whiteisforwitching
I’m not sure I know how to summarize White is for Witching. It’s a bit of a haunted house story, sort of postmodern, Gothic-esque, definitely unsettling. It follows the story of Miranda, who at the beginning of the novel has disappeared. Her twin brother and the house she grew up in narrate the events that lead up to her disappearance, with her girlfriend getting the occasional paragraph of her perspective as well. (Yes, the house narrates part of the story. That tells you a lot about the kind of book this is.)

Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about this one. The writing is beautiful, but I just didn’t really connect to the book as a whole. The only character I really found interesting was Ore, who doesn’t have a huge role to play in the story. In fact, most of her scenes are Ore and Miranda’s dysfunctional relationship, which left me disappointed. (Which was deliberate: this isn’t a romance, it’s more like a Gothic horror story.)

As for the plot itself, I spent a good portion of the book trying to sort out the narrators and what exactly was happening. (It took me while to really accept the house as a voice, even though it’s clearly labelled from the beginning.) After that, the events are dark and unsettling in exactly the way I’m looking for from an October read, but I think my experience with the book really suffered from reading it so quickly after House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (sadly, not a lesbian book). House of Leaves is also a haunted house story and does that incredibly well. White is for Witching is partly inspired by that story, and although they go in completely different directions, I think that Oyeyemi’s story wasn’t given a fair shot in my reading of it, since I was still trying to process House of Leaves.

I still enjoyed this book, and I definitely plan on reading more of Oyeyemi’s books, but White is for Witching never quite came together for me. I would still recommend it as a queer creepy read, perfect for a stormy October night, but I was looking for a little something more from it.

 

carmilla

Carmilla is a lesbian vampire novella that predates Dracula by over 25 years. I had been meaning to pick this book up for years, just based off that description, but I wanted to save it for an October read. This year I finally got around to it, and I think it makes the perfect quick sapphic Halloween read.

If you’re anything like me, you probably expect Carmilla to be pretty subtextual. This is the Victorian era, surely this isn’t a blatantly lesbian book? As I began to read it, though, I found more and more passages that were fairly straightforward. As the two girls meet, Laura and Carmilla, they hold hands, smile, and blush. Carmilla fawns over Laura, calling her darling, and making Laura confused and uncomfortable.

Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardor of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips traveled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, “You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one forever.” Then she has thrown herself back in her chair, with her small hands over her eyes, leaving me trembling.

Living in such an overwhelmingly heteronormative time, Laura can’t fathom why Carmilla would act like this. She asks whether they’re related, and muses that maybe Carmilla is a man in disguise trying to seduce her, like sometimes happens in storybooks. (This was a time so heteronormative that Boston marriages and romantic friendships were seen as totally acceptable for straight women.)

So how did a book so blatantly queer get published in 1872? Because Carmilla is a monster. Laura is simultaneously repulsed and attracted to this queer monster. But because she is a vampire, Carmilla’s actions and attractions are unambiguously cast as bad, therefore letting the story get told. (Lesbian pulp followed this formula: the ending had to punish the gay characters, to make the whole book seem like a warning, despite anything that happened beforehand.)

As Carmilla proves, vampires have been associated with lesbianism for more than a century. And this book shows how those fears can be tangled together in a straight society. The idea that the charming young woman your daughter is associating with could be the enemy, that she could invade your home under the guise of something as sweet and pure as female friendship: what a terrifying thought! The lesbian vampire is a monster in disguise, a monster that can appear as angelic as a young, fragile woman. Like lesbian pulp, this image is something I find hilarious now, but in the context of the time period does show the overwhelming homophobia of the environment. (Though even this iteration of vampire lore does offer some sympathy to Carmilla.)

This is a great read for a look at the beginnings of vampire lore as we know it now, as well as having the allure of being able to read a Victorian lesbian story. Unfortunately, the compromise is that the plot of Carmilla relies almost entirely on the reader not already knowing that Carmilla is a vampire, which is pretty impossible to miss as a modern reader. Luckily, this is a short book, and still well worth the read even with that caveat.

cuttingroomfloor   aliceandfreda   petitemort

Autostraddle posted Lez Liberty Lit #57: Defining A Golden Age.

