Circe 🍍

What is the journey of  a woman? If you had to make a list of the lessons a woman must learn as she travels through life, what would you include. I would suggest that you look no further than Circe by Madeline Miller for your guidance.

How do we, as women, leave the house of our father, of our mother, and find strength in solitude? The act of redefining ourselves simply as ourselves is no small feat. Our entire childhood is influenced and controlled by those who chose to bring us into this world. We believe what we are told to believe, what we see around us, what we hear and see and feel. Those moments where we are separate give us the opportunity to explore what we know and compare it to what is real.

But sometimes in that exploration, naivete can be dangerous. If we come to the world too trusting, or not trusting enough, balancing is necessary. Such balancing can be harmful, and we must add coping with tragedy, abuse, or rape, either of our minds or bodies, to our journey of self-definition.

We use others as mirrors. Is this who I want to be? What does being like this person feel like? Relationships with others allow us to put on costumes and outfits that others wear to see if we can use their definition as a piece of ours, and in the process we become other people instead of being ourselves. It’s like a thrift store or a patchwork quilt that we make for ourselves. Keeping the things we enjoy, and leaving the bad pieces behind.

Once we have shed the skin of our family and decided we can not be anyone else, our mind opens to what we truly want, who we truly are, and if we are very lucky we get the chance to make the choice to become that person we were becoming all along. We get the chance to choose to be ourselves.

It’s worth mentioning that The Song of Achilles was one of the most moving books I have ever read. I knew the myth and the stories but to hear it told through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’ lover, was a balm to my spirit and a soft hand on my soul. Having now added the experience of Circe to my reading I find myself in the position to demand at least fifty more myths retold by Madeline Miller. If each one sings to my heart as these two have, I will read them all, and gladly.

Please go and read Circe. Especially if you are a woman. Especially if you have had a difficult road. Especially if you’ve found your way back to yourself. You will absolutely love this literary, mythical journey.

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LEIGH BARDUGO ALERT

Oh my god.

I am so excited right now I can’t even.

THERE IS GOING TO BE A NETFLIX SERIES BASED ON SHADOW AND BONE.

SOMEONE HELP WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS MUCH EXCITEMENT AND HAPPINESS???

Read about the show!

Leigh Bardugo is one of like 3 authors that I would preorder without worry. 100% support. If you like fantasy – magic, intrigue, politics, mystery – you MUST read her books. All reviews are linked to the covers.

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Truthwitch (Witchlands #1)

Susan Dennard is one of the most amazing writers I have had the ability to follow and interact with on Twitter. Her newsletter (which I need to subscribe to this year) provides publishing and writing advice to the community and her online persona is warm and helpful. She’s the kind of person who, when people fuck with her, I want to queue up to avenge her.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to begin reading her Witchlands series, but with the third full installment of the series releasing in February, I figured I would try them out.

Truthwitch is a book that is a masterclass in character development and investment. It took exactly one paragraph for me to ride or die for Safi and Iseult, the Threadsisters and witches that are troublemakers that can’t help but step in it, but when they do they are always there to support each other and get out of whatever trouble they are in together.

It would have been so easy for Dennard to have given me long chapters about how this universe works – the myriad of witch types and the powers they wield are vast and far-reaching – as well as the politics of the different regions – they are reaching an end to a 20 year worldwide truce that has several long-reaching consequences across all lands – BUT SHE DOESN’T. And its absence is almost as magical as her storytelling.

We are exposed to the aspects of the Witchlands universe as our characters interact with them. Witches can cleave, which is basically their magic being overused and turning them into elemental bombs, but we don’t get a long explanation about how that happens, we see Safi and Iseult (and Merik, the prince from the water region) encountering a cleaved Tidewitch right at the start. We’re immediately exposed to this danger, we learn how it is typically dealt with, and we get a foreshadowing about Iseult in the process.

I think this is YA(?) but it has one of the major strengths that I love in a well written YA, which is that you forget how old the characters are. It’s part of what makes all of Leigh Bardugo’s work so genius – the kids are all 16 and 17 but you forget and the story is so epic that you read it as though you’re reading about adults.

You never get kicked out of the action, the forward motion of the story, in order to learn things. Right from the first chapter you will care about the characters, and the claws which Dennard will have sunk into you will pull you through the story at a breakneck pace; you will be sad to ever have to put it down to eat, work, or sleep.

I have very few critiques for this one. I felt like a LOT was thrown into the first book, almost too much for me to keep track of and I had so many questions about the world that a little bit of exposition wouldn’t have hurt things too much. I am hopeful that the sequel, Windwitch, will stretch things out a bit to give depth to the breadth of Truthwitch.

