REVIEW / Toil and Trouble by Various Authors / 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft

toil and trouble

Authors: Jessica Spotswood, Tess Sharpe, Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Cordova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May

Summary

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era. Are you a good witch or a bad witch? Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth. History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations. Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.
A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane. From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored

What I Liked:

  • Witches!
  • The diversity in this was super good and showed different perspectives, a different voice and a different writing style to every story that each had a different message but were all equally powerful
  • It was intersectionally feminist, which I really enjoyed
  • It had queer witches!! (f/f, as well, and included polyamory)
  • Each story was really interesting, and educational on the history of witches without really knowing you were being educated
  • Really highlights the power that women posess

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I wished some of these stories were more developed and weren’t short stories, because they’re so good and it’s hard to cover such a large subject in such a short amount of time
  • Some of the stories had a lot of references to social media, and some makes sense because social media is a big part of our world but constantly is a little overkill
  • I didn’t like that pretty much every story was about romance, I don’t feel like every story needed romance in it, and although I believe a woman can be romantically involved with whoever she likes and still be powerful and strong I would have really liked at least one or two stories where romance wasn’t key to the character

TRIGGER WARNINGS; Rape/sexual assault, confinement, rape victim blaming, abuse, violence, blood, gore, fire, death, racism, sexism, homophobia, child birth, animal death, animal death descriptions, parental loss, bullying, labour camps

 

So, next time I read something involving short stories, I should probably take note on each indivudual story as each voice and each plot and tale was different to one another and I don’t think lumping them together and reviewing them like this is fair or accurate but overall I enjoyed this and I should have probably looked up the trigger warnings beforehand, but it was great. I would reccomend it.

Until next time,

A.W

 

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REVIEW / Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire / Mystery, Crime, Witches, Paranormal…

every heart a doorway.jpg

Summary

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.

Things I Liked:

  • truly delightful
  • a really fast paced, intriguing plot
  • a lot of interesting themes going on – witchery, magic, hidden doors, asexuality, all sorts
  • oh, the asexual representation, I really really loved that
  • amazing diversity and representation and not just asexuality – there was also a trans man, and diverse enthnities)
  • it…actually managed to live up to the hype? which I feel like not many books are capable of doing
  • It’s really unique to most things that I’ve read before so it stands out a lot
  • super gruesome and creepy which I was not expecting from this, but it turned out to be a nice surprise because I do love paranormal thrillers and horrors so it was exactly my cup of tea

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • I wanted to know the characters more in depth and to have more character development and arcs
  • if the story was longer because then we could go more into depth about things like world building
  • It’s very predictable, but I knew that would probably be the case as I’m nearly in my mid twenties and this was written for teenagers

 

I listened to this on audiobook and finished it in a day (for an audiobook, that’s extremely fast, even if it is a short book) and ended up giving it four out of five stars. It was a delightful read, and I’m so excited to get through the rest of the series. I really hope the characters are developed more in future novels, and that maybe they’ll increase in length as well, and that we get to know more about the world as these are really my only criticisms. Plus, being asexual myself, I really apprechiated the representation.

Until next time,

A.W

REVIEW / Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston / A Queer Royal Love Story

red white and royal blue

Summary

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.  As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

What I Liked:

  • It was really, really funny and I actually laughed out loud at several points
  • Adorable
  • I was smiling through about 80% of the book
  • One of the love interests was Mexican-American, I believe?
  • ENEMIES TO FRIENDS TO LOVERS TROPE!!
  • Alex and Henry worked so well together, they really complimented each other, but they were also great characters independently as well
  • The romance was really fluffy, which helped ease the heavyness of the other topics written in the book
  • The narrator on the audiobook had a British accent and it was wonderful
  • The sex scenes were really good – vague, so not too detailed to make me go “ew” (asexuality yay lol) but enough detail to make me really feel their love and how much they enjoyed one another
  • This book is just…happiness, and I felt pure joy for a majority of the book

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Political, but I knew that going into the book, it just stresses me out and triggers my anxiety so it ruined the experiance of the book a little
  • The very very very long chapters
  • One of the characters was forced to come out and, although the ending of this was mostly happy, it was really uncomfortable

So, what did you think of it?! I know pretty much everyone has read this before me, and the hype for this has long since died down, but I am late to every trend so why not this one as well?

Anyway, I already want to re-read it again and buy a physical copy so I can destroy it with how much I re-read it. I haven’t felt such strong happiness reading a book in a really long time. 5/5 stars. Obviously.

