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%)
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%)