#Mythothon 4 – Week One

This readathon was just what I needed to get me back on track. The year 2021 hasn’t been going too well – work is insanely busy and stressful, I still haven’t been vaccinated, we are currently in another mini-lockdown, and after over a year of this pandemic, I have to admit it’s starting to get to me psychologically, even though I’ve been super lucky (still got my job, can work easily from home, etc.). Anyway, my reading was going very slowly and I definitely needed a pick-me-up and something to motivate me and remind me why I love reading. Enter Mythothon!

How the week went

The beginning of the month is always stressful at work. Add to that the funeral my partner and I had to attend on April 1st and you’ve got a pretty bad start to the month. But it did give us a chance to visit some family whom we hadn’t seen since Christmas and it meant two train rides with plenty of time for reading. It’s a very small consolation but I’m trying to focus on the positives.

I wasn’t really sure which book to start with, but as I had just finished an audiobook and needed a new one and my first and second choices weren’t available (Elatsoe and Into the Heartless Wood), I went with Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (my review goes up on Monday). It’s read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, who also read Raybearer which I ADORED, so the decision was quickly made. Abbott-Pratt does a fantastic job and sounds very different than she did in Raybearer (which is as it should be). The story itself is also engaging and fun and does a really god job of showing the casual, every-day racism that Black people are confronted with. The focus of the book is protagonist Bree entering into a secret society with the descendents of King Arthur and his Knights. There’s magic and romance, danger and prophecy, and although I’m not super hooked on the King Arthur references (the magic could be based on literally anything else), I like how Deonn handled the themes of loss and grief!

My second book was a re-read but my first time was so long ago that I didn’t remember much of the plot anyway. Tamora Pierce’s Alanna: The First Adventure was just as much fun as I had hoped. A very quick, child-friendly read that may be simple and straightforward but also did some unexpected things for a book published in 1983. For example, it was the first fantasy book I ever read – especially one written for a younger audience – that acknowledged and dealt with girls having a period. The girl disguised as a boy trope is used often and I enjoy it a lot. But I’ve never come across one that shows us how the disguised girl deals with her monthly cycle while pretending to be a boy. So bonus points for that!
Even though I definitely had some issues with the storytelling – things happen soooo fast! – and looked at other aspects through a different lens – like what if a trans kid read this book? – I had fun reading it and I liked the boost it gave me for this readathon.

And because it was so easy and quick to read, I jumped right into the next book in the series, In the Hand of the Goddess. This was another super fast read and although I had fun with it, my inner critic started grumbling more and more. A lot of time passes in this short novel but it never really felt like it. Just being told that something happens a year later doesn’t convey the passage of time when everything happens so fast. There’s a war and then, ten pages later, it’s already over. It’s winter but suddenly, spring has passed again. Alanna grows older and romance is suddenly a thing. The main story arc of Alanna’s training to become a knight is finished, however, and I’m curious to see what adventures she will have in the two remaining books. So despite its flaws, I find these books enjoyable and perfect to get you out of a reading slump. I will continue the series and maybe even finish it during this readathon.

I’m just getting all the quick and easy reads out of the way so I have more time for the chunky ones later in the month. “A Dead Djinn in Cairo” is a short story by P. Djèlí Clark that I found fun but not great. I really enjoyed his novella The Haunting of Tram Car 051 which is technically set after this story in an alternate Cairo where djinn live among humans and people have evolved into a gear-punky society that’s way ahead of the West. Both of these tales are set before Clark’s upcoming novel A Master of Djinn which I’m looking forward to soooo much. So you see, I just had to catch up on the Fatma el-Sha’arawi series. The story was too short to make me really get into the world building or Fatma’s character but it gave me a taste of what’s to come and I look forward to exploring this alternate Cairo more.

I also finished a non-readathon book this week which turned out to be really good. It was one of my five star predictions for the year, I’ve been meaning to read it forever and I’m glad I finally did. Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre (review to come next week) has won both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, it shows up on a lot of Best SFF lists, and it’s pretty short. So I really don’t know why it took me so long to pick it up. But this post-apocalyptic book about a wandering healer and her snakes had a lot going for it. A world that slowly reveals itself to the reader – at first it feels almost like fantasy, then turns more and more into sci-fi – a strong protagonist, LGBTQIA+ themes (this was published in 1978 so I was positively surprised), and a lot of emotional impact for a book that’s so short.
Despite it’s slightly episodic nature, I suspect this is a book that will stay in my mind, make me think, and that I’ll probably grow fonder of over time.

Books finished:

Currently reading:

  • Maria V. Snyder – Poison Study (Sir Tristan)
  • A. G. Slatter – All the Murmuring Bones (Nimue Team Read)

Other activities

I started watching Merlin the TV show because it’s on Netflix and I’ve never seen it and, well, it goes with the readathon. I’m only a few episodes in and while I don’t find it particularly original yet, nor well done in terms of production value, I do like the characters and the actors playing Merlin, Arthur, and Gwen. Also, Giles from Buffy is King Uther Pendragon and I keep expecting him to go to the library and look up a demon. 🙂

Plans for next week

I guess I’ll just go ahead and finish the Song of the Lioness, right? I’m also very much looking forward to the other books on my Mythothon TBR but as the Hugo Award finalists will be announced on Tuesday, I guess I’ll be trying to make a lot of the nominees fit the readathon prompts so I can get a head start on reading them. On the other hand, WorldCon has been moved to December this year, so there’s really no stress and plenty of time to read the finalists.

I’m approaching next week in a pretty relaxed way and I’ll pick up the books I’m most in the mood for.

Go Team Nimue!

Mythothon Round 4 Sign-Up and TBR

Aaaaah, it’s readathon time! As I’ve spent the beginning of the year with many a chunky book, and I picked some other books that simply take me longer to read (Harry Potter in Spanish may be fun, but with my rusty language skills, 200 pages can last me a long time :)). So I really look forward to planning a month of reading as many books as I can, catching up with all the books that had to wait.

So I’m joining Mythothon 4 hosted by the wonderful Louise at Foxes & Fairy Tales. The readathon will run throughout the month of April in your time zone.

The Rules

As with most readathons, there are teams to join and prompts to fulfill. The readathon theme may be inspired by Arthurian legend, but the books don’t have to be mythology-basedor retellings of King Arthur. They just have to fulfill the prompts. You can even double up on prompts (reading one book that fits two prompts would fulfill both).
However, I’ve always enjoyed making things difficult for myself so I will forbid myself to double up on prompts. One prompt, one book is the way I’m going.

For Twitter updates, use the hashtag #mythothon.
I don’t know about you but I always love browsing people’s updates and TBR posts during a readathon. I have so much fun cheering on my team (and, let’s be honest, the other teams as well) and seeing what everyone is reading. It also helps me find inspiration when I’m struggling to find a book for a certain prompt.

The teams

There are three teams to choose from and each comes with its very own first reading prompt. Initially, I wanted to join Team Morgan le Fay, but all the books which fit the prompt are 800 pages long (not a good idea for a readathon!), and I have one book that I’m crazy looking forward to which fits the Nimue prompt perfectly. So although I want to give some love to Morgan le Fay and morally grey characters, I’m joining Team Nimue.

NIMUE — Read a book set at sea.
A. G. Slatter – All the Murmering Bones


MERLIN— Read a book with a witch or wizard.


MORGAN LE FAY — Read a story about a villainous, misunderstood or morally grey character.


The prompts + my tbr

The prompts are, of course, inspired by the Knights of the Round Table. There is a total of 12 prompts plus the final one to end the quest, the Camelot prompt.

I have quite a few books to choose from as my TBR is beyond ridiculous, but that just means more fun and choices for all of these prompts.

KING ARTHUR — Read a book featuring royalty.
Theodora Goss – Snow White Learns Witchcraft (Snow White is a princess and I’m sure there will be more royalty in the fairy tale retellings and poems of this collection)


SIR LANCELOT (Arthur’s greatest companion) — Read a book from a favourite author.
Catherynne M. Valente – Under in Mere (Arthurian legend told by my favourite author, what could be more perfect for this prompt?)


