Review: The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming: Book One: Theory by Sienna Tristen

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“You think I’m going to tell you now when we’re this close? Half the appeal of having you tag along is the fact that you dissolve into a puddle of unintelligible enthusiasm every time we come across something remotely interesting. […] It’s a real treat, watching you fall in love with the things I love.”

Heretic’s Guide is a paradox. I want to shout its praises from the rooftops because how come that I’ve never heard of it before Lynn recommended it to me when it’s so good and so relatable? (Not to mention the gorgeous cover. I had to go for the paperback.) But on the other hand, I almost want to keep it secret and not tell anyone it exists, because I couldn’t stand someone disliking it and being harsh about it. This is, quite possibly, one of the hardest and yet most necessary reviews I ever wrote.

Because I’ve never been this personally attached to a book before. Sure, there’s been my eternal favourite, The Gray House, which has a lot of themes that resonate with me, or The Curse of Chalion, my forever comfort read. But neither of them felt this intimate and I can easily shrug off the thought of someone hating them.

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April 2020 Monthly Wrap-Up

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After the reading drought that lasted from mid-November to the end of March, April was a breath of fresh air. I’m nowhere near my old three-reviews-a-week form yet, but I can at least safely say I’m out of the slump.

The start of April also means the end of the 2019 r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge (wrap-up here) and the start of the 2020 one (first impressions here). And I have to say I adore the new card and I’m delighted to participate again.

I also reviewed The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg, which I technically finished last month. Highly recommended.

Read:

  • Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover (mini review): I don’t usually go for books with a lot of action (and this one had ridiculous amounts) but 1) Star Wars and 2) the prose was surprisingly amazing. Can’t wait to get to his Revenge of the Sith novelization.
  • Mirror: The Mountain by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim (mini review): Nice art, subpar story. I had no idea what’s going on and not in a good way.
  • Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian (mini review): One of my new favourite historical (post-WWII) romance books. Spy and veteran doctor solve a murder together and fall in love. It’s so sweet and gentle and I appreciated the low heat level.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (ARC): Beautiful. A story of prejudice and how even the most timid bureaucrat can find courage and change things. Plus adorable magical children. Plus gay. It was fluffy and delightful and I adored it.
  • On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (mini review): Read it in webcomic form. Adorable, queer sci-fi with pretty art. Wasn’t too into it at the start, but it grew on me a lot.
  • Mindtouch by M.C.A. Hogarth: Fluffy, chill, slice of life story about a space elf and a space furry studying to become therapists and their friendship. Some problematic worldbuilding which makes it hard to recommend, but I devoured it.
  • The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming: Book One: Theory by Sienna Tristen: Still struggling to review it. Essentially a story of how Ronoah, who suffers from severe anxiety, is dragged along on a journey by a mysterious and enigmatic trickster, the weird things they see, the people they meet, and character growth. Kind of like Tess of the Road. It felt intensely personal and I’ve never seen a book portray the destructive nature of anxiety so well.
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (reread): Reread for a bookclub. Good to know the ending still gives me feels.

Short stories:

Decided to get rid of the short story Bingo square asap this year. So here’s some micro reviews. Links lead to the stories themselves – they are all freely available online.

Currently reading:

I might have gone a liiiittle crazy this month.

  • Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse: Didn’t really have a choice since a long-awaited hold came in. Not very far in, not sure if I like a tie-in that expands on a movie, but it reads fast and it’s written fairly well. Let’s see where it ends up.
  • The Breath of the Sun by Isaac R. Fellman: Mountain climbing, religion, and complicated relationships. Beautiful. And yes, it’s fantasy!
  • The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison (ARC): Basically Sherlock fanfic? Where Sherlock is an angel and John is a [redacted for spoilers]. Very fun, though how it’s Sherlock Holmes except not is seriously fucking with my head.
  • The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite: Still on pause.
  • Daughter from the Dark by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko: Also still on pause.

Books read this year: 19 (+ 1 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 5/25 (20%)

Mini Reviews: Shatterpoint, Proper English, Hither Page, Mirror: The Mountain, On a Sunbeam

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Time for another backlog cleaning!

While my goal is to review everything I read, I don’t always quite succeed. I finished Shatterpoint in early April, and thought it deserved to be talked about, but a full review just wouldn’t come. I also don’t write full reviews of graphic novels or non-SFF, but I encountered two historical romance books so good I thouth they were at least worth a mention, SFF-themed blor or no.

So there it is, an odd mix of a Star Wars tie-in, two romance books, and two graphic novels.

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Review: Mindtouch by M.C.A. Hogarth (The Dreamhealers #1)

Mindtouch (The Dreamhealers 1) eBook por M.C.A. Hogarth ...

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Since the start of April, I’ve mostly emerged from my months-long slump and I’ve been downright craving fluff. Sweet, slow books where all ends well, yes please, give me all of them. I heard of Mindtouch a while ago, as a slice of life book with an asexual romance I might like. And since this year’s Bingo has an aro/ace square and I spotted this book was free…it seemed perfect.

In the end, have so many conflicted feelings about it. It was indeed fluffy and comfy and I couldn’t stop reading all right. But some of the worldbuilding choices are…questionable at best and the same goes for ace represenataion.

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Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

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ARC received from the publisher (Tor) in exchange for an honest review.

Life before had been mundane and ordinary. He knew his place in the world, though every now and then, the dark clouds parted with a ray of sunshine in the form of a question he barely allowed himself to ponder.

Don’t you wish you were here?

The House in the Cerulean Sea first popped up on my radar because it seemed like a lighter, queerer version of The Gray House. Even though I have long since given up on finding anything even remotely similar to my all-time favourite book, it seemed worth a try.