Until next time,

A.W

eARC Review / Avant Guards: Vol 1 by Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes / An Adorable Queer Sporty Graphic Novel

the avant guards

Summary

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team. As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

Review:

What I Liked:

  • So very, very queer
  • Also so very, very diverse
  • The art style was incredible, but I didn’t like it much to begin with – it grew on me!
  • So sporty, so gay, I love it when sports and gay are tied in because I’m a sucker for cliches
  • It spoke about important topics like consent and boundaries
  • Very adorable, did I mention that?
  • It was really fun and engaging to read
  • There was a lot of puppies
  • One of the characters uses they/them pronouns
  • F/F ROMANCE THAT IS SLOW BURNING

What I Didn’t Like:

  • IT ENDED ON A CLIFFHANGER AND I IMEDIATELY WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED LIKE NOW

 

To summarise, I think I have found something that has added itself to my favourites. This one isn’t even out yet, as it’s an eARC review, so goodness knows when the next one is going to be published. It was really, really amazing though so I urge everyone to read it – it’s SO GOOD

Until next time,

A.W

Trans Power // Juno Roche // Spoiler-Free Review on Owning Your Gender

trans power

So, I admit, I never read the description of this book. I saw pink, I saw “Trans Power”, and instantly clicked “request” on NetGalley. This will be published in October later on in the year, if you’re interested. If I did, though, I probably would never have read it because sex (especially penises) make me horribly uncomfortable. That was entirely my mistake, though. As a trans person myself, it still makes me happy to see queer sex being spoken about so openly from a transgender ex-sex worker.

Despite that, there are some things about this that I did really enjoy. I liked how transgender POC were spoken about, and how their race plays a part in their sexual relationships and their experiances being transgender. It speaks about certain violence that they face, and how they process being transgender in comparison to someone who is white (in that case, the comparison is against Juno herself).

I also liked how it spoke about the love that two people can share for each other when one or both is transgender. I think this is especially important for other transgender people to read about and know that being trans doesn’t mean they can’t have a loving relationship and be attractive. For the cis people who read this, it may give them a new perspective and outlook on how they percieve transgender people.

It includes others like disabled people (one had seizures, ME and uses a wheelchair, for example) and non-binary people. I’m so used to us enbies being excluded from transgender discussions that I honestly wasn’t expecting us to become a part of the book, and this was a pleasent surprise.

There were a few problems I had with this, though.

  1. I know that the whole point of this book is to explore sexual relationships between queer transgender people, but I would have liked it to mention or imply that some transgender people don’t have sex/are asexual/are monogamous and that’s okay
  2. The writing style was a drag, and it was difficult to read. It wasn’t sense, and it didn’t include information dumps, it was just boring and there’s no other way to describe it – the writing didn’t make me want to carry on reading it
  3. Most of the voices within this book come from AFAB transgender people, and maybe that’s because Juno is AMAB and wanted to experiance new voices and learn new experiances that would be different from her own, but I would have liked to have heard more about AFAB transgender people
  4. The language used was uncomfortable, but I think that’s just personal preference (and maybe the fact that I’m British). It was a bit too graphic and vulgar for me to be able to enjoy it and really get into it

 

This wasn’t a bad read. Overall, I gave it 3/5 stars, but it just wasn’t for me. It all boils down to personal preference and I do actually really enjoy reading non-fiction and I don’t read it anywhere near as often as I read fiction, but I do tend to like it. This one just wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m sorry! I think plenty of people, especially if you’re comfortable with an open discussion on queer sex, would love this.

A.W

Pride Flag Book Tag!! :D

gay flag

Finally, I’m actually doing something for pride month that isn’t just reading pride month books! Whoo! It’s surprisingly difficult for me to come up with things, and before this year I didn’t actually read very much at all so recommending books is also a really difficult thing to do because I’d be reccomending books that I mostly haven’t read…

Anyway, each stripe on the pride flag has a different meaning. For this tag, I will be picking a book out for each of the stripes that relates to the meaning of said stripe…if that at all makes sense. If not, I hope it will by the end of this tag.

RED: LIFE

Prompt: a book with a sprited protagonist, someone who is proud of who they are, someone who gives you life

This one is a very recent read that I haven’t even spoken about in a wrap-up because that hasn’t been published yet. It would be Nathan from I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver. He’s just such an optimistic light, who I was rooting for more than the MC to be honest. He was bubbly, happy, kind-spirited and soft. Basically, everything I want in a love interest, and even though I didn’t know him personally I feel like he’s inspired me to try and find the good things in an ordinary day.

