TTT – Top Ten Books about Witchy Ladies!

the bone witchTop Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and this week, because Halloween is tomorrow, the theme is Halloween freebie! So I’m doing my top ten on awesome witchy ladies. These are strong-willed women who have magic and use it with intent. They know what they want and they use the tools at their disposal to get it.

My first recommendation here is one that I’ve been recommending left and right since I read it – Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch. The second book, The Heart Forger, is also out, and the third book (The Shadow Glass) comes out in March! The main character in these books is Tea, and she’s a necromancer, and she is AMAZING.

poppy warSecond is The Poppy War, which is being followed by The Dragon Republic in May. Rin is a shaman, chosen by an extremely powerful god, and she’s about to just burn it ALL down to make things right. Excellent military fantasy.

toil & troubleOne I just finished reading (Review up soon, I promise!) is Toil & Trouble – 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft. It’s a YA anthology about witches and it is fantastic. It includes stories by authors I’ve previously read, authors I’ve heard of, and one author I’ve actually met! These women are badass.

girl who drank the moonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon isn’t exactly badass, but it is an amazing book about witches, and how perceptions and traditions don’t always get things right. It could probably pass for a middle-grade read, but it’s still involved enough to be enjoyable for adults.

trail of lightningNow Trail of Lightning is badass! Maggie Hoskie is a Native American monster hunter, and Coyote himself has taken an interest in her. This book is part dystopia, as it takes place after an apocalypse, in which magical walls rose around the reservation to protect it. It’s chock-full of Native American legends and language and traditions and it’s absolutely amazing.

CirceIn a list of powerful, knowing witches, I certainly can’t leave out Circe. This was a Book of the Month several months ago, and a follow up to Song of Achilles. I still haven’t read Song of Achilles, though it’s on my Kindle. Circe, however, blew me away and sent me into a reading slump because what could possibly follow that?!

forest1kForest of a Thousand Lanterns is a re-imagining of Snow White, but in an Asian-inspired world, and it’s the story of the evil queen instead of Snow White. The sequel, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, is out November 6th and follows the evil queen’s stepdaughter. I can’t wait!

crown's fateIt’s got more of a Christmas/winter feel to it than a Halloween feel, but Evelyn Skye’s The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate is a duology on Russian magicians duking it out to become the Tsar’s Magician. Along the way, they discover they shouldn’t be fighting each other but are in too deep to stop. It’s a heartbreaker but it’s gorgeous.

fallenBack in the realm of necromancer ladies, we have Reign of the Fallen, built on the odd premise of a country where necromancers constantly resurrect people – so no one truly dies, but if resurrected people are exposed at all (they were voluminous shrouds all the time) they devolve into mindless monsters. Of course, this starts happening a lot, and the main character has to track down the cause. Looks like Reign of the Fallen is getting a sequel in January called Song of the Dead.

thepowerI’m going to end this list with a book that isn’t necessarily about witches, but is about women wielding a magical power – The Power, by Naomi Alderman, is a dystopia wherein women have evolved an electrical shock that they can shove into people by touch. This results in an overturning of the world order, where women are the physically more capable gender. I wish the book wasn’t quite so intent on the gender binary, but other than that, it was a really amazing book.

 

 

Sunday Funday!

20180623_1105181272377291427674631.jpgSo I had an excellent Saturday. Friday was my husband’s 29th birthday, and Saturday we threw a Rainbow Birthday Board Game Party. (Because our friends love board games, and rainbows.) And it was FABULOUS. We had a lot of fun decorating and making colorful food. This was the lamppost in our front yard – I also had ribbon hanging from the tree, and wound through the railing on our steps, and garlanded around the front room. It was awesome. There was LOTS of laughter around the Jello shots – we made a full rainbow of shots, so there was lots of “I’m gonna shoot the rainbow!” followed by grabbing a set of six shots. (Also heard: “Turns out the rainbow just tastes like rum.”) We played lots of board games, had great conversations, and just generally had a great party. I will probably hibernate in my basement bedroom today and enjoy the quiet, but it was a lot of fun. (There’s a lot more photos on my Instagram feed of the party decor and Jello shots!)

I’m really trying to read seven more books by the end of the month; if I do so I’ll hit my Goodreads goal by exactly halfway through the year! I’ve agreed to go help my friend with some leatherworking Monday and Friday, though, so I’m going to really have to cram some reading in on the other days to make that happen. I think I can do it. I won’t have to cook for the next couple of days, anyway. We might have made a little too much food for the party! But hey, more time to read!

Book Review: Little Bee, and World Refugee Day

little bee refugeeLittle Bee
by Chris Cleave
Contemporary Fiction
267 pages
Published 2009

Today is World Refugee Day. First observed in 2001, it is dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of refugees all across the world. African Refugee Day had been observed in some countries prior to the UN declaring it World Refugee Day, but the Organization of African Unity agreed to have the two days coincide.

