The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin (ARC Review)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 362
Release Date: June 1, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

Advertised as “Practical Magic meets Twister“, The Nature of Witches immediately grabbed my attention when I first heard about it (those are legit two movies I adore with my whole heart). As much as I enjoy immersing myself in a high Fantasy concept, there’s something special about magic meeting our contemporary world, which this book does instead.
In this specific instance, witches have always lived among humans and helped them regulate the atmosphere and climate. But humans, as they tend to do in every reality it seems, wanted more. They went against the witches’ recommendations and tried to inhabit parts of the planet that should have been left to nature, always trying to push the limits further, until the Earth could take no more and the atmosphere became too erratic to be tamed by magic even.

As far as general premises go, this was something that interested me right away, because I loved the idea of mirroring our real life climate crisis in a magical way. However, the book only carried this idea as an underlying theme to propel the main character, Clara, further in her journey of accepting herself. Told from her POV, you mostly deal with her inner and very personal struggle. As an Everwitch, she can control magic no matter the season, whereas other witches are at their strongest or weakest depending on the time of year. Clara’s not just the only Everwitch there is, but because it has been so long since the last one lived, no one really knows what her powers entail, just that she is stronger and more dangerous and their only hope at counteracting the humans’ destruction. The danger in her abilities manifests specifically whenever she loses control, because her rampant magic seeks the people she loves the most and kills them, hence why she is reluctant to form any attachment to the people in her life.

While reading the book, I understood where Clara’s trauma came from. Imagine having powers you never asked for and that no one knows how to control, just to see them take every person you love from you at the slightest mistake. The conclusion that you would need to isolate yourself makes sense, but it still put the story in a repetitive loop, because not getting attached to anyone simply isn’t realistic. We are not even talking about romantic love here, but any kindness can make the heart grow fonder. Still, Clara focuses a lot on her romantic entanglements, which include her ex-girlfriend Paige and her current love interest Sang. I was personally more invested in Paige’s side of things, simply because she seemed like one of the few people willing to call out Clara when she was being self-centered and their history was really interesting. Sang, on the other hand, was one of the loveliest and sweetest characters. He was so supportive and exuded a calm that I wish I possessed too, but somehow I didn’t feel the depth of their love as much as it was described on the page.

All of this was a surprisingly quick read as you breeze through the seasons, but despite the dangerous situations the characters were put in, I didn’t feel the urgency of the plot. Usually, when it comes to magic, I try to just accept what I’m told, but I struggled a bit with the logistics. Here are a couple of examples that didn’t make sense to me entirely:

  • Every witch has their own seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) in which they are born, their personality is affected by and their magic is the strongest. However, seasons aren’t technically bound to certain months. They are marked by weather patterns and daylight hours, completely different depending on where you live on the planet. So, if a Summer witch didn’t want to see her powers wane after three months, wouldn’t they just be of better use in a different geographical area?
  • Clara had to live in a shed in the woods all by herself after a fatal incident with her powers, to make sure she wouldn’t get attached to any of her other classmates who lived together in dorms. This technically seems logical, but then they pair her with one person to train her alone, be it a teacher for years or a newly introduced person her age. If you spend time with someone in close proximity and they are your only close contact, you will form an attachment. People tend to grow on you over time, so this course of action was an odd choice for me, because it obviously counteracted what they were trying to do.
  • The big final plan (which I won’t go into detail about) was reckless, could have backfired so badly and was purely based on a hunch. Never mind that we don’t fully understand what happened or why it was necessary exactly, but it seemed to be a cure all.

Finally, this may not have been everything I’d hoped it would be, but the writing was beautiful, especially when it came to the weather and plant life. I also really liked the little quotes at the beginning of each chapter. They were a nice touch and I don’t want to reveal anything, but loved how it came full circle in the final chapters. Something about them worked so well as affirmations, you didn’t even have to be a witch to feel like they could be helpful to you as well.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Very interesting concept and quick read, although it didn’t live up to my expectations!


