Good morning everyone! I hope your days are treating you well and you are bright with purpose and warm with contentment. We are officially one month (and a few days!) into 2022! I have entered the year with great trepidation. After all, we were foolishly hopeful for 2021, and look where that got us! Personally, I feel like I’m stuck in purgatorio, trapped in that place Dante Alighieri talks about between heaven and hell where the root of all sin is caused by too much of a good thing. For me, that’s hope. It’s always hope. Hope is the most beguiling and manipulative mistress. Like a fine wine, I drink too much of her and grow lightheaded and fluttery, but she crashes down and leaves in her wake shards of despair and smatterings of fury.
That is a bit dramatic. Poetic, but dramatic.
All to say – I’m at a crossroads at the moment, personally. I’m not a patient person when it comes to my own path and I struggle when I feel unable to control situations. I’m in that uncomfortable place where possibility confronts change and it all requires waiting and I don’t… love it. January has been another mentally challenging month. I grow weary of these things. Don’t we all?
The weather has turned quite cold here in Massachusetts and we’ve finally gotten our first major snowstorm. Where I live, we measured in about 18″. Some areas got more, some got less, but 18″ is plenty snow for me! I love to look at snow from windows and exist with it as a backdrop, but other than that, I am quite happy to stay indoors and curl up with a good book. It’s not a particularly abnormal winter storm – we used to get so many more of them – but they are never fun to dig out or drive in. I am nonetheless grateful for my corner of the world because blizzards are the worst we get.
Cold weather means more time for … reading? … Maybe? Well, lets talk about January.
Historically, January is a big reading month. I’m not sure why, but it’s like the new year brings a brand new vigor to my reading. In both 2020 and 2021, this was my most prolific reading month. In line with my comments earlier this month and in December where I want to be kind to myself, I told myself: “Self, remember you said you were going to be kind? Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.” And I’m trying, I really am. Sometimes, I’m afraid if I don’t force myself to meet self-imposed projects and deadlines, I’ll falter altogether and fall into a hole where I sleep too much and do nothing productive with my days and give in to the agony of burnout. I really hate burnout, so I usually pretend it’s not there until everything falls apart.
As I kinda sorta mentioned on my annual wrap ups, I’ve been running on fumes and I still am with no end in sight. My reading is a little less than usual. I know it shouldn’t matter – you all tell me this every month and I know it’s the truth even though I don’t pay attention to it. There have been some days when I’m listening to an audiobook – and it’s a good book – and I’ve had to rewind and turn it off because the words are going into my ears, but my brain is a black hole and nothing was processing. So… that’s my month in intellectual pursuits and I’m not beating myself up here but I’m kinda also beating myself up and it’s fine.
Not at all related to the actual reading, but I kind of love the color scheme of this months colors for the blog. Maybe it’s just because there are two purple covers….
In January, adventurous books led the charge! No surprise there as I definitely prefer a good quest that’s going to sweep me away. I also leaned toward emotional books and dark books. This seems right – a lot of the stories were a bit heavier this month and/or had troubled characters. I preferred medium-paced books in January and most of the things I read were between 300 and 499 pages. I favored fiction as usual, but did manage to read a couple non-fiction books. I’m happy with this – used to be I read only fiction, but I like learning new things so even though they’re slower reads, I think it’s good I’m mixing in more non-fiction. I also leaned more towards audiobooks (love audiobooks) but nonetheless managed to read a bit of hardcopy and even snuck in an ebook. That ebook was The Rumor Game and the review for it will drop this week. I’m very excited because that ebook is the last of my ARCs and it means I can focus on my hardcopy a bit more. I still have ebooks – I downloaded a bunch of free ones on my Kindle many years ago I never touched, so reviews will be popping up here and there. Still, they’re that much less urgent. Genre-wise, January was mostly young adult books. Right behind that were fantasy books and LGBTQIAP+ books. My average rating this month was 3.83 stars. About half my books rated 4.25 stars and the rest were all over the place. No five star reads yet, but I have high hopes for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which I’m reading right now.
Of all these books, I liked Iron Widow the most from by hardcopy reads. It was so angry and driven and different from my usual reads. I’m used to reading fantasy and science fiction, but the anime-esque sci-fi in this was really compelling and I loved Tian’s character as a whole. Her fury was overwhelming and really interesting to read. And I guess villain stories are the rule of the month, because from my audiobooks, The Bone Witch was my favorite! I guess I’m getting jaded reading books about heroes? Both these reads are excellent and if you want a different sort of story with a lead character who gives zero f***s I recommend both these books.
I came a little shy of my person goal of reading four hardcopy book in January. I think I would have beat it if not for that one ARC! Have I mentioned how freeing it feels not to have any more ARCs due?
