#Februwitchy TBR

It is with great trepidation that I am saying this, but I joined a readathon! I have tried joining them before but have basically been unable to stick to them. Either they’re too constrictive (one book that has a title of three letters and a unicorn in it) or they just feel like I need to read too many books or I just don’t know.

As much as I am a person that likes the security of rules and all that, I also knee jerk at them and in reading I do not like being told what to read/do (I am the one person who before school even started they would’ve read all the school books and end up reading something else during class).

Anyway, this time I have decided to join because it is hosted by Asha, and it is a topic I actually have enough books for without having to make an effort. They’re already in my shelves, or it gives me the excuse to treat myself to some books.

So without further ado, I am joining Februwitchy, which is all about witch main characters and magic. You can find the full post about it here.

Obviously, me being me, I completely forgot I needed a TBR or to look at my shelves (I knew I had the books, Compendium of Witches has been next to my laptop for ages), so on the 1st of February I haphazardly pulled witchy books out of my shelves and this (plus a couple more I have found over the last few days) is my TBR:

  • Wish for a Witch by Kaye Umanksy (they are either Stephanie’s fault or Asha’s)
  • Witch for a Week by Kaye Umansky
  • A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee (this one is one of those that somehow ended up in my shelves, preorder or Waterstones shelves most probably)
  • Picklewitch & Jack by Claire Barker (this one is totally Asha’s fault)
  • The Price Guide of the Occult by Leslie Walton (preorder done way way back that I just hadn’t felt like reading)
  • The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (this was one of those “oh, might as well treat myself to it because it is for the readthon and has been in my wishlist for a long time”)
  • These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (preorder)
  • Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries (I like graphic novels, follow artists on Twitter, this happened)
  • Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and illustrated by Wendy Xu (preordered because it sounded great then wanted it more after following Wendy on Twitter)
  • Compendium of Witches by Nataša Ilinčić(I stumbled upon this one, managed to get a signed sketched on edition, it was a treat I bought for myself last year).

I think it is a decent list and I may add more as I go, depending on my speed. We shall see. I am hoping this goes well and I stick to it (so far so good).

Shadow Review

Shadow by Lucy Christopher and Anastasia Suvorova

In our old house, Ma told me there was nothing to be scared of. No monsters hiding behind doors, or in wardrobes, or under beds. She said there were no dark places at all. But, in the new house, under my new bed, that’s where I found Shadow.

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I like having a stack of illustrated books to go through when I am not feeling well enough or in the mood for a big read. That isn’t to say they aren’t as wrothy, but rather, this type of books are very powerful in a small number of pages, and Shadow is one of those. [This review contains “spoilers”]

Shadow takes us on a journey into depression and “shadows”. How grief and fear can stop the world and sometimes put the ones we love into the shadows and push them away. The little girl has a good life and then they move to a new place and Ma isn’t the same so she finds a new friend to play with, Shadow.

The book is quite powerful, the artwork is very fitting in a limited palette that hints at darkness and more, but it is a good book, with lots of detail in the artwork and the wording. Good for children who would read a fun story about an imaginary friend and a daughter and mother, or for older ones who know grief, anxiety and depression.

Nevernight Review

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.
Destined to destroy empires, the child raised in shadows made a promise on the day she lost everything: to avenge herself on those that shattered her world.
But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, and Mia must become a weapon without equal. Before she seeks vengeance, she must seek training among the infamous assassins of the Red Church of Itreya.
Inside the Church’s halls, Mia must prove herself against the deadliest of opponents and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.
The Red Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her.
And they drink her fear.

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I pondered what to put up today, but I felt that this was a good choice (I am getting married).

I read Illuminae before I read Nevernight, and this is a re-read to catch up for Darkdawn. I just hadn’t reviewed it, as I had first got the hardcover from Illumicrate and that was quite a while back. Anyway, this book is an interesting choice. But it is definitely my kind of book.

One of my favourite things is the way it describes how bodies work after someone dies or just as they die. (Yes, I know, I sound morbid, but a) I am Mexican and we celebrate Day of the Dead, plus we have La Santa Muerte, and b) I worked for two years in palliative care and saw people die a few times while I was caring for them). This automatically made me love the book, because I rarely ever see death displayed this way and even though here technically death is revered, it is also different to the ways I have seen it celebrated and revered.

