I decided to cover the epic highs and lows of my 2021 reading year through writing mini reviews! Part one may be found here.
Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
agjsd;l I didn’t realize until just now that this is the third Arthurian story I read in a row. Anyway this one was Very Bad and I have yet to find an Arthurian retelling that encapsulates the sheer unhinged and fun quality that the legends have, although I do remember loving The Squire’s Tale as a kid. This was like…bad characters with no depth to them, pretty unfeminist feminism (I’m still kind of salty about the ‘magic starts with menstruation’ thing, like can trans women/women who can’t menstruate not do magic in this universe or am I taking this too literally?? Also, don’t forget Guinevere getting pressured into a marriage by our wonderful heroine), corsets that are the root of all evil…And also it was really hokey. Werewolf Guinevere is going to haunt me. I’m sure you get the picture.
Full review here. Also on Goodreads some weird lady got pissed and called me childish for this review?? And then she rated the book three stars and said it wasn’t that great??? People on Goodreads are bizarre.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
This was somehow worse than Half Sick of Shadows. And it wasn’t even a real Dracula retelling. Amazing.
Full review here.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
This was…interesting? But kind of forgettable at the same time? Idk, I enjoyed the mystery of what on earth is going on with those little kids, but I think the ending was overly abrupt and I didn’t really like it. I’ve got mixed feelings!
The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan
This was so cool and interesting?? It’s a defense of women written in the fifteenth century, so you know, I was all over this one. It’s deeply weird and definitely not written from a modern viewpoint at all, and it was just a really fascinating read.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Hmm, so I’ve finally had it happen where a childhood favorite just wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Oh well, more fodder for fanfic I’m probably never going to publish. I just HATE when I hyperfixate on a bad book though, which yes, I am currently hyperfixating on Harry Potter for some reason. At least I’m getting writing practice out of it, though.
Okay, since nobody asked, allow me to discuss a few Harry Potter headcanons of mine:
Headcanon I actually believe: Sirius Black is aroace (or possibly very gay for James! I’m open to either interpretation)
Headcanon that I must believe or else I succumb to the depths of despair: Snape and Lily were platonic *sobs in the misogyny that was the whole Snily vs. Jily thing* (No seriously the way Lily was handled in regards to both James and Snape was so misogynist. Why can’t we stop getting mad about James vs. Snape and start getting mad about how Lily only existed to be a conduit for two men’s character development and–there are multiple rants I could write about Lily, I’d better stop now)
Headcanon I think is really funny: God. Everything about the Black family. Sirius Black rebelling against his family by going to church and listening to Mozart and it WORKS because church and Mozart are muggle. Their dad asking Sirius loudly if he enjoys rubbing shoulders with the plebians every time they have to go somewhere (MY GRANDPA DID THIS, as a side note). That family is so weird and trashy and they live in my head rent-free.
Headcanon that is all of the above: Marcus Flint and Oliver Wood were actually dating, they just got SUPER competitive on the quidditch field. We never find out about this because it wasn’t relevant to Harry’s story ❤
Anyway yeah unfortunately this book is trash. Ultra unfortunately, it’s the kind of trash with expansive worldbuilding and a few really good ideas that gets the hyperfixation gears turning
Uh…I kind of ended up writing two reviews for this book lmao because I wrote one a while back, when I hadn’t read the book in years, and then I reread the book and realized I was irritated enough that I had to write an updated one with my thoughts lmao.
White Smoke by Tiffany Jackson
The twist was hokey and the ending was super abrupt?? What was up with that? Also I simply think that the mom should have divorced her husband, but whatever
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
This one was a TREAT. I loved the worldbuilding, and the main character is so down to earth, it’s great. They’re just such a normal person thrown into a very not-normal situation, and I love them. Also, it has DRAGON ROBOTS. The ending was a bit out of nowhere but honestly, I didn’t mind. Dragon robots, guys.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I have found one of my new favorite books. The prose is beautiful and gets under your skin. The heroine seems normal only for you to realize that she’s just as unsettling as the house she’s staying in. The HOUSE. I know it’s evil, but I too find myself strangely drawn to it. Just. God, I wish I could write like this.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
*sigh* Round two went much the same as the first, except this time the pacing was worse and Snape and Malfoy were much more poorly written. The only interesting part of this book was Tom Riddle, and then the author underutilized Tom Riddle. Why couldn’t these books have been about Tom Riddle?
