Book Review: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

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Genres: YA; sci-fi; dystopian; LGBTQ+

Why I read it: It exploded on social media and after I heard the description, I had to read it. I got lucky and scored an e-ARC from Net Galley!

Who I’d recommend it to: YA sci-fi fans, especially if you’re looking for diverse reads. Must love puns.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (3.5 stars…maybe?)

Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Amazon


What it’s about:

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.


Review:

I want to start by saying that I really liked this book. It was one of my most anticipated 2017 releases, and I literally screamed and danced around when I was approved for an ARC.

 

At the end of the review, I’ve included some links to other blogs, including one from Tristina.

 

The good…

Wright’s writing is fantastic. With every scene, every character, every place, I felt like I was there and could see and hear it all. The descriptions were great. Every character really stood out, too. I never had the issue of confusing two of them, like I’ve experienced with some other books with such a huge cast. I’m really hoping that in the next book we’ll have more time with more chimeras, because I’m so freaking interested! I want to know everything about them and the different kinds. A couple were explained in 27 Hours, but there’s so much more to learn about them, and the moon. Oh. My. Gods. The moon, you guys! I don’t want to say much so I don’t spoil something, but holy crap it’s awesome and I want to know more! There are other things I really want to know more about that involve at least two of the characters and the moon and the chimeras, but I don’t want to talk about that because ~spoilers.~ But I’m really hoping it’s addressed more in the next book, because I need answers! (It’s not really a plot-hole kind of lack-of-answers, it’s just a really good thing to not fully explain in book one so it can be explored more later in the series.)

The diversity in this book is the best I’ve ever encountered, and I want a thousand more books with rep like this or better. We have multiple main POC characters, a bisexual deaf character, a couple of gay characters (if I remember right), a pansexual trans character, an asexual character, a lesbian couple and a gender neutral (I think, so please correct me if I’m wrong) character. There were probably more, but I stupidly didn’t take many notes about anything because I read this in like a day and didn’t think about it. So, A+ for diversity, I think. (But definitely check out other reviews from people whose voices count more than mine for things like the POC, deafness, ace, trans, and gender-neutral reps, because I really can’t make any comments or judgments about those. I’ve been seeing some not so positive comments about some of these reps since I read the book.) I can’t speak for most of the rep, but omg the pansexual character. My ❤ I had to take short breaks a couple of times because I related so much to what she was going through. What she experienced captured so well how I felt for a while in high school and shortly after, and it felt so good to finally see some pan rep in a book. I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this, and I wish this book had existed when I was in high school.

The romances were so. freaking. cute. I’m usually thinking something like, “Ok, ok, I get it, they like each other, blah blah blah, can we get back to the story, now?” when I read a book with a romance sub-plot. Not so with 27 Hours. Honestly, I loved the romances. The puns from one character almost killed me, though. (I related to that, too.) From the very beginning, I was rooting for the couples as well as the individual characters. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted book characters to get together and be happy as much as I did while reading this book.

This book is action packed. Like, from the first couple of pages, it barely lets up until the very end. This is about a 400 page book and I almost read it in one sitting. (I read it during a read-a-thon, but that’s still not normal for me.) There are constant threats of danger, fight scenes, escape scenes, just…so much action. I was literally on the edge of my seat for a while, my eyes flying over the words as fast as they could to find out if everyone made it out of whatever situation they were in. It was intense, but awesome.

And the not so good…

All that said, I have been sitting, thinking about this book and how to review it for a couple of weeks because I had mixed feelings.

When I first started this book, I liked it. Very soon, I loved it. But, the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking something was a little “off,” or at least something made me feel a little weird. The idea was a confused, insubstantial thing in the back of my mind until I came across a couple of reviews that put it into words far more eloquently, I’m sure, than I can. This is a story of, essentially, human settlers vs the native beings (called “chimeras,” or, the derogatory term “gargoyles”) of a moon far, far from Earth, and the war they’ve been fighting for a few decades. I remember thinking it reminded me of something, while I was reading, but I read it so fast I didn’t really process it until later. It reminds me of European “settlers” fighting with and stealing land from indigenous people all over the place here on Earth.