And I definitely didn’t expect I’d love it quite as much. It’s so sweet, kind, and compassionate I couldn’t help but adore it. I didn’t know how much I needed something so fluffy, it was just…pure joy to read. From the characters, to the atmosphere, to the message, it felt like a warm blanket, not to mention it felt so wonderfully fresh.

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Review: The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg (Birdverse)

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ARC received from the published (Tachyon) in exchange for an honest review.

They were birds of bright fire that fell from the sky and cocooned me, until I could see and hear nothing except the warmth and the feathers enveloping me and the threads of the wind singing each to each until my whole skin was ignited by the sun, my body changing and changed by the malleable flame.

I have been familiar with R.B. Lemberg’s works for a while – Geometries of Belonging and Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds (which should preferably be read before reading this book) are two of those short stories that stuck with me long after I read them. So when Erio brought The Four Profound Weaves to my attention, highly recommending it, I knew that sooner or later, I will end up reading it. Queer books with lovely prose are precisely my kind of thing.

As suspected, I adored it.
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2020 r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge: First Impressions

The r/Fantasy Bingo is a yearly challenge run by Lisa (Way Too Fantasy) that takes place on the r/fantasy subreddit from April to April. It’s pretty much the only reading challenge I regularly participate in, and I’ve been doing it since the very beginning. And I honestly love the 2020 card. It’s much easier than the 2019 one, while still having plenty of squares that’ll take me out of my comfort zone.

This year was the first when I experienced the one advantage of being a moderator: the ability to plan your card a little in advance. So this is technically my second draft. Like in 2019, I’ll again be doing only one non-themed card, and I tried to give priority to books I either already own or can borrow, to the point there are only two books on it that don’t belong in this category.

But as they say, no plan survives contact with the enemy, so it will be interesting to see how will the completed card compare to this list a year from now.

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2019 r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge: Conclusion and Thoughts

So. The end of March also means the conclusion of my favourite reading challenge, my sixth in a row. Unlike in 2018, I decided to try for only one card. The reason for that was twofold: first, doing a double two years in a row burned me out. I wanted to have the freedom to read random shit again, and not worry about how every book I read could fit on the damn cards. But also, the new card was difficult. Cyberpunk? LitRPG? Tie-In? Afrofuturism? Local author?! I doubted whether I could cobble together one card, much less two.

In the end, I finished on March 12th, with more than enough time to spare 😄

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March 2020 Monthly Wrap-Up

covers 2020 march

Not only did March last ten thousand years and was generally garbage, it was a horrible month for reading and blogging as well. I’ve been struggling with slumps since November, and once again real life fucked me over (as it fucked over seemingly everyone). Let’s hope April is better!

One good thing that happened is that despite everything, I managed to complete the 2019 r/Fantasy Bing challenge! 🥳 🥳 🥳 Since today is April 1st, the new card is bound to go up any minute and I can’t wait to start.

Read:

  • Penric’s Progress by Lois McMaster Bujold (ARC): Wonderful. Penric is awfully likable, I loved the relaxed pace and low stakes, and it makes much more sense as a collected edition too. Will definitely read the next one.
  • The Silence of Medair by Andrea K. Höst: This one concluded the Bingo for me! I went for it cause it’s been on my TBR since forever, but sadly, the idea – a woman wakes up 500 years later to find the war she tried to win has been lost – is better than the execution.
  • The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg (ARC): Still need to review it, but I loved it. A fairytale-like novella centering two older trans protagonists, written in beautiful prose. It will definitely make it on my “Best of 2020” list.
  • And while I didn’t read it this month, my review of Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie is finally up!

Watched:

  • Clone Wars: Well…I honestly stalled. Season 3 was pretty damn great, but then I reached season 4 and my progress ground down to a halt. First of all, it starts out with a very meh underwater arc, followed by a lot of garbage episodes, and then the arc that’s supposed to be one of the best (407-410) features a leader that’s cruel to his clone subordinates and clearly considers them less than human. I stopped about halfway into 407 and can’t find it in me to continue. It may be good, but it’s not relaxing or fun. I might just jump ahead to 411.

Played:

  • Slime Rancher, sooo much Slime Rancher. Enough that it should feature in this post because it’s been my main coping mechanism to the point I’ve been thinking of reviewing it – it’s simple and chill and incredibly adorable. If you liked Stardew Valley, I’d highly recommend it.

Currently reading:

  • Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover. I’m only a couple chapters from the end and planned to finish it in March, but no dice. It’s actiony and full of crazy badass deeds – so not at all like what I usually go for! – but I found it to be surprisingly well written, which carries it. I did stall like crazy in the middle though.

Books read this year: 12 (+ 0 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 25/25 (100%) COMPLETED 🥳

Review: Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie (The Bloodright Trilogy #1)

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ARC received from the publisher (Del Rey) in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes, you just have a powerful feeling that you’re going to love a book and in my experience, that instinct is never to be ignored. Bonds of Brass first came to my attention randomly, on twitter. Still in the depths of my Star Wars obsession and salty over Rise of Skywalker (oh so salty), I had to request it. It seemed tailor-made for what I wanted and needed.

And it was fantastic. What it promised, it delivered in spades. Fast-paced, yup. Heavily Star Wars inspired, yup. Fun, fanfic-style romantic tropes, yup. More twists than a ship executing a complex maneuver, yup. And that ending. Holy fuck. It’s the kind of book you read popcorn in hand, and then recommend to friends to watch their reactions popcorn in hand too. I’d say it even overdelivered – in places, I could barely manage a few pages at a time because the tension was too high and I was too afraid for the characters.

If a highly entertaining but not necessarily relaxing story is what you’re looking for, this is the perfect book for you.

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