The romantic moments between Safi and Merik will seem eerily familiar if you enjoyed the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy by Sarah J. Maas. The acknowledgements show that Dennard and Maas are very good friends, with Maas reading and commenting on the work in progress. Another echoing theme from Maas’ books here in Dennard’s Truthwitch is the “everything is my fault, I feel so much guilt because if I’d only never been born…” kind of stuff. It’s not there a lot, but when it was I rolled my eyes and just kept reading.  I’m fine with this as long as the future books don’t involve the word mate in reference to a partner or feasting in reference to oral pleasuring.

If you love fantasy, magic, mystical creatures, surprises, intrigue, and a little romance, then Truthwitch is a book you should pick up right away.

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Three Dark Crowns (TDK #1)

Three Dark Crowns

I have been waiting for my library to get a physical copy of this book for at least a year. They had the ebook but if I learned one thing about myself last year it’s that I don’t do well with ebooks. I download them and forget about them, and then I have the audacity to get angry when they aren’t available anymore. In my pre-2019 TBR searches I discovered that the book was finally available and grabbed it!

On a magical island surrounded by a mist that holds in magic, a Goddess provides magical powers to three populations. Poisoners can eat, make, and cure poisons and are very hard to kill. Elementals control water/fire/air/earth. Naturalists control plants and animals and are paired with animal familiars that reflect the strength of their power. One queen rules over them all with the help of the Black Council and the Temple of the Goddess. The queen chooses a king-consort, and when the Goddess sees the queen’s rule as finished the queen gives birth to a set of triplets and is forced to leave the island.

The triplets are raised together in a cottage on the island until they are 4 or 5, at which point they are sent to be fostered by the communities that match their given abilities. In this generation Katherine is the youngest and sent to live with the most influential poisoner family, the Arrons, who control the Black Council and have fostered the triplet who became queen for the last 100 years. Arsinoe is fostered by the naturalists and is friends with one of the most powerful naturalists ever born. Mirabella (the firstborn) is raised by the elementals who are in with the Temple and its priestesses, who are doing their best to be sure their triplet becomes queen and ends the century of poisoner rule. Once the triplets turn 16 they enter their ascension year, which is a year in which they display their powers to the entire kingdom and then proceed to kill each other.

Three queens enter. One queen leaves.

The political intrigue and the magical systems are very interesting. My questions about how and why this all works kept me reading to the very end. The fact that Blake doesn’t take a lot of time to give any backstory keeps the story moving, and we are given glimpses of history and tradition as the need arises, which leaves you with more questions than answers, but enough answers that you don’t get frustrated.

I loved this story from beginning to end. It hits the ground running and I kept asking “why is this happening???” or “OMG what will happen now???” and even though I kind of had an inkling about the big reveal at the end, it still felt powerful. The knowledge you end with is a magnificent cliffhanger that will have you clicking “Buy Now” on the next book.

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Angel Picks: Best Books of 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Top Ten Angel Picks! (In no particular order.) Most of the covers are clickable to read my original review, and when they are not, the links and titles are provided under the covers in the description.

Tess of the Road

Rachel Hartman did not get half the credit or attention that she deserved for this triumph of a novel. It should have been on many of the year-end fantasy lists but I felt it was overlooked. The strong female lead was one of the best I read this year and Hartman seamlessly ties the story in with her other novels set in the same universe.

Blue Sky

Marisa de los Santos should know that she can have all of my money until the end of time. This novel centered around a safe house for battered women and children and its history will teach you things and pull on your heartstrings. If you haven’t picked up any of de los Santos’ books, you are missing out on deep, wonderfully written stories.

 

Rebel of the Sands (#1)
Traitor to the Throne (#2)
Hero at the Fall (#3)

With Hero at the Fall set to release in 2018, I decided to read the first two books before it came out. Alwyn Hamilton sets up a fantastic magic system rooted in the djinni of old, terrifying monsters that crawl up into the darkness, and the need for revolution to be in the hands of the next generation. This series had the most satisfying ending of a fantasy trilogy that I have ever read, making me feel like I understood the immediate ending, and how the kingdom survived into the future. Hamilton also didn’t pull any punches when it came to the violence and loss in the midst of war and revolution, and I really appreciated the fact that she did not sugar coat it. This trilogy is a must read for anyone who loves fantasy, magic, and good villains.

The Name of the Wind

True, The Name of the Wind did not release in 2018, but I read it for the first time in 2018 and it knocked my fucking socks off so here it sits. Very few books are able to pull me so completely out of my reality and into that of the story that I forget I am reading and believe I am experiencing the realm in which the main character finds himself. I raced back to this book each day because the magic system, the struggles of the main character, and the world itself was so compelling that I couldn’t wait to know more. I do not feel the same way about book 2 (The Wise Man’s Fear) and book 3 seems a long way off, but this first book was so amazing that I feel it’s still worth it to read just on merit.