Looking back, it kind of bothers me that all the perspectives in the book are human characters, and there are no chapters from the chimeras’s POV. That might not be the case with the next books, I don’t know. I just wish there’d been at least a few chapters from a chimera’s, or multiple chimeras’s, POV. At no point, that I remember, does it come across that the actions of humans against chimeras are justified or anything like that, though. The issues of the colonization are addressed in the book, pretty directly, I think. It might not be perfect, but it’s not brushed aside or ignored.

Another thing that just confused me was how all the people seem to have gone from varied cultures from all over Earth to being very Westernized and speaking one language (“the human language”), as far as I remember. This is set in the future, but I don’t remember there being any indication of how far in the future it’s set. There are mentions of where people’s families came from on Earth, and what things are left that their ancestors brought with them, and I just think it’s a little weird that they would have all adopted one language and forgotten their old ones and their customs and traditions and stuff. (There were a couple of words that weren’t in English, like one character referring to her “abuela,” so some things from Earth and the other languages still exist, apparently, but not everything.)

I also don’t remember race (with humans) really being addressed much, other than indicating POC  or white characters. So…is racism and all the other nasty prejudices on Earth right now, no longer part of this universe? Because of the human-chimera relations, prejudices obviously still exist. But there’s never any mention of racism, homophobia, etc. with humans. Did we actually manage to eventually, in however many years in the future this is set, get past it? Is it just that way with the settlers on that moon? Maybe I’m over-thinking all of this, idk, but I have questions. (It’s also possible that I missed some explanations in my binge read.)

Lastly, while I thought the world-building was very good, there were times when I was really confused for a while. I think I eventually caught up because things were explained later, but the characters are, in my opinion, more developed and stronger than the world-building. That didn’t bother me too much because I usually prefer character driven stories, and I struggle with extensive world-building sometimes (I can’t keep track of everything, etc.), and I didn’t feel the world was under developed by the end. It’s just been left open enough for going deeper in subsequent books.

 

So…

I really, really liked this book, and I’ve been talking about it a lot. Is it perfect? No, but what book is? I think Tristina Wright did the best possible job she could, and it’s pretty clear that she put in the work for the reps in this book. You can’t please everyone or capture everyone’s identity in one book, because everyone’s experience is very different. I personally felt a connection to a couple of characters in this book at various points, but that doesn’t mean everyone will have the same experience.

I’m torn between 3 & 4 stars, but I’m leaving it at 4 for now, I think. Maybe I’ll say 3.5 stars.

I will most likely read the next book, and probably count down days to release day after we get an official date. (It’s going to be a while, I’m sure, since this one just came out on the 3rd.)

This was probably the hardest review I’ve ever written, and I’m still not sure I managed to say what I mean. I tried, and all I can do now is direct you to other posts from people who can talk about the things I can’t.


Additional reading:

Aimal’s review (colonialism, racial rep, etc. is discussed at length; great review, give it a read)
Laura’s review (has links and stuff to things people had issues with)
Tristina Wright’s statement/apology issued about race and queer IDs
Ann Elise’s review (ace/aro rep discussion)
Avery’s review (ace rep, gender rep)

There are probably many more blog posts out there that talk about these important subjects, from people more qualified than I am, but these were the ones I found shortly after reading the book, while trying to figure out how to put into words what I thought of everything.


Have you read it yet?

Let me know what you thought of it, or if you’re planning to read it 🙂

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Book Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

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Genres: historical fiction; contemporary; magical realism

Why I read it: Cottingley fairies! I’ve known that story since I was a kid, and I’ve seen the pictures loads of times, so when I saw the word “Cottingley” in a book title, it was immediately added to my TBR and I entered the ARC giveaway on goodreads.

Who I’d recommend it to: If you like the blending of old and new stories (switching between present and past with connecting threads), a teeny bit of magical realism, and/or the mystery of the Cottingley fairies, you might like this.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ (3.5 stars)

Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Amazon


What it’s about:

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?


Review:

This took me ages to get through, but it was not the book’s fault, it was me. I’ve been in this awful reading slump all year for specifically SFF books, and, while this one isn’t super fantasy-ish, it was close enough for my slump to prevent me from making it very far in. (Then my surgery happened and that made it take even longer. Ugh.)

