Three podcasts to listen on Earth Day

On April 22 it’s Earth Day. Today we celebrate our planet! It’s an international event to make people aware of ecological problems and to do something about it. You can even do small things to help! For example eating less meat and trying to use less plastic. Read more on this website.

I write a blog post about Earth Day every year (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020). Every time I choose a different topic. This year I decided to share some podcast episodes that focus on nature.

BBC Earth Podcast
This podcast has the most beautiful stories about nature. Some of my favourite episodes feature singing wolves (When wolves sing), animals in suburban London (Big hairy neighbours) and a flying rhino (The rhino that flew 10,000 miles).

This is Love
In this podcast you come across all forms of love. There are episodes about romantic love and friendships, and especially interesting on Earth Day: some episodes express a great love for our planet. Three episodes I love in this category are a beautiful encounter with something wild (Episode 2: Something Large and Wild), a love story between two wolves (Episode 19: The Wolves) and an explorer who went into a huge iceberg (Episode 23: Into the Ice).

Solarpunk the Future on Imaginary Worlds
Imaginary Worlds is actually a podcast about science fiction and fantasy. But I’d like to mention one specific episode about solarpunk. This is a subgenre of science fiction. Rather than the past, it takes a hopeful future as inspiration. In solarpunk do it yourself environmental sustainability plays a major role. It’s an interesting subgenre if you’re interested in solutions for the current evironmental problems. I haven’t really explored solarpunk yet, but this podcast episode piqued my interest.

Book Titles That Sound Like They Could Be Crayola Crayon Colors

The topic for this Tuesday is a fun one! We are challenged to find book titles that sound like they could be Crayola crayon colors. This is of course a prompt from Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme managed by That Artsy Reader Girl. She recommends looking up the crazy Crayola crayon colors that exist. I especially like the names Razzle Dazzle Rose, Banana Mania, Outrageous Orange and Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown. I also found a couple of Crayola crayon colors that actually are book titles too:

After that I went looking for other book titles that could be good colour names. I didn’t manage to make a long list, but I found three books:

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
In Dutch, bright yellowish-green is sometimes called “gifgroen.” This literally means poison green. I’m not enirely sure where this name came from, but I have a theory. According to The Secret Lives of Color, arsenic was used to make some green pigments in the 18th and 19th century. At the time it wasn’t widely known that arsenic is toxic. So the pigments were used for all kinds of things like clothing and walpaper. That’s why I think Poison Study would be a fitting name for a shade of yellowish-green.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
This title sounds like a very bright colour. The cover has different shades of orange that could be called Illuminae. However, I associate the name rather with a bright shade of yellow.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
This title sounds quite poetic. I think it would a beautiful name for a dark colour. Since shadows are usually not really black, this colour could be a dark shade of purple.

Women’s History Month Readathon 2021 wrap-up

I felt so busy this month! Again I read two books. I am currently reading a third book, but I wasn’t able to finish it this month. Despite not giving it more stars, I enjoyed the books I read this month. They triggered me to learn more about the women the stories were based on. And I think that is the purpose of Women’s History Month. As part of Women’s History Month Readathon, I also made a themed post about six women in history that inspire me. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here. I want to thank Margaret from Weird Zeal for organizing the readathon! Here are my thoughts about the books I read:

Kleopatra (Kleopatra, #1) by Karen Essex3,5 stars
In four words: interesting, well-researched historical fiction
What I liked: From the start I wondered how much the Kleopatra from this book resembles the real Cleopatra VII. This part of the duology is about her youth. Not a lot is known about that period of Kleopatra’s life. On her blog the author writers that the research process took her five years. So I believe that Kleopatra’s character is pretty realistic. My first impression of Kleopatra in the book was that she isn’t a very likable child. Of course this makes sense regarding the family and circumstances in which Kleopatra is born. Throughout the story I did start to like and respect her. Early in her life many people close to her die (sometimes in violent ways). At a young age she gets a lot of responsibilities. So she learns that she has to be cunning and sometimes ruthless to survive. It was interesting to see Kleopatra grow from a young girl into a powerful woman.
What I disliked: The book has many side characters. Most of them stay quite one-dimensional. This made it sometimes hard to keep them apart. It also made me less interested in the plot. Because Kleopatra is still young in this part, many important plot points revolve around other characters. If I had cared more about the side characters, the multiple political intrigues in the book would have been far more intriguing.
Trigger warnings for murder, rape and graphic violence

Dreaming the Eagle (Boudica, #1) by Manda Scott3 stars
In four words: vivid, detailed, slow-paced, well-researched
What I liked: The main character of this book is Boudica, a Celtic queen who lived during the first century AD. Very little is known about her life. Yet, the writer made me feel like I really got to know the young Boudica. The story vividly describes the characters and the world they live in. It’s clear that the story is based on a lot of research.
What I disliked: The amount of details was a bit overwhelming. Especially the landscape and weather descriptions slowed down the story and made me lose my attention. That’s why I sometimes missed a plot point or the introduction of a new character. It was quite hard to keep track of the many characters, Britain tribes and their alliances. You need to read this book meticulously (or have some background information) to fully comprehend the story. Less irrelevant details would have helped me to focus on details that are actually important for the plot.
Trigger warnings for war, murder, slavery and graphic violence

Blog posts I liked in March
Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den wrote a great post about fantasy jobs she would like to apply for
Jess @ Jessticulates made a list with five of her favourite SFF short stories. I especially liked ‘And All the Trees of the Forest Shall Clap Their Hands.’
– Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books published a very helpful post about how to write a blog post people will actually read.
Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More shared this year’s prompts for The Wyrd and Wonder Challenge in May. I am really looking forward to participating!

Six Inspiring Women In History for International Women’s Day 2021

Today is International Women’s Day! I think women in history are often overlooked. So I want to share some women that inspire me. There are podcasts, books and websites that tell their stories. So I am going to introduce them. And if you want to know more, I encourage you to click on the links and read or hear more about them.

Mary Anning (1799 – 1847)
Mary’s father was an amateur fossil hunter. When Mary was twelve years old, he died. Her family was very poor, so she continued collecting fossils to financially support her family. During her life, she did many important discoveries. Mary uncovered the complete skeleton of an ichthyosaurus and the first plesiosaur. Because she was a woman and never officially trained or educated, she didn’t get credits for most of her discoveries. Yet Mary persisted.
More information:
Mary Anning, Princess of Paleontology on Stuff You Missed in History Class
The History Chicks Episode 124 about Mary Anning
Mary Anning on Rejected Princesses

Ida B. Wells (1862 – 1931)
When she was only sixteen, Ida’s parents died. She became a teacher to support her brothers and sisters. Next to her teaching job, Ida also started to write for a newspaper. In 1892 three black men Ida knew were lynched by a group of white men. This event led Ida to investigate lynchings. As a black woman this was risky at the time. But she dedicated her life to fight for the rights of African-American people, especially women.
More information:
How One Journalist Risked her Life to Hold Murderers Accountable on TED-Ed
Ida B. Wells-Barnett on Stuff You Missed in History Class
The History Chicks Episode 84 about Ida B. Wells

Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865 – 1915)
Susan’s father was chief of the Omaha tribe. After going to a mission school, Susan left the reservation to continue studying. She became the first Native American woman to earn a medical degree. In 1889 she returned to the Omaha reservation and started working as physician at the government boarding school. She was one of the only doctors for miles around, so she cared for hundreds of people. Next to their health, she also helped people to write letters or translate official documents. For years she also campaigned for a hospital at the reservation, which was finally built in 1913.
More information:
Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte on Stuff You Missed in History Class
Susan La Flesche Picotte – First Native Physician on Legends of America

Marie Curie (1867 – 1934)
Marie was born in Poland. There she wasn’t allowed to go to university as a woman. So Marie followed education at the Floating University, a secret education institution. After that, she went to Paris and got a degree in both Physics and Mathematics. As a scientist Marie conducted research on radioactivity and discovered two new elements: polonium and radium. In 1903 she became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1911 Marie won another Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
More information:
The Genius of Marie Curie on TED-Ed
The History Chicks Episode 74 and 75 about Marie Curie
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky (I haven’t read this book yet, but I know it has beautiful illustrations!)

Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)
Due to an illness, Helen became deaf and blind when she was 19 months old. With the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, she learned to communicate, write and read in multiple languages. In 1904 Helen became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She also wrote many books and actively advocated for people with disabilities and women’s suffrage.
More information:
The History Chicks Episode about Helen Keller
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (I haven’t read this autobiography yet)

Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer (1896 – 1978)
Truus was a Dutch resistance fighter. In 1938 and 1939 she was involved in Kindertransport. She organised train journeys to bring German Jewish children to Grait Britain. During the war Truus kept helping children at her own risk. In this way she helped to save the lives of thousands of Jewish people.
More information:
The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton
The website Truus’ Children

February 2021 wrap-up

February was quite a busy month and it went by fast. I only managed to read two books. Although one of them was quite big (more than 700 pages) I still hoped to read more books. But there are still enough months in the year to read more books!

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstonereread
In four words: poetic, gorgeous, intriguing, complex
What I liked: I felt I didn’t entirely get the story after reading it last year. So I decided to reread this book. I still love the creative ways in which time travel agents Red and Blue send each other letters. I think I did get to know Red and Blue better this time. First it was hard to keep them apart. Now I know Blue is the poetic one. I discovered that she quite often uses lines from famous poets like John Keats and Lord Byron. Red is more rational and analytical. Because I knew what to expect, the story was easier to follow. The plot also made more sense.
What I disliked: At some points I wished the story was less vague. Time travelling is never explained. The worlds we visit aren’t thoroughly explored, we only get impressions from the different strands. Yet, this is also what makes the book intriguing. So I’m not sure if a change would really improve the story.

The Mammoth Hunters (Earth’s Children, #3) by Jean M. Auel3 stars
In four words: vivid, very detailed, slow-paced
What I liked: Just like the first two parts of this series, it’s clear that this book is well-researched. The many details and extensive explanations make it totally believable that this story actually happened 35,000 years ago. Due to the slow pacing I could totally emerge myself in the world of Ayla and Jondalar. In this part, it was especially interesting to read how the Mammoth Hunters live. Because Ayla is also unfamiliar with the customs of the Mammoth Hunters, in a natural way everything is explained to the reader as well.
What I disliked: Although I think the slow pacing fits the story, it also slowed down the story. Some of the landscape descriptions could definitively be shorter. The plot bothered me too, because it was mainly based on a misunderstanding between Ayla and Jondalar. It took a very long time before this was solved. At a certain point it really started to annoy me. If they just would have talked to each other, a lot of problems could have been avoided… (sighs).

Blog posts I liked in February
Here are some blog posts from other bloggers I liked:
Margaret @ Weird Zeal announced the Women’s History Month Readathon 2021, in which I’m going to participate!
CW @ The Quiet Pond recommended 20 Black Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books as part of Black History Month
Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books introduced Book Blogger Talk on her blog and the first topic in this new feature is the future of book blogging

TBR Women’s History Month Readathon 2021

March is Women’s History Month, corresponding with International Women’s Day on March 8. In celebration Margaret from Weird Zeal organizes the Women’s History Month Readathon. The only requirement to participate in this readathon is to read books written by women. Margaret also created a bingo card with challenges you can use. My TBR-list isn’t really based on the challenges. I decided to focus on historical fiction this month. I have chosen two books that are based on the lives of real women, because I love to learn about women in history. In history class we most often talk about important men. Women’s History Month is of course a great opportunity to learn about important women in history!

Kleopatra (Kleopatra, #1) by Karen Essex
This is the first part of a trilogy about Cleopatra’s life. I have always been interested in Ancient Egypt and already know something about this Greek queen of Egypt. I heard this book is well researched and has many historical details. So I’m looking forward to learn more about Cleopatra.

Dreaming the Eagle (Boudica, #1) by Manda Scott
This story is based on the life of Boudica, warrior queen of the Celts. She sparked my interest when I heard about her in the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class. My parents happened to have a book about Boudica.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
I discovered this book for my SFF Countries Project, my attempt to read a science fiction or fantasy book from all the countries in the world. This is a historical fantasy book set in 19th century Malaysia. It’s written by a fourth generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. The story is about a girl from a poor family who receives an unusual proposal.

Afternoon Tea Book Tag

As you probably guesses from my blog name, I love tea. So this book tag seemed perfect for me! The Afternoon Tea Book Tag is created by Chelsea Bartlett from YouTube.

1) Tea: a book you find comfort in
A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a great comfort read with a cast of wonderful, diverse characters.

2) Scones: something hearty, a big but delicious book
The Book Thief is a beautiful and bittersweet story. It’s set during the Second World War and, interesting enough, narrated by death himself.

3) Clotted cream: a book you didn’t like at first but ended up loving
I first read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close as a school assignment for English. I did like the book, but came to love it when I reread it a few years later.

4) Finger sandwiches: a book you like but that’s not quite satisfying
Most books I give four stars would fit this definition. I really like four-star books, but they aren’t that amazing or memorable to give them all the stars. One book I really hesitated about was Aurora Rising. It was a good story, but especially the plot wasn’t satisfying enough to give the book five stars.

5) Jam: your favorite pair, characters who are just sweet together
Without doubt, Lazlo and Sarai from Strange the Dreamer! I loved the unique way how they meet, I enjoyed reading how their relationship develops and I think they are amazing together.

6) Petit-fours: a favorite short book/novella or short story
My favourite place to find short stories is the podcast LeVar Burton Reads. One of the many amazing stories featured in the podcast is Pockets by Amal El-Mohtar. It explores the idea that things in pockets could appear and reappear.

7) Strawberries and cream: a dynamic duo
Kell and Lila from A Darker Shade of Magic are certainly an interesting duo! By the way, you probably have those books you read and liked, but for some reason you never continued the series. That’s the case for me with A Darker Shade of Magic.

8) Your favorite teacup: a beautiful character, too pure for this world
Sam from The Boy Who Steals Houses. He’s so sweet and tries really hard to protect his autistic brother.

Image credits: I used stock images from Pixabay

January 2021 wrap-up

During January the lockdown of the Netherlands continued. It makes me sad that the current pandemic situation is still quite bad. I really hope it won’t take long before things finally get better! Personally I’m doing okay. I have my job and I enjoy the extra time at home. I draw in my art journal, watch television series, play games with my boyfriend and of course I read books. I read four books in January. My favourite of the month was The Dream Merchant, but I also really liked The Library of Fates. The new year seemed a good moment to make some small changes in my wrap-up posts. In each mini-review I now added a description of the book in four words. I also split my thoughts in things I liked and things I disliked about the book.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel3 stars
In four words: mouth-watering, romantic, sensual, melodramatic
What I liked: The book has a great atmosphere. It’s set in Mexico at the start of the 20th century. Each chapter begins with a recipe that blends in the story. This made it easy to imagine all the delicious things Tita prepares. Her food also has something special. Unintentionally Tita’s emotions affect the food she cooks. I enjoyed reading how her emotions are a kind of secret ingredient that influences the feelings of the people who eat her food.
What I disliked: Some readers hate the insta-love trope, but it doesn’t really bother me. For me, the problem wasn’t that that Tita and Pedro loved each other at first sight. I disliked that it never gets any substance. Their love doesn’t go beyond a strong sexual attraction. Since the romance is such big part of the book, this was a disappointment. Other setbacks were a couple of weird plot twists in the last chapters. The result was a disappointing ending.
Trigger warning for rape

The Dream Merchant by Isabel Hoving4 stars
In four words: adventurous, imaginative, complex quest
What I liked: Twelve year old Josh (Jasje in the original Dutch version) is asked to come working for a trading organisation. Not just any company, but one that sells things in dreams. They are convinced that Josh has a special talent that will help them to find a new market: the past. Josh travels through the most amazing dream worlds. The world building really impressed me. A few weeks after reading The Dream Merchant I even had a dream influenced by this book! Of course Josh is accompanied by some friends. His best friend and talented drummer Baz and story-teller Tess join him. Along the way they also get a couple of other travel companions. On their journey they uncover a legend with clues that help them to find their way. I loved how this legend is cleverly interwoven with the story of the main characters.
What I disliked: At some points the plot seemed quite complex. In the end it makes sense. But I can imagine this could be a reason to quit the book. A minor demerit was the ending which was a bit dissatisfying.

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana4 stars
In four words: magical, bittersweet Indian folklore
What I liked: This story is set in Shalingar, a magical kingdom inspired by Indian mythology. The world is interesting and well-written. We get just enough details to make this world feel real. In a positive way it made me long for more information about the history and culture of Shalingar. At the start of the book I wasn’t especially fond of the characters, but Amrita and Thala grew on me. Amrita is a princess that faces a marriage in benefit of her country. Initially she is quite ignorant and cautious, but we see her grow during the story. Thala is a seer who is able to see snippets of the future. Usually I’m not prone to like prophecies in books. But it was interesting that the future isn’t fixed in this story. Thala basically sees possibilities based on the choices people will make. The book deals with fate in a fascinating way.
Wat I disliked: The romance was somewhat superficial. If the writer would have given it more attention, I would have been more invested in it. I also felt conflicted about the ending. At a certain point I thought I knew how the story would end and I wasn’t happy about it. Yet, the ending still surprised me. If I would have written this book, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this ending. But I do think it fits the story and it was well thought-out.
Trigger warning for murder

