This both is and isn’t a review. Yes, I’m among those who read Dracula via the Dracula Daily newsletter and I had a great time. On the other hand, it’s really hard to review or critique something that’s not only a book but also a minor cultural phenomenon, with the latter part being rather essential. You cannot talk about recommending or not recommending an experience that is unlikely to repeat for others to take part in, or at least not at such scale. But I had to write something for goodreads to mark it as read, and, well, turns out I have a lot to say.
October was another pretty good month. Not one single DNF. As a reward for having finished Bingo in September, I got myself paperbacks (cheap, visibly used, mismatched, but they’ll do) of the first half of Dunnett’s Niccolò series and reread the first book immediately to refresh my memory. I also briefly got lucky and got up to the coveted 80% on Netgalley, but then a few requests I’ve given up on got approved and, well. But that’s how blogging is! 😂 And the books are great so I can’t complain.
- Niccolò Rising by Dorothy Dunnett (reread): Just as good as I remembered, and even more fun. The ostrich subplot is just the best.
- The Nightland Express by J.M. Lee (ARC): Expected a weird western, got something mostly about fae. Disappointing.
- His Quiet Agent (reread) and Agents of Winter by Ada Maria Soto: One of my favourite fluffy hurt/comfort romance series. Even if it’s contemporary, it hits all the tropes I like and the characters are asexual.
- The Two Doctors Górski by Isaac Fellman (ARC): A very heavy novella about PhD magic students, trauma, and academic abuse. Quiet and low-key in Fellman’s usual style. Good, but oof.
- Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling: Creepy little gothic novella. Suits the season well.
- The Keeper’s Six by Kate Elliott (ARC): Kind of underwhelming. I’d say there was too much infodumping but really, I just didn’t vibe with it.
- Kundo Wakes Up by Saad Z. Hossain: Liked it! Delightfully batshit world again, but more introspective than The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday.
- Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell (ARC): Nothing groundbreaking, but very light and fun and easy to read in large chunks. Loved the disaster protagonist.
- Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher: Based on the cover and the first few chapters, I expected more horror vibes and less quirky adventure than the book ended up being. And a lot of it didn’t click with me.
- A Restless Truth by Freya Marske (ARC): Took a while to hook me but I’ve been enjoying it very very much.
Books read in 2022: 65 (+ 10 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 25/25 (100%)
Quality-wise, September has been a below average reading month, and quantity-wise, an unremarkable one. However! I finally managed to finish this year’s r/Fantasy Bingo, even earlier than last year (November, already very early by my standards!) 🥳 I hope I’ll manage to get the wrap-up post finished in a reasonable amount of time (knowing myself, I won’t). Formatting and statistics have, at least, been done, but writing short descriptions for 25 books is my version of hell.
Also, here is my Bingo journal spread! Had to find a way to use up all those stickers 😂
- The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez (ARC): A reasonably decent book, but I absolutely hated reading it. Awful slog.
- The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente: Didn’t like the whimsical style at first, but the second half was quite good.
- Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence by R.F. Kuang: Brilliant. Language nerdery, anti-colonialism…in short, just up my alley and worth the preorder.
- Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey (reread): The older I am when I reread, the more I realise that this…aged really badly in many aspects and the less I like it. Oh well.
- The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North: Fun premise, didn’t vibe with the blandness of the narrator.
- The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis (ARC): Apart from the setting, this is bog standard vampire UF. Not bad, but aggressively mediocre.
- A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland (DNF 45%): Oil and water, me and this book. Should have been just up my alley, but I started nitpicking the dumb plot pretty much as soon as I started.
- The Unbalancing by R.B. Lemberg (ARC): Liked that one a whole lot. I found the writing clumsy in the first few pages (strange, the short stories and The Four Profound Weaves had no such issues that I’d remember) but it got smoother and some themes were very close to my heart. Need to ruminate on it a bit before I review.
- The Nightland Express by J.M. Lee (ARC): Queer weird western sounded pretty good to me, and that cover is spectacular. We’ll see!
- Also aiming to finish the fourth part of Les Misérables soonish…?
Books read in 2022: 57 (+ 8 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 25/25 (100%) 🥳
Ah, August, vacation month. Is it really so unexpected that I managed to read a lot of books? Especially with limited internet abroad? (And me accidentally using up half of it in the first two days with tumblr. Oops.)
I also got a new kindle for my birthday, with much better battery life!
- Another part (3/5) of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Wordy as usual, but at least no convents or Waterloo this time.
- The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri (ARC): Wasn’t a huge fan. Felt like the plot barely moved for over half the book and I was bored, too.
- The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth (reread): As good and melancholic as I remember it being. Wow.
- The Hands of the Emperor by Victoria Goddard (DNF 42%): Sounded so perfect, great worldbuilding, but…meh. Overlong, with a main character who barely faces any adversity and is always right.
- Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner (ARC): My oldest ARC. Very flawed plot structure, but I had enough fun that I’ll read the other book set in the same universe anyway.
- The Sign of the Dragon by Mary Soon Lee (DNF 19%): Would be great if not for the fact that I have always hated bland free verse.
- A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys: A very queer, very Jewish first contact novel. Incredibly well-written and slightly reminiscent of Le Guin, but not terribly compelling.
- Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree: The most hyped slice of life book of the year, of course I had to try it. And I enjoyed it, but aspects of the worldbuilding felt sloppy.
- The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers: Didn’t vibe with it as much as the middle two, but it was still good old slice of life and a very quick read.
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (reread): Somehow finishing the last book made me want to reread the first. Still good.
- Their Heart a Hive by Fox N. Locke: Slice of life as sweet and comforting as honey. A village boy is hired by a strange person after he kills a bee. Queernorm world, cottagecore vibes, folktale influences, lots of bees.
- The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez: Not too sure of it yet. The prose and POV style are unique, but the story…so far, not really.
Books read in 2022: 50 (+ 7 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 21/25 (84%)
July has been a fairly unremarkable month. Job search continued (to no success), an average amount of books read, no vacation yet. But I started playing my old Stardew Valley save again because I heard it’s possible to get a dino and an ostrich and it took me a few weeks (real-time, about a year in-game) but I did it!
- The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee: Wanted to finish the series. All I can say is, Monty is an asshole, I have no idea how I got through the first book, and second half was much better than the first.
- A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha (reread): Rec’d it to someone cause it fit their request and then got the desire to reread. It’s not perfect, it’s still a bit of a mess, but I do like it more the second time around.
- The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller (DNF 53%): It was very meh overall and then I hit an insufferable POV. Nope. I’m done.
- An Oresteia translated by Anne Carson: Holy shit. That was beautiful. The story, whatever, as a former Greek mythology nerd it’s familiar enough, but the language is astonishing. I don’t know if I can review it.
- Explorer and Destroyer by C.J. Cherryh: High-stakes interspecies space diplomacy, just as I wanted. The first one started a little slow but got going soon enough, but the second one mercifully opened with a bang. I guess this is my palate cleanser series of guaranteed 4* reads now.
- High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson (ARC): Hated this one, especially the humour. But it was just kind of a mess in general too.
- Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots (reread): As good as I remember.
- The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling: Creepy gothic horror similar to The Path of Thorns, but with more blood and guts. Enjoyed it a lot.
- A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers: Nope, I do not like Monk & Robot. I find the characters annoying and the philosophy heavy-handed and trite. A shame, Wayfarers is one of my fave series.
- The Hands of the Emperor by Victoria Goddard: Conflictless and very long (do I have the stamina? We’ll see!), but cozy. Feels like a mashup of The Goblin Emperor and taking your fully-leveled-up Stardew Valley character on vacation to that island.
Books read in 2022: 44 (+ 5 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 18/25 (72%)
June was without a doubt a great reading month. I didn’t think so, since the second to last book I read, Scarlet Odyssey, took me forever, but looking back, 4 novellas, 3 novels, 1 DNF and 16/25 done with Bingo three months in is not bad at all.
- Spear by Nicola Griffith: Possibly my fave Arthurian book so far. Very queer and very very well-written. The afterword about the author’s writing process made it even better.
- His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto (reread): Needed a comfort reread.
- The Path of Thorns by A.G. Slatter (ARC): Gothic fantasy, rather dark and murdery but I enjoyed it a lot. Very feminist as well.
- Aurora’s Angel by Emily Noon (DNF 13%): That’s an early DNF even for me, but the clunky, awkward dialogue was a complete dealbreaker. A shame because I was looking forward to it.
- Of the Wild by E. Wambheim: Cute, fluffy novella about a fae shapeshifter and his found family.
- Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki: Not perfect, the tonal disonnance between the POVs at the start is irritating, but it’s full of heart and donuts and was impossible for me to put down.
- Scarlet Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi: Read it pretty much because I was looking for a book with antelopes in it. Really good worldbuilding, but the plot is exactly the kind of multi-POV epic fantasy I struggle with.
- The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia: Good ideas, but the execution was a bit of a mess. Should have been a novel with how much it had going on.
- The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller: Went into this one pretty much blind. Let’s see where it goes!
- The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee: Got reminded that I never finished the series and I wanted a lighter read…but…the sibling interactions are so full of secondhand embarrassment I might just DNF.
