So yes it’s been another good minute since I’ve updated y’all on anything I’ve read. To be fair, I’ve only completed one novel-length book since I last wrote an update in December. And that was a collection of short stories as y’all will see in a moment. However, I’ve started on N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate and am about 25% through it so far. There was also some other enjoyable reading, and I also picked out my favorite three albums of the year so far. So a couple of quick recommendations I would make if for some reason you need something to read or listen to.
Ghost Stories by Whit Taylor
This collection of three short graphic stories came to me literally by surprise. Rosarium’s Bill Campbell sent me a copy after asking if I minded being on the mailing list. Of course. So when I got the book in hand, I was immediately delighted and ended up reading it during a free evening soon after. Taylor manages to combine three different stories in three different art styles while connecting these seemingly not interconnected stories of memory and loss among other themes. As the title suggests, each story has its own take on ghosts and hauntings and challenges the reader to explore how these things affect us in everyday life. This was a great introduction to Taylor’s work for me, and I admire her knack for telling “small” stories for those of us who live ordinary lives and sometimes struggle through them.
Tender by Sofia Samatar
As anyone who has read anything I’ve written before about authors I love, then you know that Sofia Samatar is one of my all-time favorites. So I needed to know nothing about Tender when I picked it up at WisCon last year. As it turns out, this is a collection of her short stories since she had enough for a book collection. Samatar blends literary poetic style with fantasy and speculative with an eloquence that remains unmatched in my humble opinion. Seriously, this how I’m tryna be in my writing life. With that in mind, I took a look at where these stories had been previously published to get an idea of where she submitted and who accepted what types of stories. ‘Cause yes I’m taking all the notes. But this is definitely highly recommended for lovers of speculative and contemporary urban fantasy that doesn’t focus strictly on werewolves and vampires and brings to mind the type of work Octavia Butler did as well as other original creatures, both human and otherwise. By the way, favorite stories are “Selkie Stories Are for Losers,” “Walkdog,” and “The Closest Thing to Animals.”
CupcakKe – Ephorize
I’ve been getting to know CupcakKe’s music over the past couple of years, and she never failed to impress. So I wasn’t a bit surprised when her album Ephorize dropped at the beginning of the year and became my first favorite album of 2018. She has such a great flow, and her beautiful demeanor shines so much through the raunchy lyrics and subject matter. And she’s been busy this year releasing videos for singles after dropping several tracks last year. But I feel that with this album, she made even more of a statement of her talent and staying power as well as her embracing of the marginalized among us.
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
I waited for this album for close to three months when the first single “The Decay of Disregard” dropped in late December. And as two other singles previewed the album, I anticipated it even more. And I wasn’t disappointed when the album dropped at the beginning of March. Cammie Gilbert and company make beautifully dark heavy music that makes you lose yourself and admire the melody of Cammie’s voice. Following up Winter was not easy, but The Banished Heart has definitely already made it to the list of this year’s favorites as well.
Meshell Ndegeocello – Ventriloquism
I was not ready. I managed to listen to “Sometimes It Snows in April” before the album dropped, and I still was not ready. Meshell Ndegeocello is a damn genius, and she shows why with this brilliant and beautiful album of covers from the 80s and 90s that sound absolutely nothing like the 80s and 90s. Even with the severe revamping, she shows such respect for the originals even while she makes them her own. And the selections are so varied from “I Wonder If I Take You Home” to “Sensitivity” to “Atomic Dog” to “Smooth Operator.” I’ve been impressed with her concept albums as well as her forays into jazz and tributes to Nina Simone, but it looks like Ndegeocello just isn’t done surprising us and showing us exactly what she’s capable of when she’s given the time.