2021 Second Quarter Book Haul: E-books

Well, it’s almost the end of July. So what better time to share the final segment of my second quarter book haul? Previously I wrote about which used books and new books I acquired from April to June of 2021. In this book haul post I focus on the e-books I purchased during this time period. Hopefully one of these books will pique your interest!

All book summaries are from the book publisher’s website. In other words, these summaries are not my own.

Want to support local book stores? Buy a copy these books on Bookshop.org!*

*This is not an affiliate link and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Blood and Ash Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Includes From Blood and Ash, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, and The Crown of Gilded Bones
Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

The Unfit Heiress: The Tragic Life and Scandalous Sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt by Audrey Clare Farley

At the turn of the twentieth century, American women began to reject Victorian propriety in favor of passion and livelihood outside the home. This alarmed authorities, who feared certain “over-sexed” women could destroy civilization if allowed to reproduce and pass on their defects. Set against this backdrop, The Unfit Heiress chronicles the fight for inheritance, both genetic and monetary, between Ann Cooper Hewitt and her mother Maryon.

In 1934, aided by a California eugenics law, the socialite Maryon Cooper Hewitt had her “promiscuous” daughter declared feebleminded and sterilized without her knowledge. She did this to deprive Ann of millions of dollars from her father’s estate, which contained a child-bearing stipulation. When a sensational court case ensued, the American public was captivated. So were eugenicists, who saw an opportunity to restrict reproductive rights in America for decades to come.

This riveting story unfolds through the brilliant research of Audrey Clare Farley, who captures the interior lives of these women on the pages and poses questions that remain relevant today: What does it mean to be “unfit” for motherhood? In the battle for reproductive rights, can we forgive the women who side against us? And can we forgive our mothers if they are the ones who inflict the deepest wounds?

Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill

Epheria is a land divided by war and mistrust. The High Lords of the South squabble and fight, only kept in check by the Dragonguard, traitors of a time long past, who serve the empire of the North.

In the remote villages of southern Epheria, still reeling from the tragic loss of his brother, Calen Bryer prepares for The Proving – a test of courage and skill that not all survive.

But when three strangers arrive in the village of Milltown, with a secret they are willing to die for, Calen’s world is ripped from under him and he is thrust headfirst into a war that has been raging for centuries.

There is no prophecy. His coming was not foretold.

He bleeds like any man, and bleed he will.

A Cat’s Guide to Bonding with Dragons: A Light-hearted Humorous Fantasy Adventure by Chris Behrsin

Ben must be the hungriest cat ever…

One moment, he was enjoying a breakfast of salmon trimmings in his home in South Wales. The next, he was teleported across time and space onto the cold stone floor of an evil warlock.

Locked in through day and night, Ben may have to serve him for a while. Locked in the warlock’s tower through day and night, Ben will hate this, especially having to hunt those infernal demon rats when the warlock doesn’t feed him well at all.

Meanwhile, in a distant academy, a dragon is bored out of her mind. Unable to wear a saddle, no human dares mount her. Is there anyone in this land who can ride her into battle against the forces of the evil warlocks? Somehow, she doubts she’ll ever find a suitable bond.

Unless there is another creature with enough dexterity to fulfil that role. One, perhaps, who is currently sprinting right out of a warlock’s front door…

The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning

A gripping historical novel that tells the little-known story of Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai during WWII.
1939: Two young girls meet in Shanghai, also known as the “Paris of the East”. Beautiful local Li and Jewish refugee Romy form a fierce friendship, but the deepening shadows of World War II fall over the women as they slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession district and the teeming streets of the Shanghai Ghetto. Yet soon the realities of war prove to be too much for these close friends as they are torn apart.
2016: Fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm. Her grandfather is dying, and over the coming weeks Romy and Wilhelm begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. As fragments of her mother’s history finally become clear, Alexandra struggles with what she learns while more is also revealed about her grandmother’s own past in Shanghai.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. Peeling back the layers of their hidden lives, she is forced to question what she knows about her family–and herself.

A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova

Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.

To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.

That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives… for her.

Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.

The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another… but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.

