F/F Magical Book Recs | #PrideLibrary20

I’m joining in on some of the #pridelibrary20 prompts, hosted by The Library Looter, Michelle Likes Things and Anniek’s Library throughout June. Here’s a link to a summary of my posts from last year.

Today’s prompt is f/f relationships and I’ve tried to gather up some fav f/f romance books of the more magical realism or fantasy genre. Because I’ve been even more into the blend of cottagecore aesthetic, queer girls and magic lately. Ahh, the gay side of tiktok has got me with it’s #wlwcottagecore and my need to be more outside safely after this quarantine.

There’s also Queer Girls YA Book Recommendations #1 if you want more.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

  • Horror magical realism with queer girls trying to uncover the mystery of the island the main character moves to as more and more girls are killed off. Definitely has enemies-to-lovers trope and folklore coming to life, with living in lighthouse, trying to save your loved ones before it’s too late and an actual cult.
  • Queer girls, including mc, and asexual character.

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

  • More straight-up fantasy, but definitely not straight.
  • The main charcter is an orphan that has magical abilities, something that belongs to the upper classes in the society she lives in. She’s low-key criminal with a fierce spirit that lands her in prison, where she meets a stranger ( ~ a traveller from distant lands who is not bound by conservative customs ~ ) that transforms her life, and also starts a slow-burn of a f/f romance.
  • This one scene of the mc trying to find the place she was supposed to meet up with a stranger, without knowing anything about this outside world, wandering around the woods is burned into my memory. As is her confusion as she’s brought along, breaking into abandoned buildings with no explanation. The inncocent, brave, awkward gay vibes is immaculate.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

  • Witchy found-family type of young adult book
  • Contains fun, dramatic moments, a city of witches, covens arguing and lots of lesbians. Has more strong friendships than relationships. Meaning some f/f relationship, also some lesbian exes trying to get along and not always suceeding.

Similiar books on my TBR

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

  • All girls high school put under quarantine (ahh made last year, pre-corona), where they get infected and die one by one and described as more of a horror vibe and survival story following this queer friendgroup.

Magic for liars by Sarah Gailey

  • Urban fantasy/murder mystery standalone with bisexual love interest, a magical witchy school and lots of blood and violence and other questionable things. Also several f/f relationships.

Short reviews from quarantine: young adult

I’m just going to be doing these laid back short reviews for a while I think, because I’ve got time, but not nearly enough energy hahha. Hope everyone is doing well, feel free to just chat with me in comments or on twitter regardless if we’ve talked before! I promise I won’t be quick to answer, but I would love to.

These short reviews in particular are books I read a while back, but only had collected a couple sentences about.

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3) by Holly Black

I truly loved The Cruel Prince. I kind of enjoyed/tolerated The Wicked King. I really didn’t care for The Queen of Nothing. My feelings reading this book; I love Jude Duarte so much, but this is just filled with expected turns and lacking plot. I really wanted to like it, but I just feel like Jude’s character is going constantly one step forward and two backwards in terms of how bold she is or how much of a villain/hero she is supposed to be. Make her darker or give her some good reasons, I don’t know. 2/5 stars.

I wasn’t planning on reading this book anytime soon, but at the beginning of the year, this book was on a free-for-all bookshelf in my hostel in Edinburgh, calling to me.

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) by Maureen Johnson

I loved Truly Devious as well. It’s a good enough sequel, following the same type of mystery boarding-school vibe as the first one. You certainly get further in the story, especially about the old mystery at the school the main character is trying to solve. But it was also lacking the freshness and felt a bit repetitive. I’m still excited to read the third book, but a bit less hopeful I guess. 4/5 stars!

Funfact: reading the first book I definitely appreciated how all the different characters was the best at their skill. Especially Janelle’s character and how creative and stereotypical engineer-mind she had. But since then I’ve met and currently live with someone who’s the guy’s version of her and I definitely realized so while reading this. I can never say my wild plans out loud anymore, because suddenly they go from theoretical to “ahh actually, if we do it this way” … and me facepalming.

Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

I was going to write a longer review, but my copy is far far away from me and then also my notes in it. Yes, I do write in my books, especially if they are pocket books.

There were lots of small things I loved in this book, but it was very much the interactions between characters I already loved from The Raven Cycle. Stiefvater has said that you could read this series as a stand-alone, but I’m not sure I agree. Call Down the Hawk didn’t feel as coherent as a book, and for me it floated on knowing the history of these characters. Like Ronan interacting with Adam’s new college friends and their too-complex card game, especially as Adam is trying to urge him to remain calm. Knowing more about how dreaming magic worked was really cool. And another upside is that I find it hard to imagine someone not falling in love with Ronan or Adam at first sight. In general I’m glad this book exist, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the Dreamer trilogy! 4/5 stars.

“Do you understand? For you, reality is not an external condition. For you, reality is a decision.”

Call down the hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Short Reviews: DNF (magical realism, queer, classics)

Some books I stopped reading, but still want to share my thoughts about.

1984 by George Orwell: I joined my first book club and was so excited, got through 40% of this book, and wasn’t able to go dicuss it. I probably will give it another try, someday. I’ve heard the ending described as amazing, but as for now I feel like I’ve already read so many books that has taken inspiration from this one (both for worse and better) to the point where nothing in it feels revolutionary or intriguing to me, even though it clearly was for its time.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova: I had hope for this latina bisexual main character witch and her story. But then, in the very beginning, she meets the mysterious guy and obvious future love interest, and it unravels from there. It just felt badly written. And then the mc fucks up and has to save her family and I got flashback to Percy Jackson going to the underworld, but without knowing any of the characters enough to care what happened to them. I got 40% through (it’s starting to become a cursed percentage).

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore: here’s another queer book (with trans main character) that I wanted to love. I’ve given this book a couple tries. It seems that McLemore’s writing is just not for me. It’s flowery magical realism, with a lot of imagination and interesting aspects. Which is absolutely something I love, but not in this case. I would whole-heartedly suggest to give it a try and see for yourself!

Exciting New Book Releases Autumn 2019

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Release date: 1. October

Why I want to read it: I’ve barely peeked at reviews, not wanting to be spoiled, but my excitement kind of faded with the mixed reactions I’ve seen. But it’s Leigh Bardugo and while I disliked the Grisha trilogy and loved the Six of Crows, I’m willing to give it a try. I do generally like darker themes in books..?

The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) by Philip Pullman

Release date: 3. October

Why I want to read it: I REALLY REALLY REALLY LOVED LA BELLE SAUVAGE AND IT’S SO SHORT TIME UNTIL THIS BOOK WILL BE IN MY HAAAANDS. yes i’m extremely excited.

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Release date: 5. November

Why I want to read it: I’M SCREAMING OF EXCITEMENT. IT’S RONAN LYNCH’S LONG-AWAITING STORY. IT’S STEIFVATER- ONE OF MY ABSOLUTE FAV AUTHORS.

The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer

Release date: 5. November

Why I want to read it: I grew up loving the Artemis Fowl series and when I heard of this I was so damn excited. Along with the new tv adaption I’m really hoping to not be absolutely let down.

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Release date: 5. November

Why I want to read it: I liked, but didn’t love, The Wicked Deep by the same author, but still I really liked the tone and writing of it and willing to give this a try too.

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Release date: 19. November

Why I want to read it: It’s the third book of The Folk of the Air and while I disliked the second book, I’ve got too much invested. Also Holly Black is one of my fav authors. I’m just really nervous where this is going and I don’t like Jude not being ambitious and as cunning as she has shown herself to be, without reason. Aaaahhh.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Release date: 5. December

Why I want to read it: The first book was a good fantasy, I’m waiting to see if this sequel can live up to it.

Short Reviews: queer magical realism & graphic novels

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

DNF’ed at 70%, which says a lot about how I really wanted this book to work for me.

I love magical realism, but sometimes I’ve found that the books I can’t get into have in common that they have no set plot making the focus feel all over the place and I don’t personally connect with the characters. Which was my problem with this one. I loved the family, the idea that they were tied to their land, the writing (well, it did get too flowery at points), and the queer girls. It feels like someone wrote a lovely world with these girls with flower magic and this lost boy with amnesia, and then just didn’t have a clear vision of the rest. Also the writing tried to push the magical feeling at points by describing the place instead of showing how the magic really could be used, or where it was hiding within the ground, story and people. I still think & hope I might like “When the moon was ours” by the author better.

But Estrella let all those things chase her down the stairs, out of the stone house, through the gardens where dahlias and calla lilies rose up around her like a flowering forest. The lawns and paths flew under her feet, but still, she ran, until the gardens thinned and the land passed from tended to wild. 

Wild Beauty by Anne-Marie McLemore p. 164

Big Mushy Happy Lump & Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

Sarah’s Scribbles book 2 (four out of five stars) & 3 (three out of five stars).

The second graphic novel felt very much similar to the first one in all the good ways. Obviously the concept of the drawing panels are further developed, but the spirit of the introverted relatable character is still all over it. It experimented with a storyline, which I didn’t like as much. Which is probably why I didn’t like the third graphic novel as much, because it really stayed to themes which felt very much like anything you would find on tumblr/twitter in comparison to the previous ones. It’s still good, but more average. Would recommend the first (Adulthood Is A Myth, full review here) and second, probably the third is worth a try if you’ve liked them.

Herding cats

The Wicked Deep | Book Review

Genre: fantasy, witches, small-town

Pages: 310

Synopsis

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow… Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters. But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

Let’s start with how great the writing was! I really liked it, simple and elegant. Right at the beginning the story really defines itself, the magical realism vibes associated with small-town witches. The setting of the town Sparrow is great and the myth built up around it. The protagonist Penny lives on an island separated from the town, and it really felt like a special place. Much of this laid on the writing, but also the character and the mysteries of the plot being built up and the secrets of the town.

Intertwined with Penny’s story is the story of the three Swan sisters being accused of being witches two hundred years prior, after arriving into the town and how the city goes after them. The city are still haunted by their murders, especially during the Swan festival in the summer.

My big problem with the story was the twist and how it didn’t work because it completely broke with the expectations built up, not just plot-wise, but the characters suddenly changed. In a way that immediately made the story lose its magic. The mystery/plot-twist was maybe resolved to quickly? The pace really changed? It can’t really be character development if we don’t see the development? Looking at you, Bo. (I really adore that name btw.) I could see the twist coming, even if it wasn’t what I was expecting, because people were acting really weird to the point where what was supposed to be “foreshadowing” really bothered me as flaws while reading the book.

If you’re looking for a great summer read about small-town witches and a bit of mystery, with cute characters and settings like an island, lighthouse and bonding over an abandoned orchard being brought back to life – I would recommed to give it a try. But it will be very taste-based how people like it, especially the ending.

SPOILERS: the moment I knew the ending

Or plot-twist, rather.

“It’s our town’s penance,” I say. “We drowned three girls in the ocean two centuries ago, and we’ve suffered for it every summer since. We can’t change it.” “But why don’t people just move away?” “Some have, but the families who’ve been here the longest choose to stay. Like it’s an obligation they must endure.” 


Penny just never associated herself with the town or its “obligation” in such a strong “we” kind of way. Having her established as such a strong character voice early on, which also was much more likeable than what she became, was a problem as well as what I adored about the book.

The fear rimming our eyes. But if he knew the truth—what I see what I peer through Olivia Greene, the creature hidden inside. If he knew the things that haunt my waking dreams. If he saw what I saw. If he saw. He’d leave this is- land and never come back. He’d leave this town. And I don’t want to be alone on the island again. There have only ever been ghosts here, shadows of people that once were, until he arrived. I can’t lose him. So I don’t tell him. 

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin | Review

Genre: historical fiction, magical realism

Pages: 390

“She’d already lost her face. She could not let the rest of herself (however dark, however broken) slip away. So she traced and she named. She hurt and she raged. She remembered.”

Synopsis

It’s 1956, Hitler has taken over Japan. Yael was put in a death camp as a five year old girl, experimented on and instead of dying like so many others, her looks went from dark to fair. And then she got more magical abilities, which helped her escape. Years later she’s on her own when she runs into the resistance. She competes in a motor cycle race through Asia in honour of Hitler, trying to get close enough to assassinate him. She gets the spot pretending to be another girl, which gets tricky as both her brother and ex-boyfriend shows up.

My thoughts

Rating out of five:

fire

I might’ve bought and started reading this book by mistaking it for another. Never regretted it, I wouldn’t normally pick up a book like this, but it was an amazing read. It’s a weird plot, but it was done so well. I loved the moto race, I loved the characters and how magic is braided into a “historical” event and war crimes.

The girl Yael is pretending to be really was fierce and would do anything to win, something she needs to learn to be if she’s going to complete her goals. It makes an interesting conflict to see her struggling to deal with how far she’s willing to change, what limit she has to cross to no longer feel like herself. How she interacts with the brother and ex-boyfriend (maybe?) puts another level of difficulty on both the plot and writing and it was done really well. The times in the death camp is just heartbreaking, as she watches everyone she loves dying and leaving her all alone. Seeing Yael have small moments of fun even on her journey for revenge means something.

I completely recommend this book to anyone that’s interested, it was entertaining, sad as well as thought-provoking read at times.

favourite quotes

“Live? In a world of fangs and lonely? Or die. In a cage of smoke and needles.”

“Her self-reflection was no reflection at all. It was a shattered mirror. Something she had to piece together, over and over again. Memory by memory. Loss by loss. Wolf by wolf. It was easy—too easy—to pretend. To fill that empty space inside her with other lives. Bernice Vogt. Mina Jager. Adele Wolfe. Girls who never had to face the smoke or watch the syringes slide under their skin. Girls who never had to stare into the eyes of the Angel of Death. Again and again and again. It was too easy to get lost. This was why, every night before she fell asleep, she peeled back her sleeve, traced the wolves, and said their names. Because somewhere in there—in those fragments of gone souls and memories—was Yael. Not chemicals, but essence. The real Yael.” 

“Toasts 7:00 – Dinner 8:00 – Dancing 8:15 – Murder 8:16 – Escape Of course, the final two hadn’t been on the list, but that was where they fit in the timetable.”

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami | Review

Pages: 480

Genre: fiction, magical realism, japan

kots.jpg

Do I pretend like I know what this book was about? 

Rating out of five:

fire

This book was great *looks nervously around*. No, it was actually good, the main guy Kafka ends up living in a library, so of course it’s great. But this book is intricate and has so many hidden meanings that I haven’t yet deciphered. It deserves a second read through, at least. I’m almost angry at this book, at how confusing and well written it is.

Murakami’s might explain it better himself; “Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren’t any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the kind of novel I set out to write”.

Let’s just say it’s one magical and fantastic story. And also magical realism, which I love. Would absoloutly recommend it.   

It’s following different storylines, some I cared less about than others, but all are important and make sense in the end. There’s Kafka who’s fifteen and have run away from home, the main plotline. There’s Nakata, an old man that during world war 2 was a part of a group of schoolchildren who all suddenly lost consciousness in the woods. He lost his memories and became mentally challenged, but gained the ability to talk to cats. He uses his time to search for lost cats. He’s great. 

There’s a lot more characters, lots of mysteries in this book and lots of surprises. I adore this book, and perhaps I’ll figure out what it all means someday. I heard reading Murakami’s other books might help, so I’ll start there. “Kafka on the shore” doesn’t have one clear plot and it’s one of the things I love most about it.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton | Review

Pages: 320

Genre: this is honestly a difficult book to place. magical realism?

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Summary

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

My thoughts

Rating out of five:

fire

 

– the plot – 

The synopsis, along with the perfectly fitting long title, creates the idea that this is a book about Ava Lavender. It’s simply not, for the most part. More than the first half of the book is about the family she’s a descendant from: with their strange abilities and being caught up in one tragedy after another. We’re learning about the generations before her, but when Ava and her story came into this world, it felt like a lot rested on her shoulders. The family, this story, they all needed something good.

Ava Lavender is the relatable one, it’s why her name is in the title. It is a young adult novel after all, not a tragedy or historical family drama. But maybe it should have been. This book would have been better as a more complete story about her ancestors. Ariel (check her out if you haven’t!) said this book was more like a fairy tale than magical realism, because in magical realism the magic usually goes unnoticed, while here Ava’s wings marks her as different. The ancestors had a better sense of smell and other, much stranger and more twisted abilities, and no one questioned it. That’s what I loved most about this book, that feeling when I’m sitting here like: that’s fucked up, but look at them, they keep going as if nothing ever happened.

 

– some confusion –

Also, let’s talk about how it’s a waste of potential when a kid have these crazy ancestors, are born with wings (!!), and you make her feel isolated and excluded from the rest of the world because of them. I realize this is an important message, but any person written with a mental or physical illness or a handicap could have made that point in a clearer way. Was it really necessary to give a girl wings to make that point? Of course, the wings are surely some kind of symbol, and they helped the plot unfold later on, but that didn’t help my frustration.

– the writing –

The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender had a lot of lovely moments and details. The writing style was alive, but dreamy, in a way I loved. I don’t know how it is possible to connect words in such a way it becomes this level of magical, and I was completely fascinated by it. Just for that thing alone, this book is absoloutly worth reading.

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I enjoyed this book. However, I still feel it natural to divide it into before Ava Lavender and after. And I liked before a lot better. Not just because of Ava, she’s nice enough, but because of her mom and how the whole family at that time transformed into something like a picture, stuck in the memory of what it once was. It won’t make much sense until you read it, and I highly recommend it.

 

– more favourite quotes – 

“Summer rain smelled like newly clipped grass, like mouths stained red with berry juice—blueberries, raspberries, blackberries.”

“While the thought of being dead seemed appealing, the actual act of dying did not. Dying required too much action.”

“I found it ironic that I should be blessed with wings and yet feel so constrained, so trapped. It was because of my condition, I believe, that I noticed life’s ironies a bit more often than the average person. I collected them: how love arrived when you least expected it, how someone who said he didn’t want to hurt you eventually would.”