We’re already a month into the year but here we go –
Firmament by Simon Clark
Releasedate: 27. January 2022
Why I want to read it: The first book by Simon Clark, which is exciting. His explanations of climate change are always great and easy to follow, and I should probably get to reading this soon as motivation before my atmospherical physics and climate change exam this semester :))
This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi
Releasedate: 1. February 2022
Why I want to read it: I usually like Tahereh Mafi’s writing and would love a Persian mythology inspired fantasy story from her. So I hope this isn’t just another generic ya fantasy series, despite the title and cover.
Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel
Releasedate: 1. February 2022
Why I want to read it: It’s an unusual pick for me, but I want the promised thriller showcasing the “dangerous intensity of female friendships”, murder and morally gray characters.
Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore
Releasedate: 8. March 2022
Why I want to read it: I don’t have the best track-record with getting as much into McLemore’s books as I would want to, but both the book’s premises, the magical realism and the writing of them are usually amazing. And I can’t keep away from the promises of “two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake“ in this book either.
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Releasedate: 5. April 2022
Why I want to read it: a heist novel! Featuring a heist I even deem very acceptable; stealing back pieces of art and people’s belongings displayed in Western museums stolen under war and colonialism. More specifically a group of Chinese American college students (one lesbian, one queer) are stealing back Chinese sculptures and pondering the ethics of it.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Releasedate: 26. April 2022
Why I want to read it: The protagonist Kaikeyi “transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her”, which sounds like a powerful and interesting story. It’s a Ramayana retelling with an asexual protagonist. I’ve seen some reviews disagreeing to such a prominent villain being retold as anything else, but as someone unfamiliar to Hindu stories that’s hard to assess.
Link to the webtoon/web-comic. Funny enough the illustrations I included isn’t very representative of the style, more so the comedic elements. S1 consists of 115 episodes; absolutely worth your time if you want characters with a lot of personality,a good romance and greek gods dealing with the everyday shit in life. I was truly excited going in, less so when I realized the main focus was on Hades & Persephone as it’s a romance done so many times. It felt a bit slow and boring in the beginning. But overall the writer really managed to showcase aspects I hadn’t seen before, as well as giving Persephone a really different personality without making it too “quirky”. She’s clumsy, but smart and means well trying to prove herself and the writer did not shy away from the aspect of her being a “young” goddess, but playing into it by making it almost a college/first-job story where you need to fight for independence and then re-realize that it’s okay to need and ask for help. The office aspect of every coworker hating on her special treatment – it’s all great. It did also use the greek gods aspect to deal with heavier issues like sexual assault, with specific trigger warnings in front of every chapter that focuses on that. All in all just a great romance/rom-com/every-day type of stories, but had surprising depth as well. And the web comic format really plays into showcasing both the main and minor character’s differences and backstories. Loved it, very binge-able. Five out of five stars.
When I Arrived at the Castle by emily carroll
I really admire the illustrations of emily carroll, I mean look at it-
I’ve already read & loved Through the Woodsand she also has one called Beneath the Dead Oak Tree. This graphic novel tells the somewhat lesbian of a story of a castle, a cat-girl, some fairytale sprinkled in and a very attractive femme fatale vampire countess. And not to forget the blood colouring the pages. It’s not very straight-forward, but I liked it. For some reason I expected more though? It has little of a plot and lot of vibes, which is not the right way to phrase that, but I’m sticking with it. It’s very much like a fever-dream.Three out of five stars.
It’s another season of new books waiting in the horizon! (Let’s all work towards making this year less bad overall, shall we?)
Lore by Alexandra Bracken
Release date: January 5th 2021
Why I want to read it: Greek gods!! Also I liked this author’s books as a teen. It’s a standalone, which is a plus.
Winterkeep (Graceling Realm #4) by Kristin Cashore
Release date: January 19th 2021
Why I want to read it: Graceling is one of my all-time favourite fantasy series, especially as I grew up along with it, from 2008 to 2012, and now another new book. This magical world is built in such a way that you can just expand it and create crossovers, while retaining some of the elements. I’m just so happy about learning this book will exist.
Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
Release date: January 19th 2021
Why I want to read it: I’ve yet to read Akata Witch by the same author, but so many seems to like it. I’ve seen this novella described as a folktale/sci-fi story with african futurism,
How To Disappear by Savannah Brown
Release date: February 23rd 2021
Why I want to read it: I always have loved Savannah’s writing, her debut novel “The truth about keeping secrets” was stunning, as is her poetry. So I’m here for more mystery, set in an isolated community where surely the worst things could happen, in secret.
A Court of Silver and Flames by Sarah J. Maas
Release date: February 16th 2021
Why I want to read it: I don’t want to, but I feel compelled to finish what I’ve started with this series, no matter how often I give up on this author. Goddamn. Maybe I won’t and this is what breaks the cycle – I wish.
A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine
Release date: March 2nd 2021
Why I want to read it: I’ve yet to read the first book in this series, but the beginning of this queer sci-fi series has gotten so good reviews. I mean – Aztec empire in space??
Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley
Release date: March 9th 2021
Why I want to read it: honestly I’m unsure about this book, even with the stunning cover. But sapphic witches, a magical plague, dark powers and love bargains might be too good to pass on, especially if the reviews I see are positive.
She’s Too Pretty To Burn by Wendy Heard
Release date: March 30th 2021
Why I want to read it: queer girls, a rebel art scene and claiming to be a “sexy, psychological thriller”.
Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby (science, biography, feminism)
Reaching for the Moon by Katherine G. Johnson (biography, science; space)
Goddess of the Hunt by Shelby Eileen (poetry, mythology, lgbt; ownvoices aromantic-asexual)
The Perfect Assassin by K. A. Doore (high fantasy, lgbt; asexual mc, lesbian assassins)
Slayer by Kiersten White (urban fantasy, vampires, supernatural boarding school)
A Vampire’s Redemption (The Inquisition Trilogy #2) by Casey Wolfe (fantasy, vampires, lgbt; m/m romance)
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (fantasy, sci-fi, political, lgbt)
The Hidden Girl and Other Short Stories by Ken Liu (short stories): the author’s other book The Paper Menagerie is my all-time favourite collection of short stories!
Three things on my mind:
Wine nights brings me too much joy. At least when you have them with one of your roommate’s adorable family who is visiting, then after they leave (and leave four bottles of wine behind) just end up talking with the rest of the roommates far into the night; I might’ve woken up at 5 am for once, but I was certainly going to sleep at 6 am, like the night-creature I truly am. On exactly that topic I’m going to apply to be the leader (there’s always two; night and day-shift) of our math/physics students wine club, because there’s minimal work and a maximum of finding out strange traditions and making people feel welcome, no matter if they drink alcohol/wine or not. I love the vibe of that group. And I will not take slander that I should not be the nightly leader if I get it; the night is always my time.
The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix is such a fantastic show. I have so many thoughts, but no time to write them all out – maybe I’ll do a round-up of tv series/movies I loved at the end of the year. But a chess-but-truly-personal story of a genius orphan girl that grows up and struggles with navigating abandonment issues, drug-problems, friendship and any type of relatioship. It has its problems, but I would’ve watched it just for the great actors, the fashion and the lighting to be honest.
I’ve been writing more again, on the too-long project that never seem to end. I’ve got a lot of exams around the corner (if my physical health is up to it, that is), so I find myself not being able to turn off my brain for a break without going to these already-known methods; creating stories being one of them. It’s strange how that works. Hopefully, over christmas break even though I have a lot of other projects planned, I can get it edited into at least a coherent work in progress as there’s a lot of blank scenes needed for some type of plot to make sense. I think I would truly feel some type of achievement just having finished it, even though no one is going to read it for a long long time, if ever.
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 Deepby 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 Reesfor 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 Greenis 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.
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.
When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.
There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
Rating out of five: four stars
I love me some stories of greek gods & godesses, especially when they’re as flawed and vengeful as can be. And our main character Circe certainly has her flaws as well, to the point where her insecurities becomes a huge part of her choices even after hundreds of years of getting to know oneself. It started to get a bit boring halfways through. And then Circe shifts and it all gets more badass and filled with action and again grief, without sacrificing the flowing descriptive writing, focusing on details and swiftly taking you through decades. I loved how she gets these pieces of information of the “human” history happening out in the world through Hermes to her exile on the island, and also how their interactions change.
There was a line of female empowerment going through this book, a sign of greek mythology stories done well. How Circe sees what has become of her sisters, how they’ve gathered their influence and power. Not to mention her way of feeling powerful constantly shifting through the book, as the decades pass and she grows into herself.
What I reflected on most reading this book was how Circe meets this constant choice of following the rules, of staying within her boundraries, or to stand up and fight for herself and others. And it’s not one choice, but many. The clearest picture of this is how she creates this life for herself on the island and then goes back and forth about if she likes it, if she prefers this exile; sometimes lonely, sometimes with more action (through pirates and other need-a-lesson semi-exiled girls) than she would’ve liked.
My island lay around me. My herbs, my house, my animals. And so it would go, I thought, on and on, forever the same.
It’s a more complex story than I though walking into it and certainly one I will pick up again to reread the multifaceted person Circe is throughout it.
I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.
Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.
Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Narrated by Kim Mai Guest: the soft voice fits the protagonist so well and the storytelling was amazing, like the slight change of her voice as the protagonists tried to mask as a boy. It seemed like a difficult task and she nailed it.
Rating out of five: three
From about 30% in to 70% in, I was considering not picking this book back up. It just lacked something for me, that drive that makes me want to know more about how it’s going to end for the characters.
I think the publisher selling this book as the crossway between Project Runway and Mulan isn’t right for this book. It’s definitely got elements of both of those, with there being a competition to be the imperial tailor (instantly reminding me of the assassin competition in Throne of Glass) and the protagonist having to mask as a boy to be able to participate and restore her family’s honor. The problem is that Mulan’s story is so much better in every way. The romance is better, the bravery and single-mindedness of Mulan is better, it’s more exciting to read about fighting than tailoring and the training and close quarters leads naturally to more close-calls about Mulan’s identity. All the humor is stripped from this book. The short insults between the protagonist Maia and Edan tries to make up for it, but they’re more annoying and makes them seem more like siblings than romantically interested. I really disliked that romance, even though it’s not as forced or badly handled as it could’ve been.
