After the craziness that has been July, August has been slightly more low-key, also thanks to other obligations I had. I managed to read twice as much as any normal month regardless, but unfortunately, I also suffered from terrible luck in my reading choices. I have had no DNFs (though a few books came close to it), but it seemed like more than half the books were various degrees of either “not for me” or “complete shit” – and when the tide finally started turning, I was reading at a faster rate than I could review, resulting in more than a bit of a backlog.
I made considerable progress on the Bingo challenge though!
- The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte: A random pick from a kindle sale I got for the sake of having a light beach read. It was a popcorn read (which I was okay with) with a fucking bullshit ending and only reaffirmed that I should never pick books at random again. Well, at least I hopefully amused people with my rants.
- To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers (ARC): Chambers is one of my favouite fantasy writers, so when I was approved for the new novella, I was ecstatic. I just did not expect hard sci-fi. Initially, there was so much infodump I thought I requested the wrong book, that this is not for me in spite of how much I love Wayfarers. But the second half was better and the ending made my jaw drop to the floor.
- The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga (ARC): Another dud. The concept is decent, but the execution…is not. The worldbuilding has more holes than swiss cheese and the longer you read, the bigger the holes get, and by the end (a contrived mess), they are big enough for a whale to swim through.
- The Wicked + the Divine, vol. 2: Read this for the graphic novel square of the r/Fantasy Bingo challenge. It’s a story of reincarnated gods, pop stars, and fans. Unfortunately, while the art is gorgeous, the story is…kind of aimless? I never got a good sense of who the characters are, or if there’s any bigger plot behind it all. Also, it ends with a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. What the fuck.
- The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (reread): Still enjoyable. Still funnier than you’d expect a tragedy to be…but I wish I had not read the sequel. It didn’t ruin the first book, precisely, but the structure was a mess, it was way too preachy, and the ending was bullshit. Please do yourselves a favour and threat the first book as a standalone.
- An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon: Read it because I volunteered to lead a bookclub this month and this was the pick. I have wanted to read it for a long time. In the end, I like the ideas presented, I liked how it handled race and gender, but the worldbuilding was more than a little patchy and the pacing was odd. Review to come when I can gather my thoughts.
- Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers: Excellent in every way, I liked it as much as A Closed and Common Orbit, one of my all time favourites. Because…slice of life examination of space socialism, what else could I want? Review to come, hopefully soon.
- Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis: Adorable, but apparently second chance romance is very much not my kind of romance, so I found myself frustrated (even though it’s really good!). Bonus: set in a world where all the political power is in the hands of women.
- Paladin of Souls and The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (both rereads): I have accumulated quite the review backlog, so I opted for a couple comfort rereads while attempting to catch up. You may also have noticed this is like the third time I reread Chalion this year…
- Half Lost by Sally Green (60%): Picked it up for the Second Chance square, as I decided to quit the series after I hated book two a while ago. Unfortunately, the decision has proven correct – this is very much not my type and I spent most of the 60% I read irritated and annoyed at the protagonist continuing to make obviously wrong choices (I know he’s traumatised, but I can’t bear to watch the constant fuckups). Then I put it down for two weeks. If this wasn’t for a square where all options are equally terrible because I don’t DNF without reason, I would have long since quit.
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (40%): No progress made.
- The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (48%): Also no progress made.
Books read this year: 48 (+ 14 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 13/25 (52%)
July has been an interesting, unusual, out-of-character month. I don’t go on binges, I don’t read novellas unless forced to for a reading challenge, and I have never been interested in Westerns until the end of this June. Yet I have:
- Read or attempted to read 6 westerns
- Read 8 novellas
- Binge-read a series that’s part of a subgenre I normally avoid (Urban Fantasy)
- DNFd 4 books
I think I only read one book that wasn’t on a theme. Unfortunately, all of this has two side effects: I have completely neglected the Bingo challenge and generally wrote fewer reviews, as I plan to merge Weird Westerns and LGBTQ+ novellas in two more comprehensive posts (soon!).
As far as non-review posts go, I did a Top 5: Weird Literary Fantasy list.
- Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (reread): The first book on my journey through the Weird West. It stands up to a reread very well, and I loved that it tackles the racism and sexism of the era…but I completely forgot how much sexual violence is there 😬
- The Binding by Bridget Collins: I was enticed by the cover and the premise (books made out of memories! Romance!), but even though I did enjoy it, I’m not happy at the number of abandoned plot threads and the abruptness of the ending.
