I submitted my poem “Visiting a Jewish Cemetery, 2010” to the contest by Short Edition called “America: Color it in” and it is in the running! The winners get to donate to an anti-racism cause of their choice.
If you like my poem, please consider voting for it! Currently it is in 5th place.
Also read the other poems of these talented writers and vote for them too! We need to recognize more voices, especially more diverse voices during these times.
So the Reading Rush didn’t go as well as I hoped it would for me, as I had a bit of a slump on Saturday, but I did get quite a bit of reading done otherwise! I finished three books and read halfway through a fourth.
The first book I finished was The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip (137 pages). I won’t say too much about it here because I made another post all about it, but I will say it was so amazing, and I need MORE of McKillip’s work!!
The second book I finished was Down Among The Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire (187 pages). This is the second book of McGuire’s Wayward Children series, but a prequel to Every Heart A Doorway. I made a whole post reviewing this one as well, but I did not like it as much as the first book. That being said, I still enjoyed it, and the books in this series are great for listening on audiobook, which I did!
The third book I finished was And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness (160 pages). Again, I did make a whole review of it, but I will say that this retelling of Moby Dick is so much more than that. The illustrations by Rovina Cai are gorgeous.
After these three I got halfway through the audiobook of Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire, the fifth book of her Wayward Children series. Yes I do realize I skipped books 3 and 4, but upon reading the synopses I realized that they were more prequels, whereas Come Tumbling Down continues (kind of) where Every Heart A Doorway left off. I will make a review post as soon as I finish this one too.
If any of you have recs for books that are like Wayward Children, do let me know! I love listening to them.
And The Ocean Was Our Sky is a retelling of Moby Dick, though the hunters we see are both humans and whales. Whales hunt humans to protect themselves, and humans hunt whales for the same reason. Bathsheba is an apprentice of a ship of whales, whose captain is obsessed with hunting down the almost mythical whale and human-hunting man, Toby Wick. But when Bathsheba has the chance to speak with a human herself, she realizes that the hunts and destinies of whales and men always prophesied to her may not be as fixed in fate as she thought.
First I want to talk about the illustrations by Rovina Cai. They are simply beautiful. Cai uses a palette of greys, blacks, and reds to make the images of the hunts and depths of the sea starkly stand out and draw the eye to the brutality of the story. Her style reminds me very much of the art by Emily Carroll in her book Through The Woods, which I also love.
For those who loved The Deep by Rivers Solomon, this is a logical choice for your next read. Patrick Ness also writes about humanity through the perspective of an endangered sea, and writes about characters going against the destinies that have been thrust upon their unwilling selves. It is interesting that both of these authors chose the sea as the perspective of their respective books. Is it because things are darker in the sea and contrast with the brightness of the air and land in which humanity lives? Is it because the vast sea allows for more room to grow? There are so many possibilities that I cannot answer or choose – only the author can do that – but the setting of the deep see keeps drawing me in, and is why I loved And The Ocean Was Our Sky so much.
After reading and loving Every Heart A Doorway, I was eager to read more of Seanan McGuire’s other works. So when I saw she had written prequels to that first book, I jumped right in. This prequel is about Jack and Jill, who went through a chest into another world. The former became a scientist’s apprentice, the latter the adopted daughter of a vampire as mysterious and powerful as the legendary Count himself.
I won’t say too much about the plot of Down Among the Sticks and Bones, as a lot of it is explained in Every Heart A Doorway. The reason for this is also because I wasn’t too keen on the story. It explained the background of why Jack and Jill were the way they were in the first book, but other than that it was nothing special. What really had me hooked to this book, though, was McGuire’s writing, which continues to be amazing. It is poetic, full of wonderful imagery, and her characters seem almost alive.
I listened to this book on Scribd for day 3 of this year’s Reading Rush.
The Changeling Sea is about Peri, a girl who hates and fears the sea, and yet finds herself entwined in its movements and intentions. She meets a prince who longs for the sea, a sea-dragon that longs for the land, and a wizard that, along with Peri, knows more secrets than they care to tell.