I read three hardcopy books in the month of January, and I enjoyed them all! That’s always a nice feeling. Sneaking in The Bronzed Beasts right there at the end, too! I’ve been working on my reading habits before bed. Unless I’m too tired and know I’ll fall right asleep, I’ve been going up early with a cup of herbal or green tea and cozying up in bed with a book. Lately, it’s been Zodiac which I’ve been anticipating for a while and really enjoy! It’s become routine enough that Reggie, our tuxedo cat, is totally on board and he comes up and cozies on the bed beside me while I read. So, cat pets and reading. It’s practically idyllic and very good for the soul.
This month, I read Under the Black Flag, Iron Widow, and The Bronzed Beasts. Since I enjoyed all three… I kept all three! I also hauled five books this month, so … oops. Again, definitely buying more than I’m getting rid of. Down to a shelf and a half left on my last bookcase with no more places to put other bookcases….. Two of the hauled books were from my brother as a belated Christmas gift. Otherwise, I had preordered Huda F Are You?, Extraordinary, and The Midnight Girls. All three of those, as preorders, go right into the upcoming TBR. I know I have more preorders en route for the first few months of year as well. After that, unless it’s a book I really want… I think I’m going to slow down on preorders. I just need to weed through my collection, and if I’m always reading preorders, that won’t happen, you know? 🙂
Where we left off last month, I was working on Fate and I still am! There fewer coffee shop visits early in the month since the one I was regularly visiting was closed for a few weekends because of holidays. Late January my writing partner and I convened at this lovely shop a few towns over that had the best pao de queijo I’ve ever had and … tried to write. She and I were both struggling that day, but we tried to keep each other a bit accountable. We’re meeting again at the end of February!
I’m working on a mix of rewriting and meshing content I have from two other attempts to rewrite a certain scene. I feel like I’m getting stuck and going too slowly. This is a constant frustration with me in my writing – I always feel too slow. I’ve had feedback that my scenes go too quickly, so I struggle to ignore my inner senses. This scene is in the second chapter and still setting up the first major incident. I’m adding a new element of mercenaries and I really like the idea and I know how to incorporate it as a whole, but I’m struggling with the balance of information and story movement.
Anyway, I spend a lot more time thinking about it than actual writing.
Still waiting to hear critique on that first chapter. I’m dying to go back and rework a certain part of it where I think the physics and emotional reaction don’t work the way I want them to! Not sure if I’m just obsessing or it’s actually a problem.
These are the things that get in the way of my writing.
Oof, I have a lot to say here. Far more than I expected!
First, if you’re new here, a belated welcome lovely people!
In mid-January, my Problematic Authors page was featured on @ambersbooks on TikTok and… blew up. Her video has 106k views. In one day, my blog got 18k views. That’s astounding to me. You’ve got to understand, before this, The Literary Phoenix averaged 240 views a day. 700 views was mind boggling. 18k views left me speechless, a bit panicked, and extremely grateful. Amber is so lovely, kind, and helpful, and I’m so appreciative of the spotlight. If you’re a TikToker, please go support her channel!
With this influx of traffic, I’ve had so many well-meaning people reach out with more suggestions and additions for the page – all of which I appreciate. I have a grand list and I’m working on things as I can (I usually can only devote 1hr/day maximum to the blog as a whole, so bear with me!). I’m working on writing a sort of FAQ for the main page of that section as well as some better navigation. Thank you so much for being here and supporting me and making conscientious reading choices!
What’s New on the Problematic Authors page?
In Code Yellow, we have two new additions. First, James Patterson. This one was a bit complicated because Patterson uses so many ghostwriters… is it him or the ghostwriters making these choices? Ultimately, I decided he needs to at least be Code Yellow because if nothing else, he must review the books. And he puts his name on them. We also have Kiersten White joining at this level due to her And I Darken trilogy which has been criticized for Islamophobia. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising, as I shared these criticisms in my And I Darken review.
Code Orange brings us one new author – L.M. Montgomery (Lucy Maud Montgomery) who you may recognize from her extremely successful Anne of Green Gables series. As a historical author (Montgomery died well over 50 years ago), much of her content would not have been considered problematic at the time, but aged extremely poorly. In particular, her books Tannis of the Flats, Kilmeny of the Orchard, and A Tangled Web are heavily criticized for racist sentiments and there’s a bit of ableism sprinkled in as well. Fortunately, this has been recognized by modern keepers of her novels and they are being accountable for the poor choices.
Unfortunately, we have three additions to Code Red this month. First, a few people have mentioned it but also it was time… Jay Kristoff is Code Red. I’ve expanded his section to include both his antisemitism and the 2021 Goodreads Awards dramatics. I learned from this experience that Kristoff is one of those people who deletes bad content, so bear with me and should you happen to catch something, be sure to screen cap and repost so the evidence is not lost.
Also in Code Red are two new authors: Sarah J. Maas and George R. R. Martin. If you missed the 2020 Hugo Awards… look them up and they’ll tell you everything you need to know about Martin. As for Maas, she was a long time coming for book content if nothing else and came requested after the traffic boom.
As I mentioned above – I have your requests and on top of all the other authors I have to research myself, I haven’t forgotten about them. Researching authors – especially the ones that come up problematic take time as I work to round up evidence. I appreciate your patience.
All the Posts You May Have Missed…
I think perhaps the most important thing to mention about January is yes I finally saw Encanto and it’s an absolute delight. 20/10 recommend. If you’re on social media, you probably have at least two if not all of the songs burned forever in your memory.
January has been light of adventures other than my continuing coffee shop rotation. I mentioned in the writing section that I visited a coffee shop with amazing pao de queijo. I also found a new coffee shop a little closer to home that I really like. They only serve fair trade products which I really appreciate and it’s warmer (both in temperature and environment) than the one I was visiting previously on the regular. Plus they are open Sundays which I appreciate. Sundays are my “ugh tomorrow is work – I give up on everything” day so going there on Sunday adds a little light to the day.
This doggo is named Jelly and she was visiting with her humans for most of my last Sunday trip. Is she not precious? She greeted everyone at the door but had zero interest in going outside. We had a snowstorm the day before, so the snowbanks beside the sidewalk came almost up to my knees. As usual in New England, the vibe in the shop was vibrant with snowstorm talk. Blizzards are one of those things that bring everyone together in our communities – talking about their own experience, troubles, and delights. There was a lot of joy and gratitude in the shop that morning because everyone there had successfully escaped their homes! Huzzah!
Other than my coffee shop adventures, we were able to attend a concert in January. We hemmed and hawed about this, unsure we would go because of COVID. On the day of the concert, I was down and empty and I had to be cajoled out of bed after work to leave the house. But I’m glad I did.
The concert had been rescheduled because of COVID, so the venue was only about half full. We were alone in our row, which was really nice! We saw Halestorm and Evanescence. For those unfamiliar, they’re both rock groups that are headed by incredible female singers. I love Lzzy Hale’s energy, but nothing beats Amy Lee’s voice. Incredible. And she’s so much better in person than on the tracks.
I grew up listening to Amy Lee and Evanescence, but I didn’t really start going to any concerts (in general) until I was an adult. I can count on one hand the number of concerts I’ve been to (it’s four). I’ve been lucky enough to see Halestorm twice – once with Shinedown and once with Evanesence. I know these groups are probable old or you’ve never heard of them, but the power and energy of both the singers is awesome. I really recommend checking them out if you like rock at all. Rock is still an extremely challenging genre for women to enter and find success – they’re usually relegated to pop, country, or hip hop. Amy Lee and Lzzy Hale and Hayley Williams (Paramore) are some of the most notable names from my generation who have found some success in the genre.
The show was filled with such joy and gratitude and it was the pick me up I really needed. Halestorm’s bus actually exploded a bit the night before (nobody was on board!) and there was so much gratitude for the safety of the band… between the explosion and COVID there was joy for life. For being able to tour again. While it wasn’t the biggest venue, it also wasn’t the smallest, and yet, it felt like an intimate show. I just… appreciated it, appreciated being there. If I had to pick one highlight of my month, it was that show.
So first things first – I’m actually going to be away for the bulk of February because I’m heading back down to Disney with some of our dearest friends. I’ll be coming back with more of a scoop on the 50th Anniversary, Festival of the Arts, and so forth – travel content posts that will take us through the rest of the spring. It also means I may not reply to comments promptly while I’m away.
February will be a light reading month for me because of the trip – I “do” Disney, not just “go to” Disney, so there’s no time to read. I do have several reviews already scheduled since two ARCs are releasing thing month that I’ve already read, plus I entered February with several books nearly finished, so the blog itself will keep running in my absence.
We also have a bit more on my last Disney trip, including lightsabers at Savi’s Workshop and more food reviews! I’ve got a book vs. movie on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as well… plus a couple others you’ll jusst have to watch for. And, if you missed it, I recommended a bunch of books by and featured Black authors for Black History Month last Wednesday – check it out!
Here’s my upcoming hardcopy TBR – as usual, audio is a bit unpredictable as it depends on what’s available for loan. I should have a review on Zodiac coming up in the next couple weeks and I hope to read Steelstriker as well. Because of how often I’ll be on the go this month, I’ll be happy if I can manage those two.
OH. And the SEQUEL to TESS OF THE ROAD came out!!!!!!!! I’m still waiting on my copy but my heart is full of excitement. I don’t think I’ll be reading it next month – I will put it in my TBR line and wait with sweet anticipation. But I am EXCITED.
I hope you all had a beautiful January and I’d love to hear about it! The start of a new year has the capacity of being bright and hopeful and joyous and I wish all of you that goodness in your lives.