SIR GAWAIN (Known as the Green Knight) — Read a book with the colour green on the cover or in the title.
Joanna Ruth Meyer – Into the Heartless Wood (as green a cover as you’ll find)


SIR PERCIVAL (the original hero in the quest for the Grail) — Read a book with a shiny cover.
Nicole Givens Kurtz  – Kill Three Birds, Jaida Jones & Dani Bennett – Master of One (I only have e-books of both of these but they look like they’ve got shiny covers)


SIR BORS (Arthur’s successor) — Read a sequel.
Amie Kaufmann & Jay Kristoff – Memento (Illuminae #0.5), Tamora Pierce – In the Hand of the Goddess (The Song of the Lioness #2)


SIR LAMORAK (one of the best knights but overlooked in the chivalric romance genre) — Read a book you think is under-hyped.
Katherine Arden – Small Spaces (very beloved by people who’ve read it but I don’t hear a lot of people talk about Arden’s children’s books)


SIR KAY (Arthur’s foster brother) — Read a book with a significant sibling relationship.
Rena Rossner – The Sisters of the Winter Wood (titular sisters), Tamora Pierce – Alanna: The First Adventure (brother and sister protagonists)


SIR GARETH (the youngest knight) — Read a recent addition to your TBR.
Sarah Gailey – The Echo Wife, P. Djèlí Clark – A Dead Djinn in Cairo


SIR BEDIVERE (returns Excalibur to Nimue) — Read a book with something pointy on the cover.
Andrzej Sapkowski – Time of Contempt (pointy sword and lots of teeth)


SIR GALAHAD (“the most perfect of all knights”) — Read a book with a title that starts with a “G”.
Roshanki Chokshi – The Gilded Wolves, Carolyn Turgeon – Godmother


SIR TRISTAN (falls in love with Isolde) — Read a book with a romance that should be legendary.
Chloe Gong – These Violent Delights (Romeo and Juliet retelling, so bound to be rather epic), Maria V. Snyder – Poison Study (found this on recommendation lists, probably heavy on the romance)


SIR GAHERIS (“the least well spoken of all his peers”) — Listen to an audiobook or read part of a story aloud.
Whichever audiobook I’m starting in April. Not making plans for this one at the moment.


CAMELOT — Read a book set in a place you’ve never visited. 
Nnedi Okorafor – Ikenga (set in Nigeria)

The Group Read

The group read isn’t compulsory but I have been interested in this book for a while, so I hope I can join and read along with the other participants.

The book is Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, a modern spin on King Arthur. I’ve heard interesting things about this one, but most reviews agree that there are a lot of twists and the plot is fast-paced. So even though I’m not a huge Urban Fantasy fan (nor a big fan of King Arthur), I think this will be a fun ride.

So this is my rough TBR for the month of April. As you can see, I’ve picked more than one book for many of the prompts because I just need that little bit of freedom to decide what to read when the time comes. Depending on how well I do at the beginning of the readathon, I may go for the shorter or two possible books, and depending on my mood I may choose one over the other.

That said, I’m looking forward to all of the books I’ve picked and I am super excited for my first readathon of 2021. Once April is over, all I’ll be doing is  reading Hugo-nominated works, so this is a great opportunity for catching up on other things before I have to focus on award reading again.

My 2020 Five Star Predictions: How did they hold up?

In January, I dared to make some five star predictions about books that I thought I would end up loving. This was brave insofar as I often don’t even read the books I plan to, despite having an entire year to do it. But I did surprisingly well, not only in reading the books but also in predicting my own rating. Not all my predictions turned into five-star-reads, but they were all books I enjoyed.

5 STARS: Rivers Solomon – An Unkindness of Ghosts

So much yes! This was the book I was most unsure about so it made me even happier that it blew me away from the very start. Rivers Solomon is such an inriguing writer. They create vivid characters, do worldbuilding effortlessly, and manage to deal with a myriad of topics all while telling an engaging story. This generation ship story has so many layers and one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve ever read. Go pick it up!

4-ish STARS: Mishell Baker – Impstor Syndrome

This might have been a five star book, had I read it sooner. Waiting as long as I did between books 2 and 3 was definitely a mistake. It took me a long time to figure out who was who and what had happened before so my enjoyment was delayed for at least a third of the book. Then my mood may also have contributed to this only being a good read, not a great one.
I still wholeheartedly recommend this trilogy, however, only with the caveat that you read them closer together than I did. The first two books were standout novels which both got five stars from me. This one ended up with four-ish.

5 STARS: Laini Taylor – Muse of Nightmares

I have to admit, I was worried for a second, that this would “only” turn out to be a four-star-read. The beginning of the book takes its time, re-establishing the events of the first book, letting readers get back into the world, but once the plot kicks off, it goes non-stop until the end. And yes, this did end up getting five stars from me because this book was so close to perfect, it broke my heart. I was constantly close to tears, I cared so much about the characters, and I couldn’t see any way for the story to end well. I’m not telling you how it did end, but whether good or bad or bittersweet, the ending was satisfying and fitting. I love it and I want more Laini Taylor NOW!

5 STARS: N. K. Jemisin – The Stone Sky

Oooooh, how daring of me, predicting I will love an N. K. Jemisin novel… I admit, I was playing it rather safe, both with Laini Taylor and N. K. Jemisin, but this was the book I was most certain would end up getting 5 stars. And it did.
I did take a while to find back into the world of the Broken Earth but by the time I had remembered all the little world building tidbits from the previous books, I was highly engaged again and hoped along with Essun, Nassun, and the others that there would be a way to save the world and themselves. The ending was such a beautiful thing, bittersweet and magical and bringing all the elements together. I can say very little without spoiling but this trilogy is simply mindblowing and deserving of all its Hugo Awards.

??? STARS: Marlon James – Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Here’s the outlier. I have read exactly 50% of this book and found it highly interesting and immersive. But the world James set up isn’t exactly a happy place and the characters are complicated beings whose motives aren’t immediately understood. Plus, the plot is difficult to follow, the language is demanding, and just everything about this book makes it a Hard Read.
Now, I’m always up for a challenge and I plan to finish this book eventually. It may even still turn into a five star read but only if I pick it up at the right time. Pushing myself to finish it just so I can say I did will not help my enjoyment. So I’m waiting until the mood strikes to dive back into this African-inspired dark tale of mythical beings, kidnapped children, mysteries and magic.

And that’s it! This little experiment was actually a lot more fun than I thought so I’m now going to prepare the next round. For 2021, I’ll be a little more daring and even choose books by authors I don’t already know. After all, it’s easy to predict a five-star-read from a favorite author.

Best of 2020: My Favorite Books of the Year

What a year this has been. At times it felt like we fell into an actual science fiction novel. We lived (and are still living) through a pandemic, the US answered the murder of George Floyd and many others by protesting against police brutality and a broken system, the US also elected a new president, there was a terrorist attack on my city, my partner lost three family members, and we spent most of the year working from home, isolated from friends and family, and trying to keep it together somehow.

But 2020 also had its good sides and I think it’s important that we keep reminding ourselves and each other of that. People came together while staying apart in a multitude of creative ways, they stood together against violence, they used their democratic right to vote, we support and lift each other up, and those of us who are readers found solace in our hobby and the fantastical worlds into which it lets us escape.

I have read so many amazing books this year. Award season will be a horror show because how can anyone pick one favorite among so many brilliant, original, heartbreaking works? As every year, a few books stood out… except this year “a few” is a higher number than usual. This list will be rather long but it’s not my fault authors published such exceptional stories this year.


Favorite Books Published in 2020

Novels

This year has been phenomenal when it comes to SFF novels (even if everything else was pretty terrible). Granted, there are still many 2020 publications I haven’t read yet but out of the ones I have read, there was just a single one that I think of as merely good. All the rest were stellar and make me dread Hugo nomination time. Which ones do I leave off my ballot?

 

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin is an obvious choice. Jemisin has been producing brilliant work for years and although this is her first foray into Urban Fantasy, I knew I would love it. I just didn’t know how much. When the city of New York comes to life through avatars of its burroughs, they have to come together to fight an ancient evil. That may sound simple, but  Jemisin’s way of painting the city as a living, breathing entity, turns this into a proper adventure with diverse characters, lots of social commentary, and – as always – great writing.

Alix E. Harrow‘s latest novel The Once and Future Witches took me a while to get into. Its three protagonist sisters had too many POV jumps for my taste, but Harrow found her rhythm eventuall and delivered a beautiful, heartwarming tale of sisterhood, the fight for women’s rights, and witchcraft. A love of stories and fairy tales and women working together permeates this whole book. And the way the characters are allowed to grow just made me warm and fuzzy inside. I may have started sceptical but I ended up adoring this book.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is the author’s long-awaited second novel after the mind-blowing Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell although it has nothing to do with that book. Piranesi lives in a labyrinth of halls, lined with statues. This book is best read without knowing anything about it because it is a riddle and a mystery, poetically told, with a twist along the way. This is clearly an accomplished, amazing short novel but the emotional resonance is definitely fading over time.

The First Sister by debut author Linden A. Lewis wasn’t a perfect book. There were some character and plot aspects that could have been done better, but ultimately, I just enjoyed reading this so very much that I mostly ignored the things that didn’t make sense. An interstellar war between Gaeans and Icarii (Earth/Mercury people and Venus/Mars people) is shown through three POVs, who are all intriguing and face very big problems. Points for diversity (including the nonbinary audiobook narrator for the nonbinary POV character) as well as setting up a world I want to return to.

Another debut was The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. This multiverse story delivers plot twist after plot twist while we follow protagonist Cara as she visits neighbouring universes that are similar to ours but not quite the same. Her lower class status and her unrequited love for her superior doesn’t help but over the course of a very exciting Mad Max-esque plot, it’s wonderful to watch Cara grow and find her place in the world(s).

