#5OnMyTBR: Magic

#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook and you can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. It occurs every Monday when we post about 5 books on our TBR. Thank you E. for the awesome graphic for these posts as well!

Hi everyone,

It’s officially scary month and I am so excited to read all the horror books! It was also really sunny in Melbourne this weekend, which I’ll admit is never going to not be weird because scary month should be AUTUMN. Alas. I’ll take the sun after 6 months without it. This week’s #5OnMyTBR is all about magic! My list is all YA fantasy today because I’ve been struggling with the genre all year and thus my TBR is rather overflowing with it now…

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Top of the list is one of the biggest releases of the year, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas! I am potentially going to read this in October, it’s not on my “official” Gothtober TBR, but it is on my list of “can switch this in for several prompts depending on my mood”. It’s about a trans boy who vows to prove himself a brujo by summoning a ghost.

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

I’m trying to read all my 2019 book purchases before the end of the year, and this is one of those that I just never had a chance to read last year. The Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron is about a family of witchdoctors and the daughter who isn’t coming into her powers so she trades years of her life in exchange for magic.

The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

Another of my 2019 purchases (my excuse is that I’m on the outs with YA fantasy so these have languished on my TBR for a while), The Candle and the Flame is set on the Silk Road, in a city whose entire population was recently slaughtered, except for three individuals. It is now protected by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reasoning, and when one of them dies, everything changes for the three humans who survived the massacre.

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski is set in the same place as her Winner’s trilogy, which I haven’t actually read and know nothing about but I heard this had lesbians kissing so I bought it (I have no self control for sapphic books). It’s about someone from the lower castes, Nirrim, trying to seek out the magic the higher castes wield for herself.

Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald

I know I said above me and YA fantasy are on the outs so I shouldn’t be buying this book when it’s one that releases later this month. And it is true that I’ve been struggling with YA fantasy this year which is the reason the only books on my owned TBR with magic right now are YA fantasy. BUT, as with The Midnight Lie, this has girls kissing and therefore I must support. But also the author marketed this as “tiny chaos lesbian who’s going to save the world or burn it down trying” and if that isn’t genius marketing I don’t know what is.

And that’s it for another week! What book with magic are you most excited to read during the rest of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

The Poppy War book tag

Hi everyone,

Today I’m doing a new book tag, created by the amazing Vee, Nandini and Krisha! They are fellow lovers of The Poppy War and have created a book tag all about this amazing series! Thank you so much for creating this tag, I had the best fun doing it and it has made me even more excited for The Burning God. Thank you also to Nidhi Shetty, the artist who created the header for this book tag, and to the three creators for letting us use this amazing piece of art with our posts!

Fang Runin: Who’s your favourite anti-heroine?

It’s no secret The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson is one of my favourite books of the year so far, and probably my favourite science fiction novel ever. At the heart of this incredible book is Cara! Oh my god I love her. She is definitely an anti-heorine (yes a mere 9% in we get one of the biggest plot twists ever that shows us just how much of an anti-hero she is and how much she’s done to get to her position). She starts out as this woman willing to watch the whole world burn for her survival. I love her and I love this book.

Chosen One Schmosen One: which character deserves more spotlight in your favourite series? 

I just finished reading my ARC of The Ikessar Falcon a week or so ago and OH. MY. GOD. If you like books like The Poppy War that are filled with incredible characters and lots of pain, you’ll love this series! The Ikessar Falcon is the sequel to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and follows Queen Talyien as she chases after the husband who ran away, whilst watching her queendom slowly crumple underneath her. But the reason I’m mentiong this book is here because of the brilliant and loveliest and sweeest and most resilient character ever: Khine. He is such a light and beautiful relief in a very dark and painful story. And he does star quite a bit, but of course, I just want more of him!! He and Talyien together are just amazing and I love their relationship.

No Stone Left Unturned: who’s your favourite fictional genius?

Obviously Kitay is also very high up this list. But I also love two characters from one of the cleverest science fictions I’ve ever read, A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. This book somehow manages to combine hard scifi, political thriller, murder mystery and a love letter to poetry all in one book. And Ambassador Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass are the two at the heart of this story trying to work out what the actual fuck is going on; and Mahit manages to do this with another person in her head the whole time. It’s one of the most complex novels I’ve, and the way poetry is used as language was just so different and so interesting and so clever that I had to pick these two as my favourite geniuses!

