My TBR for Jane Austen July ✨

Hello everyone!

So there’s this Jane-Austen-themed reading event floating around 👉👈

Predictably, I couldn’t resist the temptation to make a TBR. For this year’s annual Jane Austen July (Goodreads group here), there are seven strictly optional challenges (five reading, two watching), and I’m going to try to hit them all in one extremely nerdy and ambitious go!

If you’re also participating, be sure to let me know in the comments! And if you need any ideas for the challenges, read on 💕


1. Read one of Jane Austen’s main six novels!

Guess who loves Jane Austen but still hasn’t read Pride and Prejudice 🙄. I’ve watched multiple adaptations, started it twice, and even went to a book club with it unfinished (!!!) but I have yet to actually complete Austen’s most enduring and beloved work. So, this month, instead of me rereading my most adored favorite, Mansfield Park, I’m going to start what seems like the whole world’s favorite, and see if it becomes mine.


2. Read something by Jane Austen that is not one of her six novels!

For this challenge, I’ll be diving into Austen’s epistolary novella Lady Susan (which also happens to be the group read for the second half of July!). Like its positively sparkling film adaptation from 2016, Love and Friendship, it follows a widow who’s looking to pull every string she can to get her and her daughter advantageously married. I love a complicated female lead, and Austen’s trademark irony, obviously, so I think I’ll have fun with this one.


3. Read a non-fiction about Jane Austen or her time!

This is an area in which I’m totally new, so I decided to go with one of the hosts’ recommendations and read What Matters in Jane Austen, a look at Jane Austen’s works by an English professor. With chapters on everything from the use of weather in her novels to how and when she depicts the working class, this book promises to cover a lot of ground and I’m so looking forward to diving in!


4. Read a retelling of a Jane Austen book or a work of historical fiction set in Jane Austen’s time.

Being a historical fantasy, it’s an eccentric choice for this challenge, but Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is set in England during the Napoleonic Wars, so it technically counts! At just over a thousand pages, it’s maybe a bit foolish for a month of challenges, but I’ve wanted to pick it up for ages now, and a girl has to get her fantasy novel in somewhere during a classics readathon!


5. Read a book by a contemporary of Jane Austen!

For this, I’ll be reading Frances Burney’s Camilla, a coming-of-age story set in high society that comes to us from 1796. With Burney said to hold a lot of Austen’s charms, I’m eager to see if I agree––though I’m of course a tad intimidated by the page count 😅. (And by the fact that while I adore the clothes, I find books from the 18th century to be quite daunting.) I have high hopes, but if I truly can’t do it, I’ll just read a play instead: Lovers’ Vows, anyone?


6. Watch an adaptation of one of the books.

Whatever our consensus on that trailer is supposed to be, I WILL be watching the new version of Persuasion on Netflix this month. Besides that, I’m also planning to dip in to a few old favorites: Ang Lee’s marvelous adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, Love and Friendship, the 2020 version of Emma that I’m still totally obsessed with. Needless to say, July will be a very busy month for my Letterboxd.


7. Watch a modern screen adaptation/retelling of a Jane Austen book!

If you haven’t watched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube, you should absolutely go do that, but in lieu of a rewatch, I’ve decided to go for Metropolitan, which is a very loose retelling of Mansfield Park set in the New York socialite scene. It’s a more off-the-beaten path choice, but that’s precisely why I’m excited about it: the class dynamics are what I love most about Mansfield Park, and this choice of setting is a great place to re-examine them.


Thank you so much for reading! What are your July reading plans? Austen or no, I’d love to hear anything and everything from you, in the comments 💕

Get To Know The Fantasy Reader – A Tag

Hello and welcome to The Pigeon! Today I humbly bring you this tag 😌

The rules are as follows:

  • Make sure you give credit to the original creators of this tag – this tag was originally the “Get to Know the Romance Reader” tag by Bree Hill, and was adapted for fantasy readers by the book pusher!
  • If you want to, pingback to the post where you first saw this tag! I first saw this from jordyn @ jordyn reads 💕
  • Have fun!

1. What is your fantasy origin story? (The first fantasy you read)

I distinctly remember there being fairy chapter books somewhere in my history, but the book that flipped the fantasy switch for me was The Hobbit. At the time, I was in fifth grade, the first movie was just about to come out, and my parents, who both love Tolkien, had been trying for years to get me to read it. I loved the humor, I loved Middle-Earth, and it became my personality almost instantly. I have no regrets.


2. If you could be the protagonist in a fantasy novel, who would be the author, and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

As much as I love danger on the page, I’d want the comfort of knowing I have a Shannon Hale-certified happy ending to look forward to. Her worlds are comfortingly magical places that never lose their fairy-tale rosiness, where total sincerity always wins. And speaking of total sincerity always winning––I want whatever villain I have to contend with redeemed, dammit! There’s only going to be hope in this house if I have to live in it 😤


3. What is a fantasy series you’ve read this year that you want more people to read?

I always take it upon myself to hawk the classics, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle is no exception. The first three books, published in the 60s and 70s, are standouts in classic fantasy, with gorgeous, sweeping worldbuilding, conflicts that don’t play out in battle, and intricate prose that reads like ancient, spoken storytelling. While I don’t necessarily think these books are perfect, I’d love to see more people talking about them. They really challenge the notion that all pre-2010 fantasy marches to the same medieval-European-inspired, war-heavy drum. (Not that that’s always a bad thing––I just want people to be aware that fantasy has variety that goes all the way back to its early decades!)


4. What is your favorite fantasy subgenre?

Seeing as I’m a science major now (eek!), I have to say that I’m so down for science fantasy, in all its forms. Anything that fuses sci-fi––especially sci-fi grounded in a real scientific discipline––with magic has my attention. My standout example of this is the His Dark Materials trilogy, but I also love how it’s done in Darcie Little Badger’s Elatsoe, the recent Netflix series Arcane, and Josephine Angelini’s Trial by Fire.


5. What subgenre have you not read much from?

One thing I hope to get more into is fantasy gothic! I love a regular gothic (of the 19th-century, ghosts-in-country-houses variety) and I’m all for the idea of bringing magic or unique worldbuilding into the mix!


6. Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

I’ve read and loved two of Erin A. Craig’s entrancing works of fantasy horror, and I’m chomping at the bit for a chance to do so again. I love her atmosphere and suspense-building, and her romantic subplots, be they sweet, sinister, or some combination of both, are such a treat.