Gay YA posted Halloween Reads.

“Diverse characters: Corinne Duyvis on the decline of “issue” books” was posted at The Guardian.

Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Blue Hanuman by Joan Larkin was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Once The Clouds Have Gone by KE Payne at Terry’s Lesfic Reviews.

Under Devil’s Snare by S.Y. Thompson was reviewed at Lesbian Reading Room.

This post, and all posts at the Lesbrary, have the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitter pageWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and tumblr.

 

unicornhunting

I was very excited when I first saw the blurb for this book – lesbian unicorn hunting, grey morality choices, fantasy realm! From the start, you know the author is full of ideas and has this really complex fantasy world in mind. Unfortunately, I found that the ideas were great, but the book really suffered from poor execution. This review will have some spoilers, so be warned.

Cal and her two best friends have chosen to become unicorn hunters, a task reserved for virginal young women, rather than getting married or going to a nunnery. Cal’s mother is an ex-unicorn hunter, so the hunting seems to be a job you can pick up as a young adult and put down when you’re ready for the rest of your life. After about a half-day of training, all two-hundred of the first-year hunters are sent out in pairs into the forest to hunt down unicorns, and most of the pairs are successful. It never really made sense to me why they’d need a dedicated training school if unicorn hunting was so easy that two untrained girls can take down multiple unicorns on their first day. There’s a great deal of mystery around the reasons for hunting at the beginning – and most of the unicorn hunters have no idea why they’re doing it, although Cal soon finds out.

There are monsters, intrigue, and betrayal, but I was never able to get past my initial problems with the world building. There are so many interesting ideas – the reproduction of unicorns, for example – but the world is full of holes. And now we get into the spoilers proper.

If hunting unicorns is so vital to the world, and there are so many unicorn hunters around, why did no one ever notice that unicorns clone themselves (much like flatworms) nigh-instantly? If the world depends on unicorn blood to provide healing, why haven’t they just started farming unicorns? I understand that unicorns are magic and probably couldn’t be domesticated, but the first thing that came to mind when I saw how the unicorns reproduced – and that the hunters are paid per unicorn killed – was how you could easily set up a system to provide yourself with almost infinite unicorns.

I also wasn’t terribly fond of Cal, unfortunately. She went from awed by the beauty of unicorns to SlaughterCal-9000 over the course of a day, and these extreme changes in views weren’t well explained. I appreciated the way that the narration showed that she was attracted to women in general, not just her first crush, but I was never really able to relate to her.

Overall, I think Unicorn Hunting definitely feels like a first novel – it has some great ideas, but would benefit from a lot of polishing. I think, for me, if the author sat down with her world-building and took her ideas to their logical conclusion, they’ll really have an interesting story on their hands.

morningrising

This is the story of Kara and Dylan or as they are known to some people; the Guardian and Morning. This story started with a very contemporary feel and then quickly introduced some fantasy elements, which were not what I was expecting but in a good way! This story left me with a thirst for fantasy.

In short, the story is about Dylan and Kara who were in our human world but they are not from here. They are from InBetween and were only in the human world for their protection. This story, despite being very short manages to be very original and serves as a good introduction to the following two books. The world building is original and practical  as there are elements of fantasy and of our lives mixed together. There is magic but this world is also practical and adaptable. They take inventions from other worlds and are not afraid to use them. In some ways, very much like our own world. As you read along you can imagine the world and experience it as Kara relearns.

We see as Kara and Dylan’s roles are reversed and this applies also for the other two books. First, it was Dylan that needed to be strong for Kara and then the other way round, though by no means does that undermine Dylan’s strength. We also see how Kara gave in to Dylan in the Human World but then in Inbetween, Dylan needed Kara so listened to her.

Along the way there are some nice touches to make us dive deeper into their world. For example, an allergy mentioned in the beginning of the book is later on explained as a common trait.

