I tried something a little new this month. Going in, I was way behind on my preorders, and I haven’t met my monthly TBR for the past couple months, so I made up a list of everything that I needed to read (16 books) and made a tentative schedule. 7 preorders sprinkled around the 5 monthly TBR and extras that I’ve been gazing longingly at. Let’s see how I did.
What: Witch: Untamed. Unleashed. Unapologetic. by Lisa Lister
Review: I will admit, I went into this expecting another The Holy Wild, but that’s not what this is. It tries to be, it really does, and I know that The Holy Wild came out a full year after this, but still. This is nonfiction, but somehow, I felt seriously out of the loop sometimes. Lister frequently nods to her other books, and it almost felt like I should have read those before this? (I’m not going to.) It was really odd. This was okay, don’t get me wrong. It was very feminine, very empowering, and very rooted in womanhood. (Very rooted in womanhood. If you don’t identify as a woman, or if you’ve transitioned into a woman, this book is not for you. Basically, unless you’ve got a vagina, Lister doesn’t want you. But Danielle Dulsky does! She is inclusive and wonderful!) It was also just like a very, very long call to arms with a few chapters of practical magic sprinkled in between, and I’m kind of tired now. Like, yes, okay, down with the patriarchy, but all men are terrible? Nah, sorry, I’m not onboard. Casual reminder: witchcraft is for everyone, not just women. Okay, bye now.
Also, some notes about things that bothered me. First: Eve. The Holy Wild does a fantastic job explaining the story of Eve (and Lilith), and reclaims it in the name of the matriarch. Witch reminds us of the white, patriarchal idea that Eve is a sinner. Second: Cultural appropriation. About halfway through, suddenly there were Sanskrit terms and the word “yogi” everywhere, and I wanted to vomit. Lister advises readers to steal willy-nilly from other cultures. Please don’t. Oh my god, seriously, if you want to get into witchcraft, please don’t read this book. If you want to stand up and shout about the power of your vagina, yes, read this book. But this is for cis, white women who maybe dabble in “witchcraft” that they use for aesthetics on Instagram. Third: also, a Joss Whedon quote? In a witchy/feminine book? What?
I started writing this review about 75 pages from the end. As you can see, the review slowly transformed the more and more Lister talked about how having your period is essential to being a witch. Or powerful. Or accepted.
Basically, my takeaway from this book is this: read The Holy Wild by Danielle Dulsky instead.
What: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty
Review: This was adorable, and I want the second one right now. Like, seriously, this may be one of my favorite middle grades ever. Put it up there with The Someday Birds because I devoured this. It follows Bronte Mettlestone, whose parents have been murdered by pirates and who have left her a will (outlined in Faery cross-stitch, which means if she doesn’t follow the will, her town will implode) that details the adventures she must go on in delivering gifts to each of her aunts. I think there are seven aunts? There’s a lot, which means there are a ton of adventures. Included: tiny faeries, dragons, surprisingly in-depth lore, mermaid/kelpie things, pirates, and more!
Truly, this was lovely. The writing was excellent, I fell in love dearly with almost all of the characters (I’m looking at you, meant aunt), and I was really, truly surprised by the in-depth lore! I cannot wait to read the second one to find out what happened during the Whispering Wars. And what a clever ability for a middle grade. It’s dark enough that it would fit well in older young adult, but Moriarty writes it in a light enough way that it fits snugly in this world. I saw one reviewer say that Moriarty writes children’s books that cater to grown-ups, and I think a more accurate statement is that Moriarty doesn’t write down to kids. Instead, she writes at exactly the level they’re at and gives them kudos for being badasses.
What: Mist, Metal, and Ash by Gwendolyn Clare
Review: My review for Ink, Iron, and Glass can be found here. It took me a second to remember what the first one was about as it’s been just over a year since I read it, but I was very quickly immersed back in this world with no problem. We pick up right where we left off–Elsa is feeling unmoored by the betrayal that stung everyone at the end of the first book, Porzia is starting to question both her place in her own life and in her family’s, Faraz just wants things back to normal, and Leo is one devastating heartbreak away from another devastating heartbreak. This is fast-paced, full of steampunk awesomeness, and it’ll leave you desperately wanting to book the next flight to Italy.