Do you plan to read The Nature of Witches? What is your take on contemporary magical stories? Let’s talk!

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio (Book Review)

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count
: 373

Again, but Better is a book with very mixed reviews, yet I felt absolutely compelled to pick it up for myself, because Christine Riccio was one of a handful of booktubers who inspired me to get into (book) blogging. (I even thought about doing the whole video set up, but then just was so disappointed with the light in my room, my lack of equipment, etc., I switched to plain writing my thoughts out on the blog) When it was announced that she was going to release her first book, I was all in! That book could have probably been a horror mystery thriller (a mix of all the things I do not like) and I still would have read it … maybe.

So, it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise to anyone that I did not read the blurb properly …

I just want to start out by saying that I thought and was pretty sure that this book was a contemporary YA … but it’s not? I would class this more in the NA age group, because the main character is definitely in her twenties, although it still has great coming-of-age characteristics that many of us YA readers like. But, that’s not the big shocker, I just really wasn’t prepared for there being any sort of magical element (despite it literally saying so in the blurb). It’s still very much contemporary, but it has a magically twisty component. With my expectations being so totally off for this book, I think I was just sort of thrown for a loop there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just felt … off?

I debated for a long time how I could possibly review this book, but I think I just have to resort to the good old “things I liked/disliked”-list situation, because I really feel a lot of different things.

WHAT I LIKED

  • Shane is a lot like Christine and that’s a lovely thing! When you see Christine on the screen, it’s sometimes hard to believe that she is an introvert who struggled to talk to people at college or who didn’t date a lot. But … that’s also how I think some people see/saw me? I am pretty good at some social events and like to be upbeat and friendly with everyone, but it’s hard and took a lot of time to develop to the point where I become more confident. A big change has happened for me when I was on my semester abroad and so it makes a lot of sense to me that she would put herself in the shoes of her main character and live through her that way.

“It’s weird how we have to get a little older to realize that people are just people. It should be obvious, but it’s not.”

  • The Shane and Pilot banter was spot on from the first time they met to the very last page! In general, Christine’s writing is just a lot of fun to read. It flows super easily and had me laughing out loud several times.

“Shane. Interesting name for a girl,” he teases. I narrow my eyes. “Pilot. Interesting name for a human.”

  • I really, really liked that Shane hadn’t done it all at twenty. There are so many people who do not enter into romantic relationships at high school and it’s not even that they wouldn’t want to, it just doesn’t happen. It’s not that weird and I need everyone to know that, because it makes you feel like in this quote:

“The young women in all the YA books I loved were high-school age. By eighteen, the majority of them had saved the world, not to mention: kissed people, traveled, been in a relationship, had sex. At twenty I felt like a pathetic, unaccomplished, uncultured, virgin grandma. It sounds like a joke now, but at the time, around all these people my age casually discussing all of the above, I felt so small.”

  • The end of the book reminded me of my own book ending (Break Up Buddy, the only story I ever finished) and I thought that was hilarious.

WHAT I DISLIKED

  • A huge reason I was excited for this book was that I have done a semester abroad myself (as mentioned above). In fact, I have spent a notable time in other countries when I was 15 (the US), 16/17 (France), 18/19 (US again) and 23/24 (Canada) and like to think I know what I am talking about when it comes to those experiences. Of course, everyone is different, but some stuff just nagged me, e.g. when Shane and the others went to Italy on their first weekend in London. That’s just not realistic? No one I know would spend their first weekend in a new city NOT in the city …
    Other than that, I suppose I know a lot of people who really went someplace new every weekend. Especially in the EU, travel is easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s super cheap. For college students who were all living off of internships, I was floored by what they could all afford to do.

“I suck in a deep breath as I plop one foot over the line and then exhale, knowing I’m standing on both sides of the world at once.”