McKillip was inspired by classic changeling stories to write this tale, and she does it magnificently. In this case we meet two changelings, one trapped on land that belongs in the sea, and one trapped in the sea that belongs on land. Peri acts as the liaison between the land and sea, herself almost a changeling, though enchantress is more like it, especially since she follows patterns of enchantresses that McKillip often engages, like Sybel from The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.
What I love as well as the changeling themes and the poetic descriptions of the sea, are the fairytale references. Images of Swan Lake and the Seven (sometimes Six) Swans come to mind when looking at the changeling princes, and Peri fits the well-known trope of hermit witch who guides heroes on their journeys. Peri does find love in the end though, through romance, friendship, and the love between a mother and a daughter.
McKillip once again did not disappoint, and I may like this book even better than the last one I read. I recommend to all who love and fear the sea with all its mystery, depth, and magic.
Every Heart a Doorway is about a girl named Nancy who gets sent to a boarding school for youths who have been to different worlds and come back. Like all those at this school, Nancy cannot get back through the door that led to her particular world, in this case the underworld, and so must learn to cope and live in the ‘real’ world. She makes friends, and bonds with others like her when a number of grisly murders happen at the school. Together, Nancy and her friends must find out who would commit such crimes.
I had no idea what to expect when I first started listening to this book on audio, but I absolutely fell in love. The way Seanan McGuire writes her characters is so detailed and wonderful, I wanted to know and be friends with all of these people. In addition, McGuire has created characters who represent those who do not receive much attention – Nancy herself is asexual, and there are nonbinary and gay characters as well.
This book made me feel like I did when I was a child, perhaps even how I feel now. I believed I could enter secret worlds that were entirely made for me, and like the young people at Miss Eleanor’s School, I find myself looking back to those days of whimsy and adventure, even if they were only in my head. And, much like the doors of those worlds, Every Heart a Doorway is itself like a door into a world where people can understand you. There’s so much folklore and fairytale in it as well that I now know that it is no wonder I was so enthralled with the story.
This is probably my favorite book this year, and I have read some amazing books. I recommend to anyone who wants a door back to whimsy.
I’m a little late to this, but I’ve been seeing book bloggers and booktubers doing this tag, and I figured I would join them! So this is my Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag. Unfortunately, because I’ve been working on finishing my Masters, I haven’t read as many books as I would like this year (only 13), but I have read some great ones. And I’m in the middle of some others which I will tell you about at the end!
1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2019
This question is really hard to answer because all of the books I’ve read so far are amazing. I am going to cheat and pick 2: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman and The Deep by Rivers Solomon.
Einstein’s Dreams is just so creative in the ways it portrays time and perspective in the world.
The Deep turns historical trauma into a deep fantasy, dealing with memory and identity experienced with and without such trauma.
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019
So I’ve only read one sequel this year, but I really did enjoy it, and that is Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley, part of her Writer’s Apprentice mystery novels.
It’s not the best written book, but it gave me what I needed at the time: a fun mystery, drama and suspense, romance, and the main character is a writer! Overall a fun book to read, and I have the third book in the series waiting for me.
3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to
It’s not coming out until the end of the month, but I really want to read The Miraculous by Jess Redman. This is a middle grade novel that deals with death, healing, and childhood in the whimsy of magic. The darkness of it sounds right up my alley, but also the longing to go back to childhood and knowing that magic exists.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
This would definitely have to be the upcoming sequel to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I don’t know when it’s coming out yet, and it’s probably not going to be this year, but I have my eyes peeled for it and I can’t wait to see what happens to Ari and Dante!
5. Biggest disappointment
Honestly none of the books I’ve read this year were bad, but if I had to pick a disappointment that would probably be The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
It was a very good book, but I think it would have been better if Hoff had compared more of Tao with Winnie the Pooh in a more direct way – his comments on the more ancient Tao and Pooh’s Tao seemed a bit too separate.
6. Biggest surprise
That would be There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins. I had heard good things about this book, and I was looking for a new thriller.
But I didn’t expect to be so invested and emotional about this book! There’s so much that goes on with love and friendship, which made me want to cry, but also the fear of the person who is inside those character’s houses, threatening their lives and livelihood. I did not expect to be on the edge of my seat the whole time!