Anyway… As I said, I entered the giveaway for this because I saw the word “Cottingley” and, paired with that cover, I was sure before I even read the description that it would be about the Cottingley fairies, which I had a bit of an obsession with as a child. If you haven’t heard of the Cottingley fairies, google it. If you have no interest at all in what happened, I’d say skip this book. But, if you’re even just a bit curious, you might like it.

The story alternates between present day with Olivia, and events from the early 20th century recorded in a memoir later in life by Frances Griffiths. Olivia is still reeling from the recent loss of her grandfather when she finds out he left her his bookshop, Something Old. But that isn’t all he left her. He also left her a cat, Hemingway (who lives in the bookshop), and a manuscript. Within the manuscript, Olivia finds links to an old photograph she had as a child, and, later, connections to her own family. As she reads the book, peculiar things begin to happen in her own life that may or may not have logical explanations.

Along the way, she learns not only about the people in the story, but also about her family and herself. She’s been dealing with a lot, and some of her indecision and uncertainty really annoyed me for a while, even though I guess it was kind of understandable. So, when she finally starts taking control of her life, I was happy for her. Olivia is not my favorite character, and I actually found her a little boring at times, but by the end of the book I was definitely rooting for her.

For those of you who don’t like romance, don’t worry, it’s not really a part of this story. It’s there, kind of, but it isn’t a major plot point or anything and almost no time is spent on it. This is mostly about family and connections and accepting who you are and learning to stand on your own.

I expected to really love the Cottingley parts of this book, but I didn’t. (I did like them, I just didn’t love them.) It was an interesting way to go about mingling past and present in a historical fiction novel, but some of it seemed to drag by (that could have been the slump, though). I can’t imagine what Frances’s life was like, dealing with her father being away fighting in the war, and having her entire life altered so drastically. So, I felt for her, but her narrative wasn’t as compelling as I hoped it would be. Elsie honestly kind of irritated me, and most of the other characters didn’t leave much of an impression (they were minor). The exception to that was Ellen. My heart broke for her and I wanted the fairies to be real, just for her.

I’d really love to read Frances Griffiths’s own book (books?) about the Cottingley fairies, though, to see how much of the truth made it into this book. I do know that at least some of the “memoir” in this book lines up with what Frances said after confessing about the photographs.

For those who don’t know or care to look it up, Frances and Elsie confessed in the ’80s that they had faked the photographs. Why did they wait over 60 years? Because they’d fooled the world. Even Arthur Conan Doyle was taken in by their story, and subsequently wrote a couple of articles about it featuring the now famous photographs. (Yes, that Arthur Conan Doyle. He was a spiritualist and actually wrote a book about fairies called The Coming of the Fairies, though not many people know about it now.)

Basically, even though we know it was a hoax now, it’s still fascinating to read about, if you’re into this kind of thing. As for the fifth photograph (“The Fairy Bower”), I like to think Frances was telling the truth about that one.

…perhaps believing in fairies was more important than seeing them. In belief, there is hope and wonder. In seeing, there is often question and doubt.

Whether you believe/want to believe in fairies or not, this is still a great historical fiction novel, and I do recommend it. The writing is enchanting all on its own, the story has just a touch of magic, and the characters are so alive and believably human.

Book Review: Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis

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Genres: YA; contemporary

Why I read it: The cover. I saw it while browsing goodreads giveaways, entered on a whim, and won an ARC.

Who I’d recommend it to: A lot of different people, honestly. If you like smart, funny, compulsively readable books in interesting formats (like epistolary novels, things like Illuminae, etc.) with feminist themes, I would recommend this.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 

Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository 


What it’s about:

Flora Goldwasser has fallen in love. She won’t admit it to anyone, but something about Elijah Huck has pulled her under. When he tells her about the hippie Quaker school he attended in the Hudson Valley called Quare Academy, where he’ll be teaching next year, Flora gives up her tony upper east side prep school for a life on a farm, hoping to woo him. A fish out of water, Flora stands out like a sore thumb in her vintage suits among the tattered tunics and ripped jeans of the rest of the student body. When Elijah doesn’t show up, Flora must make the most of the situation and will ultimately learn more about herself than she ever thought possible.

Told in a series of letters, emails, journal entries and various ephemera, Flora’s dramatic first year is laid out for all to see, embarrassing moments and all.


