ARC received from the publisher (Tor.com) in exchange for an honest review.
Sometimes, you know a book will be perfect for you going into it. Sometimes, like here, you stumble into it completely unawares. It was the cover that first caught my eye, and then the blurb – a woman with a perfect memory looking for answers. But it was the prose and the narrative style that won me over. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I still think it’s best to go in blind and knowing no more than that, but if you need more convincing…
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January was just as miserable as any of the previous months but I think I can say that with February, I’m officially fully back from my hiatus! What changed is mostly that I got meds and they seem to be working – things are a lot easier and after months, I feel more like myself again. In the last week of February especially, I managed to read as much or more as I did in an average month pre-slump, which I’m really happy with.
Candide by Voltaire: Went for it mostly out of curiosity. I have mixed feelings – on one hand, it’s the first classic I didn’t hate, the pacing is great, it’s short, it’s hilariously petty (more so the more context you know), and appropriate for the times. On the other, there is about as much blatant racism as you’d expect, which is to say, a lot. Which often left me stuck between cringing at that and laughing at, for example, the open complaints about printers and publishers.
The first part of the memoirs of Wilhelmine of Prussia, which happened pretty much on a whim. They came up in conversation, I went to look them up online, and accidentally the whole thing within a couple hours. I know they are not considered too reliable, but the mentions of horrific abuse are too frequent to ignore.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey: Finally, a story with a western flavour where I found nothing to complain about. Felt like the right book at the right time. Loved how queer it was, too.
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger: Good enough, very well done ace and Native American rep, but it read too young for my taste. It’s almost bordering on middle grade and that’s just not my thing.
Heart of Stone by Johannes T. Evans: From how this book is described, I thought it would be perfect for me, but then it just…wasn’t. I found it to be more than a bit of a slog. When I’m reading romance, I want the protagonists to kiss WAY before the very very end.
Burning Roses by S.L. Huang (ARC): Tries to do far too many things at the same time for a short little novella. Retellings of several different fairytales, mixing eastern and western influences, present and flashbacks, two protagonists’ stories…it didn’t really work for me.
The Seventh Perfection by Daniel Polansky (ARC): This was, well, perfection. I haven’t ever seen a story told in this particular way before and I’ve always been a sucker for literary and experimental. Could hardly be a better fit for me.
The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan: One of my last Bingo books. A bit slow going, but I’m only about a quarter in. I hope it picks up the pace soon!
That, I believe, is the heart of man. Not declarations, not speeches, no, but the softest word spoken in the softest whisper, to one’s companion after a night of revelry has dwindled down to the tender dawn that follows it.
This book should have been everything I ever wanted. 18th century gentle, slow burn gay romance involving a vampire and his secretary, with autism and ADHD rep, it seemed as if it could hardly be more up my alley if it tried. And it’s always a bitter disappointment when a book that seems perfect for you…isn’t.
Time for another novella round-up post! Lately, thanks to all the slumps, I’ve been going more and more for shorter books. This time around, all three novellas reviewed are SFF and all are books I’d highly recommend.
I’ve been very interested in this book since I heard that it features an asexual protagonist and Native American legends, but I won’t lie: a major part of my decision to get it sooner than later was the fact that it’s illustrated. I have a weakness for pretty books and the hardcover is nicer and better quality than most special editions.
And of course, it’s also well worth a read – even if it was admittedly a poor fit for me at the time.
I think we can all agree 2020 was a strange, strange year. I said in the 2019 Wrap-Up that the year was the best one for reading so far, had high hopes for the next year, and then…2020 actually happened. I ended up reading and reviewing far fewer books than before and was in a slump more often than not.
Regardless, this is the first time I managed to get the stats out before February, so that’s something!
I really really tried. But in the end, the hiatus ended up being three months long and I’d consider it still ongoing.