7. Favorite new author (debut or new to you)
Hands down, this has got to be Patricia A. McKillip. I had heard of her before on lists of fantasy authors and novels, but when I read The Forgotten Beasts of Eld I was enthralled with her writing and world-building.
McKillip is definitely my new favorite fantasy author. Right now I am reading her book of short stories, Wonders of the Invisible World, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. McKillip can write hidden worlds and magical creatures like no other.
8. Newest fictional crush
Honestly, this is going to have to be Sybel from The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. She is a beautiful, powerful woman who can use magic, communicate with all creatures mythical or not, and puts fear into the hearts of the mightiest of men. I would not at all mind if she called me with magic to live on her mountain with all those fantastic creatures.
9. Newest favorite character
This is probably Yetu from The Deep. I really felt like I related to her in terms of growing up and figuring out who I am and what I want to do with my life. While her journey is much more dramatic, traumatic, and magical than mine, she shows great strength and vulnerability when trying to reconcile who she was and who she could be. Not to mention that she is basically a fearsome, siren-like mermaid who can hold the entire history of a people inside her person. That is badass.
10. Book that made you cry
Only one book made me cry a little bit this year, and that was Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.
Not much to say except that this book was so funny, it made me cry with laughter at times.
11. Book that made you happy
So many of the books I’ve read have made me happy, but I will narrow it down to three. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll not only took me to my favorite genre, fairytale and folklore retellings, but also her art and illustration is just so beautiful. Of course The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was so fantastic I can’t help smiling when thinking about it. And lastly is Hyperbole and a Half again because it made me roar with laughter.
12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)
This would have to be Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, as not only is the cover beautiful, but Carrolls art and illustrations are gorgeous, dark, creepy, and mesmerizing.
13.What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
Here’s the thing, I don’t NEED to read any books by the end of the year. However, I have many that I want to read, and many that I want to finish. I’ll just talk about the latter for now, as there are so many on my TBR shelf. Right now I’m in the middle of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde,
Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip,
and Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire.
I will probably finish the last of these first as it is a rather short book and I am listening to it via Scribd.
14. Favorite book community member
I watch quite a bit of BookTube, and so here are my favorites:
I have reviewed all the books in this list, so feel free to go read those before you read this post. All of these books are written with queer characters, and many are written by queer authors. For this list, I will be talking about why I love the lgbtq+ aspects of each book, and why you simply must read them. Most of these are fantasy, but that’s only because I really love to read fantasy. There are definitely queer books in other genres that I need to check out (my list is huge, but I will get to them!). Many of these books are also by and about people of color.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
This graphic novel is a sweet fantasy story about a witch named Nova who helps her friend and romantic interest, Tam, a werewolf, overcome evil magics that threaten them. Tam is Chinese-American and non-binary, and Nova is also Chinese American and queer. What I love about this book is it lets younger audiences and characters explore love and friendship and identity in all ways, and has all identities and love appear normal, as it should be.
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Daniel M. Lavery
This book of short stories is not only great for its unique and oftentimes strange fairytale retellings, but also for the representation of queer characters. Lavery doesn’t write queer characters in terms of sexuality necessarily, but what he does do is fiddle with “traditional” gender roles, for example, writing young boys in the role of daughter when the child of a king, for it seems that a daughter has more significance and power.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
One of my favorite books I read this year, it is about a mermaid (here called wajinru) named Yetu, who holds the entire history of her people inside of her. The wajinru are descendants of African slaves who were thrown overboard from ships, and Yetu keeps those memories for her people. The story is about Yetu dealing with this responsibility, but also finding her own identity, including finding someone to love, who happens to be a queer woman of color.
The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang
This novella takes place in a world where one is born and lives until a certain age without an identifying gender. Once they reach that certain age, characters choose to be a man, woman, or neither, which can sometimes involve surgery, as it does often now. Akeha is a transgender queer man who must battle against his mother, the leader of the Protectorate, and reconcile with his sister Mokoya, who has the gift of foresight. This novella has echoes of Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian cultures, and is filled with hints of Asian philosophies such as Buddhism, Confucianism, and others.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Making Theo a lesbian in the Netflix series was no mistake, for her character in the original novel was indeed a lesbian too. Jackson doesn’t say so outright, given that this book was written in the late 1950s, but there is every indication. The gender of Theo’s partner, whom she left behind in the city, is not specified, and her (sometimes) interest in Eleanor is indicative of her queerness. Also read this book for the spooks!