  • The relationship that Shane had with her parents felt very … wrong? I’d like to say borderline abusive. I am not here to excuse any of their behaviour, BUT I’d also like to point out why I was not siding with Shane in certain instances. Her parents have paid thousands of dollars for an education she does not intend to use, she also cons them into financing her semester abroad by telling them it is useful to her premed major in NY. I just can’t.
    Their relationship was very complicated and Shane obviously wasn’t in a place where she could tell her parents how she really felt, but that kind of money is no joke? IF she had financed the trip herself somehow, I wouldn’t have minded at all, but that wasn’t the case and therefore just really not cool. Having never spoken to her parents about her concern before, I understand that it resulted in disappointment.

“I’ve been trying to make you happy for six years now, hoping somehow that would make me happy too, but I don’t think it’s working. You’re not really happy with me because I’m not happy with you because I’m not happy with me.”

  • While it was a fast and easy read, something about the pacing didn’t feel natural sometimes. It was difficult to gauge how much time had really passed and sometimes it was just hours and then suddenly weeks.
  • WHY could this girl not get up from a chair, without it crashing loudly to the floor and her flailing about??? Or, you know, put down a glass?

Lastly, I want to add that there is a significant cheating plotline. I didn’t feel any certain way about it, other than obviously not being for it, but it also didn’t ruin the book for me. I just thought I’d mention it.

So, I liked the book, but didn’t love it. I found Christine’s writing style had a great flow and made it easy to breeze through the pages, but maybe I will enjoy her next attempt more.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Solid debut book by a great booktuber!

Have you read Again, but Better? Was it on your radar? Let’s chat!

The Quarantine Write Tag

As I mentioned last week, I kind of want Friday to be the designated day for tags. However, I never said it had to be a book tag, so, I am introducing to you the Quarantine Write Tag! (How terribly timely, right?)

In the past, I have created several posts of this sort, such as the Winter Is HereValentine’s Day, Life Choices and Milestones Write Tag. Basically, I wanted to provide a fun exercise for fellow writers to explore their characters some more, even if it meant placing them in an entirely unrelated setting to their story. I always quite enjoyed them and if you think this could be something for your project, please feel free to do this as well! This time, I wanted to place our characters in the middle of this terrible pandemic. How would they act and who is most likely to do XY – that’s what the questions below are for!

Now, you may wonder why I am doing this, especially since I haven’t done a write tag on this blog in years. Oh well, I decided to join Camp NaNoWriMo on a whim to continue working on my #witchyWIP. A couple of people already know the story, but it has been put on hold for over a year. Right now, I am posting the chapters I have worked on, on this site! It’s a “secret” WordPress blog that I have created to work on my writing and still share it with people. The posts are currently password protected, but if you are curious about it, just let me know and I will find a way to get you that password! (I swear, I am not super selective about who gets one or not, I just want to have some overview over who accesses the posts for now!)

RULES

  • Thank the person who tagged you but also link back to the original post(I want to see all your lovely answers, people!)
  • Provide a short description of your WIP/story!
    I still struggle with having a polished version of the blurb for this #witchyWIP. I mean, I don’t even have a title yet … but let’s try:When 6-year-old August enters Rosalie’s life, she has no idea just how much the girl will change her entire family’s fate. Being the last one of a powerful but destructive magical lineage, she links herself to Rosa’s youngest son, binding them even beyond this life. A scandal for the entire community! But what really happened to August and will they ever uncover all the mysteries surrounding her without getting destroyed themselves? Only a tale that spans decades will tell.

  • This is pretty focused on main characters but don’t hesitate to use several characters for the answers if you want to! (We want to get to know as many of your characters as possible)

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Which character is most likely to help out their elderly and vulnerable neighbors during the crisis? OR which of your characters has an essential job (or would have if they didn’t live in a fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi/whatever different world) and brave the outside on the daily?

August and Josh are sort of a package deal on this one, which makes it hard, because you need to keep a secure distance from one another in public. But August would probably take care of the neighbors, while Josh would work as a nurse or in a care facility. I could totally see that being a profession he’d be interested in.

Who is your go to character for TV and movie recommendations? (As they most likely spend all their time binge-watching shows already!)