Books read in 2022: 37 (+ 3 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 16/25 (64%)
Posting two months at the same time again, but by the time I remembered I had half a wrap-up for April sitting in drafts (look: I’m not great at this whole blogging thing 😂), it was already mid-May. I was far too wrapped up in, first, frantic Bingo reading combined with a reviewing slump, then learning my way around watercolours, then a reading slump induced by two disappointing books in a row, then travel – in short, too much to keep the blog active.
But hey, I got to see a very Moria-like cave and really cool castle!
- Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman: Probably one of my favourite books of the year. Very low-key and messily queer, loved it.
- Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: Enjoyable novella with Stardew Valley vibes.
- Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances by Aliette de Bodard (ARC): Fun enough but argh, I hate miscommunication used to add drama.
- Foreigner #3-5 by C.J. Cherryh: Still excellent. And poor Bren still can’t catch a break.
- Two Dark Moons by Avi Silver: A fairly standard coming of age plot but very unique worldbuilding and the story flowed well.
- Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (DNF): Too much worldbuilding infodumps, not enough character work. I didn’t care about anything that went on.
- The Dawnhounds by Sascha Stronach (ARC): Loved it. Weird in the vein of Vandermeer, Māori-inspired, and a very quick read.
- Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu: Cute, but similar pacing issues to most novellas.
- Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi: Prequel to Pet focusing on the revolution. Enjoyable, with much to think about.
- The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie (DNF): Boring to the point it was pushing me into a slump. Absolutely nothing interesting – not the writing, not the characters, wordlbuilding, plot…meh.
- Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor: Promising start, but the first book ended with a frankly outrageous cliffhanger and in the second the plot devolved into a mess.
- The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler: Between the antisemitic tropes used, not being a fan of how the revolution was handled, miscommunication romance drama, and the general mediocrity of the rest of it all, I will not be continuing the series.
- Weird Fishes by Rae Mariz (ARC): Really liked the worldbuilding (strange sentient sea creatures! Yes!), but not a fan of the rape scene with extremely brutal consequences near the end.
- I also subscribed to Dracula Daily!
Books read in 2022: 30 (+ 2 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 11/25 (44%)
I got so excited about Bingo I almost forgot to post the March wrap-up. But in March, the last month before the start of the new Bingo, my goal was to finish as many books I was in the middle off as possible (obviously, aside from Les Misérables, which is a yearly challenge). I got the amount down from 8 to 5 or 6, which is decent, especially since a lot of it was nonfic I still wasn’t quite in the mood for.
I also finally managed to post the 2021 Bingo wrap-up!
- The second part of Les Misérables, or another 300ish pages. The infodumps were testing my patience. Not at half yet, but getting close!
- Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee (ARC): Really really liked it, especially the reluctant and sometimes cowardly protagonist. Good worldbuilding too.
- The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer: Enjoyable. Plot didn’t move as much as I hoped, but overall it did its job.
- The Thousand Names by Django Wexler: Finally finished it after a two years break. I still don’t know why I paused, it’s good and a fast enough read. Now, only need to find the time to continue the series.
- Half a Soul, The Lord Sorcier, and The Latch Key by Olivia Atwater: Tried it some time ago in too grumpy of a mood, retried it this month, and absolutely loved it. Since the series is getting republished and I can’t get the sequels until April 5th, I went straight for the novellas.
- Foreigner #1-2 by C.J. Cherryh: Mostly started it because I had lots of time until Bingo with nothing to read and Dia suggested I might like it. The first book was too meandering, the second is a lot better so far. But I’m not reviewing until I’m done with book 3.
Books read in 2022: 16 (+ 2 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 25/25 (100%)
Official announcement thread with square definitions
Date finished: November 20
I really, really liked the 2021 card and I’m quite sure that this is the earliest I managed to finish a Bingo yet. For the last couple years, I know I always finished in March, and I’m not sure I managed much earlier before that either – especially the times when I did two cards. As much as I hoped it wouldn’t, writing this huge wrap-up still took nearly until the next Bingo.
Links, as always, lead to longer reviews.
For most of February I still struggled to read, much less review. At least I managed to read more than in January, and finally finish the 2021 yearly wrap-up (please check it out!), but keep up with reviewing most of what I read, not so much. Mini reviews to come very soon.
- Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas (ARC): Some pacing problems, but handles its themes pretty well. Plus as a graphic novel it’s a really quick read.
- The Missing Page by Cat Sebastian (non-SFF): A very fun mystery/romance.
- In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu: I like experimental books, so of course I loved this. Did not expect poetry in between.
- Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke: A fun Norse/Arthurian slump-breaker of a book. Standalone epic fantasy(!), fast paced, with a lot happening.
- The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (reread): Prompted because someone else was reading it for the first time. A sure sign that I’m not okay when I go reread this damn book…?
- Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge: Surreal, melancholic, unsettling, and wonderfully well-structured. Really liked it.
Books read in 2022: 8 (+ 2 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 25/25 (100%)