The style is nicely written in general but sometimes it’s especially awesome and funny. For example:

“Some theme parks could take a few hints from this place”
Samantha Boyette, Morning Rising

There are great moments in the book, because they feel very real. We learn to empathize with the characters and their feelings. We feel frustrated with the situation as Kara is frustrated.

I would recommend this book for fantasy/urban, action, young adult and series lovers. This book is part of the Guardian of Morning trilogy (Morning Rising, Darkness of Morning, When Morning Dawns). The plot although written in a few pages, has a lot of twists and will probably surprise you.

circle

Currently reading: The Circle (Engelsfors Trilogy Book One) by Sara B. Elfgren & Mats Strandberg

And how is it? I think I like it so far? Only a couple chapters in and I am completely out of it, so who knows, really.

Pages read this hour: Hour 23: 50 pages, hour 24: 75 pages… somehow?? because this was the slowest hour to pass in the world??

Pages read in total: 1290!

Books finished: Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanWhite Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, Demonglass (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel HawkinsTwixt by Sarah Diemer, Tris’s Book by Tamora Pierce

Food eaten: None

Interruptions: None

Anything Else? Well that was fun now sleep please

Currently reading: Daja’s Book (Circle of Magic #2) by Tamora Pierce

And how is it? Still great. I should be able to finish it next hour.

Pages read this hour: Hour 21: 50 pages, hour 22: 60 pages

Pages read in total: 1165!

Books finished: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, Demonglass (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel HawkinsTwixt by Sarah Diemer

Food eaten: None

Interruptions: None

Anything Else? So very tired. Second to last update, though! Just two hours to go! I went outside for a little bit. The fresh air helped… temporarily.

Currently reading: Daja’s Book (Circle of Magic #2) by Tamora Pierce

And how is it? I love Tamora Pierce books. I’m really glad I saved this for now, because I’m starting to get sleepy and I think only this could be keeping my interest.

Pages read this hour: Hour 19: 35 pages, hour 20: 60 pages

Pages read in total: 1055! I broke the thousand mark!

Books finished: Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanWhite Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, Demonglass (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel HawkinsTwixt by Sarah Diemer

Food eaten: Had some pop to try to wake me up. Worked for about 10 minutes.

Interruptions: My nap wasn’t very successful: I take about an hour to fall asleep at least, so a 20 minute nap wasn’t realistic, but I think resting my eyes helped! Again, temporarily.

TwixtbySarahDiemer

Currently reading: Twixt by Sarah Diemer

And how is it? I’m just 10 pages from the end! I do like it. It’s definitely an interesting story. We’ll see how the very final scene plays out!

Pages read this hour: Hour 17: 20 pages, Hour 18: 55 pages

Pages read in total: 960

Books finished: Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanWhite Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, Demonglass (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel Hawkins

Food eaten: Nothing, I think.

Interruptions: Just making tea and changing reading locations (bedroom to living room and back again).

Anything else? I cheered for most of Hour 17, and now I think I’m going to take a quick 20 minute nap, since this is usually my bedtime and I’m fading. (I’ll even set an alarm! Don’t worry, I’ll still make it to hour 24!)

TwixtbySarahDiemer

Currently reading: Twixt by Sarah Diemer

And how is it? I’m liking it so far! I’m about halfway through it, and it’s definitely odd. I think the ending will really determine how much I like it as a whole, but I’m really interested to see how it wraps up.

Pages read this hour: Hour 15: 35 pages, Hour 16: 45 pages. But I think the page count is a little weird, because I have to flip through about three pages at my preferred font size before it counts a page read. Makes up for the huge font of Demonglass, though!

Pages read in total: 885

Books finished: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, Demonglass (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel Hawkins

Food eaten: More tea, because my eyelids are starting to droop.

Interruptions: Just making tea and changing reading locations (bedroom to living room and back again).

Anything else? I’m going to cheer for a little while, hopefully that will wake me up. If not, I might just take a nap after all!

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