Shoutout Saturday (What I’ve been reading!)

Havenfall by Sara Holland

To be honest, I went into this book not expecting any more than your standard YA fantasy will deliver–your bookish, shy protagonist, love triangle, and, I don’t know, some sexy elves or something. But boy, did this book take me by surprise–in the best way possible.

It follows Madeline Morrow, whose family runs an inn in a small, remote town called Havenfall. Although this inn looks ordinary from the outside, it serves as a meeting ground between three magical realms every summer, for a peace summit. Maddie loves this inn, and fantasizes about growing old there, in this town she feels so safe in. Until everything goes wrong–and that dream comes true, in the worst way possible.

What’s so fascinating about this book is how well it twists the normal fantasy adventure format completely on its head. Maddie never actually enters any of the fantasy worlds she knows so well, and has no real desire to. Despite that, though, the lands of Fiordenkill, Byrn, and Solaria are still fully developed, and feel very rich and real.

It’s one of those worlds you just want to get lost in forever.

The Dragonet Prophecy By Tui T. Sutherland

If you’ve taken even the tiniest peek at my Wattpad page you know that I am a pretty big Wings of Fire fan. The series meant a lot to me growing up, and honestly got me through some really dark times.

So what is Wings of Fire, you ask? Well, it’s a middle grade series, set in the world of Pyrhhia–and what’s so interesting about it is that rather than being these cool side characters or plot devices, the dragons are the protagonists, with their own thoughts and hopes and dreams. The first arc centres around five young dragons who have spent their whole lives underneath a mountain, who have been supposedly prophesied to save the world, and somehow stop a war that’s been raging for almost twenty years, and is tearing apart the continent. The only issue is, they don’t really know how to do that.

The series follows them along their adventures, as they come to terms with their past, and find the courage to make their own futures.

Each book is told from a different dragon’s perspective so even if you don’t like one of the protagonists, there’s something for everyone.

This series has meant so much to me throughout the years. And I know it might seem a bit childish, but it makes me happy, and that’s all that matters.

There are a lot of books–which I’ve been currently doing a massive reread of. The Dragonet Prophecy is the first one, so make sure to start with it if you want to check it out.

Artemis By Andy Weir

In seventh grade, I read The Martian–aloud to my whole family. It was kind of our thing back then, back when I had enough time and energy to read aloud to my parents for hours on end. Anyhow, it was pretty much my favourite thing in the world at that age. I always meant to check this book out, but I just never got around to it until now, I guess.

Artemis is set in the city of–you guessed it, Artemis, a moon colony, described as being the home to wealthy tourists, eccentric billionaires, and the impoverished working class. Our protagonist, Jazz Bashara, falls into the latter category. She emigrated when she was six from Saudi Arabia to Artemis. After leaving home at around sixteen, she had to resort to smuggling, in addition to her day job to make ends meet. Through this, she ends up getting tangled up in this whole web of crime, and I won’t say any more than that because I don’t want to spoil you and also I suck at summaries, but basically, this book is my favourite genre: fuck capitalism in space.

I don’t know if this was intentional or not–but this book defines the Gen-Z/Millennial experience of growing up in a world set against you, and it’s not afraid to discuss the “us against them” mentality that experience tends to induce, and the moral grey areas financial desperation can push you to.

This book is heartfelt and smart and funny and true, and I would 100% recommend checking it out. 🙂

Wilder Girls By Rory Power

I picked up this book a little while ago at my local bookshop, and since than it’s become one of my favourite books of all time. I got home, and read the whole thing in one fell swoop–which I don’t do often, but it was so good I just couldn’t bear to stop reading.

Despite being set in the modern age, this book kinda has the same vibes as those “Victorian child school drama” books, as my friend likes to call them–you know the ones I’m talking about! Like, historical fiction books in which the main characters felt absolutely nothing beyond mild satisfaction or discomfort, and wore knee-length plaid skirts and Mary Janes. Except Wilder Girls is a lot more badass and feminist. (And psychological-thriller-y.)

Wilder Girls is the story of Raxter School for Girls, a boarding school located on a remote island. This school used to be your nothing more than your idyllic, mildly creepy boarding school, until the Tox hit;a disease turning the bodies of these girls into something strange, mutated, and not quite their own. (Some of them have lost eyes, some of them have grown tails, or gills, and many have died in the process.) They have been quarantined on Raxter Island, their only contact to the outside world the shipments of food that are dropped on the shore. (I know, it sounds a lot like the current COVID situation–and there are definitely similarities, but it’s not as on-the-nose as it sounds, and the Tox is definitely its own independently horrifying disease.)

Right away, what stood out to me was the beautiful writing style. It’s hard to describe–lavish, and yet sparse, emotional and distant. It’s one of my favourite books of 2020, and no matter who you are, or what your normal taste in books is, you need to check this out.


Okay! I think that about wraps it up. I really loved just geeking out about all these books, to be honest Shoutout Saturday posts are so fun to write and always cheer me up. I really hope you’ll check all of these books out, they just make me so happy.

Lots of love,

dragonwritesthings

Shoutout Saturday! (Podcasts you need to check out now)

Hey guys! Welcome to a little series I’m calling Shoutout Saturday. As a creator, I understand how frustrating it can be to put a lot of work into something only for it to go unnoticed. So I hope in this series to highlight some books, songs, podcasts, blogs, musicals, custom sticker-maker companies, whatever I’m into that week, that you need to check out now–with a focus on smaller creators. I hope you’ll give all of these amazing podcasts some love, because oh my gosh, do they deserve it.