To honor World Refugee Day, today I’m going to talk about Little Bee. Little Bee is a Nigerian refugee in the United Kingdom. She and her sister witnessed the destruction of their village by an oil company’s thugs, and were hunted down to eliminate the witnesses. In a chance encounter on a Nigerian beach, she met Sarah and Andrew, a couple from London trying to save their marriage by going on an exotic holiday. The encounter changes the lives of all three of them, and when Little Bee makes it to the United Kingdom, they are the only people she knows. She arrives at their home on the day of Andrew’s funeral, and Sarah takes her in.

The book switches between the viewpoints of Sarah and Little Bee, and it does suffer from that, a bit. I couldn’t wait for Sarah’s chapters to be done so I could get back to Little Bee. Her viewpoint – her voice – was enthralling. Some first-person views are just the person thinking to themselves, while some first-person views are the person talking to the reader. Sarah was the first type, and Little Bee the second. Reading her explanations of the differences between her old life and her new life, and how the girls from her village wouldn’t understand things, was amazing. I was hooked within the first ten pages of the book, specifically her note about scars:

I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.

The events Little Bee talks about having witnessed are horrifying. And she recognizes that. She could be bitter, she could be depressed, she could be insane, but she is not. She manages to have hope, and even joy. She sees other refugees around her commit suicide, and in fact always has a plan for how to kill herself “if the men come.” Because the stories of refugees always begin with “the men came and they…” and she’d rather kill herself than let herself be taken. Despite this, she has hope for a future. Or perhaps she simply takes joy in the present.

The book is not a happy one. Like Sing, Unburied, Sing, it’s an important book but not exactly an enjoyable one. There are enjoyable parts. But there are very hard parts, too. (I should note, here, a TRIGGER WARNING for a graphic description of rape, when Little Bee tells Sarah what happened to Little Bee’s older sister.) It did not end the way I wanted it to, though it ended in an unexpected way. I suppose it was too much to hope for a Happy Ever After when the vast majority of refugees don’t get one.

For all that there were very tough scenes to get through in this book, I’m still putting it on my Best of 2018 list. Little Bee’s voice and viewpoint is amazing, the story is well researched, and the plot absorbing. This is a book I’d like to have on my shelf.

This book fills the “book talked about in another book” (Tolstoy and the Purple Chair) prompt for PopSugar 2018, and the “refugee MC” prompt for Booked 2018.

From the cover of Little Bee:

We don’t want to tell you what happens in this book.

It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it.

Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this:

This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again – the story starts there . . .

Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds. 

It’s Ramadan!

persepolis 1So many things going on this month, I almost forgot it’s also Ramadan! You can read all about it at that link, but basically it’s a month of fasting between sunup and sunset to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.

love hate and other filtersI’m not Muslim, but I like to link my reading to current events and holidays, so for Ramadan this year I’m reading the graphic novel Persepolis, about a young girl growing up in Iran, and Love, Hate, and Other Filters, a YA novel about a Muslim teen growing up in Chicago.

I’ve read a few novels in the past on the same topics:

City of Brass

Saints and Misfits

The Clothesline Swing

An American Family

A Hundred Veils

Happy Ramadan, if you celebrate it!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

So I usually publish a review on Saturdays, but as it’s St. Patrick’s Day today, I thought I’d do something a little different, and share the Irish books on my shelves! I have Irish and Scottish ancestry, so I’ve always been fascinated by Celtic things. It’s also a popular theme in the Renaissance Faire community, so I see a lot of it. So here are my Irish books, with a couple of more general Celtic books tossed in.

bloody irishBloody Irish – Celtic Vampire Legends by Bob Curran
A short book, only 186 pages, but centered on Irish Vampire stories. This book hails from the days I played Vampire: the Masquerade all the time! I didn’t find anything in here too creepy, but it gave me material to use in my games!

 

celtic myths legendsCeltic Myths and Legends by Eoin Neeson
This one actually belongs to one of my housemates. Unlike the rest of these, it only has seven stories, but they are preceded by a lengthy foreword on the place of myth in Celtic history, and what we know about ancient Celtic history. Each story is much longer than the stories in most of these other books, as well. And having the larger historical context is pretty interesting.

 

irish fairy folk peasantry talesFairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry edited by William Butler Yeats
This one focuses more on the Irish tales, rather than general Celtic ones, and most of them were collected in the 19th century by folklorists, so the language is rather old-fashioned. There are stories here that I haven’t seen anywhere else, though, like Bewitched Butter, and Rent-day, and The Pudding Bewitched.

 

great irish fantasy myth talesGreat Irish Tales of Fantasy and Myth edited by Peter Haining
Similar to Celtic Myths and Legends, this book includes context for its stories, but instead of a lengthy foreword, it contains a few paragraphs before each story about the legend it came from and the authors who recorded it. I like the bit of context and history it gives to each individual story.

celtic fairy talesCeltic Fairy Tales collected by Joseph Jacobs
Another general Celtic book. It overlaps a few stories with the Irish Peasantry book – The Horned Women and King O’Toole and his Goose, among others, but still a fun book of fairy tales. He has a second book (More Celtic Fairy Tales) that I don’t own.

 

 

 

irish tales fairies ghost worldIrish Tales of the Fairies and the Ghost World by Jeremiah Curtin
Another book belonging to a housemate. A tiny book of only 124 pages, it still manages to cram in 30 stories told within a framework of a man and his houseguest trading stories.