- Unsouled by Will Wight (DNF): Very much not for me, but may appeal those looking for books about magic systems and protagonists growing more powerful.
- A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson: Literary novella, fantastic. I wasn’t quite sure of it right until the end, but as all the pieces clicked into place…wow.
- Territory by Emma Bull: Weird Western slice of life. Sadly, another book that suffers from abruptly abandoning plot threads. And it felt….bland. Oh well.
- A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files (DNF): The writing style was good and the worldbuilding interesting and one of the protagonists was the fun kind of trigger-happy sociopathic prick, but the homophobia/racism/transphobia of the world were just too much. Uncomfortable and unfun.
- Passing Strange by Ellen Klages: Another wonderful novella, this one depicting the queer women’s subculture of 1940s San Francisco. The magic is almost incidental, but it doesn’t matter. It’s great.
- Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: Not the typical Western, perhaps, but I haven’t encountered a book that’d be as much of a pageturner in a mortal age. I’d read it in one sitting if it wasn’t nearing 3 am…
- This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (reread): This time in paperback. Still as good as the first time.
- The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (DNF): A cross of Weird Western and New Weird, more interesting in theory than in practice. Nothing outrageously wrong with it, I was just…bored.
- Los Nefilim series by T. Frohock: Yes, the whole thing – three novellas and the novel. One after the other. And I don’t even normally read UF! The worldbuilding and the characters are A+ and I could not stop. Features a rarity: an established couple. To be precise, a gay established couple with a kid.
- Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson: What the fuck. It’s not often that the book confuses the everloving daylights out of me to that extent, but what the fuck. And the ending just confused me further.
- Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox (reread): Reread it to reset my brain after Sorcerer of the Wildeeps broke it. Still good, still don’t like graphic sex scenes.
- Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord (ARC, DNF 12%): Decided to pull the plug after a month or two of not picking it up. No specific reason. If you want Reneissance-inspired worlds, family rivalries, and political scheming it may be worth a try.
- Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett: Basically post-colonial, f/f Shakespeare fanfiction telling the story of Miranda after the end of The Tempest. Excellent, and super adorable.
- An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (12%): I’m leading a bookclub in August, so I have to finish it quick. So far, I’m enjoying it very much.
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (40%): It’s so long!
- The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (48%): See above. Damn chonkers.
Books read this year: 40 (+ 11 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 9/25 (36%)
Finally summer! Mostly done with uni, plenty of time…you’d think that I’d finally catch up on my reading challenges and review backlog, revive my blog, and basically fix the mess that the hell semester wrecked. My blog also turned one year old in the meanwhile and it’s been a wonderful one.
And for most of June, I was doing pretty well, without a single DNF:
- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (ARC): Wonderful worldbuiling (1920s Mexico! The cover is very on point), incredible ending. Will appeal to fans of “uptight god + mortal girl who takes no shit” dynamic. Review scheduled for closer to the publication date.
- Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones: Read it for a romance-focused bookclub. It was…not romance and I was pissed off, especially since I was enjoying it right up to the bullshit ending.
- The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes (ARC): Holding onto the review until much later, but it’s a sweet, wholesome, whimsical, lovable book about trauma and healing. I mean, come on, the protagonist is a triceratops plushy detective solving murders in a land where beloved ideas that had to be abruptly abandoned (usually because of trauma) go.
- This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (ARC): A breathtaking trip of a novella with gorgeous prose. One of the candidates for the “best of 2019” list.
- Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman: Loved that one too. It’s about mental health and a (literal!) journey towards personal growth. Flawed characters and a setting detailed to the point of including a nod to medieval marginalia (look it up). Review to come soon.
- A reread of The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar: One of my all-time favourites. Even better than it was the first time around…plus I actually got around to writing a review this time! (my longest and wordiest one ever)
Unfortunately, I’m an erratic, unpredictable mood reader prone to wild whims. Which means that for July, 1) I have set the Bingo challenge aside, 2) started way too many books, 3) ordered another half a fuckload, and 4) in the end decided that what I really want is romance and (weird) westerns. Not together, mind.
Because fuck everything, that’s why.
I honestly don’t quite understand my sudden thirst for westerns, I’ve never been interested in them in the slighest, not to mention the rather large issues baked into the genre by default, but a click on a random song link (isn’t even my type, lol) plus the awful heatwave currently baking Europe and a switch flipped.
