Witchy Reads for this Autumn (part two)

Here’s part one! It just became a truly too long post.

Books I recommend

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness & the rest of the All Souls Trilogy for the historian protagonist that explores a supernatural world riddled with old artifacts, powerful witches and immortal vampires, featuring time travel and a lot of romance. It’s also got a tv series which is fun, but as these things often do, gives no explanation or coherent plot like the books does. It’s been a while since I read this, and would love to reread it.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (full review) for the YA with fun, dramatic moments, a city of witches & their families, covens arguing and lots of lesbian/bi girls.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik (full review) for the fairytale vibes with wizard (more so than witches) who takes a girl from the village every ten years for mystical reasons, a fierce protagonist that never makes it boring as she creates hell for the wizard and great friendships. It’s more so on the fantasy side, but it has a lot of the village, dark forest and fairytale elements that I look for in the books I put on this list.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman should be a book everyone has heard of, but among the angel, demon, antichrist and a coming apocalypse, there’s also the full title “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch” and Agne’s many-great granddaughter Anathema (Practical Occultist and Professional Descendant) who really brings out the essence of this book; there’s a lot of chaos, including being hit by a car, but it all plays into this cosmic order in some way.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo (full review) for the breath-taking illustrations and short stories that is fairytale-inspired. It’s more fantasy than a lot others on this list, but at the same time truly delivers on its promise of “midnight tales and dangerous magic”.

Other Witchy Books on my TBR

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik for its school of magically gifted where failure means certain death and you’re not allowed to leave. Also a grumpy loner of a protagonist who has a powerful dark magic that might be strong enough to beat the system, but not without its risks. The promise of dark avademia, magic and monsters, with a lot of bloodshed & slytherin vibes is truly alluring. BTW: since I wrote this post I’ve seen a lot of questions brought up around if this book has racist elements. Of course, I don’t feel qualified to discuss that further. The author has apologized for one of the things pointed out around using a racist stereotype of dreadlocks being dirty, but if it is as bad of a – well in best case it’s a mishap – as it seems, it truly is strange how it got through the editing process of such a famous author.

Enchantée by Gita Trelease for the Paris 1789 setting, smallpox, a witch going from petty theft to trying to rob Marie Antoinette to support her family.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden for its Russian wilderness winter and arctic fairytale-inspired fantasy where the protagonist has special abilities like her mother, but her new stepmother forbids her from practicing and evil starts to seep in. Some focus on the conflict between christianity and older religions. A lot of trigger warnings!

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas for its gay trans boy that tries to prove himself as a brujo to his family by summoning a ghost, but then is stuck with the school’s former handsome bad-boy as he has unfinished business. If he’s not in love with this ghost by the end of it, I’m screeching.

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron for the fantasy inspired by West African mythology with a non-magical protagonist born into a family of witchdoctors trying to defeat her powerful sister. Also the love interest is of course of the enemy family. It’s dark and has enough trigger warnings that I’ll give a reminder to search for them before reading it.

Books I disliked, but you might like

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova for the ones who want a powerful latina bi protagonist who don’t want to be a witch (review). She is the most powerful bruja in a long time and also hates magic. Not to mention the responsibility put on her by her family. I didn’t finish the book because I thought the writing was lacking and nothing out of the ordinary, but she’s got an attitude that made me smile. It’s a story about a girl trying to save her family, but in a way that felt very ‘let’s go on an adventure’ and predictable.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anne-Marie McLemore for the trans mc, flowery young adult magical realism, also literary flowery with roses growing from skin (review). It’s another book I didn’t finish, but only because I’ve found out that I don’t match with the authors way of writing (after multiple attempts at other books), which I truly find sad as they use such interesting plots and cast of characters. I mean – the synopsis is so good! And it’s a romance between a Latina girl and Italian-Pakistani trans boy. It focuses on finding yourself, it’s vulnerable and the author is queer, latinx & nonbinary married to a trans man.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vol. 1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa for the graphic novels lovers (review). I didn’t really like this at all as I felt the charm and interesting aspects to Sabrina the teenage witch was completely removed. Would much rather recommend the tv series, as it’s roughly the same story, but with more fun elements as well as dark ones. It’s definitely a teenage soap tv series, but an interesting one. I want to still read Season of the Witch by Sarah Rees Brennan, which is a Sabrian novel published last year, but I only have hopes for it because I like that author already. It might be that both of these things were published to create more interest around the tv series, which I find disappointing if they all tell the same story.