I’m so glad I loved Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia. I was in the minority finding her Gods of Jade and Shadow only okay but now I can finally join all the other fans in squeeing about her foray into gothic horror. Set in 1950s Mexico, Noemí visits the isolated house where her cousin lives with her husband. Needless to say, strange things happen there and the family is anything but welcoming. I loved the atmosphere and the setting, Noemí’s character growth and the slow burn romance… Seriously, everything about this book was amazing and I highly recommend it for someone looking for a spooky read that offers more than just scary moments or monsters.

Is anyone surprised that Martha Wells’ Network Effect made this list? No? Didn’t think so. It’s the first full length Murderbot novel and while you get much of the same stuff we’ve come to expect and love from a Murderbot story, this one goes deeper. I particularly enjoyed Murderbot’s voice and its reunion with ART. What really made this into a favorite was the tender moments between Murderbot and its humans or even Murderbot and other AI characters. As much as it’s not human, it is through its humanity that we connect to Murderbot and care for it.


Young Adult/Middle Grade

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is the kind of YA debut that every YA author should aspire to write. It defies the tropes I find annoying and plays with the ones I like. Young Tarisai has been raised by her mother who is only called the Lady, and she has been raised for one purpose only: To get close to the prince and then kill him. But Tarisai finds the prince totally nice and doesn’t want to kill a kid. The premise makes you assume certain things (romance between her and the prince, magical solution to this “you have to kill him” problem, etc.) but let me tell you that you will not see anything coming. Ifueko plays with the readers’ expectations, throws in a lovely found family, beautiful world building and an ending that promises an even more epic sequel.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson seems to be a divisive book. I wouldn’t have thought I’d like a witchy story set in a puritanical village at all, but Henderson’s story telling is so engaging and her protagonist so easy to like that I couldn’t put it down. For a debut novel especially, I was impressed with the way relationships between the characters were portrayed. I’m not a big romance reader either, but I adored watching the people in this book come together slowly and bond over important things. There’s none of the cheap YA tropes here. Plus, the witches are properly scary and the curses Immanuelle has to deal with are pretty gruesome. A perfect Halloween read.


Novellas

The standout novella for me this year is P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout, a book that immediately grabbed me, kept me engaged and entertained throughout, and has a powerful story to tell. I was all the more impressed with how fleshed-out the characters were and how much world building was put into such a slim volume. Clark is definitely an author to watch and I hope this novella gets him a Hugo Award.

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings is Australian Gothic and captured me with its tark fairy tale vibe. Ignore that first over-the-top flowery chapter and just roll with it. You’ll get a tale of interconnected stories that seem very weird at first but all make sense in the end. This was an incredibly atmospheric read that shows how Jennings is not only a great illustrator but also a writer that I’m going to watch.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo doesn’t need any more recommendations. Everyone who’s read it loved it and for good reason. The way Vo chose to tell this story – in sort of flashbacks inspired by objects – is one reason it was so good. But the actual story it tells is also breathtaking. The plot itself isn’t all that epic but it makes you think about how we deal with history, whose stories get told (and whose should get told) and what happens to the people on the sidelines of a war.


Favorite Audiobooks

I swear it is a coincidence that all my favorite audiobooks of the year are written and narrated by Black authors and narrators. I didn’t even realize it until I listed them up here. My challenge to read more Black authors definitely contributed to me picking these books up, but this is where I want to share the amazing work narrators did with these stories.

N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became was one of my top books of the year but the audiobook turned it into something else. Not only does Robin Miles do a brilliant job when it comes to different voices and conveying emotions, but this audiobook also has a few sound effects and music mixed in. Don’t worry, it only happens occasionally but it did help me get immersed in the story. I would have loved this as a paper book as well but if you’re still unsure which version to go with, definitely pick up the audiobook.

In The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, we follow three very different female characters living in very different time periods and settings. I never thought I would love this book as much as I did but I should have known better. Hopkinson effortlessly weaves magic and Caribbean myth into her tale, and there’s even a real historical figure in this one. Bahni Turpin switches characters beautifully, which includes accents and timbre, and really helped paint a picture of this story in my mind.

Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts is a challenging book for any narrator to do but Cherise Boothe did a brilliant job. Nnot only does she have to switch between characters of different genders, protagonist Aster is also neurodiverse and thus delivers certain lines in a manner that seems almost cold to other people. Yet Boothe managed to make Aster lovable while maintaining her speech pattern. It’s also just a great story.

Rosewater by Tade Thompson is a difficult book to follow because of its jumping around in time. Not having a paper book to read along makes this even harder, but Bayo Gbadamosi did his very best to help us keep the timelines and characters straight. This very different alien “invasion” story may not have the most likable lead character but I found it enthralling from beginning to end and I can’t wait to find out how the trilogy ends.


Favorite Books Published pre-2020

Without a doubt, the three books that touched me the most in 2020 were Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I’m noticing a concerning similarity in my favorite books this year. Almost all of them managed to make me cry…

I read Doomsday Book right whent he first lockdown started in Austria and when it hit home all around the world that this pandemic was, indeed, a global thing that meant nothing would be as it was before. The book is about an incredibly realistic epidemic (I could literally compare the fictional government’s reaction to real world goverments) as well as the plague. Time-travelling historian Kivrin visits the Middle Ages but things don’t go exactly as planned. Connie Willis made me fall in love with her characters only to put them through hell. At the same time, she shows the best of humanity and the reason there is always hope. I cried a lot reading this book.

The Sparrow was something else entirely. A first-contact story that sends Jesuit priests and scientists to an alien planet in order to find the creatures whose singing has been received on Earth. This beautiful tale of a found family sets you up for disaster right from the start. Told in two time lines, you follow the mission itself as well as its aftermath through the eyes of sole survivor Emilio Sandoz. I’ll be honest, I felt like crying throughout the entire book because it’s just got that tone to it. But by the end I thought I had prepared myself for certain things. I was not prepared. This story had me sobbing by the end and left me with a massive book hangover.

Much more hopeful, albeit also dystopian, was An Unkindness of Ghosts. This was one of my five star predictions and I must say, I totally nailed it. Aster lives on a generation ship that is organized vaguely like the Antebellum South. Social injustice, terrible conditions for the people on the lower decks, and Aster’s unusual personality made this an engaging read. Add to that fantastic world building, a mystery to be solved, and Aster’s relationship with her friends and colleague, and you’ve got a book that will stick with you. Rivers Solomon effortlessly adds discussions of gender and sexuality, neurodiversity and class difference into an exciting tale which – thankfully – didn’t leave me crying at the end, but rather with a sense of hope and satisfaction.

Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Fate was long overdue. If you’ve read the Tawny Man trilogy you can guess why I stopped reading after The Golden Fool. I was a little worried that I had forgotten all the important plot points but Robin Hobb is a skilled writer who reminded me of everything important in the first chapter, all without info dumping. It was like I had never left. And so I followed these characters I already loved onto a quest that promised doom for at least one of them. I did cry when certain events came to pass but Hobb managed to deliver an ending that felt both realistic and hopeful – something that’s not exactly the norm for Fitz. No matter how many years pass between books or which series you follow, you just can’t go wrong with Robin Hobb. She is a master of the genre.

Now Kindred by Octavia E. Butler was only my second Butler book but it made me want to go and read everything she’s written. This story of a young Black woman who is randomly transported back in time to a slave plantation does everything you expect plus a little more. Butler doesn’t waste time exploring the time travel mechanisms of her story – they don’t matter – but rather focuses on character and setting. Dana suddenly has to deal with a time when people like her were seen as little more than animals, so this book is exactly as hard to read as you think. It was a powerful story, though, that showed all characters as faceted, believable human beings, as well as highlighting aspects of slavery that especially impact women. This was not a fun read but I can’t recommend it highly enough!

I’ve had some starting problems with Laini Taylor but this year, I gave The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy another chance and promptly fell into it and read all three books. Daughter of Smoke and Bone still wasn’t a complete hit but worked better for me on the re-read. Days of Blood and Starlight showed that Laini Taylor can expand her fictional world without losing sight of her protagonists, and Dreams of Gods and Monsters brought the tale to its epic, bittersweet conclusion. What I love most about this series is the feeling of myth and lore and history that pervades it all. Even though we learn a lot about Chimaera and Seraphim, it always feels like there’s more hiding just around the corner. The relationships in this story were amazing, both the romantic ones as well as the friendships and found families that are made along the way. Oh, and of course, it’s written in beautiful, lyrical prose.

I also used this year to finish the Strange the Dreamer duology by picking up Muse of Nightmares and, boy, did that book rip my heart out. Again, Laini Taylor expands an already intriguing fantasy world and shows us just how much more there is out there. She also adds some new characters that put me through an emotional roller coaster. What I love most about these two books is probably the villains – or lack thereof. There are antagonists but as we get to see the world through their eyes, it becomes clear they’re not Evil. For the entirety of the book, I was sure things would end in tragedy and there couldn’t possibly be a happy end. And I’m not saying things end all that happily (at least not for everyone) but again, there is a tone of hope as well as the satisfaction of having read a complete story. The prose is otherworldly. Serioulsy, I could put quotes from this duology all over my walls.