- The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, still. It is good, but since I own it in unwieldy paperbrick format, progress is glacial.
- Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord (ARC): Very good, but not drawing me in. Unsure if I’ll continue.
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty: Had it on my kindle as long as I had a kindle. Thought I’d read a classic before moving on to heaps upon heaps of fantasy westerns (that hopefully handle the inherent problems of the genre). So far, it’s a lot funnier than you’d expect…but at the same time, the racism of the era is ever-present too.
- A reread of Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. Have I mentioned I want westerns? And this is pretty much perfect. Queer, trans, PoC protagonist, excellent style.
- The Binding by Bridget Collins. Has a lot of things I like in the first few chapters already. Can’t wait to see where it goes.
Books read this year: 29 (+ 8 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 9/25 (36%)
May has been a surprisingly decent reading month (if a bit slow with reviews) despite how hectic it was when it came to classes. I have pretty much neglected the Bingo challenge and instead read whichever random book I fancied at the moment, which was probably for the best. Length-wise it was probably the most diverse of all, with everything from a short story anthology, to novellas, normal length novels, and a thousand page brick.
All in all, a good month.
- The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander: Short but beautiful. Read it if you’re interested in radium girls, elephants, pretty prose, and non-linear stories.
- Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson: Wanted an epic, got an epic, forgot how little patience I have for epics and almost regretted it a third through. Still enjoyed it overall but yeah. Decent enough, but not great.
- Yet another reread of The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles. I need to get around to the sequels. Badly.
- Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens by Eleanor Arnason: Some of the most creative worldbuilding I’ve seen, plus challenging assumptions about sexuality. Excellent.
- The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (ARC): I would say GO READ THIS NOW because it’s amazing and totally my type and the definition of achingly beautiful but it’s not out yet sooooo yeah. But worth a preorder for sure!
- The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro: That…did not go well. I usually like literary fantasy, but The Buried Giant was lacking in any elements that make a story interesting. Aside from the theme, there was nothing. I was bored to death. If you can do audio (I can’t), it may provide good material to relax or fall asleep to, otherwise not recommended.
- A Lady’s Desire by Lily Maxton: Sweet, adorable f/f romance novella about a rekindled friendship that turns out to be something more.
- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Worth reading just because it’s set in 1920s Mexico. Also, if you like the trope of a god being helped by a girl who takes no shit, this is very likely a book for you.
- The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: Very slow going because the paperback is A LITERAL BRICK. So unwieldy.
- Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones: I’m finding the prose and the ultra-polite way the characters talk somewhat dry and hard to read, but I guess that’s the historical aspect. It’s a bit frustrating regardless.
Books read this year: 24 (+ 7 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 5/25 (20%)
April to me mostly means the end of the 2018 r/Fantasy Bingo challenge (my wrap-up) and the start of the new one. I’m less impressed with this year’s card than I was with the previous ones, but I’m still participating – and my First Impressions post turned out so long I had to split it into two (part 1, part 2). Aside from that, April has been unusually slow, with only three new books read.
- City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett: Very fresh and original, genre-defying, great characters, great worldbuilding if a bit heavy on the infodump, good prose…an excellent read. The review, however, is proving to be elusive.
- Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox: As soon as I heard of this book, I knew that I had to read it and read it now. And as always, intuition has proven correct – it’s now one of my favourites. I love broken characters who try to do their best and I love how character-focused romance is.
- Transformation by Carol Berg (reread): I needed more of the same character trope as Seven Summer Nights had, so I opted for a reread. Ignore the godawful cover, there’s very good classic epic fantasy underneath. Highly recommended.
- Children of the Nameless by Brandon Sanderson (link): I didn’t expect much going in. I needed a media tie-in and this seemed like the easiest option. Well, it ended up being shitloads of fun. A lazy dark lord, snarky demons…
- Vampir z Gorjancev by Mate Dolenc (DNF 10%): My first attempt to find something for the Local Author Bingo square. And it…did not go well. While it passed when it came to prose, I couldn’t stand the main character, his constant bragging how many women he slept with, and rather stereotypical pining for a girl I suspect would later turn out to be a vampire. Plus, this gem of a passage (translation mine):
On the familiar stool sat a shriveled little old man with a confused, sleepy face, tiny, half-lidded eyes and a large bulbous nose. His outstretched legs were spread out and between them, as if a substitute for a dick, sat a bottle, its bottom barely covered by red wine.
…I’m sorry but what in the actual fuck?
- City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty (DNF 20%): Was too irritated by the characters to continue. Despite this being a supposedly adult fantasy book, it did the exact same thing that I find so annoying in some YA books, where in the middle of a dangerous situation the less experienced MC thinks they know better than a more experienced person and acts all stubborn and demanding. Maybe some other time when I have more patience…
- Currently reading Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. Decided to go for something long so I’ll be able to catch up on reviews in the meanwhile. It’s very good, but very slow going. I have no stamina for epics anymore.
Books read this year: 18 (+ 6 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 3/25 (12%)
March for me meant the start of a new semester, this time with a full load of classes. Homework. General time-sapping nastiness. Not enough sleep. I felt like I barely read anything, that I was in a state of constant slump, but now looking at it laid out like that…it’s actually a pretty average, if not above average month, which is a pleasant surprise.
Most of all, I managed to complete the yearly April-to-April r/fantasy Bingo challenge, two full cards (which I’m never doing again, fuck) just in time for the new one to roll out.
- Chalice by Robin McKinley: Started off very badly and ended in a disappointment, but the middle was great. Nice, slow slice of life featuring magic bees.
- Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer (reread): This has been a pure spur-of-the-moment reread. I saw it on my shelves, grabbed it. It absolutely lives up.
- Treason’s Shore by Sherwood Smith: I started reading this series back in 2016 and now I finally wrapped it up. I felt like the last book was the worst of the four, too meandering (could legit not tell you what happens in the first half), but the ending was good. I’d still recommend the series.
- Prince of the Godborn by Geraldine Harris (DNF): I wanted to give more old fantasy a try and saw this reviewed highly, so it seemed like a good option…but I just couldn’t do it. Too many names thrown at me and no reason to care.
- Chimera by Tyler Ellis (read here): A new webcomic discovery. Will definitely continue.
- A Coalition of Lions by Elizabeth Wein: Sequel to The Winter Prince, which I read a few years ago and liked very much. This book takes place in a different setting, with a different protagonist, and I didn’t like it quite as much, but it was a fast read and still worth recommending – especially if you’re looking for books taking place in Africa!
- Witchmark by C.L. Polk: Review hopefully soon. Loved it, it’s a very fast read, the MC is somewhat similar to Caz from The Curse of Chalion (broken veteran who just wants a quiet life), and the romance is adorable…but man did I want to strangle his hypocrite of a sister.
Books read this year: 15 (+ 5 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 50/50 (100%), COMPLETE
The r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge has been my favourite reading challenge ever since its beginning in 2015. The squares are a nice mix of easy and challenging, designed to make you read more widely and explore the parts of the genre you may not have read before. With a new card coming out tomorrow and having to update my Bingo challenge page, I’ll be archiving the 2018 completed cards as a post.
This year, like the last one, I’ve been trying for two cards. One unrestricted, one focused on underrated books, with the additional criteria of at least 50% female authors over both cards. I have certainly succeeded as far as the second goal goes, but a card made entirely out of underrated books has been…difficult and I had to relax my criteria a lot.
Aside from that, my main rule is “don’t force yourself to read a book you know you won’t like just because it fits the square”. Over the years, I got a lot better at this – this time, there was only one such book.
(because who doesn’t love statistics?)
- 30.5 (61%) squares were filled with female authors, 19.5 (39%) with male authors. For comparison:
- in 2017 when I did a women-themed card the ratio was about 77.2% female to 22.8% male (38.6 and 11.4 squares)
- in 2016 it was 37.6% female, 54.4% male, 8% unknown (9.4, 13.6 and 2 squares)
- in 2015 it was 38% female and 58% male (9.5 and 14.5, short stories square unknown)
- 11 books (22%) were self-published
- 5 books and 2 short stories (10.8%) were written by authors of colour. This is one area where it could be better.
- 12 (24%) of the books were paper copies, the rest were ebooks. 5 of those ebooks were ARCs.
- 33 books and 2 short stories (66.8%) were by authors whose books I haven’t read before – as far as making you read new authors goes, I declare Bingo a success
- Only 12 (24%) squares stayed the same as they were on April 5th, in the earliest version of the plan I could find.
- 32 (64%) books were part of a series
- There were 8 times I had to find a replacement because I DNF’d the book I originally planned, probably a new record
Now onto the cards themselves. Whenever possible, I linked to my review of the book.
Continue reading “2018 r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge: Conclusion and Thoughts”