Honorary Mentions

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is the book series I look back on having read a long time ago, being like “it was good, but basic”, but if you’re looking for a quick read I wouldn’t be above rereading it.

Kiki’s Delivery Service, the ghibli movie, is something I wanted to watch for a long time, but finally did this summer. It’s so perfectly adorable & worth it!!

Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers by Taisia Kitaiskaia is a illustrated book on my TBR, more about the magic of literature than witches, but it’s supposed to draw connection between witches & visionary writers, which I’m just guessing means connection between treatment of visionary women (like writers) who tend towards feminism. If anything I want to own it for the gothic art. “Pick a shelf” has a really good review of this unusual book!

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller | Book Review

Pages: 352

Genre: young adult fantasy, lgbt; gender fluid mc

Synopsis


Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive. 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three stars (in doubt)

I very much feel like this is the queer & that way better version of Throne of Glass with its deadly auditions to become the Queen’s new assassin. What was a pleasant surprise was how the main character never was very vicious in their thought-process or tried to defend their actions, their reasoning behind taking lives were very business-like and unapologetic. It was a hard life, the would-be assassins knew partly what they were signing up for and people were going to have to die. The problem this brought with it was that Sallot wasn’t a very likeable main character, I always felt like I never got to see their whole reasoning or that it was just very shallow. They were smart enough to make it somewhat reasonable how they got out of deadly attacks, and without the smaller, cute and helpful moments with their servant Maud none of it would’ve worked towards the end. Otherwise the book is very built on cheesy, typical fantasy plotlines. The queer characters makes it better, especially Sallot using he, she and they pronouns based on how they present, but I would only recommend this book as a Throne of Glass alternative. The YA fantasy part of it was very obvious, in a not good way. I’ve since learned it was a debut, and I’m not very surprised as I felt it was half-finished.

The writing was very mediocre, especially I found myself struggling to care about the fight scenes and plotting scenes for traps, which I usually adore, because of the writing. There’s so much potential in the characters, the magic and them being masked, but it just doesn’t end up somewhere. Even though I’m really not a big Sarah J. Maas fan anymore, she does bring a certain fire to the motivations behind the characters, which was lacking here without anything to replace it with other than shallowness. If Sallot had been a true sociopath I would’ve nearly prefered that, as it would’ve brought an interesting element.

I read this book right after finishing “Ship of Smoke and Steel” by Sjango Wexler, which was extremely similar as far as the protagonist’s voice went. While that book was lacking in many of the same ways, except it handled the queer aspect a lot worse, that book built parts of a truly interesting world powered by magic. Here there were just no world-building except the knowledge that Sallot knew how their entire country had been destroyed and wanted revenge for it. It should not be a surprise when that’s not enough as a reader. But for anyone disliking this book for its protagonist being nothing special except gender-fluid; fuck off.

Witchy Reads for this Autumn (part one)

Witchy books I recommend and a couple I want to get to, along with a few popular ones I disliked. I’ve tried to keep the most fantasy-heavy books out of this list on purpose, and keep it more in the magical realism realm. Also, if you’ve got any recommendations – especially with queer witches – send them my way!

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw (full review) for a magical realism story about a small-town by the sea cursed by witches, the protagonist moving to the lighthouse on the island and uncovering the mysteries behind the magic.

Circe by Madeline Miller (full review) for the greek mythology fantasy set around a girl alienated because of her witchcraft and the great journey of self-discovery unlike much I’ve seen in other books. She’s truly going through the process of owning her powers and deciding what she wants in life while she’s in exile. Also greek gods & protecting yourself from pirates, of course.

The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (full review) for the peculiar magical realism travelling into the fairytale world while following stories of magic and destinies through generations of witches starting with a girl born with wings.

Witch Child & Sorceress by Celia Rees for the child-friendly witchy book with a historical setting. Actually it was some of the first witchy books I really liked. It’s been a long time since I read them, so I’m not going to vouch for still considering them original enough now, but goodread friends seem to all agree with the child version of me that they’re good. I do think the first book is the best one, told through ‘lost’ journals.

The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney also for the kids, but more scary. It’s about this boy becoming an apprentice, which entails hunting after all kinds of supernatural creatures, including dark witches.As the series continues, we go from a boy getting into a cool, but dangerous job to starting to think about moral questions like ‘are all witches evil?’ as new characters are introduced. Still, this series really manages to incorporate just how terrifying some of the creatures are, becoming lost in the magic. Definitely anti-church in some ways that gives it more negative reviews than it should have. And while it has a lot of supernatural evil, it measures it up against the ‘human’ evil the apprentice & the mentor meet as well in their job. It gives you chills, but also makes you think – at least it did for me as a child.

Other witchy books on my TBR:

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey for its bisexual love interest, magical witchy school and and promise of lots of blood, violence and other questionable things. The protagonist has zero magical skills, but tries to outweigh it by having good detective skills, a drinking problem and when all else fails – a witch sister to help (probably). It’s an urban fantasy/murder mystery standalone, and also contains several f/f relationships.

Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter for the protagonist being a secret witch tired of her patriarchal town’s bullshit, and helping a lesbian shapeshifter during a witchhunt. It’s a novella. I found it trough a list of anti-heroine book recommendations, so excited about finding out the reason for that.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor for the fantasy set in Nigeria where the albino protagonist who recently moved from New York gets bullied, but through finding her magical gifts finds a friend-group and her people. Forming a coven, they start tracking child kidnappers.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning for the small fishing town, mermaids, princes & a witch mourning a dead friend. It might be somewhat of a Ursula origin story.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn for the King Arthur legends retold with a black girl as the main character. The death of her mother leads her to an early college program where she meets a witch. Well, it’s more of a fantasy so technically there’s this whole race of people called Legendborns that use magic, but they’re descendants of King Arthur & his knights – so in my head they’ll be witches. Also contains lots of queer kids, secret society politics and demons.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson for its rebellious feminist biracial main character who is marked as cursed from birth in a dystopian, puritanical society with major abuse of power. It’s a horror story of a fantasy, with promises of being gothic, dark and bloody, set in a secluded village with witches in the forbidden forest & lots of village politics. It’s also a debut novel from an author that seems truly cool.

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw (same author as The Wicked Deep) for the haunted fairytale-like woods, a boy once lost in a snowstorm with no memories of how and a witch falling in love with him as she tries to uncover his secrets.

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco for its sicilian twin witches – streghe – living among humans in the 1800s trying to avoid persecution, until one of them is murdered. A new release with a story of vengeance, sarcastic bad boy demon princes and dark magic.

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft for a short story collection about witches that I’ve only seen praise about, with a diverse cast of characters. I want to read about all the queer witches.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu for the graphic novel about a Chinese-American teen witch who works at her queer grandmother’s bookshop selling spellbooks and investigating supernatural occurrences. Has a non-binary werewolf main character as well. I can’t wait to get my hands on this, I’m expecting a Kiki’s delivery service type of wholesome vibe, only more demons involved.

Books I disliked, but you might like

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins for the teen drama at a witch & supernatural creatures reform school, complete with ancient secret societies and classmates being attacked. You get what you think you get, if in a very predictable package plot-wise and stereotypical characters (not in a bad way, but in a predictable one). It’s fun, the protagonist self-aware & fast-paced. Good for young teenagers looking for a light read.

Half bad by Sally Green is included on this list only as an excuse to link to my old (like five year old) review ranting about how creepy the writing is. It’s a good example of a book being read and liked by people who doesn’t usually read about witches, just because it’s got enough cliches to be avoided by everyone else. There’s little magic, little back-story or any context clues, a lot of running around, a lot of whining about being half-black half-white* kind of witch making life difficult and a lot of angst and torture for some reason. It has an exciting ending. *Not to be confused with skin-color, the protagonist is white, and also describes the love interest what I considered creepily (and in rhymes), including noting her ‘honey’ skin. 16 year old me thought the racial undertones throughout the whole book was problematic, but I can’t remember enough to conclude anything and don’t want to put myself through reading it again.

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton (full review), same author as Ava Lavender, for its witches living on an island where their magical abilities seem to fade with each generation. My problems came with not being able to know enough to buy into the setting of the island or connect with the cast of characters, I felt they lacked depth.

the return of autumn and corona, i guess | Bi-Weekly Update

New book posts:

Other books I’ve been reading:

  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk
  • Paper Girls vol. 1 – 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
  • The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  • When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll

Added to TBR:

  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (urban fantasy with anti-heroine)
  • Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (horror with mermaids, f/f)
  • Merchants of Doubt by Oreskes and Conway (science, climate change)
  • Enchantée by Gita Trelease (set in Paris 1789, historical, witches)
  • Plain Bad Heroines by emily m. danforth, same as the author of “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” (horror, boarding all girls school, sapphic dark academia)
  • Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft (short stories, witches, queer characters)
  • Kingdom of Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco (young adult fantasy with witches)
  • Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, same author as Mexican Gothic which I would like to read as well (horror with vampires, set in Mexico City)

Three things on my mind:

  • Maybe rewatching two seasons of Hannibal in two days are not what you should do when you’ve been sick (with a sinus infection, not corona, I’ve done two tests) the whole week and only just gotten good enough to walk out of the house for food, but it did feel worth it at the time. I’m going to have to reconnect with the outside world and actual people again now, so wish me luck there.
  • I have since starting writing this rejoined society and I wasn’t aware of how much I was missing (of course my friends but more specifically) older students and the motivation they bring by just existing and being passionate about their degree or certain physics fields. This semester I’ve found myself constantly questioning why I’m doing this and not just taking a year off, because the constant struggle between hospital visits, bad health and trying to complete my second year during a pandemic is tearing me down. I feel I’ve reached some kind of personal conclusion now, but I do think we need to remind each other than no matter what one person is going through right now they’re also going through a pandemic. It’s difficult to support one another when we’re not supposed to socialize outside of friendgroups, but I think it’s something we need to find creative solutions for fast.
  • Speaking of it; Corona has made a comeback here this week. I’m so deeply tired of it, as we all are of course. We’re again stuck in the middle of not knowing how bad this outbreak is right now before it’s been another ten days or so. Motivation is sinking among the student body, or at least my friends. I have a whole lot of hospital appointments for chronic illness this fall and I’m worried that they’re going to be postponed, but at the same time I’m passed the point of worry for much of this. I’ve lived in such a heightened state of awareness as a young person in the risk group that I don’t know how I’m going to react this time around if (at least partly) lockdown happens, but it will definitely be different, because it’s become our new normal to such a degree.

Graphic Novels: dark fairytale, dystopian & fluffy gay romance | Short Reviews

I’m having a bit of a hard time reading as I’m busy with studying (2nd year physics student) as well as ill at the moment (no worries, thankfully not corona, I’ve been tested twice). So it’s the perfect time to again read as many graphic novels that I could get my hands on! Here’s some of my other graphic novels reviews.

Through the Woods by Emily Carrol

As I begun reading I was sceptical because the illustrations were breath-taking from the start, giving all the dark fairytale vibes, but I didn’t know how much of a substance the plots would have. A few pages in it truly got much better, as the fairytale twists got mysterious, exciting and dark. It’s made up from several different “short stories”, some more red riding hood inspired and some that reminded me some of Coraline and some of the podcast The Magnus Archive. Reading this felt like playing a game where you know every decision is a bad one. I also immediately ordered the author’s other graphic novel «When I arrived at the castle»! 5/5 stars.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vol. 1

Plus points for being dark, but that’s the only positive in my eyes. I was excited for this as I truly liked the new TV series made from Sabrina the teenage witch. But this graphic novel drains any personality Sabrina is known for out of the character. I get that setting up somewhat the same plot as the TV series does in multiple episodes is difficult in one volume, but it just isn’t done with any charm at all. I won’t be reading the rest of the series as I felt it has little potential. 2/5 stars.

Paper Girls vol. 1 & 2

First impression of volume 1 was that I liked the retro apocalyptic stranger things vibe featuring a teen girl squad. It didn’t really get further into the plot or explanation than unexplained aliens, but it was also a lot to set up. It’s about a group of girls out delivering newspapers when they get caught up in this mystery of disappearing people and frightening strangers hunting after them. 3/5 stars.

Volume 2 had a higher chance of keeping the suspense up without as much of the confusion, which made the time-travel, sci-fi aspects much more enjoyable as well as delving into an interesting cast. Not to forget how monster tardigrades was a thing I didn’t know I needed in my life before now. I yelped out loud from surprise and happiness – I can’t explain it either. It’s just a good mix of chaos & the unexpected. Like the looming, flying ships that came into the picture suddenly. The color scheme is also truly lovely.

If I would criticize something it’s the ‘feminism’ branding push that seems a bit ‘off’, not that I’ve looked further into reasons behind it. It’s a similar feeling that lingers as from the casual homophobia that makes an appearance in volume 1, as if that was something that just belongs with the retro vibes. It was called out by other characters, so I just mentally noted it down as strange for now and makes me second-guess the future dynamic of the friendgroup somewhat. 4/5 stars.

Heartstopper vol. 2 & 3 by Alice Oseman

Review of vol. 1! To sum up I really like the author’s writing in general and that it was a truly cute, important gay coming of age story. And I love the illustration style. And this is true for the second and third volume as well. My only critique is a somewhat big one; a lot doesn’t happen in each volume. It feels like the story told could’ve been cut down in some ways, but at the same time I realize it’s aimed at a younger audience for the most part and I’m so happy it just exists. 3/5 stars for both.

Procrastination Book Tag

I’ve done this tag over two periods of time; taking two exams some time ago and trying to catch up a week’s work in a couple days. Since it was the perfect time for this procrastination this book tag that was too good to pass on. I can vouch on how I procrastinated on finishing the tag as well, love/hate that 90% done feeling. Also the graphics of the questions were so cute.

The Rules …

  1. Thank the person who nominated you. 
  2. Give credit to the original creator of the tag (Kate @ Cover to Cover Book Blog). 
  3. Link back to the original post.
  4. Nominate other bloggers whose procrastination preferences you’d like to know! 
  5. You DO NOT have to wait for a nomination to do this tag! Nominations are optional.

Cue me searching up what epistolary means. (It’s a novel written as a series of documents according to wiki). Truth is I rarely like romances and I rarely like epistolary novels so I don’t have a favourite epistolary romance book. (One of the reasons I really disliked Illuminae tbh).

I have read a small part of the great & strange House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, which I think of as more of a horror novel, but has surprisingly also been categorized as a love story by the author – I didn’t get to that part. Definitely would like to continue it someday.

Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston (full review) is the cutest enemies to lovers story ever feautyring one gay royal and one bisexual son of the US president.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (full review) is about the fabolous, dramatic life of a fictional movie star that feels so real I was constantly wanting to google details on her. Also has f/f romance and queer characters.

The Selection by Kiera Cass (full review) is just a classical YA story with a prince looking for a future princess through a reality show of sorts, but it has enough essence to it to be interesting and a quick & fun read.

My twitter (@esoffee); mostly book-related stuff and cute animals, I think.

Do any of us truly like twitter? I thought I did and then corona happened and the answer was no. Follow Hank Green, I guess?? He’s a good one. And read his new book A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, it’s worth it.

Before book blog there was book tumblr and it’s still up & going. I would take so many more book photos if I didn’t get physical book so much more rarely now (all these photos are old).

Zero Sum Game by S. L. Huang (full review) truly surprised me as I knew it was about an anti-heroine going in, but didn’t anticipate the high level of action plot and bloodbath mixed with math references and unique superpowers. How can you both like and dislike a main character that much at the same time??

I mean – most of them? If we want to add a part of “but also sucked”; I started reading the twilight series very young as they came out, like definitely younger than nine years old, because I remember it was before the last book was published. I truly enjoyed reading the first books, but by the last one me & my friends was just reading it together and laughing at it. It’s dear memories even so.

Of the ones I truly enjoyed that still has too much brainspace even though I read them a long time ago is “The foxhole court” and the rest of the series by Nora Sakavic.

I have a list of Mermaid & Siren Book Recommendations, where I found out I truly enjoyed the process of focusing more on reading about a specific fantasy/mythology creature and should make more different ones, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Auto-Buy Authors was a good one that represents me & my fav authors.

Because the theme is bullet journaling this list of The Eleven Books I Never Seem to Finish (Part One) (and Part Two) fits perfectly as well. I think it’s awesome when people talk more about the books they struggle with going through as well, we’re not perfect and lose interest or concentration.

In the non-book-related sphere I really liked how to (not) do your first year at uni (physics major) turned out, even if it was truly a pain to write because the things I added here was things I was telling the new students arriving in real life as well, at the same time, and I wanted to get it as right and helpful as I could, while trying not to be preachy.

Any fantasy series by Brandon Sanderson, but especially “The Way of Kings”. I want to make a post of ‘here’s where to start with reading brandon sanderson’ included (not that you can’t find it online), but Mistborn is a good first book to start with as well. It got the epic-ness of multiple POV’s that Game of Thrones have, but in a more (not-medieval) sci-fi/fantasy and magical world and with a completely other feelings, but truly still brilliant.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green is a sequel so I won’t say much about it, but the way multiple POV’s was used here really warmed my heart and soul, it was so good.

I truly love this trope of enemies to lovers, but I’ve only now started its own goodreads shelf so I can answer just this question quicker. The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic and Red, White & Royal Blue (review here) is to great ones.

I truly love great books with great friends, a strong focus on platonic relationships gets me over romantic ones every time. Books like that is I Think I Am in Friend Love with You by Yumi Sakugawa (my review), Wilder Girls by Rory Power (my review), The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic (yes again, but it’s the best complicated friendgroup), Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (my review). And not to forget The Secret History by Donna Tartt, the ultimate dark academia classic-loving friendgroup that goes too far and does bad shit together. Did make me look at manipulation in friendgroups in a different light afterwards, which is fun and terrifying.

Anyone who wants to is happily welcome to refer back to me and claim I tagged them, because I’ve procrastinated getting this done too long to take the extra step there. I think that fits (too much) with the theme.

Exciting New Book Releases Summer/Autumn 2020

So I made a exciting book releases for spring and summer and also a short one with queer summer books, but then I forgot all the July book releases, so that’s included in this as well I guess? Mostly fantasy, young adult, queer, sci-fi, but also some poetry and a graphic novel.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

Release date: July 7th

Why I want to read it: I’ve already bought it, I just forgot to add it to my latest list. It’s the sequel to Hank Green’s first amazing novel and here’s a review all trying to explain how much I loved that one.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Release date: July 7th

Why I want to read it: a fairytale vibe story based on Persian mythology about a princess who’s poisonous to the touch. I’m looking forward to demons and a great character development, let’s see this girl own her powers.

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

Release date: July 7th

Why I want to read it: Loved Wilder Girls by Power, and looking forward to more horror involving young adult-age girls, without it really being YA. And w/ all the sapphic vibes! It’s about a girl trying to find her past & old hometowns, which is pretty vague.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Release date: July 7th

Why I want to read it: Any m/m romance being compared to “Red, white and royal blue” piques my interest, mostly for the enemies-to-lovers trope & slight political setting that hopefully promises. Here we also get fake-dating for publicity.

The Year of the Witchling by Alexis Henderson

Release date: July 21st

Why I want to read it: a promise of feminist fantasy & discovering dark powers. Also witch / church conflict. I mean, I’m always looking for good witch books.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Release date: September 1st

Why I want to read it: a trans guy summons a ghost, which then creates a lot of trouble for the hell of it. Also ownvoices for trans & latinx elements of the book.

To Sleep In a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Release date: September 15th

Why I want to read it: the first sci-fi book by Paolini since his Eragon series – that seems like both a hard thing to write & something I’m very curious about

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Release date: September 15th

Why I want to read it: grieving her dead mother, witnessing a magical attack on campus, a mage by the name of Merlin that tries and fails to vipe her memory, investigating mother’s murder, learning that there exists a group of ‘Legenborn’ magicians that are descendants of King Arthur & magical war – this young main character is getting put through a lot. Also has a bi mc and lesbian and nonbinary characters, secret societies and demons.

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

Release date: September 22nd

Why I want to read it: Hyberbole and a half by Allie Brosh is one of my all time favourite humor comics/graphic novels.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Release date: September 29th

Why I want to read it: magical school!! but this time by an author that I truly adore, so hopefully done right or in an interesting way. A YA fantasy where monsters lurks everywhere and frienships are hard to come by as everyone is struggling for survival. And a main character who’s got powerful dark magic.

Sweetdark by Savannah Brown

Release date: October 8th

Why I want to read it: I’ve enjoyed Savannah’s poetry & writing in general for a long time. Pleasure, chaos, apocalyptic vibes, vulnerability – it all sounds very exciting.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater & Morgan Beem

Release date: October 13th

Why I want to read it: It’s by Stiefvater. But also I’m a sucker for the completely opposite, but inseparable duo. Very interesting to see how the illustrations turns out in this graphical novel as well as just how alive those swamps they discover are.

My Favourite Podcasts 2020 Update

I used to do this series of favourite podcasts last year, and then I started uni and got friends (hahahha, more like didn’t have an hour commute anymore tbh) and stopped listening to as many. But now there’s covid-19 and well – I’m back to loving podcasts.

Podcasts previously mentioned that I still listen to a lot:

(Let me know if you want to discuss any of these, honestly! I’ve linked to where I wrote more about them. I can’t believe there’s this few now compared to before, and yet there’s so many.) Reply All by Gimlet Media, Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green, Ologies by Alie Ward, Nancy by WNYC studios (it just posted its last episode though … find me crying in the corner), the Legendarium, Cortex by CGP Grey and Myke Hurley, No Dumb Questions by Destin Sandlin and Matt Whittman, Hello Internet by CGP Grey and Brady Haran, Dear Hank & John by John & Hank Green, Delete This by Hank & Katherine Green and the Wikicast by Simon Clark and Dan Maw.