Francis Hardinge’s Deeplight swept me off my feet a little unexpectedly. I knew Hardinge was a good writer with very original ideas but then she just goes and delivers a YA novel with truly complicated characters and relationships, set in a world with dead underwater gods, with a deaf character, multiple twists, and an exciting plot? Count me in for more Francis Hardinge because this was a pretty perfect YA novel if you ask me. I’m still thinking about some adventurous moments from this book and then I’m impressed yet again at how well constructed it was.
The Lodestar Award went to Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer which I also adored, so shoutout to that book.

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He was a twisty emotional rollercoaster that definitely stands out from other YA novels in that it doesn’t focus on the romance, puts its protagonist through seriously difficult choices, and delivers great solutions to its core mysteries. If you want a fast-paced book that nonetheless takes time to develop its characters, pick this up. Unfortunately, it ends a bit abruptly and as of today, there’s no sequel in sight. Here’s to hoping we’ll get one eventually.


I don’t know about you, but I’m going to call this a pretty successful reading year. I don’t think I’ve ever had this many favorites, especially among the new publications. Many of these books will end up on my Hugo nomination ballot – I’ll post it when the time comes. And who knows, until then I may have caught up on even more awesome books.

If you’ve posted a best of the year list, let me know in the comments. I love looking through other people’s favorite reads of the year. I’m especially interested in 2020 publications that I might have missed or should prioritize. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite Bookish Quotes

Life has been a bit stressful lately, so I haven’t posted as much as I would have liked. But I’m still reading and catching up on 2020 releases, so you can expect new reviews soon. Pinkie promise!

Until then, I thought I’d participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, which is all about bookish quotes. I dove deep into my reading history and, unsurprisingly, ended up with quotes from my favorite books and authors.

My favorite bookish quotes

LAINI TAYLOR – STRANGE THE DREAMER

Because Laini Taylor is a genius and Strange the Dreamer is full of beautiful quotes, I cheated and chose two:

“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

– Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor


CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE – DEATHLESS

It comes as no surprise that my very favorite author is featured on this list. She may make more than one appearance… Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless broke my heart in so many ways, it’s ridiculous. And while there are many lines in that book that I can re-read over and over again without them losing their power, here’s my favorites:

“You will always fall in love, and it will always be like having your throat cut, just that fast.”

– Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente


LAINI TAYLOR – LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES

And I have to add another Laini Taylor book. Her collection of shorter works Lips Touch: Three Times is the reason I gave this author another chance when I bounced off another of her books hard. I’m so glad I tried again because now she’s one of my favorites.

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“There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? Yes.
Them.
The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishful girls.”

– Goblin Fruit by Laini Taylor


CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE – THE FAIRYLAND SERIES

So, every single one of the five volumes in the Fairyland Series is filled to the brim with quotable lines. I have chosen only a few to give you a taste. If you haven’t yet, go try and read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and then devour the rest of the series because it is filled with the kind of wonder you last felt as a kid, plus Cat Valente’s trademark lyrical prose.

Summer Reading: Catherynne M. Valente's Fairyland Series — home | school | life

“A silent Library is a sad Library. A Library without patrons on whom to pile books and tales and knowing and magazines full of up-to-the-minute politickal fashions and atlases and plays in pentameter! A Library should be full of exclamations! Shouts of delight and horror as the wonders of the world are discovered or the lies of the heavens uncovered or the wild adventures of devil-knows-who sent romping out of the pages. A Library should be full of now-just-a-minutes and that-can’t-be-rights and scientifick folk running skelter to prove somebody wrong. It should positively vibrate with laughing at comedies and sobbing at tragedies, it should echo with gasps as decent ladies glimpse indecent things and indecent ladies stumble upon secret and scandalous decencies! A Library should not shush; it should roar!”

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

 

“A book is a door, you know. Always and forever. A book is a door into another place and another heart and another world.”

– The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente


TERRY PRATCHETT – REAPER MAN

And another infinitely quotable writer appears on this list. Terry Pratchett was a treasure and a fountain of insight into human nature. The fact that he holds up a mirror to our society with humor only makes his books better! Reaper Man is one of his books that touched me particularly because even though Death takes a vacation in this story, his job is never really done, is it?

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

– Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett


THEODORA GOSS – IN THE FOREST OF FORGETTING

I discovered Theodora Goss via Cat Valente because they both write mythpunk. The short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting blew me away with its imaginative stories, deep themes, and of course, beautiful quotes.

“This is the sort of thing people like: the implication that, despite their minivans and microwaves, if they found the door in the wall, they too could enter fairyland.”

Pip and the Fairies by Theodora Goss


MAGGIE STIEFVATER – THE RAVEN BOYS

Maggie Stiefvater is one of those author who can pull you into a story that you follow along nicely, and then she hits you with a line so perfect it’s like a punch in the guts. But, you know, in a good way. I urge you to read her entire Raven Cycle, and then throw in the Scorpio Races and have your heart torn out. Because why should it just be me. I would have added my favorite quote from that book as well but it’s the very last line and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

“Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.”

– The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater


TERRY PRATCHETT – NATION

Come on, let me have another Pratchett quote! This is a non-Discworld novel so if academic wizards, headology-using witches, or cynical city guards aren’t for you, pick this one up. Nation has so many layers and all of them are beautiful. Ever since I read it, I’ve been giving this book as a gift to everyone I could think of.

“Someone had to eat the first oyster, you know.
Someone looked at a half shell full of snot and was brave.”

 

“Take one strip of the vine lengthwise and yes, it needs the strength of two men to pull it apart. But weave five strands of it into a rope and a hundred men can’t break it. The more they pull, the more it binds together and the stronger it becomes. That is the Nation.”

– Nation by Terry Pratchett


YSABEAU S. WILCE – THE FLORA SEGUNDA TRILOGY

This criminally underread trilogy is such a gem! Flora Segunda, Flora’s Dare, and Flora’s Fury are the kind of books that make you feel like coming home after a long trip. You fall into this world’s alternate Calfornia and follow young Flora and her best friend Udo on crazy adventures. There’s twists and turns and quite a few emotional moments. Wilce’s use of language is quite brilliant and sets this series apart from other Middle Grade/YA tales.

Paperback Wonderland: August 2013

“I lit the lantern, ate a bar of chocolate, put on dry socks, and felt much better. You’d be amazed, said Nini Mo, how much dry socks matter.”

– Flora’s Dare by Ysabeau S. Wilce

 

“It’s like Nini Mo said, They may be snapperheads, but they are my snapperheads.”

– Flora’s Fury by Ysabeau S. Wilce


GENEVIEVE VALENTINE – MECHANIQUE

This was one of those surprise books that I didn’t expect too much of and then it swept me away with its prose, its intricate characters, and the story it tells. Putting it on this list makes me want to re-read it immediately. Mechanique was so good, you guys! And it didn’t get nearly the attention it should have.

One day the wolf was wild enough to run into the forest near their camp, hunting something only it could sense. A week later when they pulled down the tent, the wolf had not come back. “Call it, if you want,” Boss told Jonah. “We’ll wait.”
That night Jonah stood for an hour at the edge of the camp, looking into the darkness of the woods. He came back empty-handed.
Ayar frowned. “It didn’t come?”
Jonah said, “I didn’t call.”

– Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine


 

Series Crackdown 10.0 – Sign-Up and TBR

As I am not participating in the NEWTs readathon this August, I thought I’d use the time for a different one. The Series Crackdown has been around for a long time, but this is my first time participating. Keeping up with, let alone finishing series is something many of us are really bad at, so this is the perfect readathon to meet some reading goals, finally pick up that next volume, and feel the satisfaction of having read an entire trilogy/series/duology.

The Basics

Normally, this is a 10-day-readathon but because this year is its tenth anniversary, it will run from 1st – 31st August. The point is to tackle all those series that are gathering dust on the shelves. Whether you start a completely new series, continue one you’ve already started or finally read the very last book – let’s give those series some love!

There is also something called MOO points which you can get for participation in Twitter chats, posting updates or Instagram photos, and so on. I keep cracking up about this because whenever I read MOO point, I have Joey from Friend’s voice in my head, explaining why a moo point is invalid. “It’s like a cow’s opinion. It’s moo.” 🙂

Pick a Team

There are four teams – Duologies, Trilogies, Quartets, and Beasts. This was my first hurdle and it’s the reason this sign-up post is going up at the very last moment. I appreciate something about all of these, after all. A duology is lovely because if you liked the first book, there is more, but you don’t have to commit to thousands of pages to get the full story. Trilogies are classics, especially in the fantasy genre, quartets have the added bonus of being just a bit longer. And beasts… well, if I love a series, it’s always good to know there’s a lot more to look forward to. On the other hand, some series do go a little too far or it can take ages for the next book to come out.

In the end, I went not with my favorite type of series (because I couldn’t decide) but instead chose by team leader. After looking at their Twitter accounts, Mel from The Book Moo spoke to me the most, so Quartets is the team I’m reading for. Simple as that.