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore3,5 stars
In four words: beautiful, mesmerizing, romantic fairy tale
What I liked: The beautiful, lyrical writing style immediately set the tone of this magical story. From the first page it’s clear that this book is inspired by fairy tales. The four narrators are based on characters from Snow-White and Rose-Red (a lesser known fairy tale that is not related to Snow White). The plot has themes from The Ugly Duckling and Swan Lake. The book mainly focusses on Blanca and Roja. Due to an old family curse, one of the sisters will change into a swan. But the other two narrators, Yearling and Page, also have their own story to tell. I liked that the writer used stereotypical fairy tale characters, but turned them into complex and well-developed characters. Blanca with her light skin and golden hair should be gentle and obliging. While Roja with her darker skin and “blood-soaked hair” is expected to be wicked and difficult. The writer also included characters that are seldom found in fairy tales. Page is a trans boy who uses both she and he as pronouns. Yearling is always fighting with people and doesn’t feel safe at home. Each of these characters struggles with expectations other people have about them. I loved how the book shows that we don’t have to be the person everyone thinks we are.
What I disliked: At some points it was hard to follow the plot, because a lot is going on in this book. It starts with the curse and the sisters’ fight to avoid it. Typically of magical realism (I think Blanca & Roja is rather fantasy than magical realism, but the book does have magical realism elements), the magic is never explained. Romance, various secrets and some family drama are added during the story. I sometimes couldn’t comprehend everything. At the same time the book has multiple chapters in which plot-wise nothing really happens. So I found the story inconsistent: some chapters made me feel bored, while other left me a bit confused. The beautiful ending did partly compensate this.
Trigger warning for physical abuse

Top Six Best New-to-me Writers I Read in 2020

This post was inspired by Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme managed by That Artsy Reader Girl. The prompt of this week is ‘New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020.’ Last year I read books from 26 new authors. That would become a very long post… So I decided to make a smaller list with only the writers from who I’d like to read another book.

Soulless by Gail Carriger was really fun to read! The book starts when Alexia is attacked by a vampire. This is entirely inappropriate. To make it even worse, Alexia accidentally kills him. This is the first part of the Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia is a great main character and I would love to read more about her. So the sequel, Changeless, is definitively on my TBR-list!

My favourite book of 2020 was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. I loved the writing style and I hope her other stories are just as good. The Book of Dreams is the next book I’m going to read from this writer.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez is an amazing fantasy book based on Bolivian history. This month a companion novel will be published: Written in Starlight. It’s about Catalina, an important side character from Woven in Moonlight. I’m definitively curious about this story!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is the first part of the Winternight Trilogy. I love the fact that the story is inspired by Russian history and folklore. I liked it and I will also borrow the sequel, The Girl in the Tower, at my library.

The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka is a beautiful story. It was the first book I read with Malaysia as setting. I’d like to read more stories set in Malaysia, so another book from this writer is on my TBR: The Japanese Lover.

After reading Tash Hearts Tolstoy I looked up Kathryn Ormsbee. It’s nice to see how diverse the characters in her stories are. The book I read has a main character who is asexual. Next to characters that fall in the LGBTQIA-spectrum, some of her books also have disabled characters. The Great Unknowable End made me most curious. It’s a historical young adult novel with science fiction vibes and one of the main characters has Tourette’s.

Six Books I Meant to Read In 2020 But Didn’t Get To

I’m again gonna look back at 2020. But instead of looking at the books I read, this post is about the books I didn’t read. I was inspired by Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme managed by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Vicious Cure (This Mortal Coil, #3) by Emily Suvada
There’s a good reason why I haven’t read this book yet. I borrowed the first two parts from my library. The last part of the trilogy was published last year, and I wasn’t able to borrow it yet. I really want to know how the story ends, so I’m definitively still planning to read this book!

Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicles, #3) by Jay Kristoff
I read Nevernight and Godsgrave in Dutch. Last year I also wanted to read Darkdawn in Dutch, but this wasn’t possible. I am totally able to read the book in English. However, it felt weird to read one book from the trilogy in another language. So I want to re-read part one and two in English and then read the last part. But I can also wait a bit longer, because I heard that Darkdawn will finally be translated in July. In either English or Dutch, I hope this is gonna be the year I will finish The Nevernight Chronicles!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I don’t have an excuse why I haven’t read this book yet. I still want to, because I really liked Circe. Madeline Miller has a beautiful writing style and I am looking forward to reading more of her books. I like how her stories help me to learn more about Greek myths. The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the Iliad.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
It’s kind of a tradition to read at least one book by Isabel Allende each year. Last year I wanted to read her newest book, but I never did. I already made a reservation at my library and I hope it won’t take too long before I can read the book. Isabel Allende writes beautiful magical realism stories, but I also like her historical fiction. This book is about two people who flee the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.

Child of the River by Irma Joubert
The writer of this book was recommended to me by Elza in her Top Ten Tuesday post about books set in South Africa. I found this book at my library and actually borrowed it, but never read it… I am still interested in reading a book by a South African writer and it really seems a good story.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
In 2019 I loved to read Between Shades of Gray. I wanted to read more books by Ruta Sepetys, but I just didn’t get to it. This book is set in Spain during the fascist dictatorship of General Franco. I am especially interested in the fact that this book includes vintage media reports, oral history commentary and photos.