Review:

I’m not really sure what I expected, going into this, but it’s not what I got. I think I was expecting a possibly humorous, but otherwise generic, contemporary YA story. What I got was different. It was still funny, but it was way deeper than I’d expected.

Flora is like the very best of Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl) and Cher Horowitz (Clueless). She was a privileged, upper east side, vintage-fashion-loving, private school girl, but she was also aware of and passionate about things like feminism, the environment, etc. I really thought this book and Flora, in particular, were going to make me mad, because she left her home and school to go to the Quare Academy (which actually sounded like a place I would have loved to have gone) all because of some slightly older guy she barely knew. But then amazing things happened.

During Flora’s first year, she makes some mistakes and things are generally not so great for her, at least at first. I loved how real this book felt. I had to keep reminding myself the letters and stuff were fiction, because Jenny Fran Davis did such a good job creating a realistic world and cast of characters. She didn’t shy away from difficult topics, and I think she handled all of them so well in this book.

I don’t want to say much about the plot, partly because it’s really hard to describe, but mostly because I think this is a book you should start without really knowing too much about it. While this book does cover some very serious topics, I enjoyed how it never felt like it took itself too serious.

The characters were great. Flora, of course, but also the people in her life at Quare and back home in Manhattan. She really learned a lot from many of them, and watching her grow as a character throughout the book was really nice. I hate when a book takes a character through really rapid changes (in a chapter or two, for example) because it feels too rushed. Or, on the opposite side of things, a character doesn’t grow and change at all throughout the book. Both are usually unbelievable. But with Flora, her change was gradual and never felt forced, rushed, or otherwise unrealistic.

I particularly liked Juna and Dean, and wouldn’t have minded getting to know both of them even more. Especially Dean, I think. Then there was the kind of mysterious Sinclaire, who had one of my favorite lines in the whole book (in an e-mail to Flora). I had to put the book down until I stopped laughing and could get the visual out of my head. Sam was kind of an ass, but I liked him and his relationship with Flora. Elijah, though. Ugh. I wanted to kick him in the shins repeatedly. Basically, I really liked most of the characters, even the ones we didn’t get to know very well.

The Miss Tulip subplot was fun to read about. I don’t want to say a lot about it because I don’t want to give away any potential spoilers, but the way Flora’s friends from Manhattan factored in was kind of amusing. (Also, that’s totally a blog I would probably read.) There was also the Nymphette Magazine side story that I enjoyed. (Also a magazine I would have loved, probably, back when I was a teenager.) The way the two were tied in together was funny, heartwarming, and just generally a good time.


This has been one of the hardest book reviews I’ve ever written. I have so many feelings about it, and the characters, but it’s hard to talk about it without giving things away :/ There are a lot of things I really want to talk about, but I’m afraid it would be spoiler-y. Sigh. 

To summarize: I definitely recommend it, and I will almost certainly be keeping an eye out for more books from Jenny Fran Davis in the future.

Book Review: Halloween Carnival: Volume 1

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cover; links to goodreads

Genres: horror; holidays>Halloween

Why I read it: I love horror, I love short stories, and I really love Halloween, so I requested it on Net Galley and was approved for an eARC.

Who I’d recommend it to: Anyone interested in the above things I mentioned. 

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ (3.5 stars)

 

Goodreads | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play Books

 


What it’s about:

Robert McCammon, Kevin Lucia, John R. Little, Lisa Morton, and Mark Allan Gunnells put the horror back in Halloween with a quintet of devilishly delightful tales, curated by acclaimed author and editor Brian James Freeman.

STRANGE CANDY by Robert McCammon
Chocolate bars and sour suckers are trick-or-treat staples, but beware the odd sweet at the bottom of your bag. You never know who it’s from—or what it might do to you.

THE RAGE OF ACHILLES by Kevin Lucia
Father Ward should have heeded the warnings about hearing confession on All Hallow’s Eve. Because a man is about to tell him a secret more haunting than any he has heard before.

DEMON AIR by John R. Little
Fear of flying is not uncommon. But on this transpacific airline, the real danger isn’t the flight itself. It’s whoever—or whatever—is up in the air with you.