ORANGE: HEALING

Prompt: a book that made you, as a reader, that made you find a deeper meaning within your own life

I suppose the way I answered the first prompt in this tag could probably also be used to answer this one, but I want to use a different book for each prompt (for once!). I think it might be a non-fiction book, Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. I usually am super wary of people who talk only negatively about social media, but this book doesn’t do that and instead made me evaluate how I use social media and how I consume media in general and how this contributes to my anxiety so I’ve been working on that and my screen time went from an average of 8hrs a day to 3hrs a day.

YELLOW: SUNSHINE

Prompt: a book that fills you with so much joy it could brighten even your darkest day

(that sentence, for the record, made me go ‘aww’) I think maybe Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, which is one of my favourite books of all time that I want to re-read but I’m worried that if I did it will change my reading experiance of the first time I read it. Also, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han because I adore Lara Jean, so much, she’s such a pure little bean.

GREEN: NATURE

Prompt: a book that is set out of this world, a reality different to our own

I don’t really read science-fiction very much. I don’t know why, because I really enjoy science fiction as a genre. It’s just not something I reach for very often. However, I think I’m going to go with City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab. This is about a young girl who has the abilty to go from the living world to the land of the dead. Half of it is set with us, and the other half is set in the afterworld, so I feel like this one counts? Anyway, this one is one of my all time favourites as well and I’m so excited that Tunnel of Bones is going to be released soon.

BLUE: PEACE

Prompt: a book where one of the characters finds peace with a difficult truth

I think that would be More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. In this, he has to cope with the loss of his love interests not through death but just from break-ups. He’s also struggling to cope with how he is gay. This is set in a world where you can get rid of your unwanted memories, and after he is put through hardships he wants to opt for this. However, he does somewhat find peace with his sexual identity and his past and also his new present.

PURPLE: SPIRIT

Prompt: a book that deals with LGBT themes and religion

I have several answers for this. There’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily. M. Danforth. Cameron is a closet lesbian living in a conservative town. After her parents die, she lives with her very conservative aunt. When she is outed to her aunt, she is sent to a religious conversion camp. I really enjoyed this one, but I’ve yet to write a review for it. I wrote notes within the book, so I’m hoping I’ll eventually get around to it.

The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz, which I found to be quite a problematic book but it does deal somewhat with religion. His father is gay, and he was also adopted by him. Most of the characters within this book are religious.

Disobediance by Naomi Alderman deals with having a f/f relationship in your past as an Orthodox Jewish woman. I believe the MC is bisexual, and the love interest is a lesbian, but both characters are with men for a majority of the book and the actual f/f relationship is explored for just one chapter and is basically never spoken of again, so I can’t say I enjoyed this one much either.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparata talks about being a lesbian in Nigeria, and this one was pretty good and interesting. It explores being POC, being religious and struggling with your sexual identity and having to marry a man just to remain safe.

Then I also have Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman which is a short f/f romance where one of the love interests is a Jewish woman and they run this very adorable sock knitting buisness together.

 

So, that’s it for the tag!! I hope you at least somewhat enjoyed it? You are tagged by me if you want to do this, and I would love to know what your answers to these prompts would be.

A.W

Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag 2019!

This was created years ago but I’ve never done it before!! I was actually going to do a mid year wrap up post anyway, but then I stumbled across this one and it sounded exactly lke the sort of thing I wanted to do. I wasn’t tagged, and I’m not going to tag anyone, I just wanted to use the questions to wrap up everything I’ve read so far!

We’re just over halfway through the month of June, and so far I have read 114 books. This is just going to quickly go over some of the ones that I have read (absolutely not all of them, that would take forever…)

This tag was created by Chami and Emy

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2019

Wow, this just jumps right into it! I’ve read so many amazing books this year that it would be really difficult to pick just one. It’s a tie between Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Undead Girl Gang follows a girl whose best friend died, along with two other girls in her school, and she wants to investigate why – so she uses her witch powers to bring them back to life. It was right up my ally and everything I love and want from a book was in this. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo follows the story of Evelyn in her old age talking to a reporter about her life, including her seven husbands. I usually don’t enjoy historical fiction, but I really liked this one. Children of Blood and Bone is about having their magic taken from them but they are determined to get it back, and it’s so well developed and amazing and I can’t wait for the sequel.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019.