Mia is an interesting character and probably one of the best anti-heroes I’ve read (my other favourite is Vin from Mistborn). She is selfish and has her own motives but also navigates her own moral compass and chooses t keep it despite what the Red Church requires.

The whole academia setitng is fun but this is definitely an adult book, and as such has no filters in the way it presents the information. There is sex, abuse, violence and gore and lots of swearing, including the c word.

I enjoyed it thoroughly, including the foot notes and it was worth reading, however I can understand others not liking it and the topics are quite heavy and there is a lot of death and potential death in it.

Why did I choose it for today, because it is a stellar book.

The Power of the Masses, and of the Internet …

Heartstream

Heartstream by Tom Pollock

Amy is trapped in the house in which her mother died, and from which she’s been streaming the progress of her illness for all the world to see and feel. Now she’s all alone, even with millions of followers, and she’s on the brink of an emotional breakdown when, on the day of her mother’s funeral, things take an unexpected turn; Amy suddenly finds herself sitting in the kitchen, and drinking tea with a stranger, who’s literally about to blow her whole existence into pieces.

Cat is a superfan of the boyband Everlasting, and she lives for the fandom, a community largely run by her older friend Evie, and built around the assumption that the front figures Nick and Ryan are secretly in love with each other. But when a large group of fans starts to believe differently, and Cat finds herself in a potentially life changing situation, things rapidly starts spinning out of hers, and Evie’s, control.

When Amy’s and Cat’s stories eventually intertwine, one thing becomes unpleasantly clear: the power of the masses, and the internet, should never be underestimated.

Rating: 🐖🐖🐖🐖🐖

Heartstream has been said to be a “psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror”, and to my utmost pleasure I found that depiction to be utterly true. I’ve always been a big fan of Black Mirror, and of other sci-fi stories focusing on how near-future technical solutions could be used to do both harm and good; often at the same time. This novel by Tom Pollock plays around the very same themes as many of the Black Mirror episodes, and it is as interesting as it is frightening.

Without spoiling anything, I can reveal that this is a fast paced and thrilling read that was very hard to put down (you all know that “just one more chapter”-feeling), and that I was shockingly surprised with the twists and turns it took at the end of every. single. chapter. If you’re in for a gripping story that keeps throwing surprises in your face, go read Heartstream at once. But if you’re looking for clear and easy distinctions between bad and good, this may not be for you. The moral is more grey than black and white, just as it is with life (and the power of the internet) in general.

Dr. Bea approves

If you liked this book but are yet to watch Black Mirror, than what are you waiting for? Go do it already! As for books, I think Warcross, though it’s a totally different kind of story, can be said to revolve around similar dilemmas. Or, if you’re here for the puzzling parallel stories, Before We Were Yours might be the next read for you.

Lost Princesses and Weird Magic

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Romanov by Nadine Brandes

1918, Tobolsk, Russia. The revolution is rapidly moving towards its peak. The Bolsheviks have taken over from Lenin, and the Romanov Czar family are living their last months as prisoners in exile. While the hope that the White Army finally will set them free is fading, Anastasia, the youngest princess, a shadow of her former self, is secretly trying to keep her critically ill brother alive by using forbidden spell magic, the kind that got Rasputin killed. At the same time, she’s starting to connect with Zash, one of the family’s guards. But is he to be trusted? And what will happen to the family members that suddenly gets moved? As the slow days move by, Anastasia realises that she’s gotta move quick in order to save the last drops of both the magic ink and the Romanov blood. The question is just how.

Rating:🐖🐖🐖

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I received this book in May’s Seize the Crown-themed BBC box, so I didn’t have any special expectations on it prior to getting it, except that I knew it would be a re-telling, and I do LOVE re-tellings. As soon as I opened the (oh so gorgeous) package with the book, I realised it was gonna be a retelling of the Anastasia legend. I remember liking the movie, but even more so the mysteries surrounding this presumed lost princess, as a child, but it wasn’t my favourite ever and I don’t, as opposed to my buddy read comrades, recall all the songs. So, all in all, I was excited to read it because mysteries, but also not overly thrilled by the historical fiction and fantasy parts.

Romanov is a slow book. It’s sometimes thrilling, but in a VERY low key way. The whole story pretty much felt like a long prologue up until the last hundred pages, and even then, when it finally kicked off, it isn’t a book I’d stay up all night reading. I found the magic to be a bit … unbelievable? It didn’t really make sense. My biggest issue with this book though, is how it totally lacks all nuances and perspectives regarding the Russian revolution and the Bolsheviks. The Czar family are the good guys who have nothing but the people’s best interest in mind, and the Bolsheviks, or just the politically aware and engaged public, are wrong and don’t understand what’s best for them. The end. Kind of.