LA HACIENDA DE LOS MUERTOS by Lisa Morton
Trick McGrew, former cowboy star of the silver screen, has never believed in tall tales. But down in Mexico, the land of La Llorona, he’s about to find out just how real urban legends can be.

#MAKEHALLOWEENSCARYAGAIN by Mark Allan Gunnells
Some people will go to any lengths to rack up retweets, likes, and follows on social media, no matter who they end up hurting . . . or even killing.


Review:

First, I rate anthologies like this by rating each individual story, then averaging all those ratings together to come up with a rating for the whole book. Also, because these are short stories, I don’t want to say much about them, so this should be a short review.

Strange Candy by Robert McCammon– This was a nice story to kick things off with. It wasn’t particularly scary, just a little creepy (and also a little heartwarming), and very Halloween-y. I gave it 4/5 stars.

The Rage of Achilles or When Mockingbirds Sing by Kevin Lucia– I thought this one was a little spooky, but still not very scary. It did have a nice mysterious vibe going on, though, and I actually didn’t see the twist at the end coming. However, for this one, I feel like it was a little too short, because there were too many questions left at the end about certain things. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Demon Air by John R. Little– This was my least favorite story. I thought it was boring, kind of disjointed, and overly cheesy. I gave it 1 out of 5 stars :/

La Hacienda de los Muertos by Lisa Morton– I’m familiar with a certain legend that was used in this story, and I ended up actually liking this one more than I thought I would when I first started reading it. It was like a combination western/horror, and I thought it was a bit spooky. But, it felt a little too rushed at the end and I think it would have worked better if it had been just a little longer. I gave it 4/5 stars.

#MakeHalloweenScaryAgain by Mark Allan Gunnells– This was my favorite story, and it’s also the longest, taking up just a little less than 50% of this collection. I have a few minor complaints, but they’re not really relevant to the story. It wasn’t terrifying, but it was suspenseful and felt like an homage to some of my favorite horror movies in some ways. I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars.


I was a tiny bit let down by this collection because I was hoping to be really scared by it, but it only succeeded a few times in making me feel a little creeped out. Still, it was an enjoyable read and I’ll definitely be looking most of these writers up to read more from them.

Would I recommend it? Probably, but not if you’re looking for lots of gore or something truly terrifying (unless you’re very easily scared, in which case this might work for you).

Book Review: Basic Witches

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cover; links to goodreads

Genres: non-fiction; self-help; witchcraft

Why I read it: I’ll get deeper into this in my review, but I saw it on Net Galley and got way too excited, requested it, and was approved for an eARC.

Who I’d recommend it to: I would recommend it more to people who identify as women, and those who have an interest in self-help and self-care, witchcraft-made-easy, feminism, etc.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

 


What it’s about:

Capitalizing on the rising trend of hipster witchcraft, BASIC WITCHES is a lighthearted and empowering book of spells and lifestyle tips for feisty millennial women.

In Basic Witches, readers will discover how to tap into their inner sorceress and channel the dark arts for everything from cluttered apartments to dating disasters. Want to enhance your attractiveness? Pick the right power color of eyeshadow and project otherworldly glamour. Need to exorcise a toxic friendship? Say the right symbolic curse and banish it from your life. Need to boost your self-confidence? Whip up a tasty herbal “potion” to strengthen your inner resolve. Plus historical and pop culture sidebars that situate the new witchcraft trend within a broader context. With humor, heart, and a hip modern sensibility, journalists Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman dispense witchy wisdom for the curious, the cynical, and anyone who could use a magical boost to get through the day. This ain’t your grandma’s grimoire!


Review:

I was so excited about this book when I first saw it on Net Galley, but I almost wish I hadn’t requested it. As someone who’s been a practicing witch for over 15 years, this book was not intended for people like me, and it says so in the first few pages of the book. So, if you’re already a witch and have been for some time, this might not be a great choice for you.

On the flip side of that, if you’re mildly interested in witchcraft and how to use it to help yourself in all sorts of different situations (choosing your clothing/cosmetics to put you in a certain mood, super simple home remedies, giving yourself permission for self-care, making a list to help you find love, and many more), this might be for you. Or, if you are already a practicing witch, but you’ve only recently become interested in spells with minimal ingredients and steps, you might also like this.

