Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

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ARC received from the publisher (Saga Press) on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Whoa. Just…whoa. Another candidate for “best of 2019” for me. It’s like someone distilled almost everything I like into one book – exquisite prose, a high dose of weirdness, a queer relationship, a more literary feel, experimental structure – and the end result is breathtaking. Brilliant in a way I’m not sure a review can illustrate. It has to be read to be believed.

I feel almost invincible in our battles’ wake: a kind of Achilles, fleet footed and light of touch. Only in this nonexistent place our letters weave do I feel weak. How I love to have no armor here.

Footnote for fans of the romance genre: for the sake of proper expectations, this is a love story but is not romance genre-wise – if anyone rec’d it as such…🤦

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May 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up

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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.

Books finished:

  • 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.

Currently reading:

  • 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%)

Review: Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens by Eleanor Arnason (Hwarhath #1.5)

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I’m a huge fan of Arnason’s hwarhath-related work. The Lovers, one of the stories in this book, is one of the first short stories I ever read and still my favourite, and when I could finally get a hold of Ring of Swords, the only full-length novel set in this world, it did not disappoint either. However, I don’t really read anthologies, so it took some…rather aggressive persuasion from a friend (you know who you are 😉) before I picked this collection up. And it’s straight-up, one of the best, most creative, in-depth, and well thought out pieces of socio-cultural worldbuilding I’ve ever read.

Since most of the short stories take place far, far before Ring of Swords and there is only one small cameo, the novel and the anthology can be read in any order. If you want a sample, The Lovers, The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times and Holmes Sherlock are available to read online for free.

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Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

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Short but stunning. Despite probably not being long enough to even qualify as a novella, there’s a lot packed inside the small space. It’s about history, revisionism, stories, taking your truth back, humans exploiting other species without regard for anything but ourselves. And it’s beautiful. Highly, highly recommended.

Stories, too, they discovered. But it was a funny thing: They were shattered into pieces, like the Great Mother who had scattered them, and no one tale held to the ear by itself could ever be fully understood. To make them whole required many voices entwined. Then and only then could we become the undying We, endless voices passing along the one song that is also Many.

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2019 r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge: First Impressions (1/2)

So, here it is! The long awaited new Bingo card!

For those unaware, this is a yearly challenge run by Lisa (Way Too Fantasy) that takes place on the r/fantasy subreddit from April to April. Official announcement with rules and resources here, but in essence, the goal is to fill as many rows, columns, diagonals (most try for a full card, the more adventurous of us for two…or three…) without repeating authors. You can use one reread and substitute one square for a previous square, but the main aim is to read widely. I have been participating since the beginning and it remains my favourite challenge.

While I did two cards for the last two years, this year I will be cutting back to one – it’s a decision I made months ago when I was frustrated with how limiting a 50-book challenge felt, but the difficulty only cemented it.

And from a first look, this card is more difficult than the last – there are far more niche subgenre squares like slice of life or LitRPG, plus there’s an unusual number of them that are…very much not to my taste. I’m not a new reader anymore, I know what I like and why. My personal rule is not to force myself to read books just because they fit a square and try my best to find something I’ll like at least a little for each square. This year, it might be a bit more challenging. But then, it is a challenge.

Because the post turned out so long (nearing 4-5k words), I split it in two. Here is the first part, dedicated to squares 1-12.

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March 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up

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March for me meant the start of a new semester, this time with a full load of classes. Homework. General time-sapping nastiness. Not enough sleep. I felt like I barely read anything, that I was in a state of constant slump, but now looking at it laid out like that…it’s actually a pretty average, if not above average month, which is a pleasant surprise.

Most of all, I managed to complete the yearly April-to-April r/fantasy Bingo challenge, two full cards (which I’m never doing again, fuck) just in time for the new one to roll out.

  • Chalice by Robin McKinley: Started off very badly and ended in a disappointment, but the middle was great. Nice, slow slice of life featuring magic bees.
  • Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer (reread): This has been a pure spur-of-the-moment reread. I saw it on my shelves, grabbed it. It absolutely lives up.
  • Treason’s Shore by Sherwood Smith: I started reading this series back in 2016 and now I finally wrapped it up. I felt like the last book was the worst of the four, too meandering (could legit not tell you what happens in the first half), but the ending was good. I’d still recommend the series.
  • Prince of the Godborn by Geraldine Harris (DNF): I wanted to give more old fantasy a try and saw this reviewed highly, so it seemed like a good option…but I just couldn’t do it. Too many names thrown at me and no reason to care.
  • Chimera by Tyler Ellis (read here): A new webcomic discovery. Will definitely continue.
  • A Coalition of Lions by Elizabeth Wein: Sequel to The Winter Prince, which I read a few years ago and liked very much. This book takes place in a different setting, with a different protagonist, and I didn’t like it quite as much, but it was a fast read and still worth recommending – especially if you’re looking for books taking place in Africa!
  • Witchmark by C.L. Polk: Review hopefully soon. Loved it, it’s a very fast read, the MC is somewhat similar to Caz from The Curse of Chalion (broken veteran who just wants a quiet life), and the romance is adorable…but man did I want to strangle his hypocrite of a sister.

Books read this year: 15 (+ 5 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 50/50 (100%), COMPLETE  Partying Face on Twitter Twemoji 11.3