During the read, Anastasia did however grow on me (or maybe she just finally got to my brain). Romanov is a story about living in exile, and if you like historical portraits of royal families with a tint of magic, you should really read this book. After all, it’s beautifully epic, and it surely makes you think.

Dr. Bea approves

If you’re in for more fairytale re-tellings, check out The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Less complicated fantasy, more fast paced sci-fi, and definietly more interesting and badass princesses!

Magic warriors and transgender thoughts

Mulan

The Hand, the Eye and the Heart by Zoë Marriott

[TW: deadnaming and misgendering]

When the Chinese empire is under the threat of the cunning Leopard and his merciless men, every man and boy able to contribute to the protection of the realm are called into duty. Zhilan’s father Hua Zhou, also known as the Wild Tiger, is a retired man with a bad leg, who was severely injured during his time serving as an high ranked officer. Still, the army calls him once more. Zhilan’s mum and younger siblings are devastated, and Zhilan is fearing for both of her parents lives. In a bold move, she uses her very special gifts to transform herself into Hua Zhi, the Wild Tiger’s oldest boy, now ready to fight in his fathers place. From that on, the story is rapidly spinning into a carousel of lies and deception, but also that of a new understanding of oneself and others. And when the war is over, it’s not that sure that Zhilan will ever return.

Rating: 🐖🐖🐖

I’m a cis-woman, and I can only take on this book from my own, sometimes very narrow, experiences and understandings of gender. With that disclaimer put out there, I do feel like this is a very sensitive depiction about the fluidity of gender identity, rolls and norms; a story that tries to explore different perspective on sex and the perception of belonging, rather than trying to explain or “own” a certain point of view. It’s also a very emotional journey, that makes me relate to and feel for Hua Zhi in a way that I normally wouldn’t with a typical soldier and hero figure in this kind of tale.

The Hand, the Eye and the Heart is a retelling of the legend behind Mulan but, as described above, with a hundred more layers, dimensions and complications. The war, that has to be said to be at least one of the novel’s main conflicts, isn’t action-packed or filled with the kind of one-liners that usually makes me page forward until the word “sword” isn’t appearing twenty times in every sentence. It’s still a thrilling and exciting story, but the focus on identity and relationships makes it deeper and more low-key than other fantasy retellings of the like. However, it took me a long time to get through the book. It’s still a bit too epic for my taste, and even though it’s interesting and thought provoking, it’s not brilliant or especially outstanding.

Dr. Bea approves

If you’re in for more mythical retellings, have a look at A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. Totally different story, but similar in style and feels.

Dream team adventures and time travelling paradoxes

StolenTimeStolen Time by Danielle Rollins

It all starts as an accident, when Ash unexpectedly crashes with his time travelling space ship in Seattle the year of 1913, on just the same day as Dorothy escapes from her own arranged marriage. Without Ash’s knowledge (or approval) she sneaks on board the shuttle, and soon after lands in Ash’s and his best friend Zora’s workshop, which is located in New Seattle year 2077. Unwillingly, but also excitedly, Dorothy becomes a part of the team that are looking for the lost Professor who can hopefully save them all, before the Black Circus, the escalating earhtquakes, or some tricky paradox kills off the entire Earth’s populations.

Rating: 🐖🐖🐖🐖

This is yet another book that I got from BookBox Club, that I was initially felt sceptical towards and probably never had picked out myself, but ended up very much enjoying. I was fearing this to be a mix of all the genres from my Big NoNo-list: historical fiction, space adventures and great life saving quests. But even though Stolen Time contains a good portion of the latter, it’s still dystopian in a very down to earth-kind of way that makes like it. There’s a bit too much action, and the book is a bit too predictable, but it’s still so thrilling that I’m really happy it’s just the first in a series.

Without spoiling anything, I also dare to say that the intrigue, on both the characters, the quests and the societal level, have much potential to develop and grow deeper in the coming sequels. But until that, this is just an exciting dream team adventure that I’ll recommend to anyone that enjoys a bit of time travelling paradoxes.

Dr. Bea approves

For more time travelling adventures, have a look at Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children-series. And if you’re searching for more sci-fi space drama, look no further than to This Splintered Silence.