I’m having a love/hate relationship with this book because I am a witch, even though I try not to take things too seriously (unless seriousness is called for). I’ve done more than one spell involving toilet paper (there’s a spell in this book that uses it, too) and other items that might make other people scratch their heads and wonder what the heck I’m thinking. But…this book basically uses the word “witch” to mean “modern woman” or “feminist.” I don’t have a big problem with that, but I do feel like this book was a little misleading.

So, I didn’t get as much out of this book as I would have liked, and if it had been around when I was in middle school or high school, I would have found it more useful. Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve changed a lot. I realized I didn’t need tons of props and ingredients for spells, and I let my creativity reign in designing them. It’s mentioned in this book, but many witches have been saying something like this for years, so this isn’t a quote: you don’t need stuff for a spell to work, you just need you, and your intentions.

Most of the spells and rituals in this book require only a couple of items (the purpose of which, as with any spell or ritual, is to give you something physical to focus on), like a candle, some paper, a bathtub, your phone, etc. They’re simple, but simple can be just as effective, sometimes even more so, than complex spells. If you’re interested in the more complex types of witchcraft, or anything formal, you should skip this book. But, if you want spells you can throw together easily (without a long list of difficult to obtain ingredients) and use to inspire you to create your own, this might be a good way to dip your toe in and see what you think.

I was very pleased with the inclusiveness and lack of judgment in this book about so many topics, from darker fashion choices (you don’t have to be goth to be a witch, or vice versa, but some of us happen to identify as both), to gender identity, to sexual orientation, to a brief discussion about midwives, to safe sex and your birth control choices, and more. This book is full of things that can help you take control of your life and figure out what’s important to you. I think this book will appeal more to those who identify as women, but I think anyone could find some things in it useful, or relate to many topics discussed. 

There’s a lot of really good, practical advice in this book that would lead me to recommend it to people who aren’t interested in witchcraft at all. Like how to deal with toxic or draining people in your life, having important conversations about your needs and wants with a sexual partner, helping yourself heal after being in an abusive relationship (with a romantic partner, parent, friend, etc.), the parts about self-care, and a lot more. I liked a lot of those parts, even though some of it doesn’t apply to me at all at this point (like finding love, because I’m happily married). There’s also some good little historical bits about witches, people who were accused of being witches, wise women/healers, etc., if you’re into that. 


I could honestly talk about this book for much longer, because there’s a lot crammed into just over 200 pages (I have 5 pages of notes, too), but I think I’ll wrap this up because it’s already quite long.

Basically, this book wasn’t perfect for me, but I enjoyed it (for the most part), and I will definitely recommend it to other people for a lot of different reasons. It doesn’t read like a self-help book, but it kind of is one, and I think a lot of people could get something meaningful and helpful out of reading it. It isn’t too serious, but it doesn’t shy away from serious topics, either. It is practical, sometimes a little silly and fun, and has some super cute illustrations here and there (which isn’t very important, but I liked them).

Will I buy a copy, now that it’s been released? Maybe. I do know that I will absolutely look at it next time I’m in a bookstore, and I might buy a copy for myself or a friend.


Have you read Basic Witches, or are you planning to? If you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought of it!

Book Review: Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck

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cover; links to goodreads

Genres: fiction

Why I read it: I won a copy in a goodreads giveaway

Who I’d recommend it to: People who like quick reads with hope, second chances in various forms, and like/don’t mind reading about restoring historic houses.

 

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (3.5 stars)

 

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What it’s about:

People keep a house alive, not the other way around. Alex Proctor has seen the truth of this in every empty, rundown property she s bought and renovated since her divorce almost three years ago. She s also experienced the thrill of making each one into a home.

Her newest project is a dilapidated, century-old house just a few blocks from Geneva Lake, Wisconsin. Time and neglect, along with rats and raccoons, have ravaged it inside and out. Only Alex can see the beauty of what it once was and might become again. In just a few weeks by the time the cicadas make their scheduled reappearance after seventeen years underground the house should be ready to sell. In the meantime, there are construction disasters, and surprises, to contend with.