7. How do you typically find fantasy recommendations?

I’m always pleased with myself when I’m early enough to catch a publishing deal announcement for a forthcoming release, but for the most part, I:

  • listen to my friends when they yell at me to read things
  • follow book blogs!
  • pluck the occasional title off the shelf at the bookstore or library for a touch of spontaneity 👀

8. What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?

Just this summer we have The Song That Moves the Sun by Anna Bright, Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen, and The Darkening by Sunya Mara! All three of these concepts have me absolutely frothing at the mouth.


9. What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

That all fantasy writers can churn out a book a year or more, ad infinitum. Audiences, publishers, and aspiring writers alike are guilty of thinking this, though they’re not all equally guilty of making it the book world’s burnout-inducing norm (ahem, publishing!!!). In YA and middle grade especially, SFF writers are expected to publish constantly in order to stay visible––but literary and prestige writers, and the odd SFF bestseller, are given the room to take what books generally need: time! So many series have been rushed out at a book a year in a mistaken attempt to ‘keep up,’ and besides having a pronounced affect on quality, the workload can really exhaust an author with other responsibilities. If we want speculative writers to have long fruitful careers (and an industry that doesn’t further marginalize them if they don’t happen to come from privilege), we have to consider whether our expectations as readers and consumers are conducive to that, and this situation, um…isn’t.


10. If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that came to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

Six of Crows, Legendborn, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, in my opinion, all make wonderful introductions to what fantasy can do. They’re all YA, with pretty approachable prose and an emphasis on pacing. They’re also very different from each other and have unique approaches to magic, with plenty of crossover appeal for people coming from other genres. (Historical, hard-hitting contemporary, and romance, respectively!)


11. Who is the most recent fantasy reading content creator you came across that you’d like to shoutout?

I’ve been loving M.T. Wilson @ The Last Book On The Left’s blog recently! She has a great mix of titles and her reviews are so detailed and thoughtful.


Tagging:


Thank you so much for reading!

What I Read In May 📚

Well, well, well. We meet again! Happy June 💕

With twelve books and a lot of unusual picks for me to share today, this might be one of my favorite wrap-ups yet. (I read three works of nonfiction! Look at me go!) From my neck of the woods to yours, I hope you have a wonderful June––and I hope you get to curl up and enjoy a damn good story this month, whatever form that takes.


40. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

As much folk tale as it is fantasy, this sea-swept, delicately magical coming-of-age story is a thrilling prospect for those who enjoy books of the Death-and-the-Maiden variety. It follows Mina, a girl who volunteers to be the bride of the feared Sea God, whose wrath is said to fuel the storms that plague her village. Once Mina sets foot in the Spirit Realm, however, she discovers that the truth is far more complicated––and it’s up to her to set it right. There’s a great deal to love in The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea: there’s an emphasis on soft moments for powerful characters, Oh’s worldbuilding is brimming with ideas, and the book clearly has something to say about the burden of power. But something’s missing from the character dynamics: with some oversimplified, some rushed, and some given heavy importance but almost no room to develop, the book struggles with the ties that matter most, with underwhelming consequences for its conclusion.


41. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

A work of nonfiction by a scientist who’s also a master storyteller is something to be savored: armed with both fact and meaning, these books manage to be as moving as they are indelibly true, and Braiding Sweetgrass is no exception. Blending memoir with ecology; a body of Indigenous knowledge with a practical understanding of our current crisis, Robin Wall Kimmerer hits a remarkable range with her botanical opus. Among my favorites of its many accomplishments are an exploration of lichens, an interrogation of (white; western) science’s tendency towards exclusion, and an achingly tender reflection or two on motherhood and what it means to let go. I don’t just love this book––I want to shove it in every face I can.


42. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

In the depths of an ancient temple, a young girl is devoured by a nameless power. A sacrifice made every generation, she is to guard a horde of treasure and a labyrinth, decide the fates of prisoners captured there, and give herself entirely over to the dark. A sequel––though not in the traditional sense––to Ursula K. Le Guin’s sweeping A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan takes this solemn perspective character, Tenar, on a much more deliberate, much more closely-confined emotional journey, with thrilling results. While I was definitely looking for more from the supporting cast and climax, I’m amazed by how well Atuan lands a gratifying catharsis and a rich exercise in worldbuilding in one breathless go.


43. Nimona by ND Stevenson

As part of a long tradition of tongue-in-cheek takes on heroes and villains, Nimona has familiar commentary on heroism: the ‘good guys’ are exclusive, monsters are made by society’s failings, and there’s honor in villainy as a means of resistance. But Stevenson adds to the old tune with two lovely dynamics: 1) the one between Nimona’s lead and the supervillain she plays sidekick to, Lord Ballister Blackheart, and 2) the one between Blackheart and his nemesis, the obnoxious, do-gooder Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. (Not a typo.) Nimona, despite its hodgepodge worldbuilding and wonky pacing, works because it knows how to find what these relationships most need: time. (The cozy, soft platonic moments with Nimona and Ballister actually made my heart sing 🥺) Sometimes a book is about its world, or about its plot, but Nimona is about its trio, with some charming humor playing second fiddle. If you think you’ll love these idiots, this book is for you.


44. Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare

The somewhat rocky second half to what is effectively the Prince Hal duology, this volume of Shakespearean history holds most of its predecessor’s charms––only slightly less of each of them. It has a less-interesting uprising plot, with a significant and wildly entertaining figurehead having bit it at the end of Part I. It has the same comic relief characters, only with an overhanging dread dampening most of their associated comic relief. While there are some great moments between the title king and his prodigal son, this play just isn’t the multifaceted firecracker Part I is. At its best, it manages to be pretty gripping. At it’s worst, though, it’s practically tedious. (Looking at you, Falstaff and Shallow––especially Shallow.)