The prompts

Now for the nitty gritty. My favorite part of any readathon is the prompts. They push me to pick up books that I otherwise wouldn’t have – not because I don’t want to read them someday, but because there’s always something shiny grabbing my attention instead. Which is how I got into this whole 100-unfinished-series mess in the first place…
You can double up in this readathon, but one book counts for a maximum of two prompts.

My tentative TBR

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

FIRST IN A SERIES: Kacen Callender – Queen of the Conquered

This book was just nominated for a World Fantasy Award, a prize that usually goes to books I end up loving. It also works nicely for my personal challenge of discovering 10 new-to-me Black authors. And the premise sounds fantastic. Caribbean-inspired fantasy for fans of V.E. Schwab and Marlon James? That sounds both impossible and awesome. I’m here for it!

SEQUEL: Laini Taylor – Days of Blood and StarlightAnnouncing Laini Taylor's 10th Anniversary Editions | Hodderscape

It took me two reads to fully appreciate the first book in this trilogy, but now I’m all in. I want to learn more about this world of Seraphim and Chimaera, I want to see how this ages old war could possibly be resolved, and of course whether protagonist Karou can find some happiness for herself in this brutal world.

GATHERING DUST ON YOUR SHELF: Mishell Baker – Impostor Syndrome

I don’t know why I’ve waiting so long to read this book. I read the first two volumes pretty soon after they came out and was absolutely blown away. Borderline doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should, especially for an SFF book with mental health representation. I can’t wait to find out how double-amputee Millie’s story ends and finally finish the trilogy.

Wundersmith (novel) | Nevermoor Wiki | FandomGLOSSY COVER: Jessica Townsend – Wundersmith

I adored the first book in the Nevermoor series which I read during my holiday in February. The quirky world of Nevermoor is exactly the kind of book I need right now. It’s full of fun and joy and lovely friendships. Plus Hollowpox, the third book, comes out in August, so this is the perfect time to catch up.

Blood of Elves (The Witcher, Band 1): Amazon.de: Sapkowski ...RECOMMENDED BY A FRIEND: Andrzej Sapkowski – Blood of Elves

I read the first two Witcher books in preparation for the Netflix show and they were so much better than I had expected. It helped that I had Henry Cavill in my head as Geralt of Rivia, but both the writing and stories surprised me.  I am excited and a bit daunted to read this book. But I also need more Geralt in my life, so here we go. A friend from work recommended this series and without that recommendation, I might have just watched the show and never picked up the books.

FANTASY: N. K. Jemisin – The Stone Sky

I lovede first two books in this Hugo Award-winning trilogy to piecesand I saved the last book on purpose. First of all, this apocalyptic world is something you need to savor, so the timing has to be right. Secondly, I know it’s going to blow my mind, so I’ve been saving it for a bad day. My days aren’t all that bad at the moment, but I’ve been itching to finally finish the series and get answers to all my burning questions.

READ WITH A SNACK: Ursula K. LeGuin – Tehanu

This is the freebie prompt because you can eat a snack with any book (and I am determined to snack while reading more than just this one). I’ve been doing quite well this year in finally catching up on the Earthsea books and this is the one I’ve been most looking forward to, simply because it is so divisive. It’s won lots of awards and many people love it. But some seem to absolutely loathe it – I am interested to find out what that is all about.

ANIMAL ON THE COVER: Susan Cooper – The Dark is Rising

I just started this series this year because it’s one of those classics that a part of me feels like I should have read. I liked the first book well enough but it felt very much like only the beginning of something much bigger. This second volume is the most acclaimed, so I am excited to dive in and find out for myself how this reimagining of Arthurian legend goes.

So this is my tentative TBR for the month of August. Knowing myself, I will probably replace at least one of these books with something else – Muse of Nightmares is staring at me with sad puppy eyes right now and Network Effect is calling my name! We’ll see how well I do in the beginning of August. Some of these books are quite big but if I get through them fast enough, I may even add a second book for some of the prompts. I do have two weeks off work in August, so there should be plenty of time for reading. I can’t wait for the Twitter reading sprints, the Instagram photo challenges (I won’t participate because I’m rubbish at taking pretty pictures but I love looking at other people’s photos), and all the other ways to connect to this community.

If you’re participating as well, leave a link to your post. I love seeing what other people are choosing for the reading prompts.

O.W.L.s Magical Readathon 2020 – Wrap-Up

The OWLs readathon is officially over and it has been a blast once again! For my chosen career of Trader of Magical Tomes, I only had to read four books, plus an additional one for the extra class to become a merpeople linguist.

 

General Thoughts

Just like last year, this readathon was so much fun and has such positive energy that it’s difficult not to get swept up in it. I was happy to immerse myself in this make-believe world that lets us pretend we’re taking Hogwarts classes by reading books. But I do have to say I wasn’t quite as engaged as last year… The fact that we’re going through a pandemic may have contributed to that. I’m not super worried about myself but it’s a global crisis that definitely takes up a lot of brain space every day.

Also, the Hugo Award finalists were announced earlier than I had expected. Usually, they come out around Easter but this time, it happened a week earlier, giving me more time to catch up on my reading. That worked out really well for this readathon as some of the finalists fit perfectly into the reading prompts.

O.W.L.s passed

I was pretty sure I could manage to pass all my OWLs but as we reached the middle of April and I was nearly done, I got a little more ambitious. So I did read one book for each class and then I added a few more books to the list, some that fit the prompts, others just because I had the time.

Total books read 17
Total pages read 4237
OWLs achieved 12

The books

Ancient Runes – A Book with a Heart on the cover or title

For this I chose a recent release by a formerly unknown to me author, Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson. It turned out to be a super weird but also very fun ride. We follow a renowned architect in a city that’s all about buidling, rebuilding, tearing down to rebuild, and not much else. We also follow the king and his talking cat advisor. The king doesn’t do much kingly stuff and really just wants people to like him. But strange things are starting to happen and even though strange seems to be the norm here, this kind of strange makes Iona the architect go out and investigate. And discover some even crazier shit. (272 pages)


Arithmancy – Read something outside your favorite genre

Reading outside of my favorite genres is both hard and easy. On the one hand, I’m open for new experiences and I’ll try any kind of book at least once. On the other hand, I do know what usually doesn’t work for me. Poetry is one such thing that I rarely like. If I do like it, I will love it forever, but more often than not, I just don’t get poetry. My favorite author of all time, Catherynne M. Valente has written a little poetry collection called Oracles: A Pilgrimage which I did end up liking quite a bit. The poetry as such didn’t work for me (I do like rhymes, even if that may sound childish) but the story those poems told were really good. It’s about what modern day oracles would look like and how they would spend their days. Each poem is about the oracle of a different, modern-day city and while I wasn’t a fan of the poems as such, they painted vivid pictures of places and women who could – for all we know – be the oracles of our time. (84 pages)

Coincidentally, I picked up a book I had tried to read several times previously and never managed to finish. In fact, I had never gotten past the first chapter, so even though it’s science fiction (a genre I love), you could say that book was way out of my comfort zone. I’m talking about Neuromancer by William Gibson, that classic work of cyberpunk that got an entire subgenre started. While I thought reading it was rewarding in some ways, it definitely wasn’t a well written book. But I’m glad I did read it as it gives me a greater understanding of part of the genre I love. (297 pages)


Astronomy – read a book (mostly) at night

This prompt was like a little gift to me. My audiobook choice for this was Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez. Because I always listen to audiobooks before going to bed, the prompt practically fulfilled itself. The story was a lovely take on the YA revolution. A decoy condesa is sent to marry the king but really, she’s spying for her own people who plan an uprising to take back the kingdom that used to be theirs. But this is not about warfare or dangerous spy missions, it’s first and foremost about the people. All the characters in this book – no matter whose side they are on – felt so real and believable that it poses the question whether a bloody revolution is really the right way to go. I loved how this YA book keeps some of the usual YA tropes but at the same time doesn’t shy away from asking difficult questions and giving the protagonist impossible choices to make. (384 pages)


Care of Magical Creatures – A Book with a Beak on the Cover

Another short book that packs a punch was Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune which features a hoopoe on the cover, on which you will find the beak required by the reading prompt. This is the story of a young girl who has to marry the emperor against her will. It is told by her former handmaiden Rabbit and most of what makes this book so wonderful happens between the lines. We’re not actually witnessing the empress’s story, but Rabit is retelling it to us long after the events. That doesn’t mean it’s any less powerful or less of an emotional gut-punch though. I was deeply impressed with how much can be told with so few words and how much I ended up caring. (112 pages)


Charms – a (predominately) white cover

I’ve been meaning to read the Little Mermaid retelling The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember forever and now I finally got to it. While it’s clearly a feminist take on the fairy tale and features a lovely F/F romance, there were maybe too many ideas for the amount of pages. Nothing got really fleshed out enough, there wasn’t enough time to fully engage with all the characters, and the ending almost seemed a bit too easy. But I did really enjoy what we got to see of the world building, I loved that the focus wasn’t just a mermaid’s crush but that it was about her whole society and what’s wrong with it. Oh, and also Loki, trickster god, makes a few appearances. Maybe not the deepest retelling, but defeinitely recommended. (214 pages)


Defense Against the Dark Arts – A book set on the sea (coast)

I was so sure choosing an Earthsea book for this prompt would be perfect because Earthsea is set on an archipelago… so lots of little islands with enormous amounts of coast. However, this second book in the Earthsea cycle turned out to be set in a desert! That was a bit of a bummer but the book ended up being so amazing that I didn’t even care. I only liked A Wizard of Earthsea but I loved The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin. And there are a few chapters at the end that involve the ocean. (180 pages)

But I didn’t feel right counting this as my only DADA book, so I went ahead and chose another book that is set on the coast from the very beginning. This is how I started Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, the first in The Dark is Rising series.
It was a cute children’s book that had great summer holiday atmosphere but it also felt like a small story that would lead up to something epic. So it wasn’t super great but it made me want to continue the series very much! (224 pages)


Divination – Random TBR pick

I turned my boyfriend into the random number generator required for this prompt and he chose (unknowingly) Prosper’s Demon by K. J. Parker. As my first Parker book, I must say I’m hooked. It’s about an exorcist who hunts down demon-like creatures but keeps meeting one particular one over and over again. He has to rethink if maybe demons can’t be bargained with after all instead of just being exorcised right away.
What made this book so great wasn’t as much the content as the voice. The protagonist who doesn’t even have a name, tells this tale with such humor, much cussing, and so straightforward that I had to giggle a lot. The rather dark plot (demon possession is no joke) juxtaposed with the hilarious voice made this a perfect quick read. (112 pages)


Herbology – A book that starts with the letter M

There’s always another secret. Never has that Brandon Sanderson quote been so true as with this novella Mistborn: Secret History. I can’t really tell you anything about it because it would spoiler the entire Mistborn trilogy but I can tell you to go pick that trilogy up, devour it, and then make sure to come back to this novella. It goes kind of behind the scenes and shows us a very different perspective of the events that happened in the main trilogy. There are plenty of secrets to discover and there are also hints tying the greater Cosmere together.
Reading Sanderson is an adventure and no matter where you start, you’re in for a treat. (160 pages)


History of Magic – A Book featuring Witches/Wizards

Sarah Gailey‘s latest novel When We Were Magic features six young witches who are the best of friends. When protagonist Alexis accidentally kills a boy by exploding his penis (yeah, seriously), she and her five best friends come together and try to solve the problem. The book itself is mostly about getting to know them and see the beautiful dynamics between these six very different, very magical girls. It was a delight to read!
Be aware though, that this is not a murder mystery book or even a trying-to-get-away-with-murder book. The focus is really the relationship between the girls and their surroundings and it is much more engaging than I’m making it sound. Do pick it up! (352 pages)


Muggle Studies – A book from a muggle’s perspective

I was initially going to read something else for this prompt but then the Hugo Award finalists were announced and this one fit so well that I snuck it in there. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire is about two engineered twins who were separated at birth, Roger and Dodger (yeah, I know…). One of them is a math genius, the other a language prodigy, but only together do they feel whole.
This is the story of them growing up – over and over – and trying to save the world from falling under the control of the Big Bad. It had some cool ideas, the execution was sadly flawed. But I did like the characters and especially the book within a book. Can’t wait for that to come out as Seanan actually ended up writing it. (528 pages)

The Hugo finalists were a goldmine for this prompt. I also picked up the Lodestar nominated Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer and was delighted by it. It’s about a young girl who’s on the run with her mother, hiding from her stalker father. Only staying in each place for a few months at the most, she has a hard time making friends IRL. But there’s Catnet and her wonderful group of internet friends. And a lovable AI that absolutely stole my heart from the get go.
This was such a heartwarming tale of friendship but it had plenty of action and great characters. There is also so much representation and diversity in this book – I wish more YA novels were like this. (288 pages)


Potions – A Book under 150 pages

chose Ruthanna Emrys’ The Litany of Earth for this because the series was nominated for a Mythopoeic Award and I tend to love those books. Never having read Lovecraft, I’m sure I missed a lot of things here, but I can tell you that Emrys created brilliant atmosphere in this short story and made me want to read more. There seems to be this whole secret society thing going on, with alien races living among us humans, and with big prophecies foretelling the end of the world. I will hopefully start Winter Tide, the first novel in the series, very soon. (48 pages)

And again, because I had the time and the Hugo finalists were just announced, I threw another short book onto the list and caught up with The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark. I had been meaning to read this anyway and I’m glad I finally did.
This exorcism story set in alternate 1912 Egypt was wonderful and much funnier than I had expected. It had atmosphere, great mythology and worldbuilding and a plot that you can fly through. Who knew that a haunted tram car could lead to such fun investigations and a fantastic showdown? (130 pages)


Transfiguration – A book that features shapeshifters

If I’d known I would be reading another Seanan McGuire book so soon, I wouldn’t have picked A Local Habitation, the second in the October Daye series. But it was one of the few books where I was sure there would be shapeshifters and it also works well for my Read-the-Sequel challenge.
Toby Daye is sent to a County stuck between two rival Counties to check out why Sylvester (her liege’s) niece hasn’t been calling anymore. It turns out her tech company has some serious trouble that Toby and her assistant Quentyn are there to investigate.
While certain twists in this book were super predictable, others surprised me and it was another fun Urban Fantasy book. Not quite as good as the first but good enough for me to continue reading the series. (400 pages)


Extracurricular activities

These are the books I read in addition to the O.W.L.s :

Sabaa Tahir – A Torch Against the Night

It was okay but definitely lacked the edge of my seat thrill from the first book. The unnecessary love square was resolved at least (or let’s say, it was shrunk to your standard love triangle again) and some minor plot points were moved forward. I will read the third book in this series, but I’m not in a hurry. (452 pages)

Mark Lawrence – Red Sister (unfinished)

I’m only three quarters of the way through this book but if I had finished it, it could have been a candidate for Astronomy as I’m listening to the audiobook mostly in the evenings. It’s a pretty cool world with one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve met. But the beginning of the book was much stronger than the middle part. I’m curious to see if the ending will be as epic as I hope.


And with this, the OWLs Readathon has ended and I am now in full Hugo reading mode. I look forward to the NEWTs in August but until then, it’s rather nice to pick books by mood again instead of readathon prompts. 🙂

O.W.L.s Magical Readathon 2020 – Check-In

So, there’s still a pandemic going on and many people all over the world are practicing social distancing in whichever way they can. For me, it means working from home and going outside only when necessary (grocery shopping, taking a walk so my blood pressure doesn’t plummet too low). It also means not commuting to and from work everyday which, in turn, leads to a lot more reading time. Which works really well when there’s a readathon going on. 🙂

For all the info about G’s Magical Readathon, head to her Booktube Channel.

General Thoughts

Last year, I took my OWLs in July to be ready for the NEWTs in August. This year, I was better prepared and can actually participate when everyone else is doing the readathon. And, guys, it is so much fun! I love everything about this, but especially the Careers Guidebook and the fact that all the reading prompts go so well with their assigned classes.

O.W.L.s passed

I did pick a lot of shorter books for this readathon because I wanted to make sure I could pass all the classes. In some cases, it’s also a coincidence that the books I chose were rather short. But to make up for it (and because I’m a Ravenclaw), I read more than one book for some of the prompts.

Total books read 13
Total pages read 3122
OWLs passed 11

The books

I’m almost done with all the OWLs, people!
But guess what my face looked like when I picked up my DADA book (prompt: set at the sea or coast) and it turned out the book takes place in a desert! I thought with a book in the Earthsea Cycle, I couldn’t go wrong, but except for the last chapters, the setting is really as far from the ocean as you can get. So I threw in another book with an actual coastal setting because otherwise, it would feel like cheating.

If I’ve published a review already, the link can be found below. The rest are either still to come or I won’t write one because reviewing very short books or stories is not something I’m good at.

Finished

  • Ancient Runes: Eddie Robson – Hearts of Oak
  • Arithmancy: Catherynne M. Valente – Oracles: A Pilgrimage
  • Astronomy: Isabel Ibanez – Woven in Moonlight
  • Care of Magical Creatures: Nghi Vo – The Empress of Salt and Fortune
  • Charms: Julia Ember – The Seafarer’s Kiss
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts 1: Ursula K. LeGuin – The Tombs of Atuan
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts 2: Susan Cooper – Over Sea, Under Stone (review to come)
  • Divination: K. J. Parker – Prosper’s Demon
  • Herbology: Brandon Sanderson – Mistborn: Secret History
  • History of Magic: Sarah Gailey – When We Were Magic
  • Muggle Studies: Seanan McGuire – Middlegame (review to come)
  • Potions: Rutahna Emrys – The Litany of Earth

While I enjoyed all of the books I read for the OWLs, there were a few that stood out. The Tombs of Atuan swept me off my feet by surprise, When We Were Magic was heartwarming despite being about a murder, and Mistborn: Secret History actually managed to deliver another surprising twist in what is already a twist-filled series.

Still to read

  • Transfiguration: Seanan McGuire – A Local Habitation
  • Potions 2: P. Djèlí Clark – The Haunting of Tram Car 015
  • Muggle Studies 2: Naomi Kritzer – Catfishing on CatNet

I’m currently reading the three books above and I can already tell that The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is a blast. I did not expect it to be this amusing but it’s got a really good mix of science fiction ideas, social commentary, supernatural detective work, and humor.
Catfishing on CatNet is also quite lovely so far. It depends very much on the solution to a mystery in the book whether I’ll end up loving it or just liking it. But it’s a very good read so far.
I’ve just started A Local Habitation and it makes me think yet again, that this what Seanan McGuire is best at. Urban Fantasy with Fae and a snarky protagonist.

Extracurricular Activities

Because I was doing so well with the OWLs, I felt that I could ease off a little and also read books that don’t fit any reading prompt, aren’t for a challenge and aren’t currently up for an award I have to vote on. So I picked up these two just for fun:

  • Sabaa Tahir – A Torch Against the Night
  • Mark Lawrence – Red Sister (currently reading)

Let’s go, Ravenclaw! We have almost two weeks left. Let’s grab that House Cup!

My Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists 2020


I am so excited! Conzealand announced the 2020 Hugo Award finalists last week and I have feelings! But first of all:

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE FINALISTS!

Let’s go through my reactions category by category and check in on how many books I still have to read in order to catch up. There are some categories about which I have very little or nothing to say, so I’ll leave those out and focus on the ones I’m most interested in.
Warning: This is going to be a long post. Feel free to skip ahead to a certain category or to my general thoughts at the very end.


BEST NOVEL (4/6)

My first reaction was elation that both A Memory Called Empire and The Light Brigadmade it onto the shortlist. I nominated both and now have the terrifying pleasure of having to rank them.
I’m sure nobody is surprised that Gideon the Ninth is on this list as well, although I am one of the very, very few people who did not like that book. I liked some ideas and I liked Gideon as a character but that didn’t excuse the utter lack of plot structure or fleshing out of side characters. Or the messy world building… I truly wish I had loved this book as much as everyone else, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. At least this will be easy to rank.
I love Alix E. Harrow’s short fiction and I loved certain aspects of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but I thought others were very weak, especially for a writer who can accomplish so much in a short story. My super high expectations led to my great disappointment when I discovered that there’s way less magic in this book than I had hoped. But it has grown fonder in my memory over time and I definitely didn’t hate it. I’m glad Harrow is a finalist because I think she has amazing potential and I’ll gladly see her do well here.

I am currently reading Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (who is nominated in a billion categories once again…) and still have to pick up  The City in the Middle of the Night which I’ve had since it came out but never really got to. I have high expectations for both, although Seanan McGuire and I are rather hit or miss. So far, Middlegame is quite good but I am not convinced it’s award material. I can already say that it is not on par with some of the other nominees but I’m only halfway throught he book. We’ll see.


BEST NOVELla (3/6)

  • Rivers Solomon – The Deep
  • Becky Chambers – To Be Taught, If Fortunate
  • Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – This is How You Lose the Time War
  • Seanan McGuire – In an Absent Dream
  • P. Djèlí Clark – The Haunting of Tram Car 015
  • Ted Chiang – Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom

Yay for Becky Chambers. I nominated this one! I also nominated Time War although I have to say that I don’t feel as strongy about it anymore as I did right after reading it. In fact, now that some time has passed, I don’t think it was even that great. I did however love The Deep but I’m not sure if I managed to put it on my ballot in time. Either way, I’m happy it’s here.

I’m looking forward to both Clark and Chiang’s works. To my enormous shame, I still haven’t read anything by Ted Chiang although I really, really want to. Let this be my reason to pick up his collection Exhalation.

I had hoped that after the disastrous mess that was Beneath the Sugar Sky I would be done with the Wayward Children series. This series is based on a great idea whose execution ranges from horrible (Sugar Sky) over okay (Every Heart) to rather good (Sticks and Bones). But since these books are mostly a disappointment, I had planned on discontinuing the series. Alas, I guess I’ll have to read one more. And if Seanan McGuire‘s fans keep up the way the have for the past decade, I’ll probably end up reading the rest of the series as well.


Best Novelette (1/6)

  • Caroline M. Yoachim – The Archronology of Love
  • Sarah Gailey – Away With the Wolves
  • Sarah Pinsker – The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye
  • N.K. Jemisin – Emergency Skin
  •  Siobhan Carroll – For He Can Creep
  • Ted Chiang – Omphalos

See, I have to read Ted Chiang! In this category, I’ve read a whopping one book, Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin. I absolutely loved it and I’m thrilled it’s on this list because I read it after the nomination period was over and couldn’t put it on my ballot anymore. Thank you, other nominators!
All the other nominees sound great. I love Sarah Gailey‘s work, I’ve been meaning to read more by Pinsker, and I look forward to checking out the two new-to-me writers, Carroll and Yoachim.


Best series (2/6)

  • James S. A. Corey – The Expanse
  • Katherine Arden – The Winternight Trilogy
  • Ian McDonald – Luna
  • Tade Thompson – The Wormwood Trilogy
  • Seanan McGuire – InCryptid
  • Emma Newman – Planetfall

Oh boy, I have so much to read! This category is particularly difficult because if I don’t know a series at all, I’ll start with the first book (obviously) but depending on the series, that book may be super old and not the reason it’s nominated.

I have read the first book in The Expanse and I liked it quite a lot, but apparently not enough to ever continue the series. I don’t feel equipped to judge the quality of the series based only on its first instalment and I won’t manage to catch up to the latest book in time. But I will try and at least read the second one, despite already having caught some spoilers. I still won’t feel alright raking this series because people nominated it for its most recent volume, I assume, and I can’t judge that by reading only the beginning.
I’ve been meaning to read Rosewater by Tade Thompson and I’m so glad I’ll finally get to it. The same goes for Planetfall by Emma Newman. These books have been on my TBR forever and I just keep neglecting them. Thanks again, fellow nominators, for forcing me to finally pick these up.
I’m not as excited about Luna because it’s just not the kind of book I pounce on, but it sounds really good so I’ll definitely read the first book. Maybe it will sweep me off my feet and I’ll devour the entire trilogy.
I nominated The Winternight Trilogy myself for the last few years, mostly because I thought the first book should have been nominated for Best Novel. Then the second book was just as good and the third managed to stick a beautiful, perfect ending to the trilogy. I really hope this wins because it’s not just a nomination for another instalment in an endless series, this is actually a trilogy that becomes a beautiful whole.
And Seanan McGuire is here again, this time with her one series whose covers really put me off. Don’t worry, I’ll read it, but I can’t help but go into it biased. I’m sorry, I’m not perfect, and there’s a certain type of book cover that just signals it’s not for me – gun-toting cheerleaders leaning sexily on things are it!

What I really like about this category is how much range there is. You have a historical fairy tale trilogy nominated alongside a blockbuster space opera, an Urban Fantasy series, a series about aliens in Nigeria, and one that features mental health issues in space. I may not be thrilled about the amount of pages I have ahead of me, but boy am I impressed with Hugo voters for picking such a great variety of what the field has to offer!


best graphic story (0/6)

  • Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans – Die, Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker
  • Nnedi Okorafor, Tana Ford – LaGuardia
  • Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda – Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen
  • Wendy Xu, Suzanne Walker – Mooncakes
  • Brian K. Vaughn, Cliff Chiang – Paper Girls, Volume 6
  • Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie – The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 9: Okay

Yep, that’s right guys. This is a year without Saga, so it’s a year in which I have read not a single nominee.

I have read the first volumes in the Paper Girls series, The Wicked + The Divine as well as Monstress, and while all of them had a certain appeal, I disliked other parts of these comics and didn’t want to continue the series. Paper Girls is probably the one I’m still most interested in although I’m not sure I want to buy 5 volumes to catch up. The Wicked + the Divine just didn’t work for me at all. It had nice art but I just didn’t care for the story or the characters and I definitely will not read 8 entire volumes of something I’m not interested in.
Monstress was super intriguing but I felt the art – while absolutely gorgeous – was too detailed and too messy for a graphic novel. It kept distracting me from the story because I just wanted to look at the pretty pictures. And while that’s nice, in a way, it is really not helpful when trying to wrap your head around intricate world building.
I’ll read whatever is provided in the Hugo Voter Packet even if that means skipping a few volumes. Maybe these finalists are so good that they’ll make me want to go back and catch up on the entire series.

Two finalists that have been on my radar for a while are LaGuardia by Nnedi Okorafor – because I love the author and think she just gets better and better with whatever she writes. And Mooncakes because it has one of the cutest covers and looks like it’s a total feel-good book.

The only one I had never heard of is Die: Fantasy Heartbreaker which is written by the same person who writes The Wicked + The Divine (that doesn’t bode well for me). It is, however, described as “Goth Jumanji” and that’s something I’m definitely willing to try.


