I, Antigone

As a classicist, I am a big fan of Greek myth retellings, and I am happy for every chance I get to read them. In I, Antigone, Carlo Gébler paints a beautiful picture of a world filled with Kings and Queens of the ages, and brings a new twist to one of the oldest stories in the world, the story of Thebes. If you thought you knew the whole story, think again.

Antigone is a tragedy by Sophocles written in or before 441 BC. Of the three Theban plays, Antigone is the third in order of the events depicted in the plays, but it is the first that was written. The play expands on the Theban legend that predates it, and I, Antigone is written in the same spirit for a modern audience.

Most modern myths have many versions and variations, and will pull from various sources like Ovid, Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles. I was interested to see which myths Carlo Gébler would include in Antigone’s world. I was excited to find the author took inspiration from various sources and included many gods and goddesses into the story, all while giving them a modern spin.

With this books we get many stories in one. Many myths make up the grander tale of the Greek king, Oedipus. Within the story of Oedipus, we also get the stories of Europa and the bull; their children Minos and Adamanthus; Cadmus’ search for his sister Europa, and his founding the founding of the great city Thebes; how Cadmus’ great-grandson Laius became king at Thebes, and how he brought a great curse upon his line.

Retellings of the Greek myths and legends are really popular right now, and I, Antigone is a great read for fans of Madeline Miller and Scarlett St. Claire.

Lunar Tides by Shannon Webb-Campbell

Expansive and enveloping, Shannon Webb-Campbell’s collection Lunar Tides asks, “Who am I in relation to the moon?” Which, in turn, poses a very meta question: who are we in relation to the natural world? As Jane Austen would say, “What are men compared to rocks and mountains?”

These poems explore the connections between love, grief, water and the moon. The collection is structured like the lunar calendar, into moon phases, like the cycles of life, or the stages of grief.

“What phase was the moon when she left? / How high or low were the tides?” This short couplet begins the collection and likens the phases of the moon to the phases of life, asking who are we when we pass? Will our goblet be full or empty?

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Official Announcement: The Wanderer Literary Journal name change

The Wanderer Literary Journal was originally created as a group project for a literature course. When this blog first launched in 2015, our mission was to bond over books and create a space for us to share our thoughts and reviews. We named our journal The Wanderer in recognition of our wandering literary adventures.

To wander is to ramble on, to roam, to stray, without a purpose or objective. All of us wander through life and, as readers, through stories, in the hopes of finding our own path. As travelers, each of us desire that journey – to find our own story.

from the original Wanderer mission statement

There are some changes that I will be making to the blog, and one of them is a new name. Yes folks, The Wanderer Literary Journal is going into retirement. I’ve gone far beyond the traditional concept for the blog, and as a result, the name “The Wanderer Literary Journal” doesn’t reflect how I think of myself as an independent reviewer. The original Wanderers have all since moved on from our blog, but I will always treasure my first book club — Nia, Hayley and Iyari, thank you for wandering with me.

My overall mission will remain exactly the same–I am a book reviewer and I intend to continue running my blog and social media accounts with honesty and transparency. I will still be writing, reviewing, editing, and discussing books. Thank you to the followers and friends I have made along the way, and thank you for your support!

Here’s to new chapters. 📖 

The Employees by Olga Ravn

It’s hard to describe this work because it is so meta. It is a really little book that tackles a really big topic: Existence. Less than 135 pages encapsulates the human experience and asks what is it that really makes us alive.

“Is it a question of name? Could I be a human if you called me one?”

“I have never not been employed. I was made for work.” Literally, because employees on the Six Thousand Ship are basically robots that were created for work, humanoids coexisting beside real humans who have been in space for so long they have forgotten their humanity. Both seem to be adopting traits of the other: the humans are becoming more like the employees, and the employees are learning how to be human. And what happens when a humanoid begins feeling emotions? Crying? Showing desire, fear, and anger?

“I feel a similar longing to be human.”

“‘I hate interface,’ my humanoid co-worker said the other day.” But how can a humanoid have feelings that were never programmed into their being? And still, the employees are seen developing “strategies in dealing with emotional and relational challenges,” raising questions like can computers learn to program themselves?

