Today feels so good. The sun is shining, it’s one of those sneaky January days when 46 degrees feels like summer, and politics are boring again. What a wonderful world. Well, a wonderful and deeply flawed world, but let’s focus on the positive for a few minutes, at least. I have read some deeply odd and wonderful books over the last week and I’d love to share them with you. Come, frolic through literature with me, my little darlings!
Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston- I read and loved most of the Once Upon a Con series (I haven’t read the latest installment yet) so I’m familiar with Poston’s style, but I wasn’t prepared for the scope of imagination presented in a full fledged Ashley Poston fantasy novel. Cerys lives in Aloriya, a kingdom free from plagues and droughts, where peace is everlasting. Thanks to their ruler’s magic crown, the kingdom is kept safe- as long as nobody enters the cursed wood that borders the territory. That forest is filled with monsters, curses, and bears (oh my.) Cerys narrowly escaped that forest as a child when her companions did not- the heir to the kingdom was lost to the forest. Cerys has since discovered an unusual magical power- her blood can grow things. A handy trick for the daughter of the palace gardener, but something they keep quiet, nevertheless. Everything is going along as well as can be, you know, for a girl with magic blood and a semi-pet fox following her around all the time. Until it comes time for the coronation. Anwen, another of Cerys’s dear childhood friends, is about to take on the magic crown when everything goes terribly wrong. Cerys sets off on a quest through the cursed wood to save her family, friends, and neighbors. As you might guess, this isn’t just a jaunt through a dense forest. It’s a CURSED forest with BEARS and ZOMBIE THINGS and also scary ANCIENTS. Cerys wants to find the Lady of the Wilds to set things right, but what she discovers is a lot more complicated. If you dig adventure, fantasy, and/or ever had a crush on the fox in Disney’s animated Robin Hood (no judgement) this book is definitely for you.
When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey- This book is one that is going to stick with me for a long time. I love Sarah Gailey- their work is so creative and readable and weird. They inject humor in unexpected places and- whew. It begins as all good books begin- with an accidental death on prom night. Alexis was going to have a meaningless hookup with a boy she barely knew, but things got messy in a hurry. Luckily, her friends have her back. And they have magic. It’s kind of like The Craft, but with better adult influences. It was so good. And complicated. And messy. Look, I love my friends, but I’m not sure I’d go so far as to help them dispose of a body… Then again, I don’t have magical powers I need to conceal. But actually, no, there is a zero percent chance I’d help my friends dispose of a body. Which just goes to show that this is some intense teenage friendship and magical mayhem. I loved the descriptions of magic, I loved the nuanced relationships of the friend group, I loved everything. Well, OK, I didn’t super love a certain aspect of the ending, but I can’t explain that without spoilers. Absolutely would recommend.
The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham- Take your Regency romance novel and turn it upside down! Seraphina Arden is a self proclaimed ruined woman. She’s an intellectual fighting for the rights of women, for what sort of double standard is it that she was cast out of society for the same “crimes” that earn men adulation? She and her group of friends muck about London causing good trouble. Seraphina takes lovers as she pleases and drinks a bit more than she ought. She is working on her memoirs in her native Cornwall when she meets a mild mannered architect, Adam Anderson. He’s a widow with two children, desperately trying to do right by them. He isn’t looking for any sort of love affair, but there’s something about Seraphina he simply cannot resist. This isn’t a fluffy rom-com. While it is technically a romance, it packs such an emotional gut-punch that half of me was surprised they made it to a Happily Ever After. Seraphina facing down her demons was something else, I tell you what. And Adam. Oof, the dude tries so hard and he’s kind but society is dumb and sometimes that causes him to make dumb decisions. Look, this is a whole lot of book, is what I’m saying. Romance is a wildly varied genre, and while I generally prefer mine a bit cheekier than this, The Rakess was an excellent book.
That’s all for today, Bookworms. I hope you’re able to enjoy some sunshine today, even if purely metaphorical.
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