I’m quite bad at reading series and continuing on with a series, and I’m not sure why. I just prefer stand alones. I read eleven sequels this month, and I think the two sequels to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han win by a landslide. The two sequels are P.S I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I just love Lara Jean and the family dynamic and just everything about this trilogy, I adore.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

the priory of the orange tree

I don’t really own many new releases, and those that I did own I have just recently read over the Pride Month TBR. I have one for this, but it’s going to be the answer for another one of these questions as well and because I read so many books this year I hoped I wouldn’t need to do that! That book is The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, which was released on the 26th of Febuary earlier this year. I think, like many people, I’m just so intimidated by the size of it that I haven’t touched it yet but I’m absolutely looking foward to this.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

I’m going to pick two for this one (sorry!). The first one I’m going to pick is the sequel to City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab called Tunnel of Bones, which comes out on September 3rd in the UK later on this year. I love love love the first book, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the sequel.

The second one comes out in just a couple of weeks (by the time this is published, probably much sooner) and that is Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist which is being published on June 27th! I believe this is about a girl who foresees a murder against a woman but she can’t stop it, but she can interact with the ghost and she can know when someone is going to die just by touching them. It sounds incredible, and I don’t know whether to read it straight away or save it for my horror October month where I’m going to be reading 31 books for 31 days. Yep I set myself quite the challenges.

5. Biggest disappointment.

the chalk man

I think this one would be Chalk Man by C.J.Tudor. I was just expecting such great things from this and maybe my expectations were too high, and I should give it another go, but I was expecting one thing and got something else. I ended up giving this one two stars, I really didn’t enjoy it and I was pretty upset about that because I was so looking foward to that.

6. Biggest surprise.

furthermore

For this one, I’d go for Furthermore by Taherah Mafi. Because I really wasn’t a fan of the Shatter Me series, I wasn’t actually planning on giving this a go but when someone mentioned it was an Alice in Wonderland retelling, that gave me the push I needed to actually read it and it really did take me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it. I’m going to give more of her books a try after this one, definately, but I’m probably never going to pick up the Shatter Me series again.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

For a debut author, it would be Mason Deaver. You’ll here more about it in my upcoming review and in my end of the month wrap up post, but I finished I Wish You All the Best and I’ve been following the development of this book on Twitter as I follow the author and I got it on the day it came out. I was not dissapointed, I gave it four out of five stars (there were some things I didn’t enjoy, which I’ll go a little more in depth in during my review)

An author that is new to me this year is Taylor Jenkins Reid, and I finished Daisy Jones and the Six not too long ago and both of her books made it to my favourites list so clearly this one is a winner and I’m going to read everything she ever publishes, even if it’s not in my genre.

8. Newest fictional crush.

I can’t really answer this one, because I don’t crush on the characters in what I read. This is especially true as the genre I read is young adult, so the characters are always quite a bit younger than me, as I’m 23 in a couple of months

9. Newest favourite character.

Lara Jean!! This was the easiest of the questions. She’s so cute, loving, friendly, caring, compassionate, she always tries her hardest to see the good in people even when other people can’t and she isn’t afraid to give people second chances. She’s an angel. I also really like Arthur from What if It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera.

10. Book that made you cry.

I cry a lot so this would not be difficult to do! I cried in I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, Dear Martin by nic Stone, If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson,  Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, and Blankets by Craig Thompson. I may be forgetting some but, so far, that’s my little crying list.

11. Book that made you happy.

what if it's us

Throughout all of What if It’s Us I was smiling. Well, I didn’t so much like the last portion of the book (hated it, in fact) but during the rest of the book I was just so happy about their developing relationship and it reminded me so much of the relationship that my partner and me have.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

I was going to say The Priory of the Orange Tree for this one, but I suppose I should say something different? But honestly, I could stare at that book all day and never get bored of how gorgeous it is. Also, I love dragons!!

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

My TBR is quite long (around 300 to 400 books…). I’m 100% going to be getting more books by the end of the year because I just can’t help myself. The ones I really want to get to though because I’ve been meaning to for a while are The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicole Yoon, The Humans by Matt Haig, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, A Curse so Dark and Lonely, Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M McManus, the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu, All the Light we Cannot See, The Priory of the Orange Tree, and I also want to finish the Percy Jackson series so I can move on to the Heroes of Olympus series, where I own the first three books.

I also have some ARC’s from NetGalley to read (and I will probably request more by the end of the year…): The Million Pieces of Neena Gill, a Nearly Normal Family, Please Send Help, Ever Alice, The Avant-Guards, The Museum of Broken Promises, Disconnected, Unicorn, What Makes Us, Trans Power, All That’s Bright and Gone, The City of Brass (this one has already been published but it’s from NetGalley) and Helping Mayor Patty.

 

So, that’s it for my mid-year wrap-up!! I hope you liked my answers and you’re welcome to do this tag if you want to. You can keep track of what I’m reading by following by book instagram and my Twitter which are both under the name @autiedragon

Until next time, A.W