45. An Ordinary Age by Rainesford Stauffer

Deep down, if you are (or recently were) what this collection of essays calls an “emerging adult,” you know that we expect too much of you. You’re supposed to land a job that gives you purpose and a good paycheck, in a fashionable city far from home, with the perfect group of friends, the perfect collection of hobbies, and the most enviable Instagram feed. Maybe the most comforting thing An Ordinary Age can offer is the sound assurance that none of this is actually true, but it’s also careful to address both why we’ve come to feel that these are our expectations, and what we can do about it. It’s such a validating read for someone who feel the walls closing in––I particularly appreciated Stauffer’s commentary about perfectionism in young people as a response to a tightening gyre of a job market. As I somewhat tersely put it in a Goodreads review earlier this month, every 16-19 year old needs to read this book and then calm the hell down 😂


46. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

The third volume in Le Guin’s classic fantasy series The Earthsea Cycle (following A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan), this book combines the scope of book one and the darkness of book two for a slow, searching adventure that hits an entirely new stride. We follow a third new lead, the ambitious Prince Arren, as he and a certain Archmage hunt down the source of a far-reaching magical decay. Of all three original Earthsea books, this one probably has the most salient commentary: tackling the warped desire for power and immortality, Le Guin makes a compassionate case for resisting both that has broad applicability, in her time of writing and ours. But The Farthest Shore still stuffers from what’s becoming a curse for the Earthsea books: a resolution that comes way too easily––this one even some excellent dragons can’t save.


47. Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak by Charlie Jane Anders

If you’re in search of a joyously weird space opera to tide you over until the next series of Doctor Who, look no further than Charlie Jane Anders’ Unstoppable series, where coders become queens and artists become conduits for the ruins of an ancient galactic empire. The trilogy’s book two, Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, follows two perspective characters from book one, Victories Greater Than Death, and, in my opinion, beats the latter on almost all of its strengths. The ensemble cast finally comes into its own, and the sparkling concepts in Anders’ worldbuilding finally get to shine. Plus, two incredibly resonant areas of commentary––creativity after trauma and the oversaturation of information in the digital age––give the book some excellent themes to chew on. Action scenes remain a little fuzzy (and Anders still introduces way too many new characters for her own good!), but this second book is well worth crossing the shaky ground of the first.


48. Henry V by William Shakespeare

Even with another five still ahead of me in chronological order, I’m going to have to call it now: this will probably be my least favorite of Shakespeare’s history plays. It traces Henry V’s part in the Hundred Years’ War, dramatizing his invasion of France from Harfleur to the Battle of Agincourt, and ending with the ensuing peace treaty. If all of this sounds like dull military history, it’s because it, kind of, um…is? Henry V, as a play, is woefully poor in the court intrigue that makes the other histories so much fun, and, because its focus is almost solely on war, it presents the most simplistic interpretation of its title character in what I’ve read of the canon. To sum it up: Henry is violent, valiant, and seldom criticized, and even Shakespeare’s word– and scenecraft can’t save his play.


49. Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Rowan Roth has been locked in an academic standoff with the pretentious, detestably clever Neil McNair for the better part of her academic career. When her last chance to beat him arrives in the form of a senior class scavenger hunt, she’s determined to take him down––but Today Tonight Tomorrow is a romcom, and Rachel Lynn Solomon’s (deliciously witty, gloriously rose-tinted) universe has other plans. Set over one whirlwind of a night, the book sometimes struggles to reach the full depths of its characters’ feelings, but it also happens to read like magic. Solomon’s voicy prose, charming use of setting, and singular talent for choosing quirks makes Today Tonight Tomorrow read like the most wondrous of teen comedy films in book form.


50. Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer

This year, my annual craving for a writing craft book led me to Wonderbook, a manual for speculative fiction in particular that offers an encyclopedic look at the whole process, from tapping into your imagination before you begin, to revising and workshopping your finished story. Of the writing books I’ve read, this one is probably the friendliest to experimental forms: VanderMeer tailors his advice to fit the ultra-weird, in narrative structure, setting, and prose alike. The book also draws on a breadth of references: the expertise of other writers as guest essayists, the examples of various gems of genre fiction, a not-insignificant amount of homework in the form of other craft books (!). Some of it is so out-there that it becomes unwieldy as advice, but the book as a whole is impressively thorough and delightfully ambitious. I can’t wait to give it another read (and actually do the exercises this time!).


51. An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

First performed in 1895, this whip-smart comedy of manners follows a politician whose past comes to haunt his since-upstanding public record––and his marriage. The play’s dialogue and characters are perfectly witty and charming, in the way that Wilde on stage is always witty and charming, but An Ideal Husband, like its spiritual sister A Woman of No Importance, also has something vital to say about how we fail one another. In this case, Wilde takes remarkably compassionate aim at the way we put impossible expectations on our loved ones, and what a disservice in doing so we do to ourselves. The play is no The Importance of Being Earnest where humor is concerned, but its vibrant main cast very nearly makes up for it.


Thank you so much for reading! How was your May in books? I’d love to hear anything and everything about what you read in the comments below 💕

What I Read in April 💕

Hello and welcome to the blog! Thanks for sticking around through my break––school, as it tends to do, ramped way up just as I was finishing it! But, with my two-year associates degree (in science, of all things) behind me, I have a number of delightful reads from last month to share with you. Let’s dive in!


31. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

This last volume of Philip Pullman’s moving, expansive, magically scientific (and scientifically magical) His Dark Materials trilogy might be the best of all three books. I was wary about Pullman wandering into his universe’s pantheon in book two, but I ought not have been––The Amber Spyglass goes mind-bogglingly big in scale with its conflict and theme, but it handles it well, keeping the multiverse stuff to the deeply personal conflicts between characters His Dark Materials does best. In the least spoilery terms: Spyglass takes us into an intricate new universe whose mysteries can be untangled only through science, across a warped angelic empire, and into the afterlife and back, and every step of the journey feels utterly purposeful. I can’t wait to take it again when I watch the show. (Also, for those of you who’ve read it: Mary’s subplot is good. Fight me!)


32. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

Set on a Mississippi estate, 1955’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof follows the disillusioned children (and children-in-law) of a dying cotton magnate as they vie for the inheritance. I actually read this play a few years ago for a book club and hated it, but now, I can see some of its merits, even if they don’t totally illuminate it in a positive light. I can appreciate, for example, how Tennessee Williams tackles mortality and materialism and internalized homophobia…while also holding my reservations about how little he does to undermine the racism he depicts on the page. I’m glad I re-read it, especially in an academic setting (with my English class!), but as for enjoying it? That’s a different story.


33. Control by Lydia Kang

Control’s world is a lovely 2013 YA sci-fi number with all the bells and whistles: a semi-gritty futuristic setting where high-tech meets a corporate criminal underbelly, plenty of lab work, and a superpowered found family. If you live for that stuff, Control will be a familiar treat, but it has a secret boon for all those who seek heavy science in their sci-fi: Kang, a practicing physician, uses the gory details to her advantage. (Control, as a title, refers actually to the feature of experimental design 🥰.) In the plot department, though, Control struggles. The climax and conclusion are messy and keep the book from landing on its feet––ditto for the faceless antagonists and various interchangeable henchmen who appear only for the big fight at the end. Kang certainly does her best to tap into her story’s thrills, but the sleek face of evil in Control only has so much menace.


34. Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

Set after the overthrow of King Richard II, this play kicks off a duology ostensibly about his replacement, Henry IV…but actually about the young ne’er-do-well prince, Hal. Where some of Shakespeare’s other history plays are more consistently somber, Henry IV, Part 1 is a crowd-pleasing balancing act between the heavy drama of (yet another!) uprising and the raucous comedy of Prince Hal’s drunken exploits. Your mileage with the comedy may very, but if it happens to work for you, it’s a warm anchor to a delicious overplot of courtly intrigue. If, like I did on my first go-round, you find yourself getting impatient with the play’s long-winded comic relief character, Falstaff, get your hands on a taped (or real-life!) production: this humor, especially, is best absorbed in performance.


35. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Following the events of Maggie Stiefvater’s paranormal fantasy, The Raven Boys, Gansey, a young scholar obsessed, is still on the hunt for the legendary Welsh king Glendower. Blue Sargent is still sitting on a prophecy that bodes a kiss that will kill her true love. And Ronan Lynch has just started using a deadly magic to pull things out of his dreams. In line with the series’ first installment, Stiefvater again sets up a careful use of foils for a potent character study––this time of Ronan––but owing to a fumbling of tone with an important supporting character, this one doesn’t cut nearly as deep as its predecessor. But among The Dream Thieves’ familiar charms are haunting visuals, witty and self-aware prose, and a mythic focus, all of which manage to give this volume a lot of what made The Raven Boys so special to begin with.


36. Exo by Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee’s YA take on extraterrestrial occupation is as thoughtful as it is bracing. Exo is set a century after Earth becomes a colony of the hyper-hierarchical zhree, and it follows a young loyalist security officer, Donovan, as he discovers his buried ties to the human rebellion. Lee’s stark, cinematic prose style makes Exo read like a high-caliber summer blockbuster, but this book has its thrilling cake and eats it, too. Lee looks at everything from the class disparity under occupation to the human cost of violent resistance, and Exo emerges from the scrutiny with more questions than answers, rich in nuance and all the better for it. The ensemble, however, is too numerous for Exo’s available page time, and much of it languishes in character soup. Two major family dynamics for Donovan carry a lot of weight, but both feel shirked by a few important beats.


37. Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Small Favors is fantasy-horror scribe Erin A. Craig’s sophomore work, following the sea-drenched, wind-swept gothic vibes of House of Salt and Sorrows (reviewed here) with a rustic, something-in-the-woods approach to her signature chills. With more darkness coming from our main characters’ neighbors than from any sinister magic, and a much less romantic frontier setting, Small Favors is a very different book, but I found myself engrossed in it even more. Craig uses her setting to make extremely salient commentary on how hardship makes people turn on one another, and the darker undertones to her choice of love story serve to deepen it and make it more memorable. The monster reveal, too, is always a delicate dance in a work of horror, but whatever terror her concept loses in coming into the light is more than made up for in resonance.


38. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

First thing’s first: Matt Haig’s cheesy as hell. But here, it works to his advantage. How to Stop Time stars the functionally immortal Tom Hazard, who’s found himself detached from humanity after centuries of loss and secrecy…until he meets the person who will prove to be the second love of his life. Weaving through history, the book probably has its most fun in flashbacks: Elizabethan England, Jazz-Age Paris, Gilded-Age New York. Where Haig runs into trouble is when he tries to bring a secret society and its accompanying life-and-death stakes to a book he’s committed to steering away from darker territory: every time a gun is pulled in How to Stop Time, it’s a moment of overpowering whiplash. Still, the book’s sincerity lands what it most needs to say––that we can’t shy away from pain, that there’s always more to learn and live for––and does so beautifully.


39. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Published in 1968, A Wizard of Earthsea opens Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle, tracing the many voyages of a young sorcerer as he grows into his power. Le Guin’s worldbuilding, first of all, is top-tier: Earthsea comes alive in a totally different way every time we dock at one of its distinctive islands. Filled with tradition, illuminated by a magic system that strikes the perfect balance between order and mystery, and making liberal use of the natural world and its power, this book’s settings are among fantasy’s best. But the execution in this first book, as much as I can appreciate its ideas, is mixed. Its episodic structure makes it difficult for the story to achieve unity, with the lead, Ged’s, character arc feeling more like a set of ideas than a manifest progression of personal change. The prose, though, makes it feel like a gift anyway.


Thank you so much for reading! How was your April in books? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below 💕

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Birds on the Cover

Hello and Happy TTT! Now, my blog theme being what it is, I couldn’t not pick birds for this particular freebie, and I hope you find many marvelous tales from among this flock to enjoy. (And if you did birds too, we have to be friends now. No exceptions.)


1. A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee

Starting us off is this delightful Japanese-influenced fantasy from Traci Chee, complete with wildly inventive worldbuilding, actual footnotes, and absolute shenanigans. The bird in question on this cover is the helpful but slightly mischievous magpie spirit Geiki, who accompanies the main character, Miuko, on a quest to undo her demonic curse. This book is fun all around, but Geiki and his antics often steal the show. (Reviewed here.)


2. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

As we’ll soon discover, YA fantasy is very fond of corvids. The Raven Boys is the first of a contemporary fantasy quartet starring the non-psychic daughter of a very psychic family, and a prep school boy’s relentless search for a legendary dead king. The Raven Boys’ title is actually referring to the aforementioned prep school’s uniform crest, but fear not! I’m two books in and I can guarantee at least one actual raven so far. (Her name is Chainsaw and I would die for her.) (Reviewed here.)


3. Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Following Strange the Dreamer in a stunning fantasy duology about dream magic, an ancient library, and a fabled lost city, Muse of Nightmares is some of the most ambitious fantasy I’ve ever read. Having finished it months ago, the specific relevance of the hawk on the cover escapes me, but, barring my lapse of memory, I cannot recommend these books to fantasy fans enough. If you have a taste for stunning visuals, rich worldbuilding informed by an imaginative past, or gossamer-fine prose, the Strange the Dreamer duology is likely to prove two new favorites.


4. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

In Emily X. R. Pan’s dreamlike debut novel, Leigh, a young artist who just lost her mother to suicide, awakens to an impossible truth: her mom has transformed into a bird. In the pages of this fabulist novel, we see contemporary life with a touch of the paranormal, as red crane feathers and ghosts punctuate a steady, heartfelt portrait of grief, with what’s “real” and not ultimately left up to the reader. The marvelous details, along with a gorgeous emphasis on visual art, make this an excellent pick for fantasy and contemporary fans alike.


5. The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen

This work of YA fantasy takes the bird symbolism up a notch: in the land of Sabor, the social castes bear avian names and their associated magics. The royalty are called phoenixes, the gentry swans and other classically ‘noble’ birds, and crows, a persecuted caste of mercy-killers tasked with containing a perpetual plague, are at the very bottom. As you might expect, The Merciful Crow and its sequel, The Faithless Hawk, have an absolute field day with motifs, but they’re also distinctively thoughtful deconstructions of class hierarchies, and, every now and then, laugh-out-loud funny, too.


6. Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis

Speaking of swans, this sci-fi retelling of the fairy tale “The Wild Swans” bears a swan of circuitry on its cover in homage to its source material. It’s set in a futuristic solar system where portal travel puts all the planets at everyone’s fingertips…and conceals a deadly secret. Our lead, the tech heiress (and tech-challenged) Liddi Jantzen, has to rescue her brothers from certain death in the void between these very portals, unravel a conspiracy in her family company, and, in keeping with the original tale, can’t use her voice to do either. The book has some misses, but if you love a sci-fi fairy tale in step with The Lunar Chronicles, this one is worth a sojourn into the backlist. (Reviewed here.)


7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Without a spot for the Mockingjay, this list would be woefully incomplete. Set in a post-disaster North America by the name of Panem, The Hunger Games follows a working-class girl who finds herself in a tournament held by the government every year, in which kids are forced to fight each other to death until only one victor remains. The Mockingjay, a relic of genetically-engineered warfare, becomes a heavy symbol of resistance later in the series, and, due at least in part to the covers, it absolutely plastered pop culture when this series’ popularity was in its heyday.


8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

A magical heist full of clever schemes, marvelously-executed twists, and a cast of rogues you can’t help but adore, Six of Crows has also made its cover bird very popular. Bardugo uses the crow as a symbol to moving effect––drawing out the contradictions in her lovably ruthless characters as holders of deep grudges and even deeper loyalties. And, not to join the chorus or anything––but you’re going to love this book and you simply have to read it.


9. Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson

The Hilda series of graphic novels was recently adapted into a lovely Netflix series, but the books are more than set for a charm of their own. This third volume follows Hilda in an excursion through the city of Trolberg, set against an annual night parade in tribute to a legendary raven. Like the other volumes, it’s full of whimsy and catnip to anyone who loves folktale in their fantasy.


10. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit has been published in plenty of editions whose covers have not even a whisper of a bird, but my copy has eagles in the sky of its panorama, so I’m counting it. Eagles play a brief surprise-rescue role in one of the early chapters and are only tangentially related to the chase-out-the-dragon main plot, but I’m always happy to see a bird of prey gracing the pages of a fantasy adventure, and I can’t wait to see where I’ll meet them next.


Thank you so much for reading! As always, I’d love to hear any and all of your thoughts in the comments––any I missed?

The Pigeon’s Guide to Reading and Enjoying Shakespeare

Hello and welcome to the blog! If you’ve been around here awhile, you’ll know that I love the works of William Shakespeare: watching them, reading them, and occasionally even performing in them. But they’re not always the most accessible for new readers. Language has changed a lot since they were written, much of their context no longer exists, and even with some schooling behind you, these plays can be demanding reading.

So, today, whether you’re picking up Henry IV because you miss your English class, using Macbeth to fill the If We Were Villains-sized hole in your heart, or trying your hand at Much Ado About Nothing because you’ve heard Beatrice and Benedick are the original idiots-to-lovers (it’s true; they’re legends), I hope I can help you find some joy in my favorite plays of all time. My amateur advice is as follows:


1. Get Some Background

If you were studying your play of choice in a literature class, your professor would give you the low-down: here’s the basic premise, here’s who the characters are, here are some lines from the play, here are a few important scenes. So do the same for yourself! Read the introduction included in your edition if it’s there, watch videos about the play, or otherwise know your characters and your places apart so that Act I, Scene 1 doesn’t throw you into the deep end. There is also no shame in taking notes, which I am known to do! Whatever helps you get what’s happening and when is worth a little extra time.

If you’re looking for some resources, my favorites include:


2. Watch It First!

When it comes to enjoyment, I find Shakespeare is the reverse of most books: always go straight for the movie. (Or, if you’re lucky and have some actual stage productions nearby: go see them, go see them, go see them, go see them!) There are so often depths to these plays that only directors and actors can really convey. For the darker tragedy and history plays, these are the speeches, the fights, the death scenes. For the comedies (my favorites!), this is the physicality and comedic timing that will have you doubling over in your seat if you see them live. Also, if you watch the plays first, you get some faces and voices to put to the character names, which will help you out if you like to visualize scenes while you’re reading. All the plays have at least one version that’s been taped and put on YouTube, but you can also try:


3. Act It Out!

Curling up with a paperback is a lovely way to spend an evening, but I find Shakespeare to reward a reading experience that’s a little more boisterous: there’s nothing like staging a one-man production of King John in your kitchen. If you can get up on your feet and pretend you’re playing one of the characters on stage, I highly recommend it! If you’re only comfortable with whispering the lines to yourself, that’s equally as good. Plays, whether they’re Shakespeare, Hansberry, Gunderson, or Wilde, are meant to be staged, and because of that leave a great deal of interpretation up to you as you read them. This can be as limiting as it is liberating. The difference between the two often lies in how much like an actor you’re willing to think––solo production in your kitchen or no.


4. One Line At A Time

I got this trick from Thinking Shakespeare by Barry Edelstein, a book about how to confront the Bard as an actor. All you need is a bookmark or index card, and whatever text you’re reading. Whatever line you’re on, cover up everything immediately below it, and only move the paper down once you’ve read and more-or-less understood it. Rinse and repeat many hundred times.

By going one line at a time, you force yourself to concentrate on the piece of the task in front of you, instead of seeing the block of text still ahead. It’s a great way to avoid getting overwhelmed, but it also helps you use the line breaks as natural stopping points in a character’s thought process. Take this bit from a soliloquy in Richard II, where the now-deposed king is reflecting on his rule from prison:

Thus play I in one person many people,

[Line break; he thinks about it for a second, spurring on the next line.]