The Epic Descent: What makes you empathize with your favourite morally grey character?

Okay of course I’m going to choose Dara as my favourite morally grey character, from one of my favourite fantasy series The Daevabad trilogy! Why do I emphathise with him? HE WAS ENSLAVED FOR 1000 YEARS AFTER WATCHING EVERYONE HE LOVED DIE, WHO WOULDN’T EMPHATHISE WITH HIM?! (Every one who loves Ali apparently). Anyway I’m still too terrified to read The Empire of Gold, I know more bad things are going to happen to Dara and I don’t know if I can cope.

Mad Gods & Their Maddening Power: what’s your favourite novel about gods and their powers? (Bonus points for dark fiction!) 

I love reading books with very powerful gods, particularly when said book involves those powerful completely losing all control which is what happens in The Unspoken Name by A.K Larkwood! This is a book about a lesbain orc who is supposed to be a sacrifice for her god, but instead runs away with a wizard. One of the civilisations in this world has a religion which believes those who can use magic are in fact gateways to old, venegful gods to come through, so magic users can never afford to lose control and let in the other side. It is such an interesting world, part fantasy and part scifi, it has necromancers and it has a very powerful woman losing control and I LOVE IT.

Immortals & Their Battles: what’s your favourite battle scene? 

Who else could I choose than the incredible Fonda Lee? Fonda Lee writes the best battle scenes in fantasy, and I am in awe of her writing! I am writing a fantasy novel right now and I am horrific at writing battle scenes and I want to beg Lee for her secrets! Her incredible Jade City trilogy is an urban fantasy following the Kaul clan, a crime syndicate in the city of Kekon and their feud with a rival clan. This series is mindblowingly good, it has the best family relationships in fantasy and the way Lee writes battle scenes is so tense and so unpredictable, you really never know who is going to win which I absolutely love.

This Poisonous Beauty: which character do you find as intriguing as you do terrifying?

Calix Leher from The Fever King by Victoria Lee is one of the most terrifyingly evil characters I’ve ever read about. His particular power (which I’m going to avoid mentioning directly for anyone who hasn’t read the book), is just so chilling because how can you ever know what’s real when you’re around him? The history of Leher though is also absolutely fascinating. Lee has small anecdotes and extracts throughout the book which reveal more about Leher – there is a reason why the preorder campaign for the sequel The Electric Heir included a novella about Calix Leher’s time during the war 100 years ago. He is both a fascinating villain, but also one of the most terrifying and evil characters I’ve read about.

Clever Truths & Cleverer Lies: what’s a book rife with political intrigue that you enjoy the mind games of?

Okay I know I’ve already mentioned the Daevabad trilogy but how could I not mention it again for this category about politics?! The City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty is the best political fantasy I’ve read. It’s also the book with the most detailed and extensive political system and history and I adored the depth and detail we got about this world. It’s a slowburn, full of political mindgames as Nahri must try hold her own against the might of the Daevabad empire, run by King Ghassan who only wants to use her name as the last of the Nahids.

A Trio to Reckon With: Whose your favourite fictional trio?

YES it’s the book this tag is all about, I’m ending on the amazing The Poppy War by R.F Kuang! THIS TRIO!! Rin, Kitay and Nezha are each so different but so powerful and I love them all so much individually. Which I find very rare actually. In books with trios such as this, I usually find I much prefer some of them over the others (like in The City of Brass, LOVE Dara and Nahri, detest Ali…) But that is so not the case in The Poppy War! I adore Rin, Kitay and Nezha so much. Rin is one of the best (and most) morally gray characters in SFF. She’s done so much shit wrong, but you can’t help but admire the way she refuses to back down and will keep on fighting. And Kitay, the sweetest angel who is slowly corrupted and twisted by those around him to be used only as a tool for war. And then NEZHA gosh what do I say about Nezha after The Dragon Republic? He’s such a conflicted character and I loved seeing the end result of all these different pulls on his loyalty.

Thank you again to Vee, Nandini and Krisha for creating this book tag, it was so much fun!! And even though I’m terrified for The Burning God, I can’t wait to read it! If you are a The Poppy War fan, consider yourself tagged!

