At the beginning of February, I thought my slump was finally over. At some point, I think I even reached two books a week. And then, it came back with a vengeance and for the rest of the month, I read nothing at all. I felt rather like Murderbot – leave me alone and let me watch my show. But! I’m only one book away from finishing the r/fantasy Bingo, which should be more than doable in March.
Also, every one of the books I finished has been queer to some extent.
- Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir: Honestly, this should have been a DNF. I did not like it at all, and by 30% knew I was not going to, but I persisted because I felt sick of DNFing. Bad move. It’s very aesthetic-over-everything, I didn’t like the style, I was bored by the plot, and a good epilogue does not a good book make.
- Central Station by Lavie Tidhar: Beautiful sci-fi fever dream and perfect for me. Near impossible to describe, but most highly recommended.
- Proper English by K.J. Charles: Not SFF, but I wanted to try a romance as a palate cleanser, and this worked really well. I’ve wanted more f/f for a long time. In particular, I loved the dynamics between the two main characters – the serious, sensible Pat who thinks herself awfully plain, and the bubbly, beautiful Fen who only wants to be taken seriously.
- Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie (ARC): Space opera I picked up because it sounded very Star Wars inspired, but gay. And it was amazing, to the point I could barely keep reading and took much longer than I normally would have because it was too intense and I was too scared for the characters. Plot engineered for maximum internal conflict, twists, pew pew, it has it all. Review to come closer to release.
- The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz: Very sweet, asexual romance novella featuring a robot, an AI mechanic, and a tea shop. Won’t lie, it has been Bingo-motivated, as I needed to knock out the AI Character square quickly, but no regrets.
- Clone Wars: As always, when I feel like shit, I go for Star Wars. I blazed through 58 episodes (in chronological order), which puts me at a bit less than halfway done if I don’t count the new season – and yes, you read that right, less. Season 1 was full of garbage and I almost quit two or three times, but persistence paid off – by mid-season 2 I have started to want to watch it and now, well into season 3, I can barely stop once I start. There are still garbage episodes sometimes, sure, since the nature of the show seems to be that it’s either great or completely shit with no in-between, but the character development, the lore, the steadily increasing overall quality…wow. Star Wars at its finest and it really does the prequel era justice the way movies did not.
- Daughter from the Dark by Sergey & Maria Dyachenko (ARC): One of the ARCs from the pile I requested pre-slump. Also ran out of steam at about 20%, I think it’s a combination of not being sure what’s going on and the MC being an asshole (he’s meant to be an asshole, but it is hard to read).
- The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite: Another f/f historical romance I started after Proper English, but ran out of steam at about halfway. It’s very sweet, and very good, but apparently two historical romance books in a row and the stuffiness starts to get to me.
Books read this year: 9 (+ 0 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 24/25 (96%)
I think the delay on my yearly stats is almost traditional by now. But late or not, here they are. I think 2019 was another excellent year, even if it ended in a two and a half month slump. I read (and reviewed!) more books than ever before and managed to keep up my blog, which is now a year and a half old. I became a moderator. I found a new fandom to immerse myself in. And hopefully, 2020 will be better still.
So, let’s have a look at some numbers and lists!
Continue reading “2019 Wrap-Up: Statistics & Top Books”
January was even worse for reading than December. I barely finished a damn thing. I think I’m starting to feel a bit less unwell, so February will hopefully be a little better, but I’m still basically on a semi-hiatus until further notice.
And the end of the Bingo Challenge is drawing near, too…
- Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy by Martha Wells: While #3 was somehow the hardest to read out of them all, #4 was a great finale. Still, despite Murderbot being awfully likable, there was something…missing that kept the series from fully clicking with me. Meh.
- Hard Contact by Karen Traviss: Loved, loved, loved it. Enough to switch my Tie-In square to that. Flawed characters, great callout of how the prequels used clone troopers, some oddly adorable moments for military sci-fi, very easy to read. Popcorn, sure. But great.