And none contented […]

Act V, Scene 5

Instead of hitting you all at once, these thoughts build upon each other in manageable pieces, and they’re much easier to enjoy one line at a time.


5. You Know More Than You Think

If you like books––scratch that, if you like stories, period––you know Shakespeare. A litany of his plots have been repurposed in books and movies you know like the back of your hand, and you’ve heard the writing quoted hundreds of times, maybe without even registering some of them. Even if you’ve never read or watched one of the plays, their subject matter (life, power, friendship, responsibility, love, mortality!) can speak to you. As unapproachable as the Bard may seem, his plays, along with everything in the storytelling tradition, no matter how distant, belong to all of us. If you want to read the plays, you are absolutely “smart” enough to read the plays.

Never, ever let anyone tell you they’re beyond you.


Thank you so much for reading! As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and––if you want to start reading the plays but don’t know where to go first, I made a quiz that will give you a personal recommendation of one of my favorites 💚 Happy reading!

“A Thousand Steps Into Night” Toes A Very Promising Line

In Traci Chee’s first work of fantasy since her wonderful The Reader trilogy, we meet the “unremarkable” personage of Miuko, an innkeeper’s daughter who tries her best to be everything she is not: meek, quiet, tidy, and acceptable. But when a sudden kiss from a shaoha sets Miuko on the path to becoming a demon herself, she must journey through Awara to restore her humanity before it’s too late. And with a monstrous possessed prince now on her tail, she’ll have to be much louder, more reckless, and more unacceptable than her comfort, and society’s, have ever allowed.

Recounted by a witty narrator who insists upon footnotes and flanked by a whimsical world filled with sprightly gods and vivid spirits, A Thousand Steps Into Night nails a balancing act I haven’t seen pulled off in YA in a long time. While it follows a teenage protagonist, I could easily see this book being adapted into a gorgeous animated film poised to become the future favorite of school-age kids, teenagers, and adults alike. It’s fun and lighthearted without being afraid of substance; ready and willing to challenge Miuko exactly where it hurts; and confident enough in its tone that extremes of all kinds––joyful, violent, ironic, wondrous––never feel out of place.

What Traci Chee nails most in this YA fantasy standalone, though, is a sense of scope. We may hop from place to stunning place a little quickly, but it’s with intention that a litany of striking magical palaces, temples, and forests parade through the pages of A Thousand Steps. Chee chooses scenes for her settings, and not the other way around; each setpiece with its sequence is as well-matched and memorable as any written for a film of fantastic proportions. I find myself recalling “the Kuludrava Palace scene,” or “the gambling parlor scene,” or “the library scene,” each filled with (hilarious!) antics that couldn’t have transpired anywhere else. As a quest fantasy, A Thousand Steps Into Night manages a broad and highlight-studded sweep of the world of Awara, and whatever it lacks in concentration, it more than makes up for in delightful variety.

A couple missteps emerge, though, in the form of characters. A lot of them, in particular, are introduced and then exit very quickly once their role is finished, which is worse for the less-cartoonish human characters than it is for the instantly lovable, over-the-top supernatural ones. Also, there’s a Villain With A Point™ lurking in this book that’s just a little too easy for Miuko to confidently refute: I would’ve loved for him to bring out more conflict in her!

All told, though, A Thousand Steps Into Night is an impressive show of range from the marvelous Traci Chee, and wherever her books go next, I’m following them there 💙

What I Read In March 💕

Happy April, everyone! I’m so happy to be sharing with you what will be my fifth wrap-up in a row! (🥳) March brought me some new favorite books, a great play or two, and myriad wonderful things to shout about in them all. Without further ado, here they are:


20. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Boasting portals to other worlds, a fallen empire, and a few uncharacteristically funny scenes for the character who would eventually become the White Witch, this 1955 prequel to the Narnia series surprised me in a lot of good ways. In it, we follow the schoolkids Polly and Digory, who stumble into an experiment intended to rip passageways into other universes. Among these universes is the place that the rest of the series knows as Narnia, but there’s way more than that for the book to play in, and I’m now almost mad that the other Narnia books don’t return for more. Where The Magician’s Nephew isn’t surprising, though, it’s depressingly familiar. Lewis’ magical mentor figure, Aslan, again kills conflict wherever he goes, a few later chapters are almost fatally actionless and ceremonial, and for all the book’s potential, it has a hard time living up to its ideas.


21. Extasia by Claire Legrand

Extasia is a strange beast, but a very welcome one. Claire Legrand builds a riveting work of paranormal horror from both archaic and post-apocalyptic clay, yielding a rich story that reads sometimes like a theocratic dystopian à la The Handmaid’s Tale, sometimes like a taut, colonial-era suspense à la The Crucible, and often like something new altogether. The book begins when the solemn, pious Amity is about to be anointed one of her village’s four Saints––young girls who act as religious scapegoats for their neighbors’ anger, fear, and sorrow. But all is not well in Haven and its deadly surrounding forest, and in order to save it, Amity will have to defy her church and learn magic. From there, Extasia had me reading on with rapt attention and a white-knuckled grip: it’s excellently-paced, the characters and their terror freshly rendered, and Legrand’s observation of a fearful society searingly true. (Reviewed here.)


22. The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

The Forest of Stolen Girls, set in Joseon-Era Korea, is a murder-mystery helmed by the daughter of a missing detective, as she re-traces his footsteps and investigates the disappearances of thirteen girls from an island fishing town. June Hur, in juggling the tasks of historical consideration and an emotionally honest story of family, seldom lets any pins fall, but when they do, they take a toll on her main character, Hwani, and her journey towards reckoning with her father’s flaws. The prose, for instance, often defaults to explaining rather than describing what she’s feeling, which gives some of her most important emotional moments a distancing effect. But in atmosphere and motives for possible suspects and accomplices, Hur consistently shines. She also makes a point of using the context of time and place to the mystery’s advantage, rather than just setting the story against it––a deep, structural choice that, in the end, sticks Forest’s landing.


23. The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

Though it doesn’t quite reach the emotional power of the rest of the Grishaverse, The Lives of Saints still has something to offer people (me) who can’t get enough of it. This volume collects the (often disappointingly) short tales of saints from the world of Bardugo’s fantasy books––some of them managing to be haunting despite their length (Anastasia), some of them actually wickedly funny (Lutkin!!), and some sadly forgettable (Petyr). It’s a worthy experiment that I’m glad exists, for the simple fact that series lore is my lifeblood, but almost all the stories lose something in brevity. The Language of Thorns, another anthology from the Grishaverse, does so well with its task precisely because it lets the stories get a little longer, and I can’t help but feel that The Lives of Saints would’ve been better equipped to follow it up had it done the same.


24. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials, #1)

I’m utterly in awe of this book’s vision. Set in a world like our own (but not quite!) it charts the power plays of conniving liturgical institutions and officials, the discovery of a mysterious new elementary particle, and the adventures of a fiercely loyal and dangerously important girl by the name of Lyra. I could talk about the system of science-magic, the construction of alternate history cultures, or the almost cinematic use of perspective intercutting at work in The Golden Compass for hours, but what I was most impressed by was Philip Pullman’s willingness to not expound on his world before giving us a chance to walk in it. He lets the reader put the pieces together with the characters, in a way that made me just as eager to learn more about where we were as I was to find out what would happen next. And I, being the nerd that I am, was totally mesmerized from start to finish.


25. The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

As much as I love the vibes, The Winter’s Tale might be Shakespeare’s most self-defeating play. On paper, it’s a story about redemption: the wrath of a jealous king, Leontes, kills his wife with grief, and loses him a daughter, but through the intervention of a miracle or two, they’re all reunited with Leontes a changed man. But, really, it’s hard to read or watch, without the nagging thought that Leontes didn’t need to act like he did, and none of this needed to happen––especially if we’re going to end the play mostly in the same place we began. A fog of pointlessness lies over The Winter’s Tale that, try as it might, the play just can’t shake. The fourth act, too, a pastoral starring characters only tangentially related to the earlier action, is dangerously close to insufferable. (But judging by my opinion of As You Like It, I might just hate pastorals altogether 😬)


26. The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

This work of historical fiction is based on a very real hoax. It’s 1885 and a sea serpent is rumored to haunt the marshes of Aldwinter, as a warning from an angry higher power, or a remnant from a Mesozoic ocean long gone, or both. We follow a widow, Cora Seaborne, as she investigates the rumor and strikes up a tumultuous, intimate friendship with Aldwinter’s devoted vicar. If you’re into science of any kind, The Essex Serpent has to its advantage an erudite bent that draws on the history of paleontology and medicine, and puts them to fascinating use. Also mostly to its benefit is the central friendship, which takes on refreshing narrative importance, even if its trajectory can be frustrating. Overall, this title proved a way more compatible read for me than I expected, which has me wondering if I should pick up more historicals. (I also love Liz Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. Recommend away!)


27. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials, #2)

As the sequel to The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife takes the trilogy in several fascinating new directions at once, only some of which worried me. The expansion of the series into new universes, one of them being ours, gives the book plenty of awesome concepts to work with, from the correlation of book one’s science with our contemporary understanding of physics, to a power struggle that careens the story’s scope into literally unfathomable territory––for better or worse. In this volume, we also meet Will, a boy whose troubled family history ties him to the fate of Lyra’s world. As deuteragonists, their shrewdness functions well against the pretense and status of those in power, and even if connecting with them is a little harder this time around, Pullman’s reliance on the ensemble approach gives us myriad eyes to look through in the meantime. (And a vast, constantly-changing landscape to look at, too, which is always a plus.)


28. I and You by Lauren Gunderson

Lauren Gunderson is one of my favorite playwrights, and what I and You achieves in a little under 70 pages pretty much explains why. It’s set in chronically-ill 17-year-old Caroline’s bedroom, where Anthony, a classmate from the school she can no longer attend, enlists her help for a project on Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Over the course of a few hours, the two connect over the poem, get to know each other in a miraculous, theatrical totality, and, if you’re anything like me, will have you sobbing three times or more before curtain call. Gunderson gets something about humanity and experience and why we need each other so much that’s otherwise inarticulable, and hearing it said––shouted!––in I and You was a catharsis unlike any I’ve ever experienced.


29. A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee

A witty, hopeful, spirit-studded riot of a fantasy adventure from The Reader author Traci Chee, A Thousand Steps Into Night holds delight after delight. Its heroine, Miuko, must embark on a quest to reverse the curse that’s about to turn her into a demon, and along the way, she’ll fall in with a clever, complaining magpie, contend with a vengeful demon prince for the fate of the kingdom of Awara, and fight to keep her humanity all the while. A Thousand Steps manages a great deal in its comparatively limited page time as a standalone, from directly challenging Miuko’s weaknesses in a satisfying way to offering a broad sweep of Chee’s ultra-vivid world in a number of one-of-a-kind scenes I’d love to see put to animation. Characters appear and exit rather quickly, with a couple scenes of action bypassed or skimped on to the book’s detriment, but it’s largely an unbroken joy.


30. Richard II by William Shakespeare

This history play is tragedy, political theory, and character study all at once. While it flounders with its supporting cast (a point I controversially think its prequel, King John, excels at!), Richard II has such a keen eye on where power comes from, and what it does to those who hold or seek it. Shakespeare’s Richard is as compelling as he is infuriating; a devastating indictment of inherited privilege and a bittersweet elegy for those it eats away. Shakespeare also establishes with precision the weight of his transgressions, and why they set his countrymen against him, something he struggles with in King John. I also definitely cried while watching and reading this, not least because the language in it is so hauntingly beautiful and even––dare I say it?––a cut above the Bard’s rest.


Thank you so much for reading! May the next month bring you small joys and many good stories ☕️ 📚

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Spring 2022 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly series hosted on That Artsy Reader Girl! This week, we’re looking ahead to spring: awaiting us is an unlivable amount of pollen, and even more books…


1. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

The first printing of this book––a retelling of the Korean legend The Tale of Shim Cheong––vanished before I could get my hands on a copy from my local indie. Following a girl who goes in search of the mysterious Sea God in order to save her village from his wrath, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea earned rave reviews from my favorite blogs, and promises a magical, fairy-tale feel of the kind I’m always hungry for. As soon as my (second-run) copy arrives, I’m diving right in.


2. A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee

Traci Chee, author of the Reader trilogy (which I adore!) is out with a new Japanese-influenced fantasy that I’ve been anticipating since it was announced. When the book’s main character, Miuko, is cursed by a demon, she must leave her sleepy village and embark on a quest that puts her in the path of tricksters, gods, and spirits, with Chee’s trademark meticulousness shining through in footnotes throughout. (I was thrilled to hear about said footnotes in her newsletter, which I’m subscribed to because of course I am.)


