. Maybe I’ll like it a little better if I see the epilogue, but I doubt it. There was too much I didn’t care for. If I come across something else by Gwaltney, I’d look at it because the writing was okay, but I won’t be searching for anything.

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Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. If you’re into southern gothic and are interested in the premise, give it a shot. If not, you’re not missing anything.

Obsessive Reading

Hello, hello! We’ve survived the first month of 2022. Good job! How’s everyone doing? Things are okay here. I finished the first draft of a story, but I haven’t started revisions yet. I need to read through it and decide whether it wants to be a novella or a short story because it’s currently that weird length that no one wants. Too long for most short venues, but not long enough for novella venues. Probably just needs a hefty trim. I’ll figure it out. But I keep getting distracted by reading, which is what I want to ramble about today. Obsessive reading. When books take over everything. You know what I mean.

When I was younger, pretty much everything I read pulled me in. Except the stuff I was forced to read. But Harry Potter, anything Stephen King, Neil Gaiman. Stuff like that. I’d get obsessive over it. The books were all I thought about. If I wasn’t reading, I wanted to be reading. And eventually, I burned myself out. I even went a few years without reading anything except the books I was assigned in school. It was hard to start reading for fun again. Even in grad school, I read every day, but I wasn’t particularly into it. It was weird.

Honestly, it’s still weird. I’ve been out of grad school far too long and reading is still mostly a chore. I’m usually reading two books at any given time, one to review and one for fun. If I finish either of them ahead of schedule, I have another book ready to go. But it is a schedule. For the review books, I literally count the days and figure out how many pages I have to read to finish with enough time to write the review. And it’s rare for me to deviate from that plan unless the book is super good. My for fun books usually get my attention for half an hour before bed. And I’m okay with this. Usually.

But occasionally, I run into a book or series that demands my undivided attention, like the series I’m reading now (the Simon Snow trilogy by Rainbow Rowell). I’m seriously obsessed. You have no idea how much effort it took to pull myself away to write this post. I’m a little ashamed of it, to be honest. But this feeling makes me so very weirdly happy. It’s an escape. And it’s so rare lately that I forget what it feels like until it happens again. I can only remember two other series (the trilogy with Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor) and a stand-alone (Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell) making me feel this way in the past fifteen years or so. I have to enjoy it while it lasts.

And now, I’m going to force myself to read the two chapters I need to read in my review book, then slip back into Simon and Baz’s world until dinner. What books or series have you obsessed over lately? Are you the type to obsess? If not, what drives you to read? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages!