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.

Exciting Book Releases Summer 2020

Summer might not be the same, but the book releases are? Hopefully? I made a similiar post for Spring 2020, which cut off in April and is why May suddenly became considered summer by accident.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Release date: 5. May

Why I want to read it: I was impressed by the writing of Acevedo when I read ‘The Poet X’

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Release date: 5. May

Why I want to read it: I’m really interested in reading more young adult books with trans main character, tbh. And it seems to have been received so well by other book blogs!

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Release date: 5. May

Why I want to read it: I mean, that title. I’m promised sapphic pirates, so I’m on-board, even if it hasn’t been getting the best ratings so far.

This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling #2

My review of These witches don’t burn (book one)

Release date: 19. May

Why I want to read it: The first book in the series gave me all the queer witches it promised!

The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson

Release date: 2. June

Why I want to read it: I have a hit or miss record with Hutchinson’s books, but I really like him as an author. Also this gay book with the son of a democrat and son of a republican falling in love is being compared to the other gay president/royal book ‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ that I truly loved.

Loveless by Alice Oseman

Release date: 9. June

Why I want to read it: Oseman is one of my fav authors, I’ve read so many of her other books! And really excited to read what seems like a very personal book, with an asexual-aromantic main character. I’ve seen Oseman seemingly struggle while writing this book, and crossing my fingers it was worth it and turned out like she wanted it to.

Honorary Mention:

I wondered whether to mention Midnight Sun, the 5th long-awaited book in the Twilight series by Stepenie Meyer. ‘I’m never going to read this thing’ I thought, but then I remembered the big chance I’m going to meet one of my childhood friends this summer, where we both were sooo into Twilight growing up. And if so, I have to buy and bring with me this book, there’s no way to avoid it. We have to bash it together. For old times sake.

Also funfact; when the movies came out and also the non-readers of the friendgroup got their eyes up for it, everyone was very into one character, except me. ‘Like Edward was better than Jacob as a love interest in the books, I guess. Why does she even have to be with one of these guys?’, was kind of the vibe. But of course – I just really liked Kristen Stewart/Bella Swan the whole time, without realizing. And that’s on #bisexuality, with a major leaning towards girls.

Mermaid & Siren Book Recommendations

I’ve always loved the ocean and therefore also books about everything in it, but I feel the young adult mermaid books often falls into the trap of being too stuck to The Little Mermaid plot and tropes! There’s other ways to do mermaids folks!

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Full review! 3/5 stars. It was an enjoyable book with deadly sirens that had very The Little Mermaid retelling vibes and pirates that had a true Pirates of the Carribean vibe, thrown in with some royalty and princes as well. The main character is fierce and the book promises a killer and general darkness that it doesn’t quite deliver on. Halfway it turns more into slow-burn romance and trying to create a revolution which, funnily enough, was the predictable path. But if you like mermaids and/or pirates, this is definitely a book I would recommend!

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

A norse-inspired little mermaid retelling with f/f relationship, where the main character has to outsmart the God of Lies Loki. Relatively short as it’s just above 200 pages. Stunning cover art.

DNF’ed because I couldn’t like the writing, and that makes it incredibly difficult for me to get into any story.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Full review! 4/5 stars. Incredible writing! This is a dream of a fantasy book, the ultimate fairy-filled tale I wanted as a kid, with a main character who’s a brat, but a smart one, and both supportive and tired of his friends. It’s less of a magical school as it’s a magical military academy, hah. So underrated, with gay/bi boys and main character! Mermaids is one of the multiple magical creatures here, so much less focus on them than in the other books on this list.

Lies Beneath by Anna Greenwood Brown

DNF’ed after really giving it a couple good tries. I wanted to like this book. It has evil mermaids!! I mean it starts out with “I hadn’t killed anyone all winter, and I have to say I felt pretty good about that.” Definitely give it a try! And it’s written from a male mermaid … merman? which makes it interesting. It just wasn’t for me.

Wake (Watersong #1) by Amanda Hocking

I really want to reread this book. Because from what I remember it was; good mermaids. boring plot. And a very interesting dynamic between four girls, a trio plus a girl who don’t yet know she’s a mermaid. It’s like H20 book edition, but also the mermaids have evil tendencies?? But I remember it being so interesting and a guilty pleasure. I have to reread it.

Of Poseidon and The Syrena Legacy by Anna Banks

Full review of the first book! 3/5 stars. I’ve only read the second book in the series as well, and it’s pretty much the same and equally as good. It’s just summer vibes with all the mermaids you need. Stubborn and awkward teenagers that tries to figure things out, just in the “you might be a mermaid” format, mixed in with mermaid royalty and some politics. It also has a main character that is quite the fierce girl, and throws a couple punches. A very character driven novel, with a good friendgroup.

Other mermaids book on my TBR (for another time):

Come to the Rocks by Christin Haws

A short story with 66 pages! I know little of it except it has f/f romance with a mermaid, and that’s truly all I need.

Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner

Another book with mermaid killers, which I really hope won’t let me down. I just hope it’s taken all the way, for once, without being worried about how ‘likeable’ that makes the mermaids. I’ve read it’s supposed to have a fierce female protagonist and a lesbian romance, so that sounds promising.

Do you have any mermaid or siren books to recommend? Preferably not the little mermaid retellings, haha.

Pirates & Sirens: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo | Book Review

Genre: young adult fantasy, mermaids/sirens

Pages: 340

Synopsis

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy? 

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: three stars

I’m still not quite cold enough for the ocean that birthed me.

For a the little mermaid retelling with lots of pirates of the caribbean vibes mixed in, this was a good story. It was not as dark as it promised, however. Some parts are truly taken out of the little mermaid and the evil Ursula. I felt the story could’ve gone way deeper than it did on the abuse Lira goes through, for example it shows in a superficial, but at the same time well-placed way, why her cousin is the only siren left that Lira cares about. At the same time her beliefs, moral or confidence is never a question, the way you would’ve thought under that type of abuse. I recently read “The Midnight Lie” by Marie Rutkoski and I think that book deserved an extra star just from the mind-twisting that results from the similiar abuse the main characters had to endure there. It’s great to have a fierce female main character, who is truly deadly, but I really think a book should just go full out and not soften her, whether it’s because the plot requires it or fear of making her unlikable.

So what’s left is action and a bit of (unecessary honestly) romance, and a genuinely cool story with pirates, royals and mermaid-like sirens and horror-like mermaids. It all builds up towards this big endgame and destroying the enemy by using one item, which I was really worried about, but this standalone managed to finish it off with a good finale. Not that it wasn’t boring, but it felt epic enough. I genuinely liked the characters, and it was those who carried the story through.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, but it’s missing a layer somehow. Both the characters, the plot and the writing is very straight-forward, which makes it an easy read, but also predictable. Definitely some enemies-to-lovers vibes going on as well, which I’ve truly realized is a trope I’m loving recently. In this book I would’ve been very happy if they’d just stayed soulmates though, and never introduced romance into it. It just didn’t really fit.

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks | Book Review

A long time ago, when this kid just had a book tumblr, a review of Of Poseidon by Anna Banks was written. I only noticed I hadn’t posted it here because I was collecting mermaid & siren books for a new post.

The Syrena Legacy #1

Pages: 320

Genre: young adult fantasy

Rating out of five: four stars

This book was an easy-read and very likable, with interesting type of sirens. Still, this book is not like I thought it would be going into it.

What this book is not: “Of Poseidon” is not a story of a stuck-up rich boy meeting the one perfect naïve girl of his dreams and showing her his world and then, SURPRISE, he is a mermaid prince (or siren, since supposedly mermaids are too normal) and they live happily ever after.

What this book actually is: A stubborn and awkward teenage boy (Galen) working as a fish-human ambassador, which leads to him seeking out an equally stubborn girl (Emma) and showing her she is neither shy, nor entirely human. Along with his sister, princess Rayna and her kind-of fiancé Toraf, they try to help Emma figure out what kind of creatures exist in this world and what she really is. This leads to Emma hitting more faces with her fists than people hitting on each other (at least at first). Is not that new and wonderful?

The characters (are wonderful)

Emma is clumsy, a book blogger, stubborn and human (she thinks). She also got a bit of a temperament, even if she thinks of herself as sweet and shy. What’s more important is how she does not tolerate bullshit, which helps in fighting Galen’s teasing and the male dominated world the sirens seems to run. She and Rayna is a kick-ass team, even if they go out of their way to annoy each other. I think that is an important note to take from this book, how they stand together when they need to. Can never have enough girl power.

“Basically, everyone thinks–knows–how sweet I am. (Emma)
Emma, you threw my sister [Rayna] through hurricane-proof glass.” 
(Galen)

The girl-power is needed because Toraf and Galen are both idiots. Funny, sympathetic idiots, but still horrible. However, that does not stop me from liking them (I think), but the idiocy is definitely something I hope they will get over when they start acknowledging how there are another world around them.

Definitely a story that will stick with me, and I am looking forward to reading the next book of the trilogy. I love reading about sea-creatures such as the syrenas, especially in summer.

(Pre-corona times) wine trip | Bi-Weekly Update

Hey, this post was created a couple weeks ago actually, and I somehow never posted it. So I’m going to create a newer one, with all this corona stuff really impacting my life as it does many right now, but enjoy this light-hearted one hahha. Also my france/germany trip was before outbreaks happened in the area.

New book posts:

Other books I’ve been reading:

  • The stranger by Albert Camus (currently reading)
  • On earth we’re briefly gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (currently reading)
  • Night sky with exit wounds by Ocean Vuong
  • Felicity by Mary Oliver
  • Soft science by Franny Choi
  • Ordinary beast by Nicole Sealey
  • Corazón by Yesika Salgado
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord

Added to TBR:

  • Loveless by Alice Oseman (ace! character! and fantastic author)
  • Red, white & royal blue by Casey McQuinston (gay royal romance)
  • Akata witch by Nnedi Okorafor (YA fantasy)
  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (magical realism & mental illness; fractured sense of self, set in Nigeria)
  • How to make a wish by Ashley Herring Blake (YA f/f romance)
  • Crier’s war by Nina Varela (queer fantasy; i’m promised f/f romance, bisexual and lesbians and enemies to lover trope)
  • Come to the rocks by Christin Haws (mermaids with f/f romance)
  • Storm in a teacup by Helen Czerski (science! physics! this could be very good or very bad)
  • Tesoro by Yesika Salgado (poetry)

Three things on my mind:

  • I’m still doing this physics first year of university thing, funny enough. Is it crazy that I thought I would fail before now? It’s not going great overall, but I really like the physics and uni and friends part. One reason it’s not going great overall; I’ve been sick. A bit of a physical illness. But mostly, looking back, my productivity has been greatly damaged by mental illness as well, leading to general inconsistency. Ah yes, I was also diagnosed with a mental illness this week. Which I didn’t think would happen? But it made sense and oh well, it’s going to take some time to get used to having a label on my troubles.

  • I was in France!! And Germany!! Drinking wine!! With this physics & maths wine club I’m in. I became a real wine enthusiast on one (1) trip, and two wine tastings. I also might’ve smiled too wide at the table when the last and most fancy wine expert basically GURGLED his wine, like in parodies. AND MY BOYFRIEND, GERMAN-SPEAKING, HAD TO TRANSLATE THIS GUY SAYING IN A STERN VOICE “THIS MIGHT SEEM STRANGE, AS THE YOUNG WOMAN IS LAUGHING, BUT IT HELPS TO -” (insert expand surface and tastebuds and all that explanation). I was too many glasses of wine in and too entertained to be embarassed, but it was embarassing. And beautiful – the whole trip. The most embarassing moment, for who I’m not sure, happened while we were all learning about making wine, from someone who had more humor. My best friend said what I itched to say, but decided not to; “oh we make wine too”, pointing to the leader of the group. And he had to swifly try, and fail, to explain is that our university wine club’s wine is not made from grapes picked carefully and hundreds of year’s of expertise; but y taking basically grape juice, adding yeast and trying to get a high alcohol percentage. I smiled the whole rest of the tour, while the wine expert repeatedly turned to our leader and spoke to him like he knew the process, waiting for the moment we were alone and my best friend to get yelled at. It was all I hoped for. Lesson learned; don’t expect a bunch of physics & math students to take the social cue in any situation.

  • So the trick to read more books again is to take a flight to France/Germany (it was the border, so we were both places), as well as be just sick in general and forced to relax aka read.