Oh man, I forgot how good this world was! I was completely sucked in by the politics, by Casa (!!!!!!!!!), by the absolutely soul-crushing story line that Leo goes through, by the high stakes adventures, and by the characters. I just love Elsa so much. She’s so no-nonsense, the safety of the world comes before my feelings. Like, sure, compartmentalizing is not a great tactic, but sometimes it’s necessary, and ya girl Elsa is going to save the world first, kiss the guy later (much later whenever she has a spare moment she’s very busy okay). Also, I just freaking love Porzia. SHe has blossomed so much since the first one, and it was absolutely delightful to watch her grow. And that ending with her! Damn, girl. I won’t even go into Leo because spoilers but whoo boy I definitely cried a little. This was honestly such a good follow-up to the first one, and I am so pleased.
What: The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1: Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Review: I say this as a writer and English major–writers are so damn self important. I did not read the Introduction or Translator’s Notes for Inferno because I’ve read this volume at least twice, and skipping it put me on page 67. Not only that, the notes for each canto take up more pages than the actual cantos themselves. My goodness, I am going to fly through these three.
Alright, friends, gather round for the greatest secret of all time: The Divine Comedy is hilarious. I may retract that statement at a later date since I haven’t read the other two yet, but Inferno is most definitely hilarious. It’s so flamboyant and ridiculous, and I love it immensely. Inferno follows Dante, only known as the Pilgrim, as he journeys with the poet, Virgil, down into the depths of Hell. He travels through each of the nine circles until he reaches Lucifer (never actually referenced as Lucifer because calling someone names is more fun, apparently), who gets the most poetic introduction and description of the entire epic. It is well worth the read.
What: The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty
Review: DON’T SPEAK TO ME.
I originally had a picture of Dara
yavahoush E-Afshin I love when people call him his full name UGH, but ALIZAYD AL QAHTANI BROKE MY HEART. I already liked Ali and Dhiru (and Zaynab, I like the whole Qahtani family okay, even Ghassan is a superb character despite being The Worst), but then Kingdom of Copper decided to just DESTROY ME with ALL THE QAHTANI SIBLING FEELINGS. But especially Ali. I am a shell of my former self.
Unlike most sequels, Kingdom of Copper only kind of picks up where City of Brass left off. (Oh, also, here‘s my review for the first one.) The prologue drops in with our three main badasses–Nahri, Dara, and Alizayd. The first chapter, however, jumps five years into the future and shows us where they’ve all landed and the kind of specific chaos only those three knuckleheads can create.
I just reread my feelings about the characters previously and almost choked:
Dara? OH HELL YES. Nahri? Watch out, she’s quickly climbing right up there to sit with Karou. Ali? My sad, sweet, asshole boy. Muntadhir? DON’T COME NEAR HIM I LOVE HIM. Jamshid? Wow, way to take me by surprise, Wylan van Eck.
SHUT UP JAMSHID IS TOTALLY WYLAN
These are all still totally true, though. Some of them have changed a little. I would fight every single person that came even a little bit near Nahri. She’s my homegirl. Ali is still a sad, sweet, asshole boy, and I still love him, but even more now. Like, his character development from the beginning of COB to now? WOW. Wow. wowwwwwwww Muntadhir? Even when he was driving me up a wall, I was like YOU TOUCH HIM YOU DIE. And honestly, let’s not even go into Jamshid because we’ll be here all month. (I still adore Dara, don’t worry, but he took such a backseat in this compared to Qahtani siblings, and his character didn’t really change that much, so we’re still at the same place.)
As before, it wasn’t just the characters. (But wow, let me tell you, the amount that I now love Zaynab in comparison to the beginning where I was kind of whatever about her. AND GHASSAN. Y’all, that’s a villain right there. That is flaws done right.) Chakraborty’s writing is the kind that literally consumes you. Anyone trying to talk to me while reading had to make some serious effort to get my attention, and then it was all glazed eyes whaaaaat. THE WORLD??????? It’s–I can’t even–GUYS. It’s not even just Daevabad. It’s not even just Egypt. It’s how much very clear attention to detail and in-depth lore wielding that Chakraborty has done. I’m just amazed.
I’m going to stop now. I binge-read 350 pages in one day because WARNING the last 250 pages is pretty much one continuous scene, and I sat down with tea and candles and a cat in my bed hoping to just read a little and suddenly it was three and a half hours later. CONSUMED, I tell you.
What: The Divine Comedy, Vol. 2: Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri
Review: This was nowhere near as good as Inferno. In fact, I’m a little nervous about reading Paradiso. It’s like Dante had a sudden moment of “oh shit Inferno was kind of gay and super accepting I should probably remind everyone that I’m straight and a Good Man”. Basically, here’s my takeaway from Purgatorio:
- Eve sucks, and everything is her fault, to the point where we shouldn’t even say her name, just refer to her as the woman like she sinned simply by being a woman? Okay, gfy Dante.