A character that may seem out of left field, but Cole. He’s Mirabella’s husband and they both take August into their home and eventually become her parents. Cole is a quiet soul as well as a homebody and would enjoy talking about nothing but TV.

Tell us about the first character who would go slightly mad staying inside for too long?

Again, I have to mention two people here. Willow and Wren, the twins, are a force of nature and not to be tamed. Having to stay inside sounds like torture to them.

How does your most extrovert and your most introvert character handle the crisis?

Who IS my most extrovert character? Maybe Rosalie? She’d hate this altogether, because she needs to stay busy like her twin girls. Usually she jets from one appointment to the next and would therefore have a hard time coming to terms with this. All other possibly ambivert to introvert characters would be fine … unless they live with Rosalie and the twins. That just sounds stressful to me.

Which of your characters is a prepper and would have been ready if this had been a zombie apocalypse?

Mirabella likes to have things planned in life, so I presume she’d have a plan for this as well. You know, just in case!

Who got panicked and bought everything in bulks (despite reassurances that markets would not run out)?

I actually can’t see anyone panicking like that. They are all witches, they’d handle this somehow else … right?

If there is a character who might be hard to convince that the virus and its dangers are real, who would it be? Why?

I think Rosalie is stubborn and as a witch she’d probably think that they’d be immune or find some workaround. BUT caution is always better and I’d like to think she wouldn’t endanger anyone, she’s not a villain after all.

Who would organise all the zoom-group chats to make sure their friends and family stayed connected? 

My pure puppy boy Josh would be in charge of that! Not only is he good with human gadgets, but he just likes it when everyone gets along and stays in touch.

BONUS: Make an aesthetic of your main character bundling up at home!

I would read this as Josh and August doing the things we all do these days. Binge TV, read books, cook more at home and try to come up with silly things that make us laugh. Plus, appreciating the people we have with us and that make us happy.

I TAG THEE

Please, do NOT feel obliged to do this!! I just thought I’d get the ball rolling my tagging a couple folks:

I hope you enjoyed this tag and that it offered some sort of brief entertainment. If you liked it, please don’t hesitate to share it, so that a lot of people will discover it and let us in on their own stories to tell!

Contemporary Witches are BACK on TV!

When I was little, I was always fascinated by any story that involved magic. However, in fairy tales, the witches are often the baddies, but growing up, I mostly saw them as powerful, good (or at least morally ambiguous) women on TV. I adored those portrayals and that’s part of why I am so happy that contemporary witches are having a real comeback on the small screen. Not to say there’s anything wrong with historic settings, but I do like to see them integrated in life nowadays – makes the daydreaming easier, if you know what I mean. Here are some of the most recent examples that you can currently find on the telly:

**Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the full season of any of these shows yet!**

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Very few people seem to know this, but The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina isn’t just a remake of the 90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, it’s actually based on a series of comics that are part of the Archie universe. Yes, that means that Riverdale and Greendale are effectively in the same universe and a crossover is not unlikely. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Just yesterday, Netflix released the full first season of the show. Even a cursory glance at it will show you that it has very little to do with the 90s show some of us might still remember, but that is probably for the best. It rarely works if you try to recreate something exactly the same way (although they should have kept the talking cat – Salem was just too iconic).

The visuals now are a lot darker, with a modernised perspective on things as well as a certain touch of retro to it all – I haven’t seen so many people use landlines in a decade! You can be certain that the set designers and cinematographers took great care when they created this show, especially in terms of playing with colour. While I do appreciate the new spin on things, I can’t say I love the show. It’s hard to put my finger on what it is that I am missing, but maybe it’s just moving a tiny bit too slow for me.

Light as a Feather

Staying on a darker path, this show is for people who enjoy the horror side of it all. Based on a former wattpad story and now published book, Light as a Feather is a new Hulu show that draws on works such as Final Destination and Carrie.