It’s been clear for a while that I’ve been struggling with reviewing and posting. I’ve been in and out of reading slumps periodically this year, unable to focus even on the most anticipated of ARCs, but this one was the worst so far. A depressive episode did me in completely: I wasn’t able to read anything, didn’t mod, my online activity dropped to near zero. I couldn’t bring myself to feel excited about much, and even the nonfic I did feel like reading, I read very very slowly and got easily distracted by starting another book instead of finishing the current one. Where I once averaged about 6 books a month, I’m now lucky if I can finish three and you can see that it’s mostly novellas, romance, and nonfiction.
Additionally, what has started as wanting to research historical inaccuracies in a musical (and I wouldn’t at all consider myself a fan anymore) has developed into a full-blown obsession with the 18th century – first the American revolution, currently the strange love/hate relationship between Frederick the Great and Voltaire (drama goldmine, that, so much drama), eventually I plan to look into the French revolution as well, it’s quite broad. I thought it was a phase back in August, I kept thinking it was a phase for nearly half a year, but I finally had to admit to myself that it looks like it’s here to stay and adjusted my book buying habits accordingly. It brings joy and it made me rediscover how fun research and learning things for their own sake can be. I even started learning French!
I’m not sure what this will mean for this blog – I don’t plan to stop reading and reviewing fantasy books and I don’t review nonfic (occasional exception aside), but it will probably take quite some time before I’m able to juggle both.
…and the new Beowulf translation by Maria Dahvana Headley: I struggled because epic poetry is simply not for me – I find it extremely difficult to pay attention to every word of a text. No fault of the translation, really, at least I could finish it. Anything more archaic and I could not have.
Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma (mini review): A delightfully bureaucratic romance novella. I have never read contemp but this was lovely! Highly recommended.
Slippery Creatures by K.J. Charles (mini review): Post-WWI romance with spies. Needed a faster read, this delivered.
The Threefold Tie by Aster Glenn Gray (mini review): Another historical romance novella, about trying to make a MMF relationship work. Very, very sweet.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (mini review): Excellent. I usually have issues with pacing in novellas but this was perfect, the structure of each chapter really worked in its favour.
Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford: A long review that could have easily been even longer. This was just so much joy. Do you like drama? Do you enjoy reading about people being completely ridiculous? Then you should absolutely read this. Yes, it’s nonfiction, and I had to pause reading several times to laugh, facepalm, or go “you wouldn’t believe what these people got up to, omg.” And even though there are a few bits that raised an eyebrow, it aged well for a book very nearly as old as The Lord of the Rings(!).
Frederick the Great by Nancy Mitford: I consider it to be more or less a companion book to Voltaire in Love, they have to be read together. This is more of a classic biography, covering a whole life, slightly more serious, but still plenty entertaining. I am moving to more serious books, but Mitford makes an excellent intro.
I have periods where I feel sufficiently better to write the occasional post and read a little more. But posting will continue to be sporadic, depending on how I feel and what I manage to read.
A post about general 2020 reading statistics to follow shortly.
The winged wringer had no time for survivors. She skywrote
her grievances, then rewrote them roughly in land-fire
from end to end of Geat-realm, her scaly helm
shining as she sang insults from the clouds.
Bro! I knew I wanted to read this as soon as I heard it’s going to be a thing. The concept of a more modern translation of an epic poem seemed fun and the early excerpts promising. I managed to finally get my hands on in September (why am I reviewing it now, in December? Well…) and read it in one go.
If there’s one word I’d use to describe it, it would be “surprising.”
Time for another mini review post to clear out my backlog a bit!
While it’s true that in the past few months the most I managed to finish was the occasional novella or romance book, I found some really, really good ones. If anyone else is looking for shorter (all except Slippery Creatures are novellas) or lighter reads, here are some I’d suggest.
I haven’t been able to read or review much in quite a while. My sudden, intense shift of interest to 18th century history, combined with inability to stick to one book or finish things (“start all the books and let god sort it out” is a phrase I keep using) and general 2020 melancholy, and my blog ended up being on hiatus for months.
But this? This brought joy. History presented in a readable, snarky style, with plenty of drama and general ridiculousness, it’s all I needed.