I like the characters of Maia, as I like Eden in himself, but as a protagonist she doesn’t move the plot forward. It’s okay to be inexperienced and elegant, but she seems to be able to take tough choices like dress up as a guy and risk her life, and then falls into this role of needing guidance on much smaller issues. I think it’s given too much thought that she can’t be a much better tailor than old men with long careers and be able to figure things out on her own, but as a consequence Edan and the masters are guiding her every move. She never has that breaking point where she sits down and worried about how to do something, the solution is always given to her. This book just lacks that level of conflict, there’s this big threat of being killed hanging over her, but everything else goes her way. And in that it becomes predictable.
This book has a shift about 60% in where Maia goes on a journey and it becomes more magical and has that classical fantasy journey to gather supplies. Still she’s being led around by Edan, but she’s also has to find strength within herself to complete the tasks and FINALLY we’re seeing some character development. *imagine me raising my hands in victory while reading those parts* At the end of the book I nearly convinced myself I liked it, hadn’t it been so slow and lacking in the beginning. While I feel it gives the book a tougher starting point, I really like the tailor aspects and the descriptions of her craft. Sometimes I felt the garments wasn’t described well enough, but at the same time the competition took forever and became boring. Remember the parts of Project Runway with the judges critique that you skip?
I would recommend to give this book a try if you really want to.
Feelings reading this book: (yes, we’re bringing this back again) frustration, oh calm meditational stitching, frustration, bored.
This week’s quote is in honor of the sun disappearing for the next five months. Guess where I live? Westcoast of Norway, in a valley where I cannot believe people still live in the winter months as the mountains are too tall for the few sunbeams there are in the winter to reach us. (I love this place, promise.) My grandmother, who was Sami from the nothern part of the country – where there’s no sun for half the year, and always sun for the other half – would complain about it constantly and that makes me smile.
One branch of my family has lived in this place for generations. They were smarter than us though – they settled on the other side of the freaking fjord (water), on a mountain farm with few neighbours where they had to use boat to get anywhere, but guess what they had? SUN.
Also I liked this retelling of norse mythology by Neil Gaiman, even if it was a lot of things I knew already, here’s my review.
They read and discuss fantasy series. The biggest book series they’ve covered is Brandon Sanderson’s books, Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings and they’ve recently started Narnia. In between there’s discussions on movies and tv series, like Black Panther.
Mythology, legends and lore from all cultures told by two hosts with a drink in hand. The themes varies widly, which I appreciate and along with the discussions it keeps it interesting. Personal favourites are nr. 55 Yuki-Onna, nr 43 Javanese Mermaid Queen, nr 40 Laumes and nr 32 The Butterfly Lovers.
About poetry, obviously. Each episode seems to have a theme, The Wilderness is the first episode of series called A Change of World, and was amazing as it included women’s place in poetry from the 1800th century to now. They read poems out loud, and it’s wonderful, thought-provoking and calming.
I already liked this book by page fourteen, because in the quote above Gaiman is basically describing my home and I agree it makes a lot of sense to not like your gods if they keep burying you in snow and forget humans need sunlight once in a while. Also scandinavians doesn’t really trust anyone as a rule and/or joke. Mostly joke, nowadays. Also no! This is not connected to american gods, it’s a retelling of the old norse myths. I’ve glanced at the reviews for this book, and it’s obvious some have no idea what they’re writing about, that this book is based on real myths and that’s why it’s a series of short stories and not one connected plot. I’ll come back to that later.
[About Loki] He is tolerated by the gods, perhaps because his stratagems and plans save them as often as they get them into trouble.
What I mostly took from these stories was that the gods of Asgard would be incredibly bored without Loki there and I don’t know why I feel this symphatic towards his monster children, but to banish one to the edge of the world, one to underneath the earth and one in chains seems awful. Joke’s on them, but mostly on humans, whyy did anyone think this was a good idea. Also I predict “Shut up, Thor” will be my favourite line of the whole book.
“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”
Would recommend this book for anyone who’s interested in norse mythology, especially after watching “Thor”, that’s why this book is published now isn’t it? Basically, this book is for beginners. Please go read up on the edda if you want something traditional and to understand where this book came from, the language isn’t that difficult in the modern versions. Know that the stories are modernized some and rewritten, that’s the whole point of having Gaiman write them, but the right elements are definitely there. I was pretty well-known with norse mythology already, through school and own interest, and didn’t really find anything new. But it was somewhere between an okay and fun read, with some stories I found more interesting than others. Mostly I liked the stories that required charging the jotner (giants?) and including Frøya. And I like this type of Loki, if you haven’t guessed already:
“Well? You know something. I can see it in your face. Tell me whatever you know, and tell it now. I don’t trust you, Loki, and I want to know what you know right this moment, before you’ve had the chance to plot and plan.”
Loki, who plotted and planned as easily as other folk breathed in and out, smiled at Thor’s anger and innocence.