October 2021 Monthly Wrap-Up

I still can’t quite believe how many books I have managed to read in October. I’m not just out of a reading slump for good, I seem to be in a reading frenzy lately. Even with one DNF and one almost-finish, it’s been a shockingly great month.

Read:

  • The Diviners by Libba Bray: Good, nice spooky atmosphere, but perhaps a little overlong.
  • Vermilion by Molly Tanzer (DNF): Wasn’t feeling it. Maybe another time.
  • Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo: Never read a horror book before, but I liked this. Southern gothic exploration of grief and queer masculinity. Very character-focused and more atmospheric than scary.
  • The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow: Didn’t like it as much as The Ten Thousand Doors of January, took a while to grow on me, but by the end I liked it quite a bit. Witches sticking it to the patriarchy is pretty cathartic.
  • Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian (reread): Because it’s never too early to reread my fave romance book again!
  • The Ill-Made Mute by Cecilia Dart-Thorntom (reread): A reread that just kind of just happened. It’s not a good book, but…
  • Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune: Wasn’t clicking at the start, won me over completely by the end, which is incredibly rare. Very comfy for a book about death, too.
  • The Tea Dragon Festival by Kay O’Neill: Adorable. Absolutely adorable. I liked the first one, and this nearly as cute. Made me order tea dragon pins.
  • Niccolò Rising by Dorothy Dunnett: Epic historical fiction focused on scheming merchants and the best slowly set up joke I’ve seen.
  • A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow: So many pop culture references. Ugh. No thanks.
  • Voltaire and the Century of Light by A. Owen Aldridge: Finally finished after months of picking at it. Four points in its favour, it has an awesome and very clear citation style (reference numbers of letters in text!), it’s readable, lots of fun anecdotes, and doesn’t demonise Frederick or Émilie (very defensive of her, even). It is more apologetic than I’d be at points and a bit dated, but all in all, a good one.
  • A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske: Part mystery, part romance, part magic, with a sunny himbo/grumpy nerd pairing. Spicier than I like, but enjoyable enough.

Currently reading:

  • A Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason: Almost managed it in October! Mixed feelings so far, but since it’s a bookclub pick and one of my last Bingo squares…

Books read in 2021: 56 (+ 7? rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 23/25 (92%)

Review: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske (The Last Binding #1)

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

Once again, I blame the ARC request on Sara (as usual with anything romancey), and once again, it was very enjoyable. Part mystery, part romance, part magic, as usual for the subgenre, it suited my mood well – I haven’t read proper historical romance in a while.

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Mini Reviews: Seven Surrenders, The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, Mindline, Dangerous Liaisons, Sisters of the Vast Black

Once again, it’s time for a batch of mini reviews. I might not be in a reading slump anymore, not quite, but I am in a bit of a reviewing slump and I finally have enough of these hoarded up for a post.

So, let’s get started!

Continue reading “Mini Reviews: Seven Surrenders, The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, Mindline, Dangerous Liaisons, Sisters of the Vast Black”

Mini Reviews: Burning Roses, Kalpa Imperial, Briarley, When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

And once again I read enough novellas (and one anthology) that I have enough for a mini review post! This time, it has been a rather mixed batch. 

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Review: Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

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I knew I have to read this immediately as soon as I saw the blurb. Historical fantasy set in 1779 Habsburg empire, featuring alchemy, a castrato, a widow, and a Prussian spy? At a time where I’m explicitly interested in the 18th century? (My current focuses might be France and Prussia, but I’ll take what I can get.) Yes. Yes please.

And this time, I was not disappointed. It was so much my catnip.

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Review: Heart of Stone by Johannes T. Evans

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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.

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2020 Wrap-Up: Statistics & Top Books

This is a follow-up to my 2020 End of the Year Wrap-Up, which focuses more on what happened – now come the stats and recommendations.

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!

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September to December 2020 End of the Year Wrap-Up

I tried.

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. 

September:

  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark (mini review): Pretty good, with very vivid worldbuilding and much funnier than I expected
  • …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.

October:

  • Finished nothing.

November:

  • 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.

December:

  • 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.

Books read in 2020: 44 (+ 9? rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 16/25 (60%)

Review: Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole

Courtney Milan 🦖 on Twitter: "We have a final cover! TA DA.… "

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I said I was back to SFF, but sorry, this is going to be another historical romance review. I tried to keep it too short to post but it, er, got away from me. By a lot.

So, by now pretty much everyone who knows me is aware that I’ve falled madly in love with a certain rap musical (in fact, I’m having the soundtrack on as I write this). Completely, head over heels, talking about it non-stop obsessed. It took me only a few minutes from learning this book exists to starting it. Initially, I felt a little bit silly since I still haven’t quite internalised that being a huge fan of something is nothing to be ashamed of but like…dude, you went on a “fun historical facts” screenshotting spree at 2 am several days in a row and can barely stop quoting lyrics, reading a themed romance book is hardly the most excessive thing you’ve done.

(It’s also pretty funny that in a weird circlerec, I somehow managed to successfully rec this book back to the very same person who brought it to my attention in the first place. But I digress.)

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Review: Seducing the Sedgwicks series by Cat Sebastian (Seducing the Sedgwicks #1-3)

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I know, this is historical romance, not SFF, and that this is supposed to be a SFF blog. But screw it, my blog, my rules, and when I find a perfect book, damn right I’m going to yell about it. It all started when I heard about Two Rogues Make a Right from Sara back in April – I have some extremely specific romance preferences, and when a book satisfies one of them, that’s usually plenty. This one seemed to tick off the whole damn list. Of course I had to. The only issue was that it was the last book of a series, but whatever, the other two can’t be bad – and indeed they were not.

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