Book Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Reading format: Library hardback

Content warnings: blood, torture, mention of abuse, language, violence, confinement, suggestions of sex

Rating: 4/5

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of The Once and Future Witches on Bookshop.org!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

“There’s no such thing as witches, but there used to be. It used to be the air was so thick with magic you could taste it on your tongue like ash…But then came the plague and purges.”

It’s 1893, a time when witches have all but disappeared. All that remains from the ashes of the old witching days are a handful of charms passed down from mother to daughter. It’s a time when society considers women sinful by nature and fathers and husbands determine their fate. In New Salem, if a woman wants to possess any means of power, it must be through the right to vote.

When the estranged Eastwood sisters, James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna, decide to join the suffragists, they realize it’s also an opportunity to fight for the rights of witches. They embark on a campaign to recover the lost words and ways of magic so that all women with the will might again learn how to witch and, more importantly, how to advocate for themselves and empower their daughters. But there’s a lingering sickness in New Salem that begins to slowly spread. Peculiar shadows seem to bend to an invisible power. There’s a force that will stop at nothing to ensure the Eastwood sisters fail in their quest to restore the rights of witches and the sisterhood of women.

This is, of course, a tale about witches and magic. But it’s also a story about women supporting women who work together to make the world a better place to live for their future daughters (and sons). These women face issues that unfortunately remain relatable to this day. These include sexual harassment in the workplace, fear of walking home alone, poor pay, shaming of female sexuality, and a disregard for their opinions. However, I also want to mention that there are some feminist men who assist the Eastwood sisters and their sisterhood in their pursuit for rights and witching.

We also read about the ever-present racism and exclusion experienced by the Black community, and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals. I don’t want to say too much more because aspects of this become more developed in the story. But I feel it’s important to point out in case someone is looking for books that include these topics and/or characters.

Like one of my other favorite reads of 2021 (The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue), I very much appreciate Harrow’s writing style. I love when authors show their mastery of words through nearly poetic assemblages of descriptors to draw the reader into the scene. At just over 500 pages long, the plot of the book picks up at nearly the halfway point. Normally this detracts from my reading experience, but the characters are engaging and I wasn’t particularly bothered by this.

Harrow also does a superb job at defining the sisters’ personalities. There’s James Juniper, the teenage spitfire rearing to leave her mark on the world; Agnes Amaranth, the strong, steadfast, and protective sister; and Beatrice Belladonna, the quiet, introverted, and insecure scholar. Overall, I enjoyed this tale of witches boldly interwoven with feminism and uplifting sisterhood. I understand why there’s been so much buzz about this book. If you’re partial to witchy fantasy novels inclusive of modern topics, I recommend The Once and Future Witches.

2021 Second Quarter Book Haul: New Books

Last week I shared which used books I picked up during the second quarter of 2021 from April through June. Now it’s time for part two of three where I share which brand new books I acquired. I hope this list inspires you to check out one or more of these books!

All book summaries are from the book publisher’s website. In other words, these summaries are not my own.

Want to support local book stores? Buy a copy these books on Bookshop.org!*

*This is not an affiliate link and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long

Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller and atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.

Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Here is the story of the Iliad as we’ve never heard it before: in the words of Briseis, Trojan queen and captive of Achilles. Given only a few words in Homer’s epic and largely erased by history, she is nonetheless a pivotal figure in the Trojan War. In these pages she comes fully to life: wry, watchful, forging connections among her fellow female prisoners even as she is caught between Greece’s two most powerful warriors. Her story pulls back the veil on the thousands of women who lived behind the scenes of the Greek army camp—concubines, nurses, prostitutes, the women who lay out the dead—as gods and mortals spar, and as a legendary war hurtles toward its inevitable conclusion. Brilliantly written, filled with moments of terror and beauty, The Silence of the Girls gives voice to an extraordinary woman—and makes an ancient story new again.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ever-present threat, infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young alike. The end of days is near, but life always goes on. A young Latin tutor—penniless and bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman. Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is just taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

When we think of fungi, we likely think of mushrooms. But mushrooms are only fruiting bodies, analogous to apples on a tree. Most fungi live out of sight, yet make up a massively diverse kingdom of organisms that supports and sustains nearly all living systems. Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel, and behave.

In Entangled Life, the brilliant young biologist Merlin Sheldrake shows us the world from a fungal point of view, providing an exhilarating change of perspective. Sheldrake’s vivid exploration takes us from yeast to psychedelics, to the fungi that range for miles underground and are the largest organisms on the planet, to those that link plants together in complex networks known as the “Wood Wide Web,” to those that infiltrate and manipulate insect bodies with devastating precision.

Fungi throw our concepts of individuality and even intelligence into question. They are metabolic masters, earth makers, and key players in most of life’s processes. They can change our minds, heal our bodies, and even help us remediate environmental disaster. By examining fungi on their own terms, Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms—and our relationships with them—are changing our understanding of how life works.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. She will face an impossible challenge and, along with two unlikely allies, uncover a secret that threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike.

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman*

*I won this book in a giveaway hosted by Polish and Paperbacks.

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

Book Review: The Reign of Wolf 21 by Rick McIntyre

Reading format: Library hardback

Content warnings: blood

Rating: 3.75/5

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of The Reign of Wolf 21 on Bookshop.org!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

Rick McIntyre, a former National Park Service employee, shares the tale of one of Yellowstone National Park’s most esteemed alpha males, Wolf 21. After the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone in 1995, Wolf 21 quickly became famous among wolf observers. As leader of the Druid Peak Pack, he was known for his fairness, altruism, ferocity, and loyalty to his mate, Wolf 42.

McIntyre’s narrative of the lives of the Yellowstone wolves begins with Wolf 21’s courtship of Wolf 42. Wolf 42’s jealous sister, then alpha female of the pack, repeatedly interfered with their relationship. She was also known for her domineering and violent leadership style to keep her subordinates in check. These factors ultimately lead to a coup within the pack. At last, Wolf 21 and Wolf 42 were able to be together as the new leaders. The keen personalities and strong leadership of Wolf 21 and Wolf 42 lead to the rise of the Druid Peak Pack as the dominant pack within the park for years.

Though Wolf 21 is clearly a favorite, McIntyre writes about the lives of the Druids with scientific objectivity. Some presumptions are made based on familiarity with the pack. For the most part, though, McIntyre avoids attributing human emotions and characteristics to the wolves. The sequential account of events may seem monotonous at times; they are based on years of field notes, after all. But frequently interspersed throughout the chronology are nuggets of text that exemplify the strong leadership of Wolf 21 and Wolf 42.

McIntyre tells us of Wolf 21’s affinity for his pups, how he doted on injured pack members, and how he frequently let pregnant and nursing females first access to a meal. Wolf 21 was not doubt a fiersome opponent to his rivals. But he also had a more affectionate side that he expressed with his mate. The equal of Wolf 21 in every way, McIntyre writes about Wolf 42’s patience and intelligence. One fine example that stands out was her never-tiring perserverance to persuade some pups to cross a river by baiting them with sticks.

The biggest takeaway of this book, in my mind, is how extraordinarily intelligent wolves are. Even though the prologue of this book tells you how it will end, I still shed tears when the inevitable deaths of Wolf 21 and Wolf 42 occurred. McIntyre doesn’t delve too much into the positive environmental impacts of wolves on Yellowstone. Those impacts are equally important, though, to break down the negative narrative of wolves that we grew up with for decades. It’s fascinating how re-introducing an apex predator reshaped Yellowstone’s ecosystem for the better.

Because wolves had been absent from Yellowstone for so long, the elk population exploded. Hunters loved this because it not only meant more hunting opportunity, but it was also important for the local economy; outfitting expeditions for non-locals were a good source of income for residents. However, too many elk caused over-grazing, particularly regarding trees around streams. This over-grazing reduced the food source for beavers, bison, and moose and the habitat for birds.

Reintroduction of the wolves (along with continued hunting and predation by cougars and grizzlies) lead to fewer elk in Yellowstone, reversing the effects overgrazing had on the environment. The wolf population grew relatively large at one point, but eventually balanced itself out once the elk population decreased. (For what it’s worth, this book also cites research that, contrary to belief, grizzlies kill more elk than wolves.) I am just amazed how much effect the wolves have had in Yellowstone.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box of wolf admiration. But I highly recommend this book, along with Nake Blakelee’s American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West.