The Pondathon: TBR & character creation!

Pondathon: The Quiet Pond's story-driven readathon. Image: Two swords with vines wrapped around it frame the words 'Pondathon', with three little forest sprites sitting on top. One forest sprite has a leaf on its head, the middle has twigs for horns, and the right has a mushroom on its head.

Hi everyone,

I am so excited today to talk about the Pondathon! I think this might be the most excited I’ve ever been for a readathon. To find out all about the readathon, my fierce forest muffin, Florian, my character for the readathon, as well as my TBR, please read on! The team I’ve joined, Team Varian, needs a bit of thought behind when I read what books, as you will find out… 

What is the Pondathon?

The Pondathon is a co-operative and story-driven readathon hosted and run by CW from The Quiet Pond. The aim of the Pondathon is to read books and collect points to protect the friends over at The Quiet Pond from the encroaching malevolent forces that threaten our friends in the forest.

Have fun participating in the Pondathon readathon by joining one of five teams, each with a unique way to collect points and signing up! You can also follow the story of the Pondathon as it unfolds, and participants can also complete ‘side quests’ during the readathon to collect extra points. The readathon takes place from January 24th 2020 to March 7th 2020. More information about the readathon can be found here.

Information about Joining the Pondathon

  1. To join the Pondathon, simply sign up anytime between January 18th 2020 to March 5th 2020.
  2. Choose a team, create your own animal character for the Pondathon and create a character card!
  3. Create a blog post, bookstagram post, booktube video, Twitter thread, or whatever medium you wish, with ‘#Pondathon’ in the title or your tweet. Share the character you have created and your character card!
  4. Link back to this post so that others can find this readathon and join in.

Share your updates on your blog/bookstagram/booktube and social media. You are more than welcome to tag @thequietpond or @artfromafriend on Twitter or Instagram in all your updates! We’d love to see all of the beautiful and awesome characters that you create!

My Pond Character

Florian Character Card

Let me introduce my Pond Character, Florian. Florian likes to think they’re the fiercest fox of all the forest. Known for their skill with blades, Florian is ready to be the shield to protect their forest friends. But inside, Florian is scared and shy. They want to be able to protect their friends, but just don’t know if they have the skills needed.

Florian has joined Team Varian to help add their magic to the shield around the Pond, and thus needs to read book in different genres to get the most points. For each set of three books of different genres finished, Florian will get more points to help protect the Pond.

team varian full


My Pondathon TBR

As mentioned above, I have joined Team Varian who is in charge of the shield protecting the Pond. I need to read books of different genres to get points, and for each set of three books of different genres, I get a bonus (and the genres reset – thank GOODNESS because the amount of fantasy books I have to read is HIGH). I’ve therefore set out my TBR in sets of three below! 

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

Genre: Horror, Science fiction, Adult

This is all about a lethal virus which viped out a population on a ship, and now people want to go back to the ship, awakening whatever deadly outbreak killed everyone years before. This sounds so thrilling and terrifying and I can’t wait to be scared.

The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

Genre: Contemporary, YA

A queer contemporary romance, I’ve wanting to read this one for a while and it was finally free at my library! Falling in love with your best friend + Greek family + abusive mother, it sounds like a heartbreaker.

We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar

Genre: Historical, YA

Set during the 1980s, with discussions of the AIDS crisis, a group of friends trying to figure out who they are. Apparently this has actually been picked up for screen rights by Jaime Lanister’s company? We need more queer teens on screen so I am all for this.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

Genre: Contemporary fantasy/paranormal, YA

Queer! Teen! Witches! Plus blood magic, which is always one of my favourite kinds of magic.

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim

Genre: Contemporary, YA

I actually have a signed copy of The Surprising Power of A Good Dumpling after I met Wai at a book event last year, and I can’t believe I haven’t got around to reading it yet. As my bookshelf is very fantasy heavy currently, this book is perfect for Team Varian!

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Genre: Historical fantasy

This is one I randomly picked up at the library as I thought the cover looked interesting, so fingers crossed! Follows a group of girls after one accidentally murder someone, in a Western style world.

