This year, I just can’t seem to shake the reading slump. Bingo helped a bit, as did the bookclub, but I just end up reading less and less somehow. But I’m still making Bingo progress (however slowly, it’s just one card), and I discovered an excellent new show. So we’ll get there.
The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older: Basically lesbian Sherlock Holmes set on Jupiter. Incredible worldbuilding, and a second chance romance subplot I actually rather liked.
Lone Women by Victor LaValle (ARC): An excellent, very readable horror western about secrets, guilt, and families, both biological and found.
The Inheritance Cycle #1-3 by Christopher Paolini (reread): Felt like something nostalgic, so I went and reread my childhood favourites. All three in less than a day. They’re not the best books, but they did the trick. Good to know I still have it in me when it comes to speed reading, too 😂
Watched Trigun Stampede, which was excellent. I didn’t think I was an anime person, but it’s just so good. Pretty animation, surprisingly emotional story, fast pacing, general delight to watch. One of my all tima favourite shows. Thank you bigolas dickolas.
Followed that with the ’98 Trigun anime, which was…decidedly less excellent? A lot of very gross sexist jokes (yes, I was warned) that ruined it, but even without them it would have been 3* with a few 4* episodes. The pacing is also very uneven. Still deciding if I’ll write a review.
The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty: Great, fast-paced pirate adventure. The author has clearly done a lot of research for the worldbuilding, and I liked following a protagonist who is in her 40s, a Muslim, and a mother. Looking forward to the sequels!
Trigun manga by Yasuhiro Nightow: About half a volume in. If I’m doing a completionist run, why not? So far, better than the ’98 show, but the way action scenes are drawn is very confusing, a lot of visual noise. I hope it improves by the point I no longer know the plot, or I’ll be quite lost…
The Etched City by K.J. Bishop: Another Bingo book, but I have barely started it, so no real thoughts yet. I heard this one is weird, though.
If you’re following SFF news at all, you’ve probably heard of bigolas dickolas by now, a Trigun fan account whose enthusiastic tweets made This Is How You Lose the Time War skyrocket in popularity again. Well, as a long-time Time War fan, the effect worked in reverse for me – why not try Trigun? After I saw another twitter thread explaining the different possible starting points, I decided for the 2023 remake. Pretty artstyle to hook me, and with only twelve episodes, not much of a commitment.
In short? I absolutely loved it straight from the start. Beautifully animated, with one hell of a lovable protagonist, and surprisingly heartwrenching and bittersweet, I would recommend it to any SFF fan.
Due to my big reviewing slump, I’m quite a bit behind, both when it comes to books that’d get a normal review (like Lavender House here – I really wanted to write a full one, but alas) and those that’d get a short one anyway. With this batch, I’m mostly caught up, and they were all great reads, too.
I’ve been holding out on this post for a couple days since Bingo always takes priority. But with that done, I can confess: January and February were slump months, when it comes to reading and even more so when to comes to reviewing. Good old seasonal depression. March was even worse – out of guilt about being behind with reviews I didn’t manage to read more than a single book. A book I hated. Which, naturally, made things even worse.
Thankfully, now in April, the new Bingo fever has so far been enough to kickstart my reading (and maybe reviewing) again. I can only hope this lasts.
No Man’s Land by A.J. Fitzwater: A novella about one girl’s queer self-discovery, set in mid-WWII New Zealand. Very interesting!
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine: Lots of potential, but more than a little rough around the edges. Hoping it’s just debut problems, I decided to continue…
Song of the Beast by Carol Berg: Seemed like a great Chalion-like story with a Traumatised Protagonist™ (and dragons!) but all of that went out the window when the love interest appeared. No chemistry, plus she was rude, sexist, and just plain awful. Blech.
Pretender by C.J. Cherryh: Second weakest installment in the series after the first one – lots of Bren overthinking, not much actually happening until well into the second half. But in a 20+ book series, not every one can be amazing.
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine: As readable as the first one, but without any of the debutisms. Much better! I’m also weak for diplomatic first contact.
Lavender House by Lev A.C. Rosen: Historical mystery set in 1950s San Francisco. Great, complex characters, fantastic exploration of queer life in the time period, but more than a little lacking as a mystery.
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher: Well, I can say that Kingfisher’s horror suits me much better than her romance or plain fantasy stuff. Cause this was pretty fun, with lots of creepy fungus stuff and no romance.
Across a Field of Starlight by Blue Delliquanti: A graphic novella about two non-binary people from different anti-imperial factions and their secret friendship. Loved the contrast between the different kinds of resistance against the empire, there’s a lot to think about.
Played Travellers Rest until I ran out of content. The unfortunate drawback of good early access games.
And Put Away Childish Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky (ARC): Not bad per se, but overly cynical and deeply unpleasant to read. I’d rather be in the head of just about anyone else than the poster child for overconfident mediocre white men.
Played Garden Paws, which is not, like, the best game I ever played, but it’s very chill and has a lot of stuff to do. Good enough for me!
So! The beginning of April of course means it’s time for a new Bingo! New Bingo, exciting new plans, and a card that will probably look completely different in a year. Hopefully it brings me out of my slump. Having moderator privileges means I did some planning in advance again, but due to how some squares are, I waited for the official rec thread and general ability to discuss it openly to finalise my first choices. Like the last few years, I’m not trying for a themed card because I find it too restrictive to be fun, but my rough guidelines for this year are to do as much on hard mode as possible and to read more authors of colour.
We’ll see what it all looks like by the time I’m done!
Tchaikovsky’s books have, so far, been extremely hit and miss for me. This one is sadly once again almost entirely a miss, despite the interesting concept – I tend to like books putting a fresh spin on portal fantasy tropes (see: The Light Between Worlds), but And Put Away Childish things was an overall miserable experience I only forced myself to finish because it was short. Not to mention it (and my recent difficulty reviewing) put me in a reading slump for a whole month.
So far, 2023 has been the year of the backlog, finally getting around to many of the books that have been on my radar for years. I suspected I’d like it purely due to Berg’s reputation for writing broken protagonists (I quite enjoyed Transformation) and the first half was great. Unfortunately though, what could have been a fairly enjoyable standard dragon story started to drag on in the second half instead. And the romance subplot being unpleasant and annoying to read certainly didn’t help.
I’m very glad when I have a batch of mini reviews ready and it’s just enjoyable novellas or other kinds of books I simply don’t do full reviews for. No DNFs, no disappointments, just some good short reads.
December has, quite predictably, been a below average reading month. I fell into a bad slump and even what I did read, I mostly haven’t had the energy to review. I found it interesting, however, that my current version of “woe, I barely read anything this month” is still more books compared to the slump months of previous years (6 books as opposed to 4 or less).
As far as the yearly wrap-up goes…well, I hope I finish it before February? 😂
The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan (reread): As good as ever, fits me as well as ever. Glad of it.
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard: My favourite of the Xuya books so far, probably the best entry point into the series of what I’ve read so far. The tech is finally starting to make some sort of sense.
The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal: Very readable, queernorm space mystery. Also cocktail recipes! (Both alcoholic and not!)
Geometries of Belonging: Stories and Poems from the Birdverse by R.B. Lemberg: Lovely. Very queer, very neurodivergent, beautifully written. Seems like the only short story collections I enjoy are single-author, single-world ones.
Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo: Falls somewhere between the previous two books on the enjoyment scale.
Ash by Malinda Lo: Lesbian Cinderella. Fairly standard retelling, not without flaws (very abrupt ending!), but a fun, quick YA read.