Buba’s Book Reviews: Salt Slow by Julia Armfield

Title: Salt Slow

Author:Julia Armfield

Genre: Sci-Fi, Lesbian Literature

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication date: May 28, 2019

Rating: 8/10


I want to preface this review with the statement that I don’t normally enjoy horror. I hate how women become objects for punishment and titillating unnecessarily graphic violence. I often find the character’s decisions stupid and lacking a blind chicken’s sense of self-preservation.

Salt Slow, a collection of eerie, horror-tilted, speculative fiction short stories by Julia Armfield has none of the shortfalls that often make me put aside stories of this theme.

The titles include


The Great Awake

The Collectables

Formerly Feral

Stop your women’s ears with wax



Cassandra After salt slow

All of these stories explore with lyrical sensitivity and raw feeling a different facet of uniquely feminine horror. Despite this, there is an undeniable sense of empowerment. There is also a delightfully bald-faced assumption that women prefer the company of other women as friends and as lovers. In a wash of books and horror where heteronormativity is not just the norm its a staple, this was a refreshing delight.

In these stories, women are not the beautiful punching bags of loved ones or masked men or horrors unspeakable. In these stories, girls metamorphosize from struggling disjointed girlhood into beautiful monsters themselves and devour the boys pressuring them for sex. Women are allowed to embrace the grotesque and heedlessly follow an all-woman band of beings, guised as humans, whose siren songs urge their all-girl roadies to turn Maenad, like the wine and blood mad followers of Dionysus. They wreak unspeakable horrors on the men around them in paroxysms of joy. There was something almost Morrigan and threefold goddess about the band that fascinated me. I think it was the crow feathers and the whispers of murder and atrocity that follows in their wake like bloody streamers.

This is a collection of stories for every woman who’s struggled with the grotesque realities of life. They are as much about metaphor as the speculative monster being unveiled one layer at a time. The entire collection is threaded together with little callbacks to other stories, like echoes. There is a fascination with curiously clinical collective nouns, such as smack of jellyfish and an intentional lyricism and beauty of language that makes the spare descriptions of dismemberment and ruin seem all the more shocking.

I cannot recommend this read enough, I hope it leaves you feeling strange and wistful and a little bit more monstrous.

Status Update on One Half A Dead Witch WIP – 1.18.20

5 things my WIP contains:

A half dead witch

A copper dragon having an identity crisis

A Jewish warlock

Happy lesbians

Magical homebrewing

After some soul searching and talking to several friends who love witch books, I’ve decided NOT to rename One Half A Dead Witch to Burned Bridges. The votes are in and despite my handling witches in a new and different way, they’re still witches. Plus I adore witches, and I’ve been viewing this as my homage to modern witchcraft for too long to give it up.

*Cue occult background sounds*


I’ve been working on draft 2 regardless of this decision to not change the working title. It looks like my draft 0 has enough material to become 3 books, so that was an interesting discovery. I’m currently about 2 chapters from the end of Draft 2 Book 1, and I’m actually very happy with the midpoint climax that I’ve turned into a final Climax. The two month time skip I inserted about halfway through draft 1 is the perfect place to split off Book 1.

I spent the last 2 months really beefing up the collusion of the minor antagonist with the main antagonist. I think it will give book one a more satisfying arc, plus every good antagonist need minions and spies.

Another focus has been on authentic character building.  I’ve been digging in and doing a lot of research so that I can properly portray the book’s secondary lead Dinah, who is a Jewish Warlock, and a happily married lesbian mom. It’s very important to me that I do justice to writing her and her family. If there are any Jewish writers out there I would love to chat with you to get your feedback on her.

On that note here are the last lines I typed:

Sara-Madigan thought this was a bad idea. Mara could tell because she had her arms wrapped around herself, left hand jammed in the back right pocket of her dress pants, right hand in the front left, hands fisted. Mara wanted to ask how she’d found women’s dress pants with front and back pockets.

Some Thoughts on Tiffany Aching: A Hero for Young Bookish Girls Part 1

In the light of the terrifying conflict that seems to be once more looming in the horizon, I decided I would return to one of those series that reminds me we have the power to make our own good in the world. Since the new-year I’ve read The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett.

I cannot stress enough how Tiffany Aching and Sir Terry’s absolutely lovely bildungsroman shaped the way I thought about the world. When they came out I was growing up with Tiffany.  Tiffany Aching was exactly what small, bookish, bullied, young-me needed. She had read the entire dictionary back to front and was a bit annoying with this information, but no one was cruel to her for it. She liked things to be correct. She read stories and thought things like:

“She couldn’t be the prince, and she’d never be a princess, and she didn’t want to be a woodcutter, so she’d be the witch and know things.”

― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

I also wanted to know things. And from that moment I was hooked. These books were a cornerstone of my growing up. They feel particularly timely at the moment. They breathe hope back into my disenchantment with the world. These books really equip you in just a few short words with all the grit that you need to face down nightmares with nothing but a frying pan.


Title: The Wee Free Men

Author: Terry Pratchett

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication date: 2003

Rating: 9/10


For those unfamiliar in the Wee Free Men, Tiffany at 9 years old discovers the Queen of the Fairies is trying to bring her court of nightmares into her home, the human world, the Chalk. After beating an evil water spirit in the head with a frying pan and staring down the headless horseman her little brother is stolen away by the queen, and with the help of the Wee Free Men, little blue pictsies, and a frog that was once a lawyer, Tiffany has to save him.

I think my biggest takeaway from the book today is that you can’t wait for someone else who will know how to do the job better. You have to do the best you can with what you’ve got, even if that’s just a frying pan and a book about diseases of the sheep.

You have a duty in the face of evil. In the words of Sir Terry:

“’All the monsters are coming back.’


‘There’s no one to stop them.’

There was silence for a moment.

‘There’s me,’ she said.”

― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

The second thing I learned from this book, which has stuck with me all my life, is that humans are not intrinsically good or kind, in fact we are largely selfish. But we can choose not to let this tendency make us terrible people. There is tremendous power in intentionally deciding to be good and kind to those around us.

 “All witches are selfish, the Queen had said.

But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine!

I have a duty!”

― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

I still weep reading these lines. The world today makes it so easy to curl up against the endless stream of terrible news and do nothing, to lean into cynicism and pettiness, but there is so much more power to be had in standing up against it, and choosing to do what’s right, even if it will only help in the smallest way.

On that thought let me leave you with this, where Tiffany tells Miss Tick about an old woman who was burned out of her home because the people thought she was a witch.

“I bet Mrs Snapperly had no teeth and talked to herself, right?” said Miss Tick.

“Yes. And she had a cat. And a squint,” said Tiffany. And then it all came out in a rush: “And so after he vanished, they went to her cottage and they looked in the oven and they dug up her garden and they threw stones at her old cat until it died and they turned her out of her cottage and piled u pall her old books in the middle of the room and set fire to them and burned the place to the ground and everyone said she was an old witch.”

“They burned the books,” said Miss Tick in a flat voice.

“Because they said they had old writing in them,” said Tiffany. “And pictures of stars.”

“And when you went to look, did they?” said Miss Tick.

Tiffany suddenly felt cold. “How did you know?” she said.

“I’m good at listening. Well, did they?”

Tiffany sighed. “Yes, I went to the cottage next day, and some of the pages, you know, had kind of floated up in the heat? And I found a part of one, and it had all old lettering and gold and blue edging. And I buried her cat.”

“You buried the cat?”

“Yes! Someone had to!”

― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men


Title: A Hat Full of Sky

Author: Terry Pratchett

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication date: 2004

Rating: 7/10


In A Hat Full of Sky Tiffany now 11 goes away from her home on the Chalk to study witchcraft with Miss Level, in the mountains, she learns that real witching is mainly just helping folks. Unfortunately she is pursued by a Hiver, a creature which takes over the minds of the powerful to hide in their bodies, slowly driving them mad. After she is taken over, with a lot of grit, the power of the land, and the help of the Nac Mac Feegal she is able not only to free herself from the Hiver, but to save the monster from its eternal fear.

In this book the theme of community is stressed, while we are reminded, up close and personal how not pleasant that community can be. But that

“someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”

― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky


“You can’t not help people just because they’re stupid or forgetful or unpleasant… If I don’t help them, who will?”

― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

I think the American mindset in particular can get very hung up on people needing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and that you are only responsible for you, and individualism and forget that we are each of us part of a community and we have a duty to those in our communities who struggle.

In A Hat Full of Sky you are reminded

“There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.”

― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

In a world that so often doesn’t seem fair or right, there is something so important about this reminder that we can all do something about it, that every little step in the right direction helps.


“Even if it’s not your fault, it’s your responsibility.”

― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

It is also a story of belonging and power and respect. Tiffany is becoming a young witch to be respected instead of a child who has stumbled into a situation with no one else to lean on.