- From a Certain Point of View (anthology): A pretty awesome concept – A New Hope through the eyes of background characters. Some stories were amazing, others not so much (as it’s usually the case for anthologies) but the overall impression is very much positive. It also has the big problem of leaving me very hungry for full-length SFF books from the POV of “minor” characters and slice of life…
- The Sequels (The Rise of Skywalker): One word: godawful. While I really enjoyed the first two sequels, I thought the last was a hot pile of garbage with no redeeming qualities, not unlike The Phantom Menace. Structurally poor, inconsistent even with itself, more focused on retconning the previous movie than having a story, shit at characters, based entirely on a series of ass pulls…in short, terrible and disappointing.
- Rogue One and Solo: This was an interesting duo. I found Rogue One, the better received of the two, to be a great concept made boring (and Star Wars should not be fucking boring!) by flat characters. But Solo, the known flop, was just a bundle of fun all around – some flaws, some complaints, but nothing that’d catapult me out of the story. Incredibly enjoyable.
- Knives Out: Not Star Wars, but still. Won’t lie, I went to watch it because of the director and good reviews more than because I was interested in the concept – fuck, I don’t even like murder mysteries all that much – but wow, I was blown away. If The Rise of Skywalker was a disappointment the size of a mountain, this more than made up for it. When like 10 people tell you to go watch a movie, you go watch the damn movie.
- The Clone Wars: Started watching it in official chronological order (though skipping the movie as per common advice) and made it 13 episodes in. The quality is so far super uneven to the point I might skip some episodes (any episode with Jar Jar can get straight in the bin), and it’s so far very obviously aimed at kids, but I’ve been told it improves a lot, so I will persist. And I like Ahsoka and Anakin.
- …and I also did a full rewatch of The Mandalorian. Then promptly started it over again. Yeah…
- Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir: Currently halfway in. Really wasn’t feeling it at the start. It got better once the plot picked up, and I’m probably going to finish it because I’m sick of DNFing, but the dialogue feels super forced and over the top.
Books read this year: 4 (+ 0 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 21/25 (84%)
December was an odd month. I hit a massive reading slump mid-November and that plus my mental health taking a sharp turn for the worse meant I didn’t exactly get to read much. I made no progress on any ARCs (sorry!) and there were more DNFs and disappointments than finished books.
But! I also discovered a new fandom: Star Wars. Thanks to all the criminally cute Baby Yoda gifs floating around, I gave The Mandalorian a try and I was immediately in love with everything about it. Ran out of episodes, decided to watch all the movies while I wait for the next. There’s nothing quite like the joy of getting into something new.
Hopefully, I will get the ability to read back sooner rather than later, but in the meanwhile, I hope nobody is too bothered by Star Wars squeeing…
2019 yearly wrap-up post to come soonish!
- Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames: I needed a lighter read, so I thought this would be a good fit, but it just didn’t do it for me. Not bad, just not my thing.
- All Systems Red and Artificial Condition by Martha Wells: I didn’t like the first one very much, but it kinda grew on me by book 2. It’s an interesting character study, but very thin on plot or other characters except Murderbot. Also much more of a novel cut into 4 novellas than a novella series. I’ll continue the series since I can borrow them, but meeeh.
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (DNF 31%): Couldn’t do it. It was written in 2012 and it’s already very dated. The google worship and the very optimistic view on AI didn’t age well at all.
- The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (DNF 74%): After having it in my “currently reading” section for nearly a year, I realised finishing it is unlikely to happen. I stopped giving a shit about the story. I might pick it up again eventually, but…nah, let’s shelve it.
- The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (reread): My third reread of this book this year. Yeah…
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (DNF 21%): Bored. Bored with the characters, bored with the setting, bored with the distant writing style. Decided to cut my losses and quit. Hopefully Starless Sea will be better.
Star Wars watched:
- The Mandalorian: Basically perfection. Can be seen as either a space western about a badass bounty hunter without all the baggage westerns have…or a story of a criminally adorable green alien baby and the galaxy’s most wildly unprepared but devoted single dad. You choose 😛
- The Originals (A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi): Slightly clunky in places and some have aged worse than the others (side-eyes Empire Strikes Back), but still highly enjoyable space cheese with surprisingly good visual effects considering they are pre-CGI.
- The Prequels (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith): Found them to be exactly as awful as everyone else says they are. Revenge of the Sith was at least watchable, but I found The Phantom Menace irredeemably terrible and Attack of the Clones hilariously bad. Dodgy CGI, worse dialogue.
- The Sequels (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi): Technically I only watched the first two in December, but I enjoyed both of them immensely. The Force Awakens was wonderful and fun, but The Last Jedi is my favourite of them all. Excellent character development.
- Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells: Somehow this one is more difficult than the rest. Hmm.
- Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Only just started. The prose is beautiful and the focus on alchemy intriguing. Let’s see where it ends up!
Books read this year: 72 (+ 19 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 20/25 (80%)
November has been a fairly decent month for reading, if not for reviewing. I had absolutely no luck – first I got ill and just as I started getting better, I got hit by a truckload of stress and everything ground down to a halt. I’m still not exactly well and not sure how much will I be able to update in December. And still focusing on lighter books. But!
I finished my 2019 goodreads reading challenge of 69 (heh) books 🥳🥳🥳
- The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells: Some of the most unique worldbuilding I’ve seen in a while and a very likable protagonist. Enjoyed it a lot. It has a bit of the stereotypical “evil species vs good species” going on, but I’m going to withhold judgement on that until the next book.
- A Case of Possession and Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles: Since my opinion remains unchanged from The Magpie Lord, I decided not to review them. In short, great characters, great dynamics, reads very fast…but it’s also an unfortunate fact that I simply do not like detailed sex scenes, or BDSM.
- The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards: A shitload of fun, but what really makes it are the characters. I’m usually not much for UF, or action, but I read this in one sitting. So good.
- Novice Dragoneer by E.E. Knight (ARC): While I got what I wanted (nostalgia distilled with dragons!), it was hindered by incredibly clumsy writing, which makes it difficult to recommend. My enjoyment was all over the place, from loving it, to nearly quitting.
- The Duchess War by Courtney Milan: A fun, light read with a very respectful relationship and more politics than I expected (in a good way). But the plot just didn’t work for me and neither did the sex scenes. Again.
- Magic’s Pawn and Magic’s Promise by Mercedes Lackey (reread): A review inspired me to do a reread. Very melodramatic and very dated, but still fun. Even if I wouldn’t recommend them anymore – there is far better LGBTQ+ rep out there nowadays. For example, the next book on the list!
- The Hanged Man by K.D. Edwards (ARC): If I liked the first book, I loved the second. It’s much darker than the first overall, but the character interactions absolutely make up for that. They all care for each other so much and just, aww 😭 Would read anything the author writes. Review to come really soon, promise.
- Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (cca 70%): Pretty good, lots of fun, but at the same time it feels very long? Either way, I love that the characters are a bunch of old guys gone on one last adventure.
- And OH WHAT SURPRISE, I still haven’t picked up and finished The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon either. I want to finish it before 2020? Hopefully?
Books read this year: 69 (+ 18 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 20/25 (80%)
October was an excellent month for both reading and reviewing. Aside from this last week, it was the first time I was able to maintain always having at least one review scheduled and mostly posting three times a week. Considering that I barely managed one, maybe two posts a week before and used to be in an eternal state of massive backlog, I think I can say I’m proud of myself.
It has also been the best month for views, mostly thanks to Keikii, who kindly made me do a guest post on my favourite subgenre: Slice of Life SFF.
- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (mini review): While I loved Tess of the Road, this wasn’t quite it – I found it very bland, slowly paced, and predictable.
- In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan: After all Sara’s yelling, I had to give it a try and it did not disappoint. On the surface, it’s a satirical deconstruction of portal fantasy tropes, but with a lot of heart and feelings underneath. Recommended.
- Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith (ARC): One of the most highly anticipated releases this year for me. Unfortunately, I ended up struggling. And what’s worse, I can’t even say why.
- Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović: First book that made me feel at least halfway represented (set in Montengro, which is…eh, close enough). While it started off incredible, it slowly descended into every YA trope I hate. And the ending was last minute cliffhanger for the sake of cliffhanger bullshit.
- My Beautiful Life by K.J. Parker (ARC): I usually love K.J. Parker’s short fiction but I just didn’t feel that one. Too much plot for a novella this length, distant narrative style, a few immersion-breaking bits…
- All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater: Loved it. Quiet, thoughtful magical realism about a family of saints. Lovely prose. Couldn’t be more of a me book if it tried.
- The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith (ARC): Review yet to be finished, but in short, I have mixed feelings. The atmosphere and setting were wonderful, but it completely lost me on the plot and some…rather clumsily written bits. As in, a character literally says “I am dead” before dropping dead kind of clumsy.
Reviews from my backlog:
- Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
- A mini review post containing reviews for Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, Half Lost by Sally Green (DNF), and The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
- Vita Nostra by Sergey & Maria Dyachenko (reread)
- The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes
- The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, which I’m enjoying very much. A broken cinnamon roll of a protagonist, a fascinating world…whenever I pick it up, I can’t stop. I might finish it later today, or tomorrow at tha very latest.
- The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Perpetually. I should pick it up and finish it soon.
Books read this year: 62 (+ 16 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 19/25 (76%)
September’s been another great month. October means the start of uni and homework, so I decided to indulge while I still can. And indulge I did.
- The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes (ARC): Review to come, but it lived up to the promise of the song it was based on. Black queer merpeople and themes of memory and the collective vs. individual. Thoughtful and interesting.
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (DNF 40%): After a few months of no progress and hitting an especially sexist and racist section, decided to call it a DNF. It may have been how it was back then, but I am simply not interested in wading through bigotry of the era to get to the story.
- Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold: Relaxing, chill, but I couldn’t buy into the romance because of the age and experience difference between the characters. Also I couldn’t stop making LotR jokes (see: the review) because Dag reminded me way too much of Aragorn.
- In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire: Gorgeously written, but really should have been a novel. Odd pacing, way too much skipping over important events…disappointing. Probably my least favourite installment in the series so far.
- Sourdough by Robin Sloan: Wonderful. Therapeutic. Heartwarming. It’s a fairly simple (if weird) story about a woman who loves her bread, but damn it’s amazing.
- The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (reread): The hardcover I preordered arrived and I simply had to. Still as good as the first time around. And the ending made me cry. Again.
- The Gilda Stories by Jewelle L. Gomez: A disappointment. The premise seemed very cool and some concept were interesting, but distant prose and immortals who do nothing with their immortality made it very very hard to enjoy.
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I have said that it’s the best book I ever regretted reading at least ten times by now and it’s no less true. The depiction of how people would act during/after the apcalypse is far too realistic, and the whole thing is disturbing and deeply, deeply sad. It’s stunningly written, but don’t read if you’re a fellow panicky mess.
- Half Lost by Sally Green (DNF 60%): Not for me. Was sick of watching Nathan constantly making wrong choices, then I got spoiled about the ending and nope. Would have never picked it up if not for the 2nd Chance square in the first place either because of how much I hated the previous book. Once I had a viable alternative, I ditched it.
- Vita Nostra by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko (reread): Volunteered as a bookclub leader, again. This is one of my favourite books, so it was a no-brainer. Can confirm, still good.
- The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend: Adorable. And badly needed after Station Eleven. The premise seems fairly typical, but it’s executed in a very charming, delightful way, so I didn’t mind at all. Even if having a mentor who doesn’t tell shit got very grating.
- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Picked this up because I loved Tess of the Road but so far it’s a bit of a disappointment. Rather bland.
- The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: Yes yes I know I’ve been reading the fucker since May, but this month I actually made progress!
- The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith: An ARC I’m sortakinda late on (releases today!). Oops. So far it’s alright though. I hpe I can finish and review it soon.
Books read this year: 55 (+ 16 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 17/25 (68%)