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Genre: Mystery, YA

Mystery with a tiny it of fabulism thrown in! Deena’s sister Mandy went missing a year ago, and now Deena has started receiving letters claiming to be from Mandy, talking about a curse on the family…

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith

Genre: Fantasy, Adult

As soon as I hear queer librarians, I am in. This particular pansexual librarian needs to hunt down the escaped hero of a book, but everything goes wrong when an angel attacks them convinced they have the Devil’s Bible.

Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Sapphic, grammar school romance, when the school bad girl and the girlfriend of a future prime minister come together to expose the school’s problems.

Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

Genre: Fantasy

Thank you to Shealea at Shut Up Shealea for the most amazing book review of this one, the only time I’ve ever closed a book review and literally immediately purchased a book. Also it has magical animal companions which all fantasy books need.

Tell Me How You Really Feel – Aminah Mae Safi

Genre: Contemporary romance

Enemies to lovers sapphic romance between the Straight A cheerleader and a wannabe director, when they decide to make a film.

The Seep by Chana Porter

Genre: Science fiction

Alien entity invades Earth and changes everything – anything that can be imagined can be made true. Trina’s partner imagines being a baby again, and vanishes from Trina’s life. All about grief and moving on, with a older trans MC.

I am so excited to start this readathon tomorrow: I can’t wait to find out what all the additional quests might be…

Let me know if you’re joining the Ponadthon too – I’d love to see your characters!

Book review: The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

Title: The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

Publisher: SourcebooksFire

Publication date: 9 July 2019

Genre: Fantasy | Young Adult

Page extent: 352 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads blurb: In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

***

This was a very unexpected book. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to get – magic crows? The idea was so utterly random I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But them I started reading. And oh my god, I REALLY enjoyed it?! It was so much fun! Whilst I don’t think there is anything particularly unique about the plot structure, the book itself, the magic system, and world all pull you in and I found myself rather captivated! 

The Storm Crow opens with a bang. The kingdom of Rhodaire is under attack by the dreaded Illucian empire. In a single night, the kingdom is decimated. The magic crows which once propped up their entire kingdom, are gone. Thia, crown Princess, is thrown into an awful depression after that night. Hiding away, she can’t bear to face the outcome of that awful night which massacred her kingdom. But now her sister has been forced to arrange a marriage between her and Ericen,the crown Prince of the country who invaded them and destroyed the kingdom, all to try stop the war brewing. 

This story starts in a whirlwind of action. Whilst there isn’t much happening in the first half of the novel, after the opening scenes, the story never feels slow or boring. I was immediately drawn to all of our main characters. Thia, the main character who drowned in the wake of invasion. Her depression felt both realistic and was incredibly gratifying to see in such an action heavy YA fantasy. It was thrilling to see her find her faith in herself again and fight to save her kingdom. Ericen, our evil prince, is exactly that. Full of sneering anger and disgust, he is the picturesque enemy prince. But as we read further, we see not all is well in his world, most especially his relationship with his mother… Kiva, my sapphic, sword wielding goddess!!!! I adore her in every way and if she and Auma do not get a HEA I will FIGHT someone. Kiva is Thia’s best friend, and she accompanied Thia to Illucia to protect her. And then there’s Caylus, sweet baker and inventor, helping Thia with her research plan.

I think any book that gets me to coo adorably over birds deserves so many awards. (The birds in Australia are terrifying, they’re all the size of dogs). I adored the crow magic system, it felt so fantastically unique and interesting. I loved all their different powers and how that impacted lives in Rhodaire. I can’t wait to find out more about them in the sequel! 

The one thing I thought a little odd, was the romance. Ericen doesn’t seem like an idiot. And yet despite his mother destroying the Kingdom (like 6 months ago! It’s not been long), he is all shocked and upset when Thia doesn’t like him?! What? That just really made no sense at all to me. I think perhaps if I had believed his whole ‘falling in love’ thing more then maybe that would’ve worked as a blinded by love thing? Maybe? I don’t know. Either way his rapid emotional changes felt a little disingenuous. In saying that, I did think he was a very interesting character, and I really liked the way his relationship with his mother played out. It’s going to make for an interesting sequel! 

All in all this book really surprised me. There is nothing particularly surprising about the plot, but I really liked it – it was so much fun and the magic system is amazing. I want to be a crow rider so much. Would definitely recommend this one!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco