2015 in Review – Spotlight on Diverse Reads

My blog has a new outfit, YAY (feedback is very welcome)! While I’m still cleaning up some of the new design to make it look just right, I prepared some reading stats to share with you guys.

In 2015, I didn’t read as much as I would have liked and during the second half of the year, I pretty much just grabbed whatever, without any of my reading goals in mind. Shame on me. Now let’s see how I did. I wanted 25% of all my books to be written by authors of color, I aimed for 10 LGBTQI protagonists, and reading about at least one disabled character would have been great. Author genders should be balanced, although I suspect I’m slanting heavily towards female writers because there was just so much awesome stuff by women this year. Here are the details of what I read.

Did I read as many books by women as by men?

As mentioned above, my gut feeling tells me that I read far more female than male authors this year. This is no surprise when you realise that my favorite author (Cat Valente) published three books this year and I discovered a new favorite author (Angela Slatter) whose backlist I’m slowly devouring.

20160102124546I read a total of 90 books last year. 55 of them were written by women, 35 by men. I am very happy with that ratio because I really, really didn’t care about author gender when I picked up a book. Of course, reading challenges like Women of Genre Fiction made me look out for new female writers that I haven’t tried before, but all things considered, I grabbed whatever tickled my fancy.

How did I spread out my reading over the year?

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make sense of myself when it comes to this specific piece of statistics. I actually read less when I’m on holiday and more during the shorter months when I work 40-50 hours each week. My only guess/explanation is that I read most of my comic books during these months. But you can see that my reading average has dropped significantly from a few years ago, when 10 books per month were normal.

20160102033546

And now for diversity…

As I did last year, I will be looking at the ratio of white authors to authors of color, as well as diversity in protagonists and characters featured in my books.

Authors of color

20160102033138I read 12 books by authors of color in 2015. That is abysmal and nowhere near the 25% I was aiming for. I discovered some wonderful new authors (Alaya Dawn Johnson, I need all your books!), as well as some old favorites (Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, Helen Oyeyemi) and some I wasn’t sure about (Zen Cho, whom I now love).

I think the problem last year wasn’t so much that I didn’t own any books by authors of color or even that I didn’t feel like reading them. There were just so many interesting books published last year that I had to make choices. And these choices, alas, apparently all went to books by white people. This was not a conscious thing, obviously, and my fingers are itching to get started on N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season and Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, two of the books highest up on my TBR pile. But seriously, let’s do better in 2016!

Characters of color

20160102124728On the plus side, 35 of my books featured one or more characters of color. I only counted protagonists or side characters that were vital to the plot.

Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown was not only delightful and fun to read, it also shows two protagonists of color struggling with society’s views of them. Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti was an instant book crush, not only because it features a progatonist of color who faces all sorts of prejudice, but because her culture and habits make her stand out, yet she still holds to her traditions and beliefs. Also that hair! I love that hair! Another favorite was Theodora Goss’ collection In the Forest of Forgetting, chock full of diverse characters. My biggest crush was Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince which features only characters of color, as far as I could tell.

LGBTQI characters

20160102033002Another happy surprise is the amount of LGBTQI characters I encountered in 2015. It is extremely difficult to find books with gay, lesbian, transgender,… characters when just reading book blurbs or synopses on the back of books. Publishers still seem very coy about the characters’ sexuality and gender identity, so if authors and bloggers don’t actively tell me that book X features a lesbian couple, often I wouldn’t even know. Even with the help of internet friends, I only managed to read 17 books with LGBTQI characters, but all of those characters are protagonists or super important for the story they were in.

My favorite examples were Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince which features a generally very diverse cast. In this future Brazil, sexuality is not an issue (they have enough other issues, though, trust me) and everybody sleeps with pretty much whomever they feel like, regardless of genders. Karin Lowachee’s Warchild was also stunning, albeit homosexuality is frowned upon or kept secret in this space opera world. Kurtis J. Wiebe’s comic series Rat Queens features a diverse crew of badass women, Nalo Hopkinson’s wonderful collection Falling in Love with Hominids is also crazy diverse, featuring gay couples, lesbian couples, and everything in between. Even Sarah Lotz’ The Three, a book where I didn’t expect to find a lot of diverse characters, features one gay and one lesbian protagonist. And Angela Slatter’s collection The Bitterwood Bible as well as her tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such also depict lesbian or bisexual women.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the books in this diversity recap ended up on my best of the year list.

Disability

20160102032835I read 21 books that featured characters with some kind of disability. To be fair, I counted even minor characters for these statistics, and I also sometimes counted magical disabilities that don’t exist in the real world but impacted the character’s life. Out of interest, I looked at only protagonists or vital characters with disabilities and that leaves me with 12 books which is amazing!

There were characters with physical disabilities like Glokta in Joe Abercrombie’s Before They Are Hanged, and characters with mental disabilities such as Cady in We Were Liars by E. Lockhart or the protagonist of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Red Tree. There were even characters suffering from a combination of the two, like Uncle Julian in Shirley Jackson’s amazing We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

some more stats

  • I read 4 books in French (yay!), the rest was all in English
  • 27 books were published in 2015, 18  in 2014, and the rest sometime earlier
  • My most read genres are no surprise either:
    • 50 fantasy books
    • 22 comics/graphic novels
    • 13 science fiction books
    • 5 horror novels

Resolutions

READ MORE AUTHORS OF COLOR! I am really disappointed in myself and I will do my very best to catch up on all the missed new releases of 2015, starting with the authors of color. I also want to read many, many new books of 2016 for Hugo Awards nomination reasons.

Speaking of the Hugo Awards, I will be nominating and voting again this year (Uprooted and Radiance all the way!) and I fully intend to continue this tradition of participating in the fandom I love. Puppies aside, it feels really wonderful to be part of this community that has been nothing but welcoming to all voices from all over the world – you know, as long as you’re not a dick.

Other than that, I’m keeping 2016 pretty resolution-free. Read. Have fun.

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Top Ten Tuesday (on a Friday) – Favorite Books of 2015 So Far

Half the year is over and I am still expecting amazing books to come my way in 2015, but it doesn’t hurt to take a look back at my favorites of the year – so far. The Broke and the Bookish hosted the perfect Top Ten Tuesday – which I missed because I’m slow and also time zones.

2015 has been very good to me book-wise. Despite the Hugo Awards… thing… (you know), a lot of cool things have been happening in fandom and I decided to use this post only for happy stuff. If I close my eyes really hard, maybe the bad stuff disappears?

Once again, Worlds Without End is majorly to blame for my discovery of some great new authors, but I believe The Book Smugglers, Renay, and Justin Landon are the years’s biggest culprits when it comes to me buying books based on recommendations alone. Not only do they all manage to convey true passion for the books they love, they have also never let me down. Stay that way, guys. You rock my world!

Favorite books published in 2015 (so far)

Naomi Novik is stealing everyone’s heart this year. I admit if I hadn’t won that gorgeous hardback copy (with the UK cover – so shiny!), I might have overlooked the book. I’m so glad Justin pushed it on Twitter, and the rest of the world followed with rave reviews. Mine is just one among the many, many posts singing Uprooted‘s praises. Magical Poland, a dragon who is a wizard, a young girl fighting for her best friend, and general badassery by women, all set against a truly frightening adversary – an evil, ancient Wood.

I bought Bone Gap almost blindly after Renay and Ana discussed it on Fangirl Happy Hour and it was a truly magical book. Open it up, start reading, hold your breath, and don’t come up for air until you’re done. It deals with difficult themes – chiefest among them the effect of beauty (and ugliness) – but in such a lyrical way that it never feels heavy-handed. There are plot twists and amazing characters and a magica atmosphere that sucks you right in.

V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic was a lighter book than the two mentioned above, a fun adventure set in an original world with characters whose true depth is found between the lines. Parallel Londons, dark magic, a thief, a magician, and some really cool villains. I can’t wait to continue the story of Kell, Lila, and Rhy in the next book. Schwab left us with some intriguing plot threads and the hint of a romance that is totally up my alley. It’s the equivalent of a blockbuster in book form.

Favorite books published before 2015 (but read this year)

Alaya Dawn Johnson just took home two (!) Nebula Awards and I am not in the least surprised. The Summer Prince was an excellent book that defies all genre classifications. Sure, it’s science fiction, and sure it features young protagonists – but it just doesn’t feel like your typical YA sci-fi novel, especially looking at the current climate of dystopian Hunger Games knock-offs (which, in turn, is Battle Royale YA-ified). The Summer Prince is about art, technology, about the conflict between generations, and about a young girl coming of age. The book has stayed with me throughout the year so I think I should upgrade my rating a bit. The books that stick with you after reading are usually the ones that make for a great re-read.

I should have known Theodora Goss’ short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting would wow me but I was still taken by surprise at how perfect these stories were. Goss is like “Cat Valente lite” when it comes to prose but she packs just as much emotional punch, whether her stories are about identity, about fighting disease, or simply about finding your place in the world. The language is lyrical, the characters vibrant, and I already ordered her poetry collection (up for a Mythopoeic Award this year) Songs for Ophelia.

The one graphic novel that took my heart by storm this year is a dark little thing. I bought it mostly because of my plan to read more books in French (and comics are easy because pictures). In Beautiful Darkness, the cute creatures and brightly colorful images juxtaposed with the sinister subject matter could have gone terribly wrong – but it all works beautifully. You want to look away but you can’t. I fell in love with the story, I was horrified at the things these creatures do to each other, at the rawness of their journey. This is exactly what it says on the tin. Dark and beautiful.

I don’t think much needs to be said about the perfection that is Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. A novel set after most of humanity has died comes with a lot of expected tropes, most of which Mandel subverts. She opts for a more positive outlook, for a world that isn’t just defined by brutal survival and constant mistrust, but one where people still work together, where they make art, where they keep alive the things that were important to us before the apocalypse. It’s not completely without fault but after making me cry several times, I still closed the book with a smile on my face and filled with hope.

I had read Sanderson’s book Mistborn: The Final Empire a few years ago, enjoyed it, and never continued the series. Now I stumbled across Graphic Audio and decided to splash out and buy the damn things. It was money well spent – I am completely in love with the “movie in your mind” thing. I can’t tell if I would have enjoyed the story as much if I had just read it myself, but with the actors, the music, the sound effects, and the narration, it was nothing short of perfect. It really made the trilogy into an event. Then again, Sanderson does deserve praise. He is known for planning his long (and I mean long!) stories meticulously and it really shows. The plot twists were fantastic, they came out of nowhere, but they didn’t feel cheap either. You won’t find any “Luke, I am your father”s here, the prophecy trope is subverted about a billion times, and in the end, I didn’t just like the books for their twists’ shock value but for the characters that had quietly grown on me over the course of 1000 pages.

Favorite stuff inFandom

Other than books, the year has had its ups and downs. I will not discuss the Hugo Awards because I’ll either end up crying or laughing hysterically. All I can do is hope that this year’s mess made enough people aware of the awards that next year, more people nominate and vote for the stuff they love.

Among the random things I loved this year are these:

Ana and Renay’s biweekly podcast Fangirl Happy Hour is everything I love. They talk about books, movies, TV shows, and fandom. Whether they agree or not, they each have interesting things to say, and when they do love a thing, they love it hard. It’s pretty much impossible not to go out and buy the books they talk about. I love, love, love these two – and not just because they’re responsible for some of my favorite reads ever.

I backed two Kickstarters this year and it’s difficult to say which I’m more excited about. Abigail Larson has been one of my favorite artists for years and Sarah Faire has been on my Goodreads wishlist forever. Unfortunately, a limited amount of books was printed (also funded through Kickstarter) and no more copies were available. Until now! Naturally, I pounced, I backed, and I am now eagerly awaiting this gorgeous little book.
Clockwork Phoenix 5 baited me with a Cat Valente book, but I am just as curious about Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney and the subscription to Mythic Delirium as well as the dozens of other goodies coming my way. I probably won’t see any of the books until next year but that just means I get to spread out my excitement a bit more, right? Right.

My unexpected movie crush of the year is Mad Max: Fury Road. What a joy to watch! When you go to the movies and think you’ll get a vapid action movie (which, you know, is fine) but you are then confronted with a thing of utter beauty, with characters like Furiosa, that’s when you fall in love. My boyfriend and I have seen the movie twice now and it was almost better the second time around. I loved how the two protagonists, Max and Furiosa, say very little but communicate so much. I loved how pretty everything looked – a landscape that is mostly dead was turned into a piece of art. This isn’t the kind of movie where all the best bits are shown in the trailer. Trust me. You want to watch it! The story is amazing, I am completely in love with both Max and Furiosa, and I left the movie theater with a rush of endorphins and a big fat smile. So shiny, so chrome!

Stuff to look forward to

We’ve only hit the halfway mark of 2015, so here a few things coming up that I’m still madly excited about:

I hope that many more cool things will come my way during the rest of 2015 and I’m relying on my favorite people on the internet to point me in the right direction. Now I still have some challenges to catch up on. And you guys – go watch Mad Max!

2014 in Review – Spotlight on Diverse Reads

Wow – I am so late with this post. I had hoped it would go up a little closer to the beginning of the year, but better late than never, right? Right! In my Favorite Books of 2014 post, I told you that I tracked not only what books I read but also how they hold up in terms of author and character diversity.

While I had no problem at all with reading more female authors and keeping a balance between author genders, I didn’t read all that many books that featured diverse characters.

Did I read as many books by women as by men?

Looking back at my reading year, it feels like I only read books by women. As it is quite often, my perception is wrong. I did read more women authors than men but the amount of female-authored books is not as extreme as I thought.

Author Gender 2014I read 33 books written by men and 53 books by women. There were two collaborations – Ellen Klages and Andy Duncan’s excellent Wakulla Springs, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga Volume 3. As these are two male/female collaborations, I counted one book for each gender. For next year, I’ll probably add a new category in my spread sheet for collaborations and anthologies – after all, I may not always be lucky enough to have an even number of man-woman-teams and then how do I count these authors?
These stats are not bad though, right? I read a lot more women authors this year (which is probably due to not having any more Discworld Witches books left) than last year. The Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Challenge is definitely what gave me the initial kick, and once you’re in that mode where you actively seek out not just women authors but women authors who you’ve never read, it becomes a habit. Instead of going back to the same (fantastic) authors I had loved for years, I tried a lot of new ones – and now my list of favorites is becoming ridiculously long.

When did I read the most and the least?

My reading has been spread out pretty logically throughout the year. Obviously, in the months where I had some time off work, I managed to read a lot more books. The years when 10 books per month were the norm are over, however. The way things are going now, I’m happy if I read 5 books a month, especially if they’re not all comics.

books read per month 2014

I had some time off work in both June and December. Considering how insane last year was, I’m surprised that I read so much during the first 6 months. In summer, things started getting a bit less busy, work hours went back to something resembling normal so I think I must have spent most of August sleeping instead of reading. I had no particular goals for how many books per month I wanted to read, I just think it’s interesting to look at the stats. 🙂

So how about diversity?

As promised in my Favorite Books of the Year post, let’s take a look at how many books by authors of color I read, how many diverse characters I met in 2014 and just generally how much I still have to work on picking more diverse books.POC authors 2014
Meh… that’s not great, is it? I am confident that next year I’ll read a lot more authors of color, just because I discovered a few of them in 2014 (Helen Oyeyemi, Octavia Butler,…) whose books I really enjoyed – and they have backlists for me to catch up on. 25% would be nice, so let’s aim for that in 2015.

I did a little better with diverse characters this year. The thing that struck me, though, was that the books featuring characters of color are usually the ones that generally have more diverse characters. All of the disabled characters I read about, for example, were found in books that also featured a protagonist of color or LGBTQI characters. I get the feeling that contemporary YA fiction is where it’s all happening, but then those books never appealed to me much. I always expect to find “issue books” and those are really not my cup of tea…

POC characters 2014

See now that’s not half bad. Almost a quarter of all the books I read featured characters of color. I was strict in counting them, too, so minor characters didn’t count. I may have let the odd sidekick into these statstics but only if they were vital to the plot. The rest are all protagonists. The same goes for the LGBTQI characters. The absolute stand-out book for these two charts is Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension, a book that is so full of diverse characters it might have gone terribly wrong. Except it didn’t. The heroine, despite suffering from a disability that follows her every step she takes, doesn’t let it define her life. The plot doesn’t evolve around the disability, it’s just something that is in the back of your mind all the time.

LGBT characters 2014

As for LGBT characters – they are still a minority in the books I read. Again, I dislike issue books so I mostly read books with LGBTQI characters where the plot is not about them being gay, transgender, intersex, or what have you. Malinda Lo’s blog diversity in YA is a good source for YA books by diverse authors and featuring diverse characters, but you know my fragile relationship with YA fiction. It’s getting back on its feet what with brilliant writers like Maggie Stiefvater and Ysabeau S. Wilce, but I’m still careful when picking my YA fantasy books because I just can’t handle another useless love triangle, dumb heroine, or trope-laden storyline. Thanks to the interwebs, it shouldn’t be too hard to find recommendations, though. I’ll set my goal to at least 10 books featuring an LGBTQI protagonist for 2015.

Disability in the books I read is an even smaller minority  – I didn’t even make a chart, as I read only 3 books featuring disabled characters (and looking at that pie chart makes me sad). They were Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters, Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine and Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension. In Broken Monsters, a character is diabetic but she is not a protagonist. In Sister Mine, the protagonist’s sister has one leg that is shorter than the other and she has to walk with a cane or walking stick. If I had stuck to counting only protagonists, that would leave Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension – which has more than just one disabled character.

Science Fiction and Fantasy is getting better at featuring diverse characters but they are far from the norm. I will continue to seek out books that show different aspects of life – even fictional life in fantasy worlds, on space ships, in fairy tales and wherever else – and all kinds of different people.

My resolutions for 2015 include keeping the balance between books written by male and female authors, reading more diversely than I did in 2014, and also finding a balance between comics and novels again. Oh yeah, and my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal is now set to “only” 90 books. That is just a little bit more than I managed to read in 2014, but then it was a crazy year (work-wise) that I don’t want to repeat. Balancing author genders is nice but a healthy work-life balance is what I’m really putting my focus on in 2015.

Any blogging resolutions?

Well, yeah. I’ve been posting less frequently, writing half-reviews that I never published, and no reviews at all for some books. I’ve never been a schedule blogger. Normally, I finish a book, gather my thoughts, write them down and share them with you guys. As I type this, I have at least six unpublished reviews lying around on my harddrive.

My resolution is to find more time to interact with my book blogging friends (including at least one read-a-thon!), read my ARCs and review time in a timely manner, and generally post more often again. Wish me luck.

Happy Reading, everyone!

all the books

 

Statistics + My Favorite Books So Far (2014)

People say this all the time but: Where the hell did half of a year go?

It’s quite astonishing how fast certain months pass and how much I get done in others. This year, I have been keeping count pretty well of my books and stats. Because pie charts! As many other bloggers (at least the ones I read regularly) I tried to keep the balance between male and female authors, read more diversely and try out new things in general. Let’s see how I did, shall we?

But first, here are my favorite books of the year so far:

  1. Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor
  2. Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch – Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery
  3. Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty
  4. Elizabeth Bear – Range of Ghosts
  5. Charles Stross – Equoid
  6. Alethea Kontis – Enchanted
  7. Max Gladstone – Three Parts Dead
  8. Linda Medley – Castle Waiting Volume 1
  9. Brian K. Vaughan &Fiona Staples – Saga Volume 3
  10. Bill Willingham – Fables (Volumes 1-3)

Reviews for three of these are still missing, but worry not. They will appear as soon as I have the time. I have an entire list of reviews-to-write. Now let’s get to the statistics.

Books read: 43

  • Books by male authors: 22
  • Books by female authors: 21

breakdown by author gender

That’s pretty balanced reading, if you ask me. I have noticed, though, that it takes a conscious effort on my part to make sure I don’t just grab whatever book is lying closest to me or buying whatever certain recommendation engines recommend (which is usually something written by a man). Selecting my books more carefullly has not only helped me to achieve this almost-half-and-half but it’s also let me discover and support so many new writers. Win win!

I also wanted to read more books in languages other than English. The results of this resolution don’t even merit a pie chart because I’ve read a whopping one book in French, the rest was all in English.

But how did I do with author diversity? I took notes of authors of color as well as books with protagonists who aren’t white. I tracked LGBTQ authors and characters as well, but I definitely have to work on reading more books featuring them. The results are pretty slim. I read only five books by writers who aren’t white, one book by a gay (white) author, and one book by a gay author of color. At the very least I can say that I found some writers whose other books I want to read so hopefully, this chart will look less bleak at the end of the year.

  • Books read by authors of color: 5
  • Books read by LGBTQ authors: 2breakdown by author diversity

Book characters didn’t fare much better with me, I’m sorry to say. On the other hand, I was rather strict when collecting my data. For example, I didn’t count a POC character if they only showed up for one scene and had no real influence on the plot or protagonist. POC protagonists were counted, as well as POC characters who are vital to the plot. The same goes for LGBTQ characters and characters with disabilities. The latter are sooooo difficult to find in books, it makes me want to cry. I suspect (that’s really all it is, a suspicion) that there are more books outside the SFF genre that feature characters with disabilities (Contemporary YA? “Issue” books? Hell, I don’t know.) but I’d still like to see and read more fantasy and science fiction books with a diverse cast.

  • Books featuring characters of color: 10
  • Books featuring LGBTQ characters: 3
  • Books featuring characters with disabilities: 2

breakdown by character diversityPercentage-wise, it doesn’t even look that bad. However, there were a few books that featured POC characters as well as LGBTQ characters, and one notable book that covered all sorts of characters, some with disabilities (mental and physical), some who were gay, many who were non-white. The book in question is Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension. So no wonder that my overall feeling tells me I didn’t read that many books with diverse characters. Most of them were crammed into the same handful of books. I have probably never read as many books featuring diverse characters as I have this year, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Looking at my books per month, I am more than surprised. The beginning of the year was rather difficult for me. Work basically exploded and I didn’t have much time for anything, let alone cozying up with a book. Considering that, my books are spread out almost evenly across the first half of 2014.

Books read per month:

  • January: 8
  • Febraury: 5
  • March: 6
  • April: 8
  • May: 7
  • June: 9

breakdown per month

Lastly, I still have that personal Read Around the World challenge going, although with my reading slanted heavily towards SFF, it’s slow going. Here are a few places (real or with a hint of the fantastic) that I’ve visited in 2014 through my reading:

  • Central Asia: Elizabeth Bear – Range of Ghosts
  • Nigeria: Nnedi Okorafor – Lagoon
  • Paris, France: Amélie Nothomb – Barbe Bleue

And that’s it for my statistics. My resolutions for the second half of 2014 are pretty clear. Continue balancing books by male and female authors, reading more non-white authors, and books featuring more diverse characters. With a stack of Octavia Butler books, one unread N.K. Jemisin novel, and a few Malinda Lo stories, I think I’m set up quite well. And if I ever run out of material, the internet is usually there to help.

So how did you do during the first half of 2014? Did you track your reading progress at all? Take into account author gender and diversity? I love mid-year or end-of-the-year posts, so if you have one, leave a link in the comments and I’ll come visit.

Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2014

I’ve been home, nursing a cold for the last few days but, unfortunately, it seems to only get worse. Work has been crazy since January and I actually wish I could go back and help. But I’m not a pretty sight and I hear being able to breathe is considered helpful when trying to be productive. So yeah… I’ll probably be home a few more days. But seeing as my eyes hurt and my head is constantly trying to explode, I didn’t get much reading done either.
But almost all the books I read were wonderful. Because two of them were so outstanding, I put what would otherwise go in “The Best” list to “The Rest”. Just to show you how desperately you need these two favorites… I’m evil.

Books read: 6
Pages read: 1787
Series started:

  • The First Law Trilogy
  • Rat Queens
  • The Southern Reach Trilogy

Series continued:

  • Flavia de Luce

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THE BEST

Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor  9/10

goblin emperorThis was easily my favorite novel of the year so far and it has only grown in esteem since I finished it. It’s not an easy novel to get into. The names are complex, the political situation of this goblin kingdom difficult to understand, but damn, is it worth keeping at. I had never read anything by Sarah Monette (Addison is her pseudonym) but this book impressed me so much that I’m torn between wanting to re-read it and reading something else by the author.
I had the good luck of getting a review e-ARC from Tor (thanks again!) but my hardback copy is already pre-ordered. I can’t wait to own the book in all its glory.

Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch – Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery   8,5/10

rat queens sass and sorceryI have fallen head over heels in love with the Rat Queens. This pack of loud, sexual, beautiful, fighting women who hang out with trolls and goblins, are just too good to miss. A recommendation engine thought – because I love Saga – that I woule enjoy this comic too. Well, the fancy math worked this time. This is another one I pre-ordered in hard copy – that usually tells you I really love a book. Only the best and favoritest and prettiest of them get to grace my physical book shelves. I loved everything about this story with the little caveat that some characters could have been better defined. But I expect this to happen in the next volume(s) – so now send me my paper copy so I can re-read this and giggle like a crazy person again.

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THE WORST

One book I didn’t finish although I had very high hopes for it:

Rjurik Davidson – Unwrapped Sky

unwrapped skyMinotaurs, a sunken city in the sea, an assassin, politics… this had everything to completely suck me in. Yet here is another book I couldn’t finish. It suffered from many of the same symptoms as The Waking Engine by David Edison. But while Edison simply seemed to have added characters in order to show off his fancy world building, Davidson shifts perspective between three characters to keep things moving. However, every single chapter starts with pages of exposition, there is little dialogue and not nearly enough world building – especially if the events are supposed to have some emotional impact on the reader. We first have to understand how things work in this place…
The book isn’t without merit however, and I suspect that many people will like it a lot more than I did. I gave up after a third because if I have to force myself to read, there’s something wrong. And – having put the book away – I found I didn’t care what happened to the characters. None of them seemed in a particularly dangerous or interesting situation so if I never find out, no loss. And that’s the biggest flaw for me. If I dislike the characters, that’s good. If I love the characters, that’s great. If I nothing the characters, you’ve lost me.

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THE REST

Alan Bradley – I Am Half-Sick of Shadows  8/10

flavia4The last time I read a Flavia de Luce book was a little more than a year ago and it left me a bit disappointed. Not so this time. This Christmas-flavored murder mystery invites a film crew into the halls of Buckshaw. When murder happens, Flavia has to interrupt concocting a chemical plan to trap Father Christmas red-handed, and solve the mystery. This must have been my favorite Flavia book because of the way it focuses on the family and their strange and strained relationships. It always brings tears to my eyes when Flavia yearns for her dead mother and her sisters are cruel to her. But there are far more funny moments to make up for it. This definitely gives you the giggles.

Joe Abercrombie – The Blade Itself  7,5/10

blade itselfA lot has been said about grimdark and its Overlord, Mr. Abercrombie. Only a few of the horrible things I expected came to pass. Women don’t really get much room in this story, but considering how wonderfully characterised all the male bastards were, how much I cared about these despicable creatures, and how intrigued I was despite a rather meandering plot, I think Lord Grimdark did a lot more things right that he did wrong. And for a first novel, this was truly impressive. I already have the second book prepared for soonish reading.

Jeff Vandermeer – Annihilation  7,5/10

annihilationSee, this is where I feel strange. Two books with the same rating, yet they were so very, very different that it feels unfair to both of them. This was my first Vandermeer book – written by him, rather than edited, that is. And it delivered all the creepiness it promised. I got sucked into this story of an expedition into the mysterious Area X where four women try to figure out… something. You really don’t get a lot of information about anything in this story, but it is all the more fun to guess what could be behind the strange writing on the wall of a tower, why the lighthouse seems so important, and what the fuck is up with the psychologist. The ending fell short for me but I have high hopes for Authority and Acceptance (see, these books I pre-ordered because the covers are too stunning not to own them. Yes, yes I am shallow.)

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Coming up next month

The attentive visitor to my blog will have noticed that I have finally caved and am reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I have reached the 32% mark and I like it a lot better than Mistborn. It’s epic fantasy the way I would have loved it when I was younger and first discovered it. But I catch myself wanting to go back to the story so frequently that – if you add a Sanderson ending to it – I will probably end up loving the thing.

I also got an e-ARC from the kind people at Mad Norwegian Press. Catherynne M. Valente’s non-fiction essay collection Indistinguishable from Magic is longer than I expected so I’ve only read a quarter of it. But I love it so, so much! She may have left her poetic language at the door but I feel so understood by Valente when it comes to fantasy and wanting it to be real, it almost hurts.

And finally, once I’ve pushed through the last 50 pages, I’ll post my review of Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon. I had had such high hopes for this and while it does deliver on one front, it completely fails on the other. This is supposed to be Okorafor’s answer to District 9 and, as such, I understand what she’s doing. But the narrative is broken into so many little fragments, constantly switching between characters that only show up for a tiny chapter. It kills any pacing there might have been and makes it a slow read. Every time I try to understand a character or feel with them, I get jostled out of it. It’s a strangely dissatisfying experience and even though I want to commend her for her great ideas, the book has ultimately left me cold.

Monthly Wrap-Up: January 2014

Hello 2014! You started off pretty well. There were some great books and stories among my first reads of the year and I’m proud to say I read some sub-genres that I have neglected in the past (with varying amounts of success). I am trying to catch up on books and stories that are eligible for the Hugo Awards because I take my shiny voting rights Very Seriously. Thankfully, people on the internet recommend great stuff and I’m in the middle of some fantastic books that are now all contenders for a spot on my ballot.

Books read: 7 (+ some short stories)
Pages read: 1817
Series started: Mercy Thompson, The Laundry Files, Dial H
Series finished:

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THE BEST

Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty  9/10

love minus eightyThis blew me away on so many levels. I loved the characters and their intricate, interwoven story lines, but even if I hadn’t, I would have stayed for the superb world-building. The comparison to Love Actually that I’ve heard on the interwebs is not completely off, but this book is much less fluffy and way more science-fiction. It is the second book that has earned a secure spot on my Hugo nominations ballot (which I’ll be posting soon) so go and read it.

Charles Stross – “Equoid”  8/10

equoidI am told this is a novelette and thus eligible in that category for the Hugo Awards but I’m still confused. Whether novella, novelette, or short story, I’m putting this creepy unicorn story on my ballot. Without any prior knowledge of this spin-off’s book series, I fell into the story and ended up in love with the humor, the darkness, and particularly the way Charles Stross forever destroyed my idea of unicorns. Do not read right after a Peter S. Beagle novel!

Jacqueline Koyanagi – Ascension  8/10

ascensionThis is what I hope for in Space Opera. There are few things I enjoy more than a crew on a space ship just doing their thing while on the run from evil, or trying to save the universe or something. But it’s the people that crew the ship that make that story hit or miss. In the case of Ascension, I loved even the characters that I didn’t like. Koyanagi made her protagonists women of color, people with disabilities, a woman who starves herself for spiritual reasons, a man who thinks he’s a wolf, non-monogamous relationships, and lots of other ideas and groups of people who usually don’t feature that much in sci-fi. Don’t read this book for its plot, read it for its characters. And then, like me, wait eagerly for the next instalment.

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THE WORST

Nothing bad this month. Yay!

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THE REST

Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go  7,5/10

never let me goMy second Ishiguro was brilliant for the same reasons The Remains of the Day was. It is a quiet book that gives the impression of being one thing, while really being another. Kathy H. tells the story of her childhood and of her two best friends, Tommy and Ruth. What starts like an English boarding school novel (and reads wonderfully just for that) takes a sinister sf’nal spin. I loved the character growth and development, how the author gave such an impact to seemingly meaningless events in these people’s lives, and I loved (in a strange, depressed way) the melancholy ending.

Sarah McCarry – All Our Pretty Songs  7,5/10

all our pretty songsIf you dangle Orpheus and Eurydice in front of my face, I’ll probably bite. As I did with this book. The myth is turned on its head and spun around a bit, but I fell into this first person narrative so quickly, I didn’t even care about people going to the underworld. This story of two best friends and their different ways of growing up, of dealing with their absent (or dead) fathers, their strange mothers, and the new men in their lives, was deeply moving and written in a way that I can only call flowing. There is no good place to put this book down for a toilet break. It is best read in one go.

China Miéville – Dial H: Into You  6,5/10

dial h1Miéville’s reboot of the old comic about a loser who turns into a different superhero every time he dials HERO on an old pay phone. Now, these superheroes range from awesome to ridiculous to downright offensive, and Miévielle did interesting things with this on a sort of meta-level. The plot sagged a bit after the initial discovery of the dial but the very last issue got me so excited, I’ll continue reading. Nelse and Manteau got themselves into way more trouble than they know…

Patricia Briggs – Moon Called   6,5/10

moon calledI believe my kind of Urban Fantasy is something more like The Laundry Files or Ben Aaronovich’s Peter Grant series. It pains me to say it but the Anita Blakes and Mercy Thompsons don’t impress me much. That said, Moon Called was much more entertaining than expected. It’s a murder mystery with every mythological beast you can think of. The world building is a mess and the protagonist makes sure to tell us how special it is for a woman to be a car mechanic. I had gripes with the way she was portrayed and the way her behaviour changed into damsel-mode whenever men showed up. But plot-wise, this could have been way worse. I may give the next volume a try sometime…

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DNF:

I feel extremely guilty when I don’t finish review copies. But when the first four or five chapters slog along and there is nothing to grab my attention, I have to throw the towel and admit that my time could be spent better, with books that are more to my tastes.

waking engineI was so excited about The Waking Engine by David Edison. The cover and premise drew me in. A city where people go after they died, sometimes after they died many times and have hopped several realities. Only in this city do they have the chance to die forever, without waking up somewhere else. Cooper wakes up in this City Unspoken and stumbles around cluelessly. My problem is that nothing happens! He meets some strange people who find out that Cooper is a curiosity in that he is only person there to have a belly button – a sign of still living your first life, because you lose the navel after you’re reborn. Apart from that, all I got was info-dumpy world building without plot or character development, even proper character set-up. Cooper isn’t a person, he’s just an avatar to stand in for the reader, discovering a place that could be awesome but isn’t.

There are vague mentions of a plague in the city, but mostly the author just dumps paragraphs of boring, boring information on us, whenever a character looks at something that can be described. Whether it’s the city’s architecture or its particular kind of prostitutes, instead of showing us things, we get exposition. It’s even worse than As You Know Bob.

I will try my very best to give this a few more chapters before I give up completely. But when reading fiction becomes a chore, it’s not for me.

Still reading:

I started a few bigger books in January because I want to get them read before the Hugo nomination deadline (end of March). Mostly, I looked at what other people are voting for and picked up the books I hadn’t read yet.

Elizabeth Bear – Range of Ghosts
I plan to read Shattered Pillars right after I finish this, because I’ve seen it on a few Hugo nomination posts and because Range of Ghosts is pretty good so far.

Catherynne M. Valente – The Bread We Eat in Dreams
I raced through this. There are only a handful of stories left for me to read. While I still haven’t made it all the way through The Melancholy of Mechagirl (Cat Valente’s other short story collection that came out in 2013) I couldn’t keep my hands off this beauty. That Coyote story alone makes the book worth picking up. And Subterranean always publishes books that are just beautiful to look at.

Robert Jackson Bennett – American Elsewhere
I slid into this sideways. Originally, I wanted to read The Troupe first because it sounded much more up my alley, but because a lot of people are talking about American Elsewhere, I tried the first chapter and kind of couldn’t stop. This is, however, a very big book and I’m only a quarter of the way done. But I’m enjoying it immensely and wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up on my Hugo ballot. It also helps that, when reading at night, it scares the shit out of me.

My Reading Year – Favorite Books of 2013

I’m a bit late to the party of best of the year posts but here it is, and be warned: It’s quite long.

I almost can’t believe I’m still here. I expected I’d grow tired of blogging about books. Like a hobby you think you want to start but grow bored of after a few months. Well… it’s been almost two years (that’s not so bad, in internet time) and I’m still enjoying it.
It’s taught me a lot of things about myself and my reading habits, but the best side effect is that as soon as you’re passionate about something, like-minded people start coming your way. And it is these people that have helped me find the best books ever. I did use the internet before I began posting my two cents about books, but only since I’ve started talking to other bloggers, readers, and SFF fans, have I discovered books that overwhelm me, authors that I will love forever, and learned to be more critical with what I buy and read.

This is my big thank you to everybody who has recommended a book to me specifically, and to the amazing bloggers out there who write about books that might otherwise fall under the radar. You are wonderful and I send a big internet hug your way! (I’m adding a list of the biggest culprits at the bottom, so you know who you are.)

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This year, in addition to the inevitable Top Ten List, I gathered some data on the books I read. Because statistics! With all the talk about gender bias in SFF publishing, and events like the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Challenge, I’ve been watching myself more closely and I’d like to see how I did. More on that below.

Now on to the list making. This was probably my best reading year yet. EVER. I hardly read any bad books. I did read so many great ones, however, that they’re having a fight about who gets to be in my “top ten”. So yes: Cheating ahead…

MY FAVORITE READS OF 2013

Honorable mentions:

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The stats

Soooo, I was convinced I’d read more female authors this year than male ones but then I remembered how Terry Pratchett totally hijacked my reading time…

I read 97 books this year, including comics, which is a tiny step down from last year’s 104. That number splits up into 56% male authors and 44 % authors. Although it’s not a perfect balance, these are the numbers counting single books, not single authors. If I count single authors, I have read 34 female authors, 20 male authors, and two anthologies with mixed authors. So my gut feeling wasn’t complete wrong.

My author highlights this year will be obvious to anyone who’s been following me throughout the year. I read 6 Catherynne M. Valente books and an amazing 15 Terry Pratchett novels. Leo‘s Aldebaran and Betelgeuze comics make up 10 issues, which I counted as single books (they are all shiny hardcovers, so that makes each of them a book in my eyes).

Strange as this seems to me, it happens a lot that February, though the shortest month, is my strongest reading month. September and October dragged me down because work was taking up all of my time. Here’s how many books I read each month:

  • January: 11
  • February: 13
  • March: 8
  • April: 10
  • May: 5
  • June: 9
  • July: 6
  • August: 8
  • September: 5
  • October: 5
  • November: 7
  • December: 10

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Other favorite things

Favorite book bloggers
Ever since I’ve discovered them, The Book Smugglers have been responsible for the fact that I still believe in young adult fiction. After many, many disappointments, after reading the same things rehashed over and over again, I almost lost faith. But Ana and Thea read a lot more in the field than I do – almost every book I’ve picked up because of them turned out to be just as wonderful as they promised. Apart from that, their blog is also extremely well-written and they often feature author guest posts, givaways, and what have you. If you’re not following them yet, you should.

Another shout out must go to Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. He keeps reminding me that science fiction is wonderful and that I want to read more of it. He writes great reviews, not just of books, but movies and short stories as well. I also love the challenges and not-challenges he hosts on his blog. At the moment, the 2014 Sci-Fi Experience is still going on, so jump right in. I missed this year’s R.I.P. challenge and the Once Upon a Time challenge, but even without participating, it’s great fun to see what other people are reading and watching. Here’s a resolution for next year: Don’t miss Carl’s challenges!

Ladybusiness may not post a review every week, but I love their link collections which point you to reviews by other great people. The ladies at Lady Business talk about books, movies, fanfiction, internet articles, blogging, and feminism. I particularly recommend their podcast Ladybusiness+. The mid-year breakdown episode (recorded with The Book Smugglers‘ Ana) is one of my favorites.

Alix from The Other Side of the Rain has just started her blog this year, but my gods, does she post great stuff! The first review of hers that I read was of a Cat Valente book. Then she went on to send some love Susanna Clarke’s way (of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell fame) and I knew I would gobble up the next book she loved that I hadn’t read yet. Her reviews are insightful and detailed and just make you want to go and pick up books and eat them up. And she loves the same books I do. In book blogger language that’s like an invitation to be my best friend.

Of course, what would the SF world be without SF Signal? It feels ridiculous to even mention them but, hey, this is a list of my favorite stuff, so they need to be included. SF Signal is where I go for most of my sci-fi and fantasy news, but I do have a special kind of love for some of their features. Their monthly book cover gallery of upcoming titles is both a blessing and a curse (all of the books you may want next month in one post! Yay! When the hell are you going to read them all? Uhm…). The SF Signal Podcast is hit or miss for me. I love the panel discussions, especially when authors and bloggers talk about their favorite books of some kind (the year/subgenre/etc.), but I usually zone out in the one-on-one interviews. Their new-ish column Special Needs in Strange Worlds is always interesting and well-written, their SF/F/H Link posts give me endless reading material for my daily commute, and let’s face it, the site totally deserves the two Hugo Awards it now has under its belt.

Favorite podcasts

After winning two Hugos, the SF Squeecast decided to withdraw from consideration for upcoming Hugo Awards, but if I had my way, they’d continue getting one every year. I have endless amounts of love for the cast and the books they talk about. Their podcasts are always funny, always positive, and they have great guests.

My second-favorite podcast is The Writer and the Critic with the two most charming (and filthy-mouthed) Australians you can imagine. Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond never disappoint me. Word of warning: They do spoil the books they talk about so it pays to have read them first. But once they got a discussion going, hilarity is guaranteed. They are also insightful and balance each other beautifully with Kirstyn being the voice of reason when Ian’s imagination runs away with him.

Finally, I discovered the charming Emma Newman’s podcast Tea and Jeopardy. She interviews authors but with a twist. Every episode “takes place” in a different setting. Emma sets it up beautifully, invites her guests for tea and cake, and then chats eloquently and charmingly about books and tea and whatever else comes to mind. This podcast is the reason I picked up one of Emma Newman’s books (guess what, it was as much fun as her podcast!).

Movies

I have a whole rant inside of me for this section but, in the end, I’d rather tell you about the few (very few!) SF/F movies I did enjoy this year instead of talking about why the others were so bad.

Pacific Rim needs to be on this list for obvious reasons. Yeah, it was stupid and full of plot holes. And yes, the dialogue was bad, and the plot weak, but it’s GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING GIANT MONSTERS! Sure, they tried to push Raleigh’s story line what with him getting to terms with his brother being dead, but to me, this was Mako Mori’s movie and I don’t care what anybody says.
If this isn’t everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure of the year, I’ll be very surprised.

This is the End was a complete surprise. I didn’t expect to like it. My boyfriend and I ended up laughing so hard we could barely breathe. Look at the line-up of actors and you know exactly what you’re getting. These guys play wacky versions of themselves while the apocalypse rages outside James Franco’s house. I couldn’t pick out a favorite scene if you held a gun to my head. Then again, I couldn’t pick out a scene that didn’t have me laughing stitches, so there you go. Just writing about this makes me want to watch it again.

There are some movies from 2013 I still want to watch:

  • Gravity
  • The Conjuring
  • Catching Fire (maybe…)
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Ender’s Game

Favorite TV Shows

This year saw the end of Matt Smith as the Doctor and, like many others, I weep at the thought. Let’s say goodbye to bow ties and the fez, and see what this Capaldi fellow brings to the Doctor Who table.

Luther was a total surprise. It’s not science fiction or fantasy but, damn, was that a good show. Idris Elba was brilliant and I couldn’t help but grin when I saw “Jane Eyre” by his side, playing a genius killer.

I started watcing Orphan Black and, yeah, it’s good. Some episodes were even great but I never had that feeling of can’t-possibly-stop-watching-now.

Adventure Time has rocked my world for the last year and I’d gladly watch any random episode over and over again. The Ice King writes in-story fanfiction about himself, for crying out loud. You can’t get much more meta. Favorite character: Marceline, the Vampire Queen.

A Young Doctor’s Notebook has gone mostly unnoticed but I love it so much. Daniel Radcliffe proves once and for all that he’s more than Harry Potter, and with John Hamm by his side, this show had me alternate between laughing and staring at the screen, completely shocked. Plus, it’s based on a short story collection by Mikhail Bulgakov (whose Master and Margarita I still desperately want to read).

Orange Is The New Black is amazing, The Newsroom may just be the show that leaves me most emotional every week, Parks and Recreation is still hilarious, Community will come back next year with some good writers (I hope) and Modern Family still makes me chuckle every week. I didn’t really warm to Almost Human, but I might just start watching Sleepy Hollow. The interwebs have copious amounts of love for that show so why not give it a try?

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New Year’s Resolutions

My reading resolutions are pretty much the same every year. I’d like to get close to reading 100 books this year, I’d like to make that about 50% of books by women. Last year’s debates and discussions also made me excited to read more fiction featuring POC and LGBT character, characters with disabilities, etc.

As far as reading challenges go, I’m doing the TBR challenge again (in the German book forum Literaturschock), I eagerly await to see what the Worlds Without End people have up their sleeve for 2014, and I’ll probably join in a bunch of reading challenges throughout the year.

That’s it. My monster end-of-the-year post is done. 2013 has been an excellent reading year and I hope 2014 continues in that vein. Happy New Year, everybody!

Monthly Wrap-Up: November 2013

Happy first of December everyone! This year’s Christmas frenzy marks the spot where I finally got back to normal reading speed. I finally found the time to read more again and discovered some great books on the way. In other geekiness, my boyfriend and I have been watching Doctor Who non-stop for the last week (“our” first doctor was Matt Smith and we wanted to see what the others were like) and we are loving it.
Starting today, I am participating in Carl’s 2014 Sci-Fi Experience, a two-month celebration of all things science fiction. My first book for the Experience is almost read (I’ll spoil: It’s Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao) and because it is so much fun, I can’t wait to read more science fiction during December and January.
But now, on to the books I’ve read in November and how I liked them. As always, click on the title will lead you to my full review.

Books read: 7
Pages read: 2398
Series started: Tao, Paradox, Patternist
Series continued: Discworld
Series finished:

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THE BEST

Octavia E. Butler – Wild Seed  8,5/10

wild seedAs a science fiction and fantasy lover, I’m surprised it took me this long to discover Octavia Butler. But the internet didn’t lie – she truly is amazing. This is the story of two immortals, Anyanwu and Doro. Doro is a tyrant who uses humans for his own breeding program, Anyanwu is the only other immortal he has ever met and has powers of her own.
Apart from the gripping story, I was deeply impressed and taken with how these two characters balance out and how they wage an emotional war against each other.  I can’t wait to continue reading the Patternist series and find out what becomes of Anyanwu.

Rachel Bach – Fortune’s Pawn  8/10

fortunes pawnThis was so much fun! Devi is a mercenary who is hired as security on a space ship cursed with bad luck. Not only does she have to deal with the sexy cook, she tumbles into a mystery much bigger than she ever expected. Space ships, aliens, fantastic action scenes and a bit of romance – you will find all of this here. Fortune’s Pawn is a light, fun, action-packed read with an endearing heroine who knows what she wants, who is clever but kind. I almost regret reading it so soon. The publication of the next volume (February 2014) seems very far away at this moment.

Terry Pratchett – Men at Arms  8/10

men at arms1I know, I know. My blog is beeing flooded by Terry Pratchett love but I can’t help it. I dare you to find your way into Discworld and stop reading after a book or two. Being a fan of the witches, I kept one last novel in their sub-series to look forward to and started reading the City Watch books instead. Commander Vimes is gruff but good-hearted, Carrot is too good to be true (but you just have to love him. All of Ankh-Morpork does, too!) and I particularly liked the new recruits, first and foremost Angua, the werewolf. I loved her right from the start and I think she makes a great addition to the Night Watch, not just because she is a woman, but because she adds a layer of complications to the entire sub-series.

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THE WORST

Yay! No bad books this month.

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THE REST

Terry Pratchett – Guards! Guards!  7/10

guards guardsThis was a re-read for me (or rather: re-listen) because I first read the book 10 years ago and didn’t remember much about it. Because the Night Watch books are next on my Discworld reading schedule, I thought I’d remind myself of who is who. Captain Vimes was never supposed to be the hero of these stories (Carrot was) but he steals the show wherever he goes. This drunk, depressed Captain of the Night Watch has low self-esteem and doesn’t really know why he’s doing his job anymore. But when a dragon shows up and devastates Ankh-Morpork, somebody has to step in. And believe me, it’s wonderful when Vimes and his guards do.
Not my favorite Discworld novel and, because it is one of the earlier ones, not as subtly clever as the later books, but still great fun and silliness. And it has Errol, the swamp dragon, which gives it a couple of brownie points.

Stephen King – The Shining  7/10

shiningI started reading this on Halloween because everybody needs a bit of creepiness around that time. As with so many Stephen King books, the monsters didn’t get to me that much. But the humans did! I will never understand how people dismiss King’s books. Few other authors do characterisation as well as he does. His characters come to life and, because they feel so real, the things they do seem all the more disturbing. I felt especially sorry for Danny, the child, and will try and read Doctor Sleep soon. Whatever happened to that kid after the events of The Shining, he must now be one messed-up man…

Jodi Lynn Anderson – Tiger Lily  7/10

tiger lilyI have an obsession with Peter Pan. Retellings, spin-offs, sequels and prequels are judged extremely harshly by me because how dare anyone ruin one of my favorite children’s stories ever? Anderson takes a look at one of the side characters who don’t get much attention. Tiger Lily had a life before Peter Pan and Wendy. It was the life of an outsider, in a village filled with prejudice and fear. Considering how quiet a book this was, there was a lot going on. We do get to see Peter (although he is nothing like the original) and the pirates, but we also get Englishmen trying to convert Tiger Lily’s tribe to Christianity and all that this ensues.
My favorite part was that Tinker Bell narrates the story. Her personality (again, very different from the original) is what kept me going, her emotions got to me and made me read on. This is not a riveting adventure story. It is a character study and a coming-of-age tale that, and while I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, I enjoyed it.

Susan Cooper – Seaward  6/10

seawardHere’s a rare occasion. A book I read but didn’t review. At first I thought, I have nothing to say about this, how can I write a review that’s more than 20 words long? Now I feel that I do have some things to say about it. I didn’t love it. But I didn’t dislike it either. What bothered me the most was how fast things happened. There was no time for exploring the repercussions of the events, everything happened bam-bam-bam without room for emotional growth. But all things considered, it is a beautiful children’s story. Meh… maybe I’ll end up writing more about it during the holidays.
At this point, I think I should have read this as a child to fully appreciate it. As an adult, it didn’t quite convince me.

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WHAT I’M READING IN DECEMBER:

  • Wesley Chu – The Lives of Tao
  • Mark Helprin – Winter’s Tale
  • Terry Pratchett – Feet of Clay
  • Space Opera (one of these:)
    • Iain M. Banks – Consider Phlebas
    • Timothy Zahn – Heir to the Empire
    • David Weber – A Beautiful Friendship

Monthly Wrap-Up: October 2013

This is strange… I had more time for reading in October yet I’ve read fewer books. Overall, I am very happy with my October books. They were all excellent reads and I didn’t get the feeling that I had in September, of not having time to read because work was so stressful. I did have time to read and I enjoyed every page.

Books read: 4
Pages read: 1324
Series started: Imperial Radch
Series continued:
Series finished:

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THE BEST

Ann Leckie – Ancillary Justice   9/10

ancillary justiceThe internet has exploded with praise for Ann Leckie and it is all justified. This amazing debut does so many things that should not work and makes them awesome. Breq – the last remnant of a formerly great AI spaceship named Justice of Toren – is looking for answers and revenge. She is joined by Seivarden – a character I fell madly in love with over the course of the novel – and shows us cultures that feel original and somehow familiar at the same time.
And don’t even get me started on what Ann Leckie does with language. She uses almost exclusively female pronouns, regardles of a character’s gender. This book makes you think, it makes you question your prejudices, and it’s a gripping story with great characters. Just read it!

Catherynne M. Valente – The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two   9/10

fairyland 3You’re not surprised about this, are you? Cat Valente is one of my current top two authors (the other one being Terry Pratchett) and I expected nothing less than perfection in  this third Fairyland volume. The beginning was a bit tough to read, mainly because it takes so long for September to reunite with her friends, Ell and Saturday. Once they are together again and have a plan to save Fairyland, everything comes together beautifully and Valente managed to rip my heart out again. Stopping a Moon Yeti from breaking the moon is not so easy, especially if time travelling friends are involved… A wonderful book, full of magic and love and beautiful language.

China Miéville – Railsea  8,5/10

railseaWhat a fun book. Miéville returns to YA fiction in this riff off Moby Dick. But it only starts that way. Sham travels the Railsea on the moler trail Medes, whose Captain obsessively hunts the great ivory mole that took her arm many years ago. But Sham stumbles into an adventure much bigger than a mere mole hunt.
Miéville plays with language in many ways. The omniscient narrator teases his readers, jumps between viewpoints, and generally adds to the pure fun of the story. I loved this book, particularly the ending. It could have gone terribly wrong but Miéville makes it work. Highly recommended, especially if you’re looking for a Miéville book to start with.

Nnedi Okorafor – Kabu Kabu 7/10

kabu kabuA short story collection by the author of the amazing Who Fears Death. I didn’t love all the stories, but I found enjoyment in most of them. My favorite was the science fiction story “Spider the Artist” about a Nigerian woman who makes friends with a robotic spider-creature that protects the pipelines from oil robbers.
Okorafor’s style has impressive range, her stories come in all shapes and sizes. There are those that read like folktales, fairytales, historical fiction, epic fantasy and science fiction. Her characters are equally diverse. Most protagonists are Nigerian (to some extent) women, and mos stories are set directly in Nigeria. It was just beautiful how the author showed the richness of a culture and a place that is rarely shown at all in speculative fiction. Recommended.

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No THE WORST and no THE REST this month. Like I said, all my books were pretty fantastic

Plans for November:

Jeff Vandermeer – Wonderbook
I’m almost done with this massive, beautiful, inspiring work of art. It is a guide on how to write speculative fiction but it is also so much more. Articles by many established authors and gorgeous (!) artwork on every page make it a book worth having, even if you just look at the pictures.

Stephen King – The Shining
Something creepy for Halloween. I only made it halfway through when November caught up with me but it reminds me again why I like Stephen King. He paints characters that feel so real you wouldn’t be surprised if they lived next door – although if I met Jack Torrance (or worse, Danny), I would probably run and hide. Can’t wait to finish this and then, finally, watch the movie. (Yes, I am one of those people who have never seen it. But I do know key scenes, including spoilers.)

Robin Hobb – Fool’s Fate
Now that a new Fitz and Fool trilogy is planned, I need to finish the existing books. At 800 pages, I feel a little daunted, but then again, I have yet to read a Hobb book  I don’t like.

Gail Carriger – Curtsies & Conspiracies
Sophronia strikes again. Gail Carriger returned to her quick-witted, funny self with the Finishing School series and I can’t wait to read this one.

Monthly Wrap-Up: September 2013

Oh well… as far as reading goes, this was my worst month in at least two years. Longer work-hours (and, with the promotion, a lot of new things to learn at work) have taken their toll on me. Most evenings, I was too tired to do anything other than plant myself on the couch and watch TV. The last week of September got a little better, though, and I think I’m getting used to the new job. Let’s hope I can catch up in October because there are so many great books here that I want to read.

Books read: 5
Pages read: 1199
Series started:
Series continued: Discworld
Series finished:

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THE BEST

Terry Pratchett – Lords and Ladies  8,5/10

lords and ladies1It is getting a bit ridiculous how at home I feel on Discworld. Lords and Ladies was one of my favorite Witches novels, not only because Magrat Garlick finally gets to kick some ass, but also because I loved Sir Terry’s take on fairies. It has great crossover-value as the wizards and the Librarian make an appearance as well. Plus, we get more Greebo! There can never be too much Greebo. I wouldn’t recommend it as a starter-novel because it continues certain events from the previous Witches novels, but honestly, with Discworld, there is no wrong book to start with.

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Not a single one. 🙂

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THE REST

Terry Pratchett & Paul Kidby – The Art of Discworld  8,5/10

art of discworldGranted, this is more for visual pleasure than reading, but each picture is accompanied by a little comment from either Terry, or Paul Kidby, or both of them. And as usual, Terry Pratchett’s way of talking about his creations is as amusing as the characters and places themselves. This was even more fun than Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook but I don’t feel I can write a proper review of it. Other than: “If you like Discworld, buy this”, there really isn’t much to say.

Terry Pratchett – Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook 7,5/10

Nanny Ogg's CookbookI have a soft spot in my heart for Nanny Ogg, the Discworld witch whose face resembles an old apple, and who likes quaffing beer and smoking cigars. Her cookbook is only half cookbook. The other half consists of her advice on etiquette. I wasn’t a huge fan of the recipes (some of them are hilarious, though) but the illustrations and the chapters on etiquette made it worthwhile.

Neil Gaiman – Fortunately, the Milk  7/10

fortunately the milkA fun little adventure for children, with a stegosaurus in a hot air balloon, time-travel, aliens, wumpires, and – of course – a bottle of milk. It’s not exactly Gaiman at his best, because I think his strength is dark, twisted fantasy, but I’m sure that it will amuse children all over the world. And because it is an ode to storytelling and Making Stuff Up, I can’t help but be happy to have read it.

Miyuki Miyabe – ICO: Castle in the Mist  6/10

ico1I put this in my (rarely used) love it and hate it category because there were two opposing forces at work. On the one hand, I loved the parts that were clearly invented and added by the author, the parts that never become clear from the game. But I ended up loathing the parts that she took directly from the PlayStation game. Endless, tedious descriptions of Ico’s surroundings, his passive nature, and the black-and-white characters (quite literally) got on my nerves after a while. So I wasn’t as charmed as I expected to be, but I can’t wait to read something that sprang entirely from the author’s imagination, with no video game as its basis.

divider1Plans for Ocober:

My first resolution is, of course, to read more again. I believe I’ve finally found my rhythm and my way around the new tasks my job has set me. This was really my first month in a new position (for the first time in my life, I’m someone’s boss) and it took all of September to adjust to that.
I do have a few definite reading plans for October. Literaturschock, “my” German book forum, hosts monthly themes. October is called “More! More! MORE!” – meaning: read more by an author you admire and enjoy. I picked China Miéville, although I discovered a number of writers this year whose back catalogues I have yet to read.

  • China Miéville – Railsea
  • Mark Z. Danielewski – House of Leaves
    Yeah, I’m still working on that one. This mind-fuck of a book has now reached the point where I can turn the pages really quickly (because there is only one paragraph on each) but it requires enormous concentration. And good sight… some of the footnotes are miniscule.
  • Nnedi Okorafor – Kabu-Kabu
    A short-story collection I got via NetGalley. The first two stories were promising. I’ll make this my subway book.

The rest is up to chance and my mood. Although, if it arrives on time (preorders sometimes don’t work out the way I planned), I’ll be dropping everything for Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two. But then, you already knew that, didn’t you…