- Dante is STRAIGHT. Men no longer exist after you leave hell on any level except that they’re just sinners, and we should not pay attention to them at all.
- If you’ve ever done a single bad thing in your life, you’ll probably end up in hell. If you, like, thought about doing something bad, you’ll probably end up in purgatory. Basically, unless you’re a saint (and even then, watch out, there’s a lot of priests in hell), you don’t get to go to heaven. Or, unless you’ve got a woman in heaven who wants to bring you back to the light and send you on a quest with a poet to wash away your sins.
I was so over this pretty quickly, but as we got to the end and everyone was just harping on Eve, I read the last 100 pages as fast as I could. I’m not really looking forward to the heaven cantos, though I am hopeful we’ll get to see some archangels, and that’ll make up for it. I do have to say, though, that Dante did a great job making every single canto feel like we were in limbo by not really describing the sins or the environment in as much detail as he did in hell. It was all kind of wishy washy and uncertain, and I think that fits really well with purgatory.
What: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
Review: I thought this would be the perfect book hangover cure after Kingdom of Copper, and boy was I right. From the very beginning, this was an absolute delight. This covers five days that His Holiness and the Archbishop got to spend together discussing joy, what it is and how we can both obtain and sustain it. They came together in Dharamsala for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, where the author claims they acted more like giddy 8-year-olds than somber 80-year-olds. Over the course of these five days, Abrams asked different questions that people all over the world sent in, and the two friends alternated between teasing one another and sharing wisdom. It was an uplifting book that made me laugh and cry a little, and, at the end, it’s not only a book about joy, but a book of joy. It discusses how to obtain and sustain joy, yes, but it also shows the kind of joy two people discover when they are meant to be in one another’s lives.
What: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Review: Oh wow okay yup. I knew, before I even purchased this, that I was going to like it. I started these reviews post-Fangirl, but rest assured, it was one of my favorite books that year. I mean, a book about a girl who goes to college and writes fanfiction all day long? Yeah, that’s me, thanks very much. But the fact that Rowell not only made up her own fantasy world for the fanfiction Cath was writing, but actually gave us the fanfiction Cath was writing??? Holy magic, you guys. And then, AND THEN, she wrote the fanfiction in its entirety. On the back cover, one of the blurbs says, “Come for the makeouts and stay for the magic.” LIKE YOU DIDN’T NEED TO CONVINCE ME ANYMORE BUT OKAY.
Anyway, this is about Simon Snow, which is basically just Harry Potter but with more profanity and less obnoxiousness and secrecy via the Dumbledore character, who is clearly in love with his vampire roommate, Baz (his name Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch I mean COME ON), but who is too busy being the Chosen One to actually focus on that. This book is Riddikulus. It’s also The Magicians on steroids. It reads like fanfiction? IT DOES. I was trying to describe it the other day, and I was like, “it’s hilarious, but also so angsty,” and it’s legit just fanfiction.
Did I love it? You betcha. Am I going to read the sequel? IS IT OUT YET? Oh my godddd, not until September, this is the worst.
What: Ransacker by Emmy Laybourne
Review: My review for Berserker is linked. I felt much the same about this sequel as I did the original. This was so cute. When you put Norse Vikings and Midwest American cowboys together, there’s no way you aren’t going to have a good time. This picks up a few years after the events of Berserker and finds the Hemstad family & Owen living peacefully on a farm in Montana. Sissel, however, is about to discover a secret Nytte hiding within her that will change everything.
Cute is truly the best word to describe this. All of the characters are adorable, right down to Daisy the dog, and the plot makes me laugh a little because, come on, Vikings and cowboys, it’s the best thing in the world. This was fast-paced while still leaving room for a lot of development, and I was really pleased with this as a finale to the story.
What: The Weight of Stars by K. Ancrum
Review: Realistically, I read this in one day. I read about 60 pages on the 24th, and then I read around 150 early on the 25th, got home, and could not think of anything else except this, so decided to finish it that night. I did not have quite the reaction I did while reading The Wicker King (review linked), though I did have the same experience where I felt like I was being swallowed whole by it. While this is in the same universe as TWK, you can 100% read this without having read that (although August & Jack are in this, and it’s delightful knowing their backstory). This follows Ryann, the strongest and most resilient character you will ever meet, on her journey to befriend Alexandria, who just wants to be left alone to hate everyone.
