Do you ever get the feeling your body sabotages you when it wants a day off? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it must be nice, because I woke up on Monday to find my back in a state of open rebellion against the crown. I had planned to use the Tuesday holiday as a cleaning day, but that went right out the window, and I am very annoyed. The last time my back threw a plan-ruining tantrum was just after I’d moved into my current apartment in March 2022, and I was also very annoyed because I had taken the week off of work to get unpacked and then it turned out my back had other plans. I mean, there are other ways of getting my attention.

This go-round I melted down twice on Monday over my inability to complete such basic tasks as bending down to get the juice out of my fridge and getting off the floor without screeching, and it took ~10 hours and two doses of Tylenol before I could start moving around more comfortably. At the time that I am writing this post (yesterday afternoon), I have regained my abilities to lie down, get up, sit on a chair, wash dishes, and cook a pot of ramen with significantly less pain than on Monday, when the pain was so overwhelming that I couldn’t even pick up the Panera bag my DoorDasher left out for me, much less sit down long enough to eat anything. (As to how I got it through the door, I kicked it into the apartment like a soccer ball and then used my toes to lift it onto a box that is eventually going to be donated, and from there was able to pick it up.) It remains to be seen whether I’ll make it through work today. Right now (Wednesday morning) I’m also cramping, and I’m low-key worrying that the cramps might be the effect of too much Tylenol. I have been keeping myself from accidentally OD’ing on Tylenol, but it’s fucking hard.

My bratty back is the only downside in a weekend that has otherwise been lovely. I have watched Nimona five times since the day it was released (i.e., once a day; on Monday I was feeling so sorry for myself that I watched it twice and regret nothing). I finally started rereading Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) in preparation for both my long-delayed review and the upcoming second season, and Mossflower is flourishing. Yesterday I visited my first NMT mystery island and brought back tulips and coconuts, and have now planted coconut and peach trees, though fucked if I know where I got peaches from when my island has apples. I don’t think I brought any over from Jelly Cove, but don’t know where else I could’ve gotten them. I’ve also maxed out my pockets and Mabel gave me the tailor’s shop construction kit today, so I’ll have my Able Sisters soon. As some slight consolation for the agony I suffered Monday, I even managed to catch my first-ever ocean sunfish, which is now living in my shark tank and is almost worth the hours I spent wallowing in bed. Almost.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2023

Oof. If we’re not including rereads, of which I have had many, it’s a close tie between Hamnet and The Marriage Portrait (Maggie O’Farrell), with the very slight edge going to The Marriage Portrait in spite of my problems with the ending. I just love literary fiction so much, and these two did not disappoint.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2023

I was a little apprehensive, given my feelings on the quality of the writing in Daughter of the Moon Goddess (Sue Lynn Tan), but I needn’t have worried. Heart of the Sun Warrior made me feel things I didn’t even think I was capable of feeling, and I am so glad I finally read it after months of stalling, though admittedly this is actually pretty fast for me. The writing is still awful, but I like to think that Tan will improve over time.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

Every time I buy a new book I say I’m going to read it immediately, and then I don’t. With that being said, I do not want Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea (Rita Chang-Eppig) to get sucked into the TBR void. I have been failing hideously this year in my own diversity goals, largely due to my impromptu Redwall series reread, and I really need to fix that.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Last year it was Nona the Ninth (Tamsyn Muir) and this year it was going to be Alecto the Ninth until I checked the publication date and realized that Alecto is actually scheduled for release next year, and now I am le sad. T_T I don’t know anymore what I have to look forward to wait what do you mean C Pam Zhang has a new book coming out. C Pam Zhang wrote the phenomenal How Much of These Hills Is Gold, and I had no idea she was writing another book because I don’t pay as much attention as I should. Land of Milk and Honey is currently scheduled for release September 26, and I can’t wait.

I have also just learned about Furies, an anthology of feminist-themed short stories. Margaret Atwood is a contributing author, so obviously this is also a must-buy; and I might as well add The Hexologists (Josiah Bancroft) to the list as well, because I have been going through the goodreads New Release pages and every time I look at them again I find something else to intrigue me. I am on the fence about Divine Might: Goddesses in Greek Myth (Natalie Haynes) because A Thousand Ships was one of the worst books I’ve read this year, but, well, I did say I would read Haynes again if she decided to write a book entirely about the Greek goddesses.