On writing

I began writing a novel this year and hope to have the first draft finished by the new year so I can post and brag about 100,000 words on paper that are all mine. 🙂 One of the very first craft books (how-to) I read on writing was Stephen King’s memoir/writing manual. His writing on writing is split here between before and after his accident with the van that hit him as he was walking down a rural Maine road. Of all the books I have read on novel writing, this is the one that has inspired me the most and that I related to most closely. Again, this book wasn’t published in 2018, but I read it for the first time in 2018 so it gets to be on the list.

Song of Achilles

Madeline Miller’s retelling of the Achilles myth from the point of view of his lover Patroclus is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever let into my brain via my eyeballs. I made multiple attempts to read the book she actually published this year (Circe – a similar myth retelling) but it was always on hold so I couldn’t keep it long enough to finish it. I sobbed at the end of this book because the powerful emotions Miller communicates will wrap themselves around your heart and refuse to let go until you finish. This book was a work of art.

The Distance Home

I received The Distance Home as an advanced reader copy at the AWP Writer’s Conference in Tampa this year. This book wrecked me by mirroring my experience as a child raised rurally. The brutal nature of masculinity and the impatience with difference all wrapped up in unreasonable expectations and embarrassment – Paula Saunders created a book that offers a window into a life that too many people in this country never see. It hurt to read, but not so much that I wouldn’t recommend it as one of the best I read.

Bright We Burn

And I Darken (#1)
Now I Rise (#2)

I waited relatively patiently for the final book in Kiersten White’s And I Darken trilogy. Along with Leigh Bardugo, I will recommend White’s books always without hesitation. This trilogy was nonstop action and intensity. The female lead, Lada, is the most terrifying female main character I have ever read, and even just writing this small blurb makes me want to go reread the trilogy so I can live vicariously through her bloodthirsty adventures. GET YOUR REVENGE, LADA. If you haven’t read this trilogy yet make it a New Year’s resolution to do so.

 

The surprise on this list is Jasmine Guillory. She came into my life late in the year when I decided to finally pick up The Wedding Date off my shelf. I bought it for myself earlier in the summer and just hadn’t gotten around to it. It was luxury, sexiness, and fun wrapped up in an enjoyable long-distance relationship, so of course I decided to pick up her next one right when it came out. The Proposal wasn’t as intense romantically as The Wedding Date, but it was just as luxurious and I would say more complex in its exploration of romance and relationships. I can’t wait to read The Wedding Party next summer!

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That concludes our broadcasting year. Thank you for being with us and we hope you’ll stay with us as we barge into 2019 with torches and guillotines.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

Goodreads Challenges

Since learning about Goodreads and beginning to use it to track my reading and post my reviews, I have participated in the Goodreads Challenge. You choose an amount of books you would like to read within the year, and then log them as you go. I set a goal of 100 books each year, just to see if I can make it.

Last year I did pretty well considering everything that happened. I made it to within 13 books of my goal and read a ton of really excellent work.

2017 Goodreads Challenge

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Angel Picks: Best of 2017 (Read my favorites list from last year!)

This year I saw a dip in my reading due to my multiple changes in jobs and how difficult the jobs I took were. Despite this I feel like I put on a good show.

2018 Goodreads Challenge

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I might read a few more before the end of the year but honestly I’m knackered and just want to sleep the rest of 2018 away. I’ll set my 2019 goal back at 100 books and see if I can reach the bar next year. 🙂

My Angel Picks: Best of 2018 will be up tomorrow! Have a great day!

Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2)

Throne of Jade

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1)

Throne of Jade begins months after the battle at the end of His Majesty’s Dragon, with a Chinese envoy (and prince) demanding the return of Temeraire as a Chinese Celestial to the Chinese emperor. Laurence of course refuses, as does Temeraire, and so they travel with an English crew and the envoy back to China to negotiate the continuing partnership of Temeraire and Laurence.

I regret to inform you that this book was so slow and boring that it took me *checks notes* 16 days to read 338 pages. The first 100 were tense and exciting – the beginning of their journey is fraught with peril and after becoming to close to them after the first book, I felt very upset that they might be forced to part (although there being another 5 books in the series helped ease my fears a bit). But then the sea voyage that brings them to China lasts almost the entire book and it’s almost all translations and diplomacy and weather and negotiations…ugh. I finally made it to the part where they take off for Peking and Temeraire even meets his mom, but I’m so bored I don’t even care anymore.

This one is going back to the library on my way home from the Miami Book Festival and I’ll be moving on to a different set of books over Thankgiving break. Honestly I’m really disappointed, I thought this would be a series I could really get into after loving the first book so much. *sadface*