I may have expected this to be even creepier and gruesome than it was, but so far there were still a couple nice twists and turns. Albeit it being a little predictable at times, it’s still interesting to see the characters react to certain situations they are put in. My main complaint for it would probably be that I really didn’t understand the why of it all after watching 2/3 of the first season. I hope it will explain things to some extent, as I am really not expecting a full on tell all in the final three episodes, but a little clarification as to what’s going on would be nice.

Having said this, putting the show in a post about witches might have been a bit of a stretch since I don’t know what’s happening. But the whole “Light as a feather …”-chant does always remind me of witchcraft, so there’s that …

Charmed

A couple of you already know this, but I was one of the biggest fans of the original Charmed show. If I had any say in this matter, the CW reboot would have never happened and we would have gotten a Next Generation kind of show instead. Alas, that’s not what happened and here we are.

I think the biggest mistake the CW made with this show is alienate some of the original fans previous to the reboot’s release by saying that the new version is a feminist spin on the original. Three powerful women living by themselves, rocking their careers and not actually being all about men despite that being part of their life sounds great to me, but apparently it wasn’t enough for the CW. Nevertheless, I really wanted to give this a try. If it could introduce a new generation to the power of three, why not? Right?

Well … I am not entirely convinced. I am glad there seem to be more inclusion in terms of casting and portrayal, I would never ever argue with that. However, to me, the charm of the original was that they had to figure out the magic on their own. Their guardian whitelighter didn’t show up in the first episode to explain everything like it happened here. Furthermore, in terms of visuals, this new Charmed just seems to draw from a lot of modern day pop culture and I think that’s a bit lazy. The first demon you see could be a Game of Throne’s Ice King doppelganger and the way their whitelighter teleports looks like apparation from Harry Potter. Why did they change that anyway?

As you can see, I am very skeptical. The second episode was better than the pilot in my opinion, but it has a long road if it wants to become a fan favourite like the original.

A Discovery of Witches

Did I save my favourite one for last? I absolutely did! So far A Discovery of Witches, based on the book by the same title, has only aired on Sky One in the UK, but it will be out in the US in 2019.

There’s a lot that is wrong with this show. In my heart and my mind, I absolutely 100% know that. People who compare it to an adult Twilight are spot on. It has the cliché vampire who stalks the girl who falls in love with him anyway, the forbidden love and whatnot. But it also has an intriguing system of magic and a scientific background to support it. Combine all that with a perfect casting of Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer as the leads (their chemistry is off the charts) as well as beautiful scenery shots of Oxford, Venice and remote places in France – I was hooked immediately.

Maybe, as I get older, I am more drawn to adult shows? I feel like that’s not universally true, but little did I know that I was still craving vampire stories just like I did when I was 13 years old. Out of all the shows I mentioned, this is the one I am yearning to see the next episode of. I know that the book is a tome, so in comparison I think they are moving quite fast on the show without making it look like a rush job. This is for sure my latest obsession.

Honorary Mention – Legacies

I really only want to mention this briefly, but Legacies is CW’s latest spin-off show of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. I can’t really recommend this for anyone who hasn’t watched the previous shows at all, as they don’t really waste time explaining who’s who, but rather just assume it’s a given that you know them. Still, it does have witches, vampires and werewolves – so it definitely fits the theme and if you are into that and liked the previous shows, then it might be worth checking out. The first episode was decent enough.


What’s your take on witches? Are you glad they are back as well? Don’t hesitate to comment if you want to chat about any of the above mentioned shows! 

Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Book Review)

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Page Count
: 402

When Caraval was released last year, I remember it being all the hype. People compared it to the Night Circus, which is one of my most favourite books in the world and therefore set standards very high. I bought one of the UK mystery hardcover editions very early on, but then soon realised that the hype was just too much and there was no way I could possibly enjoy it as much as I might have if I hadn’t heard a thing about it before. So, I waited and let some time pass to allow my brain to forget some of the things it had learned and I think that was a good call.

First of all, Caraval still wasn’t close to the Night Circus. Magic was there and it might have still been very intricate, but I feel like the focus of the story was less on enchanting the readers, but more on creating drama and putting all the characters in constant peril. As a whole, I still very much enjoyed the book. The story in itself was absolutely fascinating, but my issue was more along the lines of the characters.