Biggest disappointment

A Thousand Ships (Natalie Haynes) made substantial promises and failed to deliver on all of them. I don’t understand how, in this day and age, we can label something feminist without doing our due diligence. I say this in the review that is currently scheduled for August, but it bears repeating: if you are going to claim that your book empowers women, it has to empower every woman, not just the ones you personally like. Haynes should be ashamed of her treatment of Helen, especially as she herself debunks the whole argument that Helen is at fault for the Trojan War. This book was such a tiresome disappointment, and, even though I said I’d read a Haynes-authored goddess-themed book, right now I’m not so sure.

Biggest surprise

I am currently at 39 out of 72 books for 2023!!! This is genuinely a surprise, because last year was so abysmal in terms of reading that I wasn’t really expecting much from this year. Going forward, I might keep my future yearly goals at 72, or even scale them back to 60. I love reading, but I have a lot of other things on my mind, and I really need to find some better balance between reading, blogging, and the bazillion other things I want to be doing with my time.

Favorite new author (debut or new to you)

I mega-stan Maggie O’Farrell (HamnetThe Marriage Portrait). I added her to my auto-buy list this year after finally reading her books, and I am kicking myself for not having read her sooner.

Newest fictional crush

Okay I know I said last year that Wenzhi was not allowed on my fictional crush list but hear me out because goddammit I have changed my mind T_T

Newest favorite character

I might have to go with Mephi, a talking sea serpent first introduced in The Bone Shard Daughter (Andrea Stewart). The ossalen are the best part of that series, which has been giving me some serious trouble. I also really love Jovis, and I am starting to warm up to Lin. Nisong and Ragan, on the other hand, can go drown. IYKYK.

Book that made you cry

Ugh how much time do you have. Heart of the Sun Warrior (Sue Lynn Tan) probably made me cry the most, both in terms of liquid volume and passion. That being said, I am always ready to burst into tears at the slightest bookish provocation, which is odd because under non-bookish circumstances I almost never cry.

Book that made you happy

The entire Redwall series has been making me so. Fucking. Happy. I love these books so much that I am already planning to reread them by series chronology next year. They are sweet and cozy and adventurous and packed with amazing foods, and I don’t have enough good words to describe them. They are absolutely everything I needed this year, and I am seriously going to start taking notes on my favorite Redwall dishes.

Favorite book-to-movie adaptation this year

N/A as of yet, but I am living in anticipation of the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Suzanne Collins) movie!!! And I just want to put it into the universe right now that, even though the book is and always has been a solid three stars for me, I am so happy that they got an actress who can actually sing to play Lucy Gray. Rachel Zegler has a beautiful voice – no mouthful of cotton balls here, again, IYKYK – and the rainbow ruffle dress seen on the poster exceeded my incredibly low expectations, and I am really looking forward to seeing her on the big screen. (As for Coriolanus, he’s just Ken.)

I’m also waiting for the second Dune (Frank Herbert) movie, though with slightly less anticipation even though the first was phenomenal. I am not a Dune book enthusiast, and I’m waiting to see how they handle Chani because she doesn’t last long in the books.

Favorite review you’ve written this year

It’s a tie between A Thousand Ships (Natalie Haynes) and Heart of the Sun Warrior (Sue Lynn Tan), which is slightly ironic considering the difficulty I had constructing each review. Still, results matter, and I am very pleased with how both reviews turned out. As of this writing, they are both scheduled for publication in August. In general, I will say that I have really been on a streak with the reviews I’ve been writing this year, possibly because more practice = better reviews. I’m hoping this is a trend that will continue.

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

I can’t decide between Untethered Sky (Fonda Lee) and The Porcelain Moon (Janie Chang). They are both so beautiful in such different ways. I wasn’t even planning to buy either one of them, but they hopped off the BN shelves and into my arms, so what the hell was I supposed to do? Just tell them that I couldn’t take them home?

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

I want to finish the Redwall series, which I am currently on track to do. I’m not sure at the moment if every Redwall review will make it onto the blog this year – even with my twice-a-week publication schedule, I still have a lot of content, and I am trying so hard not to post back-to-back Redwall reviews. This is something of a problem, because I have been reading these books and reviewing them at a steady clip, and I currently have more Redwall content than I know what to do with, with more on the way. I also want to read the second and third Thursday Murder Club books (Richard Osman) in anticipation of the fourth, which is hitting shelves in September, and I really need to reread Pachinko (Min Jin Lee) and watch the rest of the show, though that might not actually happen.