3. The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna

Releasing in May, this title is the sequel to 2021’s The Gilded Ones, an epic work of West-African-inspired fantasy that nails everything from worldbuilding to combat, and had me chomping at the bit for more the moment I finished it. I can’t wait to see what Forna does with the revelations from the end of book one, but more than that, I can’t wait to see more of her excellent staging and dynamic set pieces! Forna is a screenwriter by trade, and every part of The Gilded Ones shows it.


4. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Nonfiction and I make only a few rendezvous over the course of a year, but I’m quite looking forward to picking up Braiding Sweetgrass this spring in an effort to explore more titles on science. Written by Potawatomi botanist and professor Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, the book combines philosophy, science, and an Indigenous perspective on both to dive deep into society’s relationship with the natural world. It’s incredibly beloved and has been recommended to me a number of times, so my hopes are rather high.


5. Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Murder mystery and competitive Scrabble…it’s a match that’s just meant to be. Queen of the Tiles stars teen Scrabble-r (?) Najwa Bakri, who must put together the pieces of her friend’s seemingly-straightforward death after her once-inactive Instagram mysteriously starts posting again. Pacy, clever, and purportedly filled with wordplay, this book and its premise locked me in immediately. I haven’t even met Najwa yet, but I already know that if she beat me at Scrabble, I’d thank her.


6. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

A friend of mine has been on me about reading The Raven Boys for going on a year now…and lo and behold, she was right. I had a marvelous time! The Dream Thieves, its 2013 sequel, promises another 400 pages with characters I latched onto like a leech, more strange adventures in the town of Henrietta, and a touch of dream magic, all incentives for me to continue this quartet with all requisite swiftness. The Raven Boys didn’t immediately strike me as a book in need of a sequel…but I’m eager to be proven wrong.


7. The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

Reader, it’s been sitting on my fantasy shelf for months––a collection of stories from the world of the Grishaverse, ranging in tone from wry to tragic, and gorgeously illustrated…or so I’m told, because I, an avowed fan of Bardugo’s, totally fumbled this release. The Language of Thorns, another collection of Grishaverse lore, is my favorite of the books, and I’m hopeful that this volume will join or unseat it at the top of my personal ranking. (On second thought, though, a rabid Shadow and Bone fan who can tell you not only what her Grisha order would be, but her patron Sankt as well? I’m not certain that’s something I should allow released into the wild. It’ll put me one step closer to owning a goddamn kefta.)


8. Control by Lydia Kang

This 2013 dystopian thriller follows Zelia, a budding scientist who has to rescue her sister from kidnappers convinced her DNA holds a powerful secret. YA sci-fi (especially its Hunger Games-era backlist!) is something I often find myself returning to. I love the way ethics find their way into vivid medical and technological thrills, set against worlds that train their eyes on contemporary teenage life and its restrictions. With vibes echoing Lissa Price’s Starters and Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful in the very best way, something about Control tells me I’m in for a treat.


9. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Earthsea Cycle is next up on my yearlong survey of classic fantasy, and I’ve heard wonderful things. It’s a coming-of-age story set in a world I’ve heard was quite unique at the time (being published alongside European medieval fantasy after European medieval fantasy), and featuring dragons and magic school, both of which I’m always down for. Anyway, Le Guin is a legendary writer, and I’m delighted to finally be getting my first taste of her work.


10. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power ate my life a few months back, and I was thrilled to discover some work of showrunner Noelle Stevenson’s floating around in the world of comics. Nimona is a sprightly, irreverent fantasy adventure, drawn in Stevenson’s charming art style and based off of his earlier webcomic. It was published in 2015 to a fair bit of acclaim and even had an adaptation in the works before BlueSky shuttered a few years back (😢), so fingers crossed I’ll find a new favorite in this one…or at least a few quips to quote every now and then.


Thank you so much for reading! What does your Spring 2022 in reading look like? As always, I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below 💕

Every Witch Book Wishes It Was Claire Legrand’s “Extasia”

If you’re a fan of 2018’s Sawkill Girls, rejoice! Claire Legrand returns (at last!) to magic-tinged horror in this bloody, angry wonder of a book.

Generations have passed since the end of the world and (to our knowledge) only one fragile village remains. In Haven, women are blamed for humanity’s downfall, and a fiery gospel ritualizes their suffering in the form of four young anointed Saints. When Amity, Extasia‘s careful, prudent lead, gets her lifelong wish to join them, she hopes to bring an end to the mysterious killings befalling Haven’s men. All hell breaks loose instead.

To call Extasia a vision is only to scrape the surface of what Legrand accomplishes here. From atmosphere to suspense; eerie echo of the past to terrifying prospect for our future, this book and its world are utterly gripping. Legrand gets what makes misogynistic ideology so terrifying: not merely its capacity to breed and vindicate violence, but also the fact that the social order is built on it, and clings to it as refuge in times of terror. This is something that comes across vividly when Extasia reads like a fantasy historical, but it’s tenfold more potent in those instances where the book wields a dystopian edge––in a ritual involving the Saints that reads like an echo of 1984‘s Two Minutes Hate, in brief (but not overwhelming) touches of sci-fi, and in all the moments where witchcraft shows clairvoyance for a calamity already passed.

But this book isn’t just a satisfying experiment for lovers of all the genres it pulls from; it’s also a ruthless page turner that had me loathe to shut the cover and do anything else. Legrand makes keeping narrative pace look effortless: Amity’s shifting goals, worsening circumstances, and two beautifully-crafted forces of opposition are all excellently timed with respect to one another, and these just-under-500 pages go scarily fucking fast.

One more thing…I would go to war for this love story. Romantic subplots are a much-looked-for icing atop my very favorite cakes, and this icing is sweetened with the finest sugar around: contrast. The scenes between Amity and the spoiler-y girl in question are achingly tender, and almost heartbreakingly soft when held against the devastation around them. If a book can make me cry with a kiss, it wins ❤️

This is not the book for those who lack a taste for gore or dislike the use of religion in horror, but if you want to read about girls kissing as their world comes crashing down, wanted more to chew on from the likes of The Crucible, or find yourself in need of a healthy dose of the eldritch, you need to get Extasia read, like, yesterday.


Thank you so much for reading! Talk to me in the comments: I’m trying a shorter format for reviews every now and then, so what do you think? Also, if you’ve read this book or have recs for anything like it, be sure to let me know 💕