Amid overgrown grounds and rooms brimming with debris, Alex finds treasures pocket doors, hardwood floors hidden beneath layers of linoleum and grime and carved initials that reveal a long-ago love story involving Alex s elderly neighbor, Elsie, and another cicada summer. At the same time, Alex finds herself searching for a way to reconcile her new life with lingering feelings for her ex-husband. For so long she felt sure that moving on was the only option, but maybe this house, and everything she s learning in it, could give Alex room for a second chance . . .


Review:

I entered a giveaway for this because I’ve been in a massive multi-genre slump most of the year, so I’ve been looking for more books that aren’t the kinds of stories I usually read. This definitely fit the bill, because it’s not at all the kind of book I would normally read.

What hooked me first about the description was the house. I have a weird fascination with architecture and home renovation and the like. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of detail the house and repairs received, but I feel like it might get tedious for people who don’t care at all about stuff like that. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a lot of info-dumping throughout the entire book, but it was important to the story and had more page time than I expected.

The cicada theme wasn’t too cheesy or in your face, which I liked. It was obvious, throughout the book, but done well. Cicadas (well, some kinds, I think) emerge every 17 years, very briefly. They come out, mate, lay eggs, and then die. The nymphs (baby cicadas) hatch, eventually burrow underground, and then emerge in another 17 years. This cycle of rebirth, while not following the 17 years of cicada cycles, was still very much an underlying theme in the form of second chances for different people throughout the book.

I liked Alex most of the time, and I felt for her. She was dealing with so much and I think she handled it all as best she could. The description isn’t lying when it says there were disasters and surprises during the renovation of the house. I remember more than once groaning and actually saying, “Oh, come on!” Despite the couple of issues I had with Alex and some choices she made, I was rooting for her. My biggest issue came with the way the book ended. I won’t say what happened, just that I was hoping for something different. I didn’t hate the ending, though, I was just a little disappointed with it. (I think a lot of people will probably be happy with it, though.)

 

This was a light, easy read, and I think it would make a great beach read if you’re the kind of person who goes to the beach.

Book Review: Escapism: Words + Photos by Candice Lee

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cover; links to goodreads

Genres: poetry; photography

Why I read it: I won a copy in a goodreads giveaway. Also, poetry.

Who I’d recommend it to: This one is tough, but I would probably recommend it to someone going through a breakup.

 

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

 

 


What it’s about:

This is a story about love and loss. This full-color book is a collection of poems and landscape photographs–all written, shot, and arranged by the author. 
Composed in the style of a memoir, she shares her experiences through words and photos. This window into her emotions reveals the dark side of love as it narrates the journey through relationships, friendships, it’s-complicated-ships, and self-identity. But really, it’s a story about finding beauty in pain through growth.

Note from the author:
“Everybody hurts. But not everyone is willing to share their pain from weak moments. It’s difficult to put it all out there. I believe, these are the moments that mark beginnings of transformation. I hope this book helps people feel a little less lonely and a little more inspired. We all feel it.”


Review:

I love the photography in this book! The cover caught my eye first because it’s basically a minimalist cover, but it’s a photograph, and I think it’s perfect for this collection of poetry. It set the tone and fit nicely. Most of the photographs are in full color, which was a nice surprise. Photography–especially nature photography, which is what’s in this book–is kind of a passion of mine.

The poetry itself didn’t blow me away or really make me feel like I’d hoped it would. I liked a good chunk of it, and even loved a couple of poems, but I think I would have gotten more out of this if I’d had it after a breakup.

I hate reviewing poetry like this because you can tell it’s so personal to the poet, but, because it’s so personal, not all if it will work for everyone else. I know from my own piles of old notebooks full of poetry that post-breakup poetry can get repetitive (trying to get your feelings out and heal can take a while, and a lot of revisiting certain topics/themes/ideas), and this collection had some repetition that eventually caused my interest to wane a little.

Reading this felt like reading things the poet had written to the people who caused the heartache, which, in a way, I think it was. But it felt so intimate, almost like I was peeking into a diary. The poetry wasn’t general, exploring heartbreak broadly, but quite specific. I think that’s why I had such a difficult time relating to it.

So, I did like this poetry book, but I was definitely not the target audience. Still, I did highlight a few parts that spoke to me. The photographs were beautiful, and I loved them. I can see myself recommending this collection to someone still dealing with a broken heart, or trying to move on from a relationship.