Much like with TWK, the characters in this just demand your attention. (Hi Kayla, yes, I’d like another novel in this universe about James & Charlie, that’s all, okaythanksbye.) Even beyond Ryann and Alexandria, the other characters are so well developed that I was left almost overwhelmingly attached to them in a way that made me want individual novels for each of them. (Hi Kayla, yes, maybe also one about Blake?) The characters are what kept me thinking all night and what made me finish this in one day.
The story, however, is a little odd. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the story once I figured out what the hell was going on, and I was so amped about it being about space, but you know those books that just dump you into the middle of the action right away? Those are great. This dumps you a little bit farther than the middle, but doesn’t give you any context clues as to what is happening. There was a lot happening all of a sudden with no real clear motivation or explanation of why it was happening, and I was feeling kind of lost as to why I should care for a while. Once it gets going, though, I started to just ignore that feeling and get swept up in the characters. I was also pretty bummed about Ryann’s decision at the end since it felt very out of character based on all her other previous actions, and I would have liked both some more time in her head (or any time) thinking about the decision and more of a discussion about everything between her and James. I mean, I get that he’s independent and all, but she did kind of dump everything on him before she just left out of the blue.
Anywho. This was great. It didn’t strike me in the soul as much as TWK did (will anything ever in existence?), but I also could not get it out of my head. It was a strange little book.
What: Nine by Zach Hines
Review: I don’t even know what to say about this book. It’s just so whatever? Before we get to that, though, the concept is really cool. There’s this crazy storm years ago, and when everyone wakes up the next day, they suddenly have nine lives instead of one. Of course, that brews trouble for overpopulation, so the government cooks up this crazy idea to extinguish lives at different ages, which gives you different kinds of rewards, like getting into a better college or a promotion at work. Wild, right?
The execution was pretty damn horrible. The writing is subpar. The dialogue is so far from natural, it actually made me cringe at times. The characters are flat and I don’t care about them. They also swing wildly between moods a lot, and not in a way that makes sense. I didn’t really understand the motives of anyone but Julian, and he drifted between annoying and yawn-worthy, so I just wanted it to be over. That said, I did read this in big chunks, at least 100-150 pages each time I sat down. The concept is really cool, and I really wanted to see how it all played out, but in the end, it really wasn’t worth it, and I’m pretty sure I’m unhauling it from my shelves.
What: The Power of the Dark Crystal, Vol. 3 by Jim Henson
Review: This was such a good ending to this trilogy, and I was blown away by the resolution of the Crystal. Like, wow. What a good message, and what an interesting journey to get there. As always, the artwork in this was fantastic, the story left me wanting to whip through the pages, and the characters held my heart. I’m sad to be leaving the Dark Crystal universe for a little while as this is my last thing to read, but I’m also feeling very satisfied with this as an ending.
Alright, I’ve made a decision. I’m not setting a TBR for the month of May. I’m still really behind on a lot of reading that I had scheduled, and I want to give myself space to catch up without adding more. Thus, my plan for May is to finish anything leftover from April, which includes my normal monthly TBR (2 out of 5 left) and preorders (4 out of 8 left) (which??? my next preorder isn’t until August!), and if I’ve got time leftover, whatever the heck I want. I’ll be back in June with monthly TBRs, just need a hot second to catch up.
I’m still going to continue my other two goals, as well, so my reread for this month will be the one I ignored last month, City of Heavenly Fire, and my classic is another Jane Austen! I know, I can’t believe it either, but I own all six novels, and I really didn’t hate Pride & Prejudice like I thought I would, so Alex and I are going to buddy read Sense & Sensibility. (Just wait, we’ll have read all of Austen by the time the year’s up.) I will be finishing The Divine Comedy, and honestly, it’ll probably be the first book in my May reads, I just could not finish all of it before the end of the month. I’ve also got a fun summer idea for reading something specific, so keep an eye out for that.
Other than all that, clearly this was not a great reading month for me. Only 12 total, and out of those, quite a few that I was not jumping for joy about. I was really only struck by two books this month (Kingdom of Copper DUH and Carry On DOUBLE DUH), but I’ve got some hopefuls for May that I think should bring me back to the “my reviews are four paragraphs long because I AM LOSING MY COOL” person that I normally am. I did, however, do a lot of writing this month (yo check it bookstore boys is done), so that’s probably why I’ve fallen so behind. Fortunately–but unfortunately for my reading–that trend should be continuing as I set my sights on finishing sister witches.
And that’s April! Anyone else struggling to keep up with all of their reading plans?