‘New’ Podcasts I Love

SciShow Tangents

  • The SciShow team: Hank Green, Ceri Riley, Stefan Chin and Sam Schulz
  • Weird and funny science facts centered around a topic, with the group (mostly Hank) going on a few weird & funny tangents as well. The group just has a great dynamic and different levels of background knowledge, making it very accessible. I still sometimes miss the video couch format of the ‘beta-version’ (in my mind) Holy Fucking Science though.

The Catch and Kill Podcast

  • by Ronan Farrow, Pineapple Street Studios
  • Made as a continuation of the book Farrow made by the same name where he goes through reporting on the revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults, but also how NBC tried to manipulate and hold him back. The book goes very much in depth on the pattern of different powerful people’s assault & manipulation, and then the cover-ups. I would recommend listening to that audiobook as well if you’re even more interested after finishing the podcast.
  • The podcast is a good ten-episode summary focusing more on just Weinstein and how the women he assaulted took brave stances to take him down, in addition to the last episode with Rose McGowan made after the verdict of Weinstein.

Two Headed Girl

  • I would probably listen to anything Alex Cox puts out tbh, but their partner Mattie Cox is so amazing in sharing his story transitioning from female to male in this podcast, taking the listener with them on every step of the way and being so vulnerable. It seems to be both a podcast to process and document this time of their life as well as explain and teach anyone who wants to listen.
  • Their own pitch is “Welcome to Two Headed Girl, a new show about gender, mental illness, and all sorts of transitions made by a couple of married queers trying to figure themselves out.” which sums it up pretty pretty good.

Lovett or Leave It

  • by Jon Lovett, Crooked Media
  • I found this podcast, while actually already knowing about Jon Lovett before, because I was trying to find more interviews with Ronan Farrow and he happened to have made a rare recent podcast with his partner Jon Lovett because of being in quarantine together. But it’s news-related, trying to bring it with some humor where possible. These corona/Black Lives Matter days it’s more interviews and segments, with jokes in between, which is a great mix if sometimes news-related things are too much.

Wind of Change

  • by Patrick Radden Keefe, Crooked Media
  • Eight episodes in total of 1990’s rock music or more specifically how and if the CIA was involved in writing the famous “Wind of Change” by the Scorpions, the soundtrack of the revolution aka Berlin Wall falling and the Soviet Union collapsing. Really, it’s a podcast about how the CIA operates, how propaganda works and how far a journalist is willing to go to figure out if a rumor from a credible enough source is true.

The Scaredy Cats Horror Show

  • by the Reply All team Alex Goldman (horror fan) trying to convert PJ Vogt (scaredy cat) for Gimlet Media. I don’t know how I found podcasts pre-university because apparently I found a lot, but since then I’ve basically just become aware as existing podcasters I listen to have started new ones.
  • It’s basically an experiment of ‘can you gradually get used to horror movies so you’re not as afraid of the really scary ones anymore’. I’ve listened to the five episodes so far without watching any of the horror movies, and the only one I truly wanted to watch out of them was Midsommar, but I have definitely brought horror podcasts and stories into my life in a bigger way, so maybe it actually worked anyway?? I’m confused about that, but it’s great. Also fun to listen to PJ Vogt actually being really scared, sorry for laughing about that, I would be too.

The Magnus Archives

  • by Jonathan Sims and Alexander J. Newall from Rusty Quill
  • There’s a 173 episode back catalogue as of right now, but after a few days I’m 35 episodes in and hooked. It’s a horror podcast with a huge fanbase (and soo much good fanart). As far as I’ve figured, it starts out really episodic with different people coming into the magnus archive to tell about their supernatural experiences and get them investigated, and then the archive itself is attacked and it gradually becomes more of meta storytelling. Would recommend it even if you’re not such a big horror fan, like me. The stories themselves (at least at the start) are not that horrifying, but the storytelling is just amazing.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power | Review

I’ve gotten so into horror after reading this book, which I did for hours during the night as I couldn’t sleep. I was visiting my boyfriend and he absolutely thought I was a bit more strange trying to explain this book and how well it balanced between fantasy and horror in a unique way. Most of this unique feeling I think came from the perspective, it all being about and told by teen girls. Anyway, I’ll get back to that.

Pages: 357

Genre: young adult (don’t agree), horror: disease & body horror, lgbt (queer girls, slight f/f relationship, but a lot of yearning), some mystery vibes, set in a boarding school on an island. quarantined (which will be a genre i guess).