The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller
We have all wanted the love story of Achilles and Patroclus, and Miller has given it to us. Told from the perspective of Patroclus, we get to see what their love and friendship was like, from first meeting to their death. Miller takes a love story only mentioned so briefly in the ancient world, and expands it into a great tale.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Like Mooncakes, this is a story about the friendship and love between two young people, this time two teenage boys of Mexican descent. They each discover who they are and what they want out of life, learning from each other along the way. This was one of my favorite books of 2017, and I recommend it to everyone.
A few LGBTQ+ books I want to read next (in no particular order):
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
The Deep by Rivers Solomon is absolutely a five-star read. The premise is that the African slaves who were dumped off the side of slave ships gave birth to water-breathing children who then became mermaid-like creatures called the wajinru. In this group of people there is what is called the Historian, who holds all of the memories and, of course, history of the wajinru as a whole. Only the Historian remembers. The Deep is about one such Historian, Yetu, who breaks from tradition to find herself, and ultimately reconnect with the history of her people.
This book is about memory and who holds memories, whose job it is to remember. It is also about how remembering keeps a people and a culture alive, something I have personal experience with. I am not only a classicist, someone who keeps alive literature from the ancient world, but I am also Jewish. The latter causes me to relate to this book the most, as the wajinru, and ultimately those of African descent, try to keep memories and histories alive, so have the Jewish people after their own demise – and like Yetu, this is what I feel has been handed down to me in certain ways. Rivers Solomon does a fantastic job depicting what she calls “Rememberings”, not only represented by the Historian, but also by the ocean that keeps the wajinru safe and their memories secure. The depth of the ocean parallels just how deeply their memories go, and us readers see how much of it gets lost when Yetu abandons the deep for a fresh start.
I recommend this book to those who keep memories alive, especially in times of turmoil like these. Black Lives Matter, and so do their experiences and memories.
So not a book review, but I saw this post on Literary Leisha’s blog and I thought it would be fun to do the Coffee Book Tag! I tag anyone who wants to do it.
Black Coffee: Name a series that’s tough to get into but has hardcore fans.
I think for me this would be the Game of Thrones series, but only because the show turned out badly, and because the books aren’t really finished, I don’t think I could start it and have it meet my standards.
Peppermint Mocha: Name a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of year.
I don’t know if there’s a particular book, but I do know that lots of people enjoy reading Harry Potter near Christmas. Now, I am not a Christmas, I am a Chanukah, so I myself will probably just read my usual fare (likely ghost stories).
Hot Chocolate: What is your favorite middle grade book?
I really loved the Percy Jackson series, but I also love these others (couldn’t just pick one):
The Book of Three, first book of the Chronicles of Prydain.
Pages and Co.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Double Espresso: Name a book that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Definitely There’s Someone Inside Your House. Never knew what was in store around the corner for our heroes!
STARBUCKS: Name a book you see everywhere.
A Curse So Dark And Lonely! I keep seeing everyone read and review it, and honestly I kinda want to read it too.
That Hipster Coffee Shop: Give a book by an indie author a shout out.
Gail Wronsky! She is a wonderful poet, and now has at least two long poetry collections out.
OOPS! I accidentally got decaf: Name a book you were expecting more from.
House of Furies by Madeleine Roux has such an interesting premise – a young woman runs away and ends up living in a house full of demon – but the characters were completely unfulfilled.
The Perfect Blend: Name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet but ultimately satisfying.
This is a tough one, but I would have to name Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. This novella deals with really heavy subjects, but the main character has a good ending and the less heavy themes are super interesting.
A Cup of Tea: Your favorite classic.
I mean, knowing myself I’d have to say Lord of the Rings. But I also love anything written by Shirley Jackson.
Flat White: A book that isn’t a novel.
Edith Wharton’s Book of Ghost Stories! These are just the best, chilling, gothic, everything you want in a spooky story.