I have a job gardening, and it’s a very mindless process for the most part honestly–I don’t need to be thinking too much while pulling dandelions or whatever. So, to make the time pass, I like to binge-listen to podcasts, as one does. I’ve always been a huge auditory learner, and loved the format so much–so podcasts are just something I’ve become incredibly passionate about. Here are some of the shows I’ve been loving this week.

Write Now with Sarah Werner

I listened to Girl in Space (Sarah Werner’s other podcast, an absolutely breathtaking audio drama you should also check out) a while ago, and loved it. I had always meant to check out her other show, never really got around to it. Until a few weeks ago, when on a whim I looked this gem of a show on Spotify on a night when I was struggling, and oh my god, I am so glad I did.

It does to me what I hope my work can do for you. It is empowering, honest, and kind, and if you’re a writer you need to listen to it. It centres around helping writers reach a work-life-passion project balance without sacrificing their mental health, and is never afraid to acknowledge the truths of that struggle.

The host is always so open, and humble. And whenever I get lost in the pressure, and lose sight of why I want to do this, Write Now is there to pull me down and remind me of who I am.

(Also, the theme song is an absolute jam, and not gonna lie, I have shamelessly danced to it in public with several people watching before.)

The Penumbra Podcast

I’ve been shamelessly binge-listening to this one, not gonna lie.

It’s a mash of a lot of different genres, and within the larger Penumbra universe there are also short stories set in this medieval universe, that are usually a lot more light and funny. So basically, this show is absolutely for you if you’re picky about your podcasts–they have something for everyone. But for the sake of my sanity, we’re going to try and keep this relatively short, and discuss the main story–which follows private eye Juno Steel, as he solves mysteries and whispers melodramatic monologues into your eardrums that occasionally make me either want to smush him in a hug or laugh out loud in very public areas. The mysteries in this show are so amazing, and never cease to surprise me. It’s funny, heartfelt, suspenseful, you name it–this show can pull it off beautifully. The universe feels so sprawling and rich; it’s one of those stories you could get lost in forever.

They also have really amazing LGBT+ representation, which makes me very happy. (Oh, and also, their intro SLAPS.)

The Magnus Archives

Before I started listening to The Magnus Archives, I didn’t think I was a horror person. But boy, did this show prove me wrong!

The Magnus Archives is a horror audio drama following Jon Sims, as he explores the Magnus Institute—an organization dedicated to documenting and investigating paranormal activity.

It is a very slow setup, which was hard to get into for me. But once you get to the action, it’s such an addictive show. The way it approaches horror is so interesting—it makes sunny days and department stores and trains feel terrifying in this deep, existential way–as a pose to your typical stormy night or whatever. It is so undeniably modern, which is also I think part of why it always hits so close to home. It has this way of tapping in to primal human fears, in a way that will resonate with almost anybody. I guarantee that if you listen to this show for long enough, you will find at least one episode that hits just a bit too close to home.

It’s not all horror, though–there’s romance, there’s workplace comedy, there’s a cat called The Admiral, and so on.

If you have mental health issues, I would highly recommend listening. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but as someone with anxiety, it’s served as a wonderful way to explore my fears in a safe way. It also has the guts to actually discuss mental health. The latest episode, “Wonderland” took place in a mental hospital, and going into it I was a bit worried it would be problematic. But holy crap, was I wrong, because this episode just blew it out of the park; it might be one of my favourite ones ever.

The horror element of this mental hospital was not people getting treatment–it was people getting treated by people who did not have the qualifications to treat them, or their best interests at mind. Being taken off their meds, and gaslighted into believing they did not have a mental health issue, and the problem was in fact that they were just a terrible, selfish person. This element really hit home for me, as someone who has had similar experiences in real life. (All episodes include content warnings in the show notes, so you’re covered for any potentially triggering content.)

I don’t want to tell you any more so as not to give you spoilers, because this show is just so well done, and you need to listen to it now—especially if you don’t normally like horror.

Tides

Tides is a small audio drama I listened to a while back, that just finished its first season. It is the story of Dr. Winifred Eurus, a xenobiologist trapped on a foreign planet. I’m trash for a good “fuck capitalism in space” podcast, especially with a cool mystery. (And aliens. Love me some good aliens.)

The sound design in this show took my breath away. It’s so gorgeous, even if you don’t care about the plot, which you should because it’s executed so wonderfully, please listen to it just for the beautiful audio. It is such a soothing show to listen to.

I also listened to this while I was quarantined, and the character’s isolation and frustration with how long it was taking to be rescued was very relatable for me.

The Strange Case of the Starship Iris

I listened to this show a while back, but since then it’s remained one of my favourite audio dramas. It’s also a relatively small show that needs more attention, it actually just finished its first season!

As the title implies, it’s a science fiction show, about how capitalism is terrible. (Just kidding, it’s about more than that. But also how capitalism is terrible.)

It centres around Violet Liu, who I would probably take a bullet for. The show begins with a devastating crash hitting her spaceship, and her realizing, essentially, that’s she’s going to die. Until she is contacted and rescued by Kay Grisham, pilot of the Rumor… and shit goes down from there. It takes place in 2182, after humans have narrowly won a war against aliens, and explores this fascinating post-war world. It has found family, it has a catchy song, it has spaceships, what more could you ask for.

The sound design is breathtaking, and the characters are so wonderfully developed. All the voice actors are so amazing, there’s some cute wholesome couples, and I love it so much.

Anyhow! I truly hope you’ll check these shows out, because they’re all so good.

If you liked this post, and want more of my content, be sure to check out my podcast, Sonnets of a Teenage Wannabe, on your favourite podcast streaming platform, and give this blog a follow. All of these shows are available wherever you get your podcasts, so make sure to check them out!

Lots of love,

dragonwritesthings