2021 Second Quarter Book Haul: Used Books

Here we are again, another quarter of 2021 down! I am shocked at how quickly these last three months seemed to fly by. I’m equally as surprised at how many books I purchased this quarter. The book community is such a good influence on my book buying habit. (Is it a good influence? Why yes, yes I think so!)

To make this quarterly haul post more manageable, and improve your viewing pleasure, I decided to break it up into three separate posts: used books, new books, and e-books. As the title of this blog post more than alludes to, this post is a list of the used books I purchased during this quarter. All book summaries are from the book publisher’s website. In other words, these summaries are not my own.

Want to support local book stores? Buy a copy these books on Bookshop.org!*

*This is not an affiliate link and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

Centuries ago, in a blood-soaked land ruled by legendary gods and warring men, a prophecy foretold of a high king who would come to reign over all of the north. . . .

Ragnvald Eysteinsson, the son and grandson of kings, grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather, Olaf. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal, claim his birthright and the woman he loves, and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Opportunity may lie with Harald of Vestfold, the strong young Norse warrior rumored to be the prophesied king. Ragnvald pledges his sword to King Harald, a choice that will hold enormous consequence in the years to come.

While Ragnvald’s duty is to fight—and even die—for his honor, Svanhild must make an advantageous marriage, though her adventurous spirit yearns to see the world. Her stepfather, Olaf, has arranged a husband for her—a hard old man she neither loves nor desires. When the chance to escape Olaf’s cruelty comes at the hands of her brother’s arch rival, the shrewd young woman is forced to make a heartbreaking choice: family or freedom.

Set in a mystical and violent world defined by honor, loyalty, deceit, passion, and courage, The Half-Drowned King is an electrifying adventure that breathtakingly illuminates the Viking world and the birth of Scandinavia.

The Sea Queen by Linnea Hartsuyker

Six years after The Half-Drowned King, Ragnvald Eysteinsson is now king of Sogn, but fighting battles for King Harald keeps him away from home, as he confronts treachery and navigates a political landscape that grows more dangerous the higher he rises.

Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild has found the freedom and adventure she craves at the side of the rebel explorer Solvi Hunthiofsson, though not without a cost. She longs for a home where her quiet son can grow strong, and a place where she can put down roots, even as Solvi’s ambition draws him back to Norway’s battles again and keeps her divided from her brother.

As a growing rebellion unites King Harald’s enemies, Ragnvald suspects that some Norse nobles are not loyal to Harald’s dream of a unified Norway. He sets a plan in motion to defeat all of his enemies, and bring his sister back to his side, while Svanhild finds herself with no easy decisions, and no choices that will leave her truly free. Their actions will hold irrevocable repercussions for the fates of those they love and for Norway itself.

The Sea Queen returns to the fjords and halls of Viking-Age Scandinavia, a world of violence and prophecy, where honor is challenged by shifting alliances, and vengeance is always a threat to peace.

The Wild Road by Gabriel King

In the grand storytelling style of Watership Down and Tailchaser’s Song comes an epic tale of adventure and danger, of heroism against insurmountable odds, and of love and comradeship among extraordinary animals who must brave The Wild Road . . .

Secure in a world of privilege and comfort, the kitten Tag is happy as a pampered house pet—until the dreams come. Dreams that pour into his safe, snug world from the wise old cat Majicou: hazy images of travel along the magical highways of the animals, of a mission, and of a terrible responsibility that will fall on young Tag. Armed with the cryptic message that he must bring the King and Queen of cats to Tintagel before the spring equinox, Tag ventures outside. Meanwhile, an evil human known only as the Alchemist doggedly hunts the Queen for his own ghastly ends. And if the Alchemist captures her, the world will never be safe again . . .

A Court of Wings and Ruin and A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

I’ve already read A Court of Wings and Ruin (review) and A Court of Frost and Starlight (review), which are books 3 and 3.1, respectively, of the A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACoTaR) series. I enjoyed the series so much that I decided to start collecting the hardcover versions of the books with the original artwork. These two weren’t too difficult to find for an affordable price. However, the first two books of the series–ACoTaR and A Court of Mist and Fury–are a different story. I can’t believe how expensive the first two books are being listed for on resale sites!