Scarlett and I have a difficult relationship. I appreciate her undying devotion to her sister. I like that she has principals she is unwilling to relent on, but some of her behaviour just didn’t add up. Her past is tragic and I very much understand her mistrust in others after the abuse she has suffered from her father. However, she kept making the most naive decisions and wasn’t cautious with her trust at all. After a while, I was just constantly frustrated with her choices and and the people and things she chose to believe in or not believe in for that matter. Also, she constantly criticised her sister, Tella, for being impulsive, when literally none of her actions were thoroughly thought through. Speaking of Tella, she didn’t have the benefit of being present much in the story, but despite her overall motive of wanting to save Scarlett from a life in misery, she just still seemed utterly selfish to me.

I hear that the second book, Legendary, has Tella as a main character and that it is supposedly better than Caraval. I am definitely curious about how the story continues in the sequel, because Caraval was full of wonderful twists and turns and revelations. I call bullshit on anyone who claims to have predicted everything that happened in that book, because I am usually very good at spotting those kind of things and there was no way I could have guessed all of those twists.

In the sequel, I hope that we get to go a little bit more into detail on how Caraval actually works and that we get to find out more about Legend. I like a mysterious villain who may not be a villain at all.

 

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Liked the story more than the characters, if that makes any sense.

Have you been enchanted by Caraval? Is it a book you’d be interested in? Let’s chat!

Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush (Book Review)

Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Page Count
: 336

When someone told me this book was about biker gangs and magical elements (although it ended up being more like Urban Fantasy-ish …), I was all in without even seeking out more information. Admittedly, that might have been my first mistake.

While I did enjoy the general concept of the book, there were some aspects that I might have just not been prepared for but that really bothered me at times. Jemmie, the main character, deals with her lack of control over her powers by drinking alcohol at every turn. Look, I am really not a person who will condemn someone if they want to have a drink or two. You do you, but she basically just graduated High School and was already a borderline alcoholic. It worries her family, it worries her friends, everyone knows there’s some deeper rooted issue and obviously it doesn’t really help her much either. I understand that it is her coping mechanism, but reality is that she has a great support system and that her life would have been far easier if she just told the truth. (My biggest pet peeve in books is when people are unable to communicate!) Especially considering that she whined the entire first part over how much her ability to sense magic sucks, just to get over it with the blink of an eye with everyone thinking it’s the coolest power ever. It was infuriating, because it didn’t feel like progress or a learning curve, but rather like she had made it out to be a far bigger problem than it truly ever had been.

The other thing that bothered me a bit was the love triangle. To me, neither option was a particularly good one and the whole affair was rather predictable. I just really wish we could stop romanticizing the douchebag that cannot deal with his emotions and tries to protect the love interest by pushing her away, hurting her emotionally and sometimes even physically. I am all for vulnerable and emotionally complex boys, but Crowe’s behavior made it really difficult for me to like him at all, nevermind actually root for him.

I know I made this book sound a lot worse than it actually was, because despite it all, I DID enjoy Devils & Thieves. While I may have gotten a tad confused from time to time with the terminology, I think there’s some great magical world building in there. There’s a rich family history and mythology still worth exploring and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious what will happen in the next book.

It also helped a lot that Devils & Thieves was very fast paced. I legit read it in one sitting and was fine with it. So, while it definitely wasn’t one of my favorite reads, I still think there’s quite a bit of potential in this story. If I could wish for certain things to happen in the sequel, it would be that it stayed on the dark and magical path the first book ended on. That they would dive more into the biker gang dynamic (people rode more cars than bikes and other than the lingo there really wasn’t much to that element) and maybe ease up on the tropey-ness of it all. I would love to not actually be able to guess what might happen next!

Fazit: 3/5 stars! If you don’t mind a bit of predictability and cliché love story, this might be for you!

Have you heard of Devils & Thieves? Is it something you’d be interested in?