My favorite reads of 2021 (so far)

Summer is here, I’ve got no air conditioning in my apartment, and I’m reading up a storm! I set a goal for 25 books this year for my Goodreads Reading Challenge, and I’m about to roll past that. I’m especially proud of this, considering I could barely crack open a book in 2020. It feels good to get lost in another world again. Here are my three favorite reads of 2021 so far:

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I got really into Gothic tales this year. I don’t know why it took me so long, because your girl loves eerie mansions, ghosts, mist, and panicked women in long nightgowns searching dark hallways for the spirit of her lost lover. In fact, I have a Gothic horror short story coming out this October in Nocturne Magazine!

Anyway, this book takes the classic Gothic story and sets it in Mexico, as you might’ve guessed from the title. Oh, and this book. IS. JUICY. A fantastic combo of scandalous, sexy and downright creepy. Pretty much every Gothic trope is in this book, which I consider a compliment. And I love the protagonist. Noemí Taboada is a wonderfully refreshing bright spot in a gloomy world. You’ll be cheering her on the entire read.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

YA Fantasy is my jam. I mean, I even wrote my own YA fantasy book which I’m currently pitching to agents! But books in this genre tend to follow similar scenarios and tropes – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s always refreshing to find a unique book that blows you away.

And BOOM, this is that book. It took me a few chapters to get into it – it has a bit of a slow start – but once I was in…I was in. Girl, Serpent, Thorn has a great premise, is chockfull of detailed world-building based off of Indian mythology, and has a dreamy romance. Bonus points for how much the main character grows through this book. A solid growth arc is always satisfying.

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

This novella grabs you by the collar, yanks you along and doesn’t let go until you’ve finished the book. Without giving too much away, this is about three Black women fighting the Ku Klux Klan. Except the KKK aren’t just the KKK. They’re monsters who feed on hate, and our hero, Maryse Boudreaux, is intent on bringing them down with her magical sword. Oh, and she also smuggles magical whiskey with her two friends, two amazing women I wish were real people. Because they’re awesome.

If you want action, a wildly imaginative story, meaningful commentary on bigotry and racism, and characters so lovable you literally grip your Kindle out of fear for their lives, then Ring Shout is your book. It blew me away!

5 Things to Read, Watch and Eat in February

January was a busy month- besides talking with Oregon Public Broadcasting, I watched a lot of movies, read a lot of books, and ate constantly. I thought I could put my winter hibernation activities to good use and recommend some reads, flicks and eats. Enjoy!

Read/ListenSabriel (read by Tim Curry)

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As an awkward tween with two missing teeth and an affinity for fanfiction, I wasn’t particularly discerning with what I read. If it was in front of me and had pages, I’d generally pick it up- although there was one book that never quite caught my attention. Sabriel, by Garth Nix.

That is, until I was perusing the internet one day and found a list of recommended audiobooks. To my surprise, the top pick was Sabriel…read by Tim Curry.

Sabriel never succeeded in wooing me, but Tim Curry sure did. I grew up with Muppets Treasure Island, okay?

I took the plunge, and I’m glad I did. Sabriel is now one of my favorite YA fantasy books, mainly thanks to Tim Curry’s amazing narration. Every character is lovingly captured in Curry’s voice, from the snarking sidekick cat character to the quiet, serious protagonist. Give it a listen!

Watch: The Shape of Water

shape-of-water-poster

This movie is about a human woman and a fish creature falling in love.

I wanted to get that out of the way ASAP, because a heartfelt movie about interspecies romance ain’t for everyone. Much like your peanut butter preference- smooth vs crunchy- this concept produces strong opinions. I like extra crunchy peanut butter and weird, whimsical movies about fish-people love. Some folks don’t. C’est la vie!

I’m also a diehard fan of the director, Guillermo Del Toro. He could make a movie about a potato and I’d see it.

That being said, if you’re a person with a mind for magic, an affinity for whimsy, and a tolerance for fishy love, please go see this movie. It’s an absolutely beautiful film with a huge heart. It’s one of my favorites of all time, which I guess says something about me, but, whatever. Fantastic score, immensely charming characters, and Michael Shannon insults my hometown. Wowza!

WatchDear Stephanie Meyer

Ah, Twilight.

Similar to The Shape of Water in that it involves a forbidden, interspecies romance. Different in that it does not involve fish-people, and was lambasted by everyone you knew in the early 2000s.

But this YouTube video posits: perhaps everyone who snarked Twilight could’ve been a little nicer, more understanding of teenage girls’ interests.

Lindsay Ellis looks back on the dumpster fire that was book snobbery in the 2000s, and analyzes why exactly people hated the Twilight fandom so vehemently. Ellis’s video casts a much-needed critical eye on how we as a society view female interests, and what we choose to deem “worthy” or “silly”.

Read: I Made the Cinnamon Rolls From Mario Batali’s Sexual Misconduct Apology Letter

Frustration at systemic and deep-seated oppression of women, thy name is cinnamon rolls.

When celebrity chef Mario Batali was accused of sexual harassment by four different women, he (and his PR team) released an apology letter…

…that included a recipe for Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls.

Obviously, most people thought that addition was a little…thoughtless? Tasteless? But, no piece has so clearly shown the ridiculousness behind the letter and the fury one feels reading it, quite like Geraldine DeRuiter’s blog post.

DeRuiter takes it upon herself to actually make the cinnamon rolls, describing in loving detail how horrible the recipe is, almost as horrible as the vein of harassment that continues to run throughout culture and hound women.

Eat: Black Wolf Supper Club

21369153_278438665975084_4287013324493734580_nOut with the old, in with the new. Rising from the ashes of the much loved Belly Taqueria comes a joint in downtown Eugene that knocks my socks off- Black Wolf Super Club.

Black Wolf comes from the same folks who brought you Buck Buck, another local favorite that serves deeply delicious, unhealthy food that fills both your soul and your arteries. So, when I visited Black Wolf, I knew to prepare myself for some damn good dishes.

Black Wolf serves up Southern cuisine, with a particular concentration on Creole and Cajun dishes. I’ve only spent a hot-minute in New Orleans, but their food (and drinks) made a lasting impression on me. So, at Black Wolf, I had to go for their andouille and fried chicken wing gumbo, and a massive frozen hurricane.

The gumbo was incredible. A rich stew filled with andouille sausage, sprinkled with bright green onions, crowned with a fried chicken wing. The hurricane was bang-for-your-buck-strong, but not enough to ruin the flavor- it was delightfully tart and refreshing.

I’m going to restrain myself from going back sooner, only because I care about my physical and financial health.


Got any restaurants, books or movies to recommend? Leave a comment!

And if you’ve got a story for me, or idea for my next blog post, head to the contact page. Thanks for reading!

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