(I mean, thank God they weren’t about Tom Riddle, because then we would have been thrown headfirst into Even More Ableist Bullshit than whatever that was in the sixth book, but I digress)
Full review here
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
*cries in why couldn’t this have been as good as its amazing premise*
Full review here
The Lais of Marie de France by Marie de France
THIS WAS SO GOOD OH MY GOD IT HAS EVERYTHING. IT HAS GAY WEREWOLVES, IT HAS SHAPESHIFTING HAWK BOYFRIENDS, IT HAS HOT FEY GIRLFRIENDS WHO SWEEP IN TO SAVE THE DAY EACH TIME. IT’S AMAZING AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ IT.
(Also, when I saw gay werewolves, I don’t mean it literally lmao, it’s just that I think it’s easy to headcanon him that way. I don’t want to raise any false hopes)
Full review here
Medea by Euripides
Medea did nothing wrong. She killed her kids, you say? Well what if the kids had bad vibes? I think you people just hate to see a girlboss winning.
Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
This was so cute!! In which an autistic girl and the revenant that’s possessing her attempt to save their country from the monsters trying to destroy it. (It’s not stated on page because it’s a medieval fantasy, but it’s heavily implied that she’s autistic, which makes me very happy). Anyway, things go wrong because the girl and the revenant only share one braincell. It’s great.
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
This was good, but unfortunately the prose could have used more polishing, and I definitely think it should have been middle grade. The worldbuilding was pretty creative, though! I loved the ghost mammoth.
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
The portrayal of ADHD and abuse was pretty good, although there was some weird stuff in there about home remedying ADHD away, which. What. PLEASE inform me if any of you guys have ADHD and find home remedies useful for you, because I have never heard of this and my mom is into all sorts of herbal medicine stuff?? And I also didn’t like a few weird comments that were made about patients in mental hospitals. There was also some unfortunate misogyny, especially toward Camila, the black female character, and just…hmm. I really liked the portrayal of abuse, though, the main characters were well-developed, and aside from a few weird lines, the ADHD rep was pretty good? I just have mixed feelings toward this one, I guess.
Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women: Politics, Personality, and Literary Production in the Life of Nun Abutsu by Christina Laffin
This was so interesting! I love reading about historical women, and I love reading literary criticism, so this was right up my alley!
Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell
Okay I did not expect the writing style to be this good! A few stories were slower than others, but the ones that were good were REALLY good.
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
This was really something else. Spooky and weird and wonderful and…somewhat lesbian? How this got published in the 1800s I do not know, but the book is a fun read and a wild ride! Fair warning, if you attempt a drinking game in which you take a shot every time the word ‘languid’ or ‘melancholy’ is used, you will end up with liver poisoning by the end.
Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
This had a slow start, but I ended up really enjoying it by the end! It’s probably not my favorite book ever, but it’s solidly enjoyable, and that’s a lot more than can be said for other books I’ve read this year (oops I did not start this out intending to be bitter). Full review here
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
THIS WAS NOT SOLIDLY ENJOYABLE. HOW DO YOU TAKE LOKI AND ANGRBODA AND MAKE THEM A) ANNOYING AND B) HAVE NORMAL BORING MARRIAGE PROBLEMS. WHAT WAS UP WITH THIS. OOH, HE JUST CAN’T COMMIT TO ME AND THE KIDS! SHUT UP, I DON’T CARE. IF I WANTED TO READ ABOUT SOME GUY WITH COMMITMENT ISSUES I WOULD READ SOME BOOK ABOUT THE TRIALS AND DESPAIRS OF LIVING IN THE SUBURBS.
Someday I will find a good Arthuriana retelling, but apparently not in 2021! I haven’t been reading as much so far this year, but I am slowly making my way through Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio and Winter’s Orbit. They’re both pretty good so far, even though I’m not too far into Winter’s Orbit yet. I’ve also been working pretty steadily on my fanfic? Hopefully I’ll finally defeat my ADHD-induced writer’s block once and for all, lol.