“Am I human or humanoid?”

And for the crew, when the lines of reality blur, they begin to question everything. “I started to wonder who I actually am here. An employee, a human, a programmer, Cadet 17 of the Six Thousand Ship.”

“I don’t know if I’m human anymore. Am I human?”

This is an extremely relevant message for today’s world, where the lines between reality are beginning to blur with technology and social media.

“Tell me, did you plant this perception of me? Or did this image come up from inside me, if it’s own accord?”

In a larger sense, this work poses a metaquestion — is it ethical to play god over our creations? Where is the line drawn between human and inhuman? Can computers and robots learn to gain consciousness, will they eventually become human? And what happens if they can, or when they do? On the flip side, are humans becoming more robotic, and how will it impact our future?

“There’s humans, and then there’s humanoids. Those who were born and those who were made. Those who are going to die and those who aren’t.”

If you like Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Anthem, you should read The Employees.

Thank you to Book*hug Press for sending me a free Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of this title. All opinions are my own.

Earth Magick by Lindsay Squire

I love books about the occult and witchcraft, so I was excited to add Earth Magick to my collection of magical books. The cover is stunning and I love the art style-–it just makes me want to read it and display it. And it is as beautiful inside as it is out: the book is filled with gorgeous illustrations, diagrams, and charts that inspire and inform your practice. 

This book covers ritual basics, the elements, the seasons, healing crystals, divination techniques, shadow work, energy balancing and more. Each section is packed full of easy to understand text and is paired with beautiful visualizations, breaking down the information and making it all super easy to understand and put into practice. 

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Reputation by Lex Croucher

Reputation is a Regency-era historical romantic comedy from a hilarious new British voice, Lex Croucher. This book was described as Bridgerton meets Gossip Girl with a dash of Jane Austen, so naturally, I had to pick it up. I had high expectations for this book, and I was honestly disappointed. I would describe this book as edgier than expected, but not necessarily well-written. The dedication says it all. “For Jane Austen. Sorry, Jane.” Because any true regency lady would be completely shocked by the sordid behavior in Reputation.

So don’t read this if you are a stickler for historical accuracy, because you won’t find it in this book. I appreciate what this book is trying to do for diversity, but there are some passages that are just plain bad and positively inaccurate for any century.

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Pride and Prejudice and Social Anxiety

I recently re-read Pride and Prejudice and have come to the shocking realization that I am Mr. Darcy. Besides the fact that he is the big book collector of the story, (What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!”), I identified a lot with the mental health struggles his character face. After this new look at the text, I noticed a lot of details that made me view Darcy’s character less as prideful and more as socially anxious.

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Matthew Macfadyen’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (2005) captures the essence of anxiety better than any other adaptation yet.
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A Modern Jane Austen Wardrobe

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady who loves Jane Austen also loves a good bonnet. That’s how I feel, anyway. In my teens, I became consumed with Pride and Prejudice and read it most nights (sometimes by candlelight), and can say it has really shaped my world view. I was and still am obsessed with the fashion and the history of Jane Austen’s time. I have watched every adaptation I can get my hands on. I keep a worn copy of Pride and Prejudice by my bedside, just in case I feel like flipping through it from time to time.

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The pastel- and muslin-filled world of the Jane Austen adaptations that I still watch on repeat (and plan to for the rest of my life) was brought to life by women I now worship. Brilliant costume designers like Jenny Beaven, Ruth Myers, and Jacqueline Durran who worked on Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Pride and Prejudice, respectively, imbued Austen’s characters with the historical likeness of Regency-period England as well as a timeless elegance that makes them and their style eternally beloved.

More recently, I was floored by Alexandra Byrne‘s sumptuous costumes in the new adaptation of Emma, which I strongly recommend for at-home viewing. Thanks to them, one of my biggest dreams is to don an empire-waist gown and white gloves and attend a Jane Austen ball (which, yes, is totally a thing!).

So. How is an avid austenite meant to dress in the world of fast-fashion??

Imagine yourself in a world where fans are used to shield smiles and secrets, and the best place to fall in love is on the dance floor. Think of the heavy use of organza and the endless streams of ribbons and pearls. A dream!

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Jane Austen Fashion: Regency or Georgian?

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I love learning about Jane Austen’s life and the history of fashion during her time. I absolutely love the costumes in the movie adaptations of her work, but there is one question that I have always had: is it Regency, or Georgian?

Jane Austen’s books are set in the Regency era (1811-1820), which is a sub-period of the Georgian era (1714-1830s). Austen’s books were written during the few short years when high-waisted empire dresses with short sleeves and décolletté necklines reigned supreme in the fashion world. When long sleeves were introduced in evening dress, she wrote Cassandra:

I wear my gauze gown today long sleeves & all; I shall see how they succeed, but as yet I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable. Mrs. Tilson has long sleeves too, & she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many. I was glad to hear this.
– Jane Austen, 1814

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A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson

This book reimagines the lives of Dracula’s brides, and tells the story from their perspective. Reminiscent of a love letter from the past, the language and imagery is dark and hauntingly beautiful.

Part 1 is eerily relevant reading during this pandemic. “Plaugetime is different. It stretches and looms.” When she talks about the ways the plague affected their community, I was reminded of the current Coronacirus epidemic and I felt more connected to history. “The world we had all known, it seemed, was drawing to a close.” Pandemics are nothing new: humans have been surviving deadly epidemics for centuries. And we always manage to come together to fight the problem as one collective group, overcome the hardships we face, and ultimately survive.

“Those years are a dark smear across my memory, everything feels blurry and hollow. Plague drains not only victims, but while cities of life. It freezes trade, decays parishes, forbids lovemaking, turns childbearing into a dance with death. Most of all, it steals time.”

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Cazadora by Romina Garber

The Cazadora cover, featuring a girl, Manu, being split in two by her inner wolf. Manu's hair grows into wild foliage, all set against a bloodred background.

If you enjoy magical realism, you will love Romina Garber’s newest book in the Wolves of No World series. Netgalley gifted me a free e-ARC of the sequel, Cazadora, and I was so excited to jump in and finish the series! In the follow-up to Lobizona, Romina Garber continues to weave Argentine folklore and real-world issues into a haunting, fantastical, and romantic story that will reunite readers with Manu and her friends as they continue to fight for a better future.

“That’s why every new generation makes improvements.”

First of all, I love that this book was filled with Spanish aphorisms and phrases, and includes vocabulary in-context to help teach Spanish to non-speakers. As someone who is constantly trying to improve my Spanish, this is something I really appreciate seeing in new books. Garber does it well, allowing the reader to infer meaning from context clues without needing to use a translator. However, I can also really appreciate having the translation dictionary available if I do need it, conveniently built into my e-reader. It saves a lot of time not having to click out of the book, and as a visual learner I enjoy seeing side-by-side translations because it really helps me to understand spelling and pronunciation.

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Aridane by Jennifer Saint

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I am a huge fan of Greek myth retellings so I was really excited to get the chance to read this story. I have seen it around bookstagram and the first thing that drew me to it was the beautiful cover art, but what kept me hooked was the story. Jennifer Saint weaves a wonderful tale full of of heroes and monsters, and brings a new twist to a classic myth. If you thought you knew the whole story, think again. Beautifully written and utterly captivating, Jennifer Saint builds a magical world for the sisters Ariadne and Phaedra to grow and discover themselves.

“To me, running through the maze of my home, it looked like a butterfly. And it was a butterfly I would imagine as I emerged from the dim cocoon of the palace interior to the glorious expanse of the sun-drenched courtyard.”

Retellings of the Greek myths and legends are really popular right now, and Ariadne is a great read for fans of Madeline Miller and Scarlett St. Claire. Most modern myths have many versions and variations, and will pull from various sources like Ovid, Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles. As a lover of Greek mythology, I was interested to see which myths Jennifer Saint would include in the world she created for Ariadne. I was excited to find the author took inspiration from various sources and included many gods and goddesses into the story, all while giving them a modern twist.

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