After all,

“ Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Right now I have The Wintersmith on hold on my library app, so until part 2 then… be kind, even when you don’t want to. Do what you can because you are there and you can help, even if only in a small way, and never give up hope.

P.S. if any of you lovelies want to get me a shirt or mug with

“Be the witch and know things.”

― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

Printed on it, I think it’s so much better than the GoT version.

Buba’s Book Reviews: Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Title: Tempests and Slaughter

Author: Tamora Pierce

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication date: February 2018


After literally 8 months on hold, I finally got my hands on my library’s audiobook copy of Tamora Pierce’s Tempests and Slaughter. (I spend nearly two hours of my workday commuting. Most of my reading these days, that isn’t for CPs, is in audiobook form) I cannot tell you how hyped I was about getting back into the Tortall universe. I re-read the Song of the Lioness and the Wild Magic Quartets several times a year. I’m pretty sure I sold my heart and soul to Pierce as a kid. The magic and adventure in her worlds were a favored refuge to someone who was an ugly duckling for years. So let me tell you finally getting to see baby Numair Salmalín, i.e. Arram Draper before he gets his fancy new proper mage name was the best Christmas treat.

I want to start with the fact that you in no way need to have read any other Tortall books to jump right into this one, but knowing the end of the story added a richness to the experience. I wondered if Pierce would be able to make the Empire of Carthak with all the rich history we know from all her many books come through without feeling like an info dump, but as always I should never have doubted Pierce. The many cultures and traditions of Carthak, even the problematic ones like the realities of empire, and slavery, really come alive through the eyes of Arram Draper a precocious young mage from Tyra, sent to study at the school of mages in Carthak after he sets fire to one too many of his parent’s workshops.

The knowledge that this small, awkward maglet becomes one of the most feared black mages on the continent, and a steady teacher for our heroine Daine was fantastic. You can see threads of the honorable man he becomes in a child who is sick with fear for his gladiator friend, Sarge, who is forced to fight in the arena.

Everything about Arram’s early struggles to make friends as the youngest student ever admitted to the school really resonated with my experience as a gifted kid who was put through a lot of grade skips and advanced classes growing up. Right down to those nerve-wracking ones where they’ve given up trying to find other students to teach with you and it’s just you and the master. I was really happy that, unlike me, Arram soon finds a pair of other gifted kids Prince Ozorne (the leftover prince who becomes the emperor Mage), and Varice (A gifted mage and self-proclaimed kitchen witch whose affection both boys vie for).  Both Ozorne and Varice challenge Arram in different ways and one can see the effect all three have on each other as they grow through the book

The main focus of the book is on the boys Arram and Ozorne, who are roommates, and for a long time nigh on inseparable. But as the pair experiences different tragedies and triumphs there is always the foreboding sense of knowing, how it all ends, the yet unknown betrayal, the run into exile and Numair’s student bringing about the end of the reign of the Emperor Mage. It’s like when you’re watching the star wars prequels and the imperial march starts playing. It was exactly the shiver down your spine you needed while enjoying what is otherwise a very fun book about 3 kids in a magical school full of delightful things such as lightning snakes, crocodile gods tricking you into caring for mystical firebirds, mysterious yet benevolent old mages muttering cryptically, and of course baby mage disasters such as flooding your classroom and uncontrollable fireballs.

I was also very interested to see Arram taking an interest in healing, in my memory of adult Numair, he was the slightly mad scientist and Alanna was the healer, learning that Numair actually has years of healing training and is bowing to Alanna’s greater affinity and skill was a fascinating insight to their relationship.

In Tempest and Slaughter, there were times when it almost felt like one of the Emelan universe books, which have so much more focus on magic and mages. Rather than on the kind of sword and adventure stories, Tortall focuses on. Now that I say it I know Arram with his fascination with wild magic would kill for a day in Winding Circle, he and Tris could even take their noses out of books for a moment to play in the lightning together. Oh boy, if I’m not careful that will be a whole fic I need to write, so back to the book review.

Read Tempest and Slaughter, it’s a fantastic romp through another one of the rich cultures Pierce has so lovingly crafted. I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the next book so we can see what great betrayal awaits our star-crossed pair, the Emperor Mage and his best friend and advisor, destined to be each other’s doom.

Rating: 8/10 

If you are new to Pierce’s work or also a life-long fan tell me about it! I’m dying to gush about this book some more, and need only the slightest encouragement.