December wasn’t at all my month when it comes to books. I DNF’d more than in the rest of the year combined, for all sorts of reasons, but most of all, because I had more than bad luck picking books to read. Even among the books I finished (not counting the rereads, since I only reread books I like), there wasn’t as much I liked as I’d hoped. Still, this month aside, I’m finishing the year on a good note, having dug myself out of the slump that plagued me for most of 2020, both achieved my 69 books goodreads stretch goal and finished the Bingo in November, the earliest of all years. Hopefully 2022 will be even better!
In addition, I also got completely addicted to Arcane, my gushy feelings on which I described here. If you like fantasy, do yourself a favour and please, please go watch this series (look: I do not care about the game and I absolutely loved it).
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss (DNF 13%): The meta commentary annoyed me too much. Couldn’t even make it to my usual 20% spot where I usually make a decision whether to DNF.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers: Loved the slice of life vibes, not sure what I think some of the philosophy. Will definitely read more in the series though.
Fire by Kristin Cashore (reread): Haven’t reread this one in ages. Somehow, a comfort read, despite so many people being utterly awful to the MC.
The Perks of Loving a Wallflower by Erica Ridley (DNF 27%): Nope. I was really looking forward to that one, but I hate fake dating and I hate reading about women being extremely constrained by society and forced to find a man to marry.
The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (DNF 29%): Hoped for hurt/comfort, got the worst of YA tropeyness. Just not well written, at all.
Thornfruit by Felicia Davin (DNF 37%): Pretty mediocre and the characters sound weirdly young even later on when they’re supposed to be adults.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson: Loved, loved, loved it. Dark and experimental and beautiful queer poly reimagining of Dracula’s brides – the prose alone is something special.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: Readable, but the protagonist being an unironic “not like other girls” stereotype and zero research done on the 18th century parts earned it some eyerolls.
His Secret Illuminations by Scarlett Gale (DNF 78%): Initially promising, ultimately not what I wanted. The main draw for me, an unconventional and not traditionally masculine male MC, was undermined by the whole fight training arc.
The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley (DNF 45%): Interesting time travel, but I couldn’t get past the extremely questionable premise of an alternate history where England is the oppressed victim and the goal of making it great again. Ew.
Mindline by M.C.A. Hogarth (reread): Went for my #1 comfort read of this year to try to settle my nerves a bif after three less than ideal books in a row. It helped.
Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat: Hated it for obvious reasons, but I promised to read at least until book 2 (which is allegedly much better), so I will continue.
Penric’s Travels by Lois McMaster Bujold: Forgot how much I loved these. Excellent. Also more crossdressing than I expected but that’s not at all a bad thing.
Heaven Official’s Blessing by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu: Very fun story, subpar translation. Decited to continue it in webcomic form.
December was not a good month for reading. My choices were questionable and my luck was worse, ending in a staggering six DNFs, which is more than the rest of the year combined. Spanning the whole spectrum from the books that were just kinda mediocre, to those others might like but I very much didn’t, a betrayal leading to a rage quit, and a couple genuinely bad stinkers. No quicker way to knock a couple books off the TBR.
I have to admit I had little interest in this book until someone mentioned there are chapters taking place in the 18th century, upon which my interest skyrocketed. Unfortunately, the best I can say about it in the end is that I had too much fun bitching about it to quit – hardly a ringing endorsement.
You did not let me keep my name, so I will strip you of yours. In this world, you are what I say you are, and I say you are a ghost, a long night’s fever dream that I have finally woken up from. I say you are the smoke-wisp memory of a flame, thawing ice suffering under an early spring sun, a chalk ledger of debts being wiped clean.
I say you do not have a name.
After two DNFs in a row threatening to push me into a slump, and a general over a month long streak of mostly unsatisfying reads, I needed something good. And short. At barely over novella length, dark, and beautifully written, A Dowry of Blood, luckily, turned out to be the perfect recommendation.
We lost ourselves. Lost our dream. In the pursuit of great, we failed to do good.
I don’t generally make a habit of reviewing tv shows – I watch few enough, only a handful of them SFF, and I finish even fewer. But Arcane…Arcane deserves an exception. That a videogame tie-in animated series, and one for a game I’ll never play or care about, would have turned out to be one of the best-written things of the year was not on anyone’s bingo card, but it sure is a welcome surprise regardless.
While November hasn’t been a great month for reading quality-wise, with more duds than not, I managed to finish the Bingo Challenge and I did it earlier than ever. Now, the only challenge that remains is seeing if I can get the number of finished books to 69.
Aside from reading, I finally learned how to crochet and have been doing it with great enthusiasm since 😀
A Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason:Not sure how to feel about this one. Good job on the alien culture as always, but the random caricature Marxists among the crew were…highly confusing to say the least.
Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard: Didn’t work for me overall. Typical novella issues of it not quite working in that short of a pagecount, plus a protagonist I didn’t enjoy following.
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark: Finally went and finished it. WHile I love the setting as much as ever, the plot structure was weak and a little repetitive in the first half. Hopefully just a first novel hiccup, will definitely read more in the series.
The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid: Well, if that wasn’t the disappointment of the year. The religion stuff was reasonably well done (if unsubtle), but overall, poorly written, the plot especially was an utter mess. But hey, at least I finished Bingo.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (DNF 22%): Very distant narration and magic that felt tacked on rather than an organic part of the setting. Wasn’t a fan.
Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky: Finally a good book after a string of disappointments! Flawlessly executed, especially since it’s a concept that’d usually take a trilogy done in the span of a novella. Really liked how it played with language, too. Warning, though: body horror.
The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett: Though I question the wisdom of going for another long book, I did miss Nicholas. The magnificent bastard he is.
I knew I needed this pretty much as soon as I heard what was it about, doubly so when I saw the cover. And after a long string of sub-par reads, a book that actually lived up to its promise was more than welcome.
This has been one of my most anticipated books of the year and the last book I read for this year’s r/Fantasy Bingo challenge. I was, first and foremost, intrigued by the Hungarian and Jewish influences. I like cultural worldbuilding, I like(d?) folktale-inspired fantasy, it seemed like a sure bet. Unfortunately, it was yet another disappointment – while I liked the themes of religious tolerance and the protagonist being torn between worlds, the plot was a nonsensical mess, the characters mediocre, and the ending more than a little eyebrow-raising, featuring one of my least favourite tropes. And not in a good way. The more I think about it, the less sense the plot makes – never a good thing.
However, due to the nature of my issues with the book, it’s impossible to talk about them in any detail without going heavily into spoiler territory. So be aware of that if you venture below the cut.
Having put it down in late August about halfway through, I have been reading A Master of Djinn for a shamefully long time. One of those weird cases where I enjoyed it too much to DNF, but not enough to keep from being distracted by every other book out there. Still, I did, eventually finish it, and despite some plot structure issues, the worldbuilding makes it good enough to recommend.