Warning: it has a lot of trigger warnings, pls search them up before reading

Synopsis

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five stars

here’s me arguing it’s not YA

This book has amazing cover art, but I think it did the book a diservice, along the fact that it’s branded as young adult. I feel like this is a larger conversation that I keep having, but not everything with teenage characters (especially female) is YA! It doesn’t have a great rating at goodreads (3.58) and I think it’s because people isn’t expecting what they get unless they’re like me that added this to their TBR as it was released a year ago and then now saw one book blogger (don’t remember who oops) saying it was more horror like, which got my interest again.

the friend-group & characters

SO! An all-girl high school on an island where most of the teachers die off on the beginning of the the two year quarantine, where everything starts up pretty simple and then reveals so much more complex moral, practical, society & science-related questions. It’s reveal after reveal and a constant search for who is the good & bad guys, which gives the mystery vibes. There’s a strong queer friend-group & chosen family trope, but not with likable characters. Think about it – unlikable female characters, violent at that. Most reviews I’ve read lists that as a main issue they had, but I feel like a lot of this book is the experimentation of fierce, reckless, dangerous girl characters, who also have other sides to them. Some of it can be excused to this disease they’ve all got and are dying from, the Tox, mutating their bodies in graphic, unique and eerie ways. But they’re also shaped by living in a two-year life & death situation, along with maybe not being the perfect complacent & normal main characters in the first place.

I WAS SHOCKED at having seen one girl of the friendgroup having been described by the main character Hetty in one adoring (almost worshipping) way the whole time. And then we got the other girl’s narrative and she was so different, with clear sociopathic/violent tendencies. But still it was revealed during a situation where you as a reader wanted to feel bad for her, which is when I truly cheered for this duality this book accomplished.

the island setting & writing

Every description was done so well and fit the mystery and horror aspect as the island they’re on takes as much part as any character. It makes so much sense with the quarantine aspect, the fact that one of the characters has a dad she hasn’t seen in a year living in those woods. The woods are alive and overgrown, as is the mutated animals, which is a threat. I’m just surprised by how much the author got into one book tbh. It’s also a lot of fun to read, surprisingly!

conclusion

This book has the mystery, murder, dark humor and boarding-school vibes of Maureen Johnson’s ‘Truly Devious’ mixed in with any dystopian bad-government, mutated animals, body horror you can think of, all with a good dash of forest aesthetic and eerie, descriptive writing. It’s one of my new favourite books and I would totally recommend it. Just don’t expect it to be YA or to like most of the characters.

Quote with slight spoilers:

Queer Poetry Collections | Short Reviews

I thought I’d already reviewed these poetry collections and then realized that I forgot I saved them up for pride month seeing as I ‘acidentally’ read poetry collections from only queer authors there for a while.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Favourite poems: ‘Notebook Fragments’, ‘Prayer for the Newly Damned,’ ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’, ‘Trojan’ – nearly all of them in other words

I’d heard a lot of good things about this queer author, but I truly didn’t imagine the vividness he brought. Everything in here contains so many aspects, like when looking at violence. Vuong brings another level of honesty and delicacy to it, while not softening that violence or its consequences either. Vuong is extremely good at looking into and describing the different layers of his story; of being mixed, coming from a refugee camp in the Philippines to America, the Vietnam war and how this all plays out in the dynamics of his family and relationships. I think I’ll reread this after I finish his newer debut novel ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’, because it so far gives more backstory to where he’s coming from and I like it even more.

Felicity by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is my all time favourite poet, basically, and I wrote a whole post on it this pride month. ‘Felicity’ is one of her later works (even if it’s from 2005 so … not that recent), which I seem to prefer generally. I truly enjoyed this collection as well; it’s about love, memory, being oneself, belief and loss. It’s still a bit outside of her usual work, as love is so much a general thing to try to write about, and Oliver usually finds her excellent moments that carries the poems in the small things, inspired by nature or humans alike. Meaning it’s not the collection I would recommend someone to start with, but it’s still good and gives a better perspective on Mary Oliver as a person and her relationship to her late partner Molly Cook. In trying to describe something so universal as love, she reveals more of herself than before.

Soft Science by Franny Choi

I was so into the concept (from the synopsis) of: “explores queer, Asian American femininity” and “how to be tender and feeling and still survive a violent world filled with artificial intelligence and automation”. Unfortunately, I just didn’t understand most of the poems because of the fragmented style. The reason I make short reviews of poetry often is that, as someone who’s not a poet, reviewing poetry is strange because it feels more up to personal-taste than any novel. Still, I would shy away from not recommending a collection to someone, in hopes they get something from it.