Lodestar (2/6)

  • Naomi Kritzer – Catfishing on CatNet
  • Yoon Ha Lee – Dragon Pearl
  • T. Kingfisher – Minor Mage
  • Holly Black – The Wicked King
  • Fran Wilde – Riverland
  • Frances Hardinge – Deeplight

I am both so excited and so daunted. I had read quite a few YA books last year and thought I would do better in this category, but apparently no. However, now I have yet another list of probably great books to look forward to.

I am thrilled that Minor Mage made it onto the shortlist. I didn’t nominated it (because my slots were already filled with other books), but T. Kingfisher is a joy and a treasure and her books are the perfect feel-good recommendation for our current time. Minor Mage was charming and heart-warming and lovely and I hope everyone reads it, whether it ends up winning or not.
The one book I nominated that did make the shortlist is The Wicked King, which I still think of as a sort of guilty pleasure. It’s a book I know I probably shouldn’t love but I just do. Kudos for the middle volume of a trilogy making an award ballot! And I stand by my opinion. I don’t care if the relationship in this series is messed up. I love it.

The only Frances Hardinge book I’ve read was brilliant and I honestly can’t tell you why I never read more by her. But I am super excited to pick up Deeplight. That woman has crazy cool ideas in her head and I can’t wait to see what she did here.
Yoon Ha Lee took everyone’s breath away with The Machineries of Empire. It will be interesting to see what they do with the YA genre. The only reason I haven’t read this yet is time. But I’ve heard excellent things about it and can’t wait to dive in.
Now Fran Wilde I actively avoided because I really didn’t like Updraft. But every author gets at least a second chance with me, so I’ll pick this one up and see where it leads.
Naomi Kritzer‘s short story “Cat Pictures, Please” was lovely and I think I ranked it as my number one spot when it was nominated (and ended up winning) so I’m curious to see how she does with a full length novel. For some reason, I don’t have very high expectations however. It feels like she’s just trying to repeat what she did with that short story and I’m not sure it will work. But I’ll keep an open mind and hope I end up liking it.


Astounding award for best new writer (1/6)

  • Sam Hawke 
  • R.F. Kuang 
  • Jenn Lyons 
  • Nibedita Sen 
  • Tasha Suri
  • Emily Tesh 

Again, I have read works by only one author here because I suck. But the one I did read – R. F. Kuang – I also nominated. What she did in The Poppy War was as amazing as it was uncomfortable. If I have the time, I’ll dive into the sequel because I suspect she is an author who grows visibly with every book.

I have Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri and Silver in the Woods by Emily Tesh on my TBR already, I just didn’t get to them yet. Jenn Lyons (The Ruin of Kings) and Sam Hawke (City of Lies) I’m less excited about but I will give them a try. Lyons especially felt like an author that got a gigantic push from the publisher but I didn’t read too many reviews by people I follow and trust, so I worried that it might be just marketing and not much else. But I’ll check it out and make up my own mind, of course. The only author I’ve never heard of is Nibedita Sen but I look forward to any short fiction in the Hugo Voters Packet.


Best fancast (5/6)

  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show
  • Our Opinions Are Correct
  • Claire Rousseau’s YouTube Channel
  • The Coode Street Podcast
  • Galactic Suburbia
  • Be the Serpent

Well, here’s a category where I have almost no catching up to do. I have listened to or watched all of these fancasters with the exception of Be the Serpent.
I love The Coode Street Podcast, even though my reading tastes aren’t exactly in line with Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan’s. But they talk about books with so much knowledge, they are fun to listen to and I always feel a little bit smarter about SFF after listening to an episode.
I am super stoked that Claire Rousseau made this list! Her Genrewise SFF updates are my favorite and her reading taste is actually quite similar to mine (with a few exceptions, of course). She’s always good for recommendations and I appreciate that she doesn’t just ramble but instead always talks throughtfully about the books she reviews.
Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz’s Our Opinions Are Correct is also a great podcast that I only discovered last year. They always do some research before diving into a topic and I just love listening to them.
The Skiffy and Fanty Show is more hit or miss for me. Some episodes are great, others just feel a bit messy. Depending on the topic and guests, things feel unstructured and a bit too hectic. I like them well enough, but they probably won’t be on the top of my ballot.
Galactic Suburbia, as much as I like the presenters, just doesn’t interest me very much. It’s been nominated many years in a row and, every year, I try to listen to a few episodes again. It’s just not for me.


General thoughts

I am very happy with this year’s finalists. There are not too many surprises among them, especially in the Best Novel category. I did expect to find Ann Leckie there but as I haven’t read her eligible book, this expectation is based mostly on her previous awards record. It may just not have been that good. All the other books received a lot of hype and whether I agree with the rave reviews or not, they all deserve their spot on the shortlist.

The most surprising to me was probably the YA category (Lodestar = not a Hugo). I actually didn’t think The Wicked King would make it because although it was buzzed about like crazy and Holly Black has a ton of fans, it is not the kind of book that’s usually up for a Hugo. The only finalist I saw coming was Naomi Kritzer’s book. Not that the others aren’t worthy (I honestly can’t tell, not having read most of them yet) but either I thought not enough people had read them or they would be pushed off the ballot by more popular choices.

Another happy development is that the novella category is not as dominated by Tor.com as it was in the last few years. I love Tor.com to pieces and I think they are one of the finest publishers of SFF fiction out there, but it’s good to have some more variety on an awards ballot. Too much of the same thing, even if it’s a good thing, is just not healthy! So I’m really glad that other publishers managed to publish novellas that got enough buzz to be read by people and that those novellas were good enough to become finalists.

Side note: Much like Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis (both excellent writes whose work I adore), Seanan McGuire seems to get nominated just for having written something. I really, really do not like that. I understand being a loyal fan and wanting your favorite author to win things, but even the most hardcore fan can’t honestly tell me that everything Seanan writes is award-worthy. Not even everything Neil Gaiman writes is award-worthy!
The fact that McGuire is  nominated in all her eligible categories pretty much every year makes me actually want to rank her lower than she possibly deserves, just because I don’t like the practice of pushing a writer that hard. It feels like her fans are begging for a prize. And it makes me annoyed and spiteful and angry with myself for being annoyed and spiteful.

As far as I can tell, Seanan herself has nothing to do with this and her fans act on their own which is totally fine! Again, if you really did love every single word McGuire puts on a page, then by all means nominate it – and if that’s what her fans did, then I guess I should just shut up and stop complaining. It is simply my hope that people try to read more than one author and even if they do read everything by one author, to judge their works fairly and not nominate blindly. Maybe I’m totally wrong and it’s a huge coincidence that this happens every year, but maybe it’s not. There’s nothing I can do about it either way, so this is how I deal with it. I vent about it on here.

As someone who tries to read everything that’s nominated, it gets pretty tired and boring having to go through one single author’s entire back catalogue. Especially an author who has been nominated years and years on end, winning very few awards compared to the amount of nominations (14 nominations total, among them 3 wins, and  two of those for the SF Squeecast, only one for actual writing).
Please don’t hate me if you’re a McGuire fan – I’m just starting to like her writing, too – this is simply my reaction to having to read at least three books by the same author if I want to judge the categories fairly. It’s exhausting, especially because this happens every single year.

But hey, maybe I’ll end up agreeing with her fans and think all of the nominated works are actually worthy of a Hugo Award. I’ll keep you updated and will post my final rankings at the end of the voting period.

As I mentioned above, the Best Series finalists make me super happy because they encompass many aspects of science fiction and fantasy and they force me out of my comfort zone a little.

And I love that the Best Fancast category added a YouTuber to an otherwise podcast-dominated ballot. I hope this is only the first in many years to come where Hugo voters realize that a fancast can be all sorts of things.

2020 Retellings Challenge – First Quarter Update

I can’t believe a quarter of the year is already over again. It feels like I just made those reading resolutions, endless lists of new publications to watch out for, and checked out other people’s Best-of-2019 lists.
But since we took our big sunny vacation during winter this year, I actually managed to get a lot of reading done, especially for the wonderful 2020 Retellings Challenge hosted by Tracy at Cornerfolds. It was my first time travelling to a warm place when it’s cold at home and I can highly recommend it. It did wonders for my mood, my tan, and of course my reading time. And sipping on a fresh coconut is at least as cool as having a cup of tea while reading a nice book.

What I’ve read

Just like last year and just like with any reading challenge, my chosen books ranged from brilliant to pretty bad with everything in between. I’m making it a little harder for myself this year by not counting books that would technically fit certain prompts. For example, Winterglass (still fantastic!) was a re-read, so I’m not counting it. Sword of Destiny is technically a collection of short stories where only one of them fulfills the prompt (includes mermaids) and I felt that if I counted that book I would kind of be cheating. I’m still listing them here because they are retellings but I’ll pick other books for the bingo squares.

So far, the absolute standout book I read for this challenge was Descendant of the Crane, although I’m not even sure it’s a retelling of something. It’s set in a Chinese-inspired fantasy kingdom and it uses some mythology elements but whether it counts or not, it was an excellent book! Mirrorstrike, the sequel to Winterglass wasn’t as good as the first book but I’m still very much looking forward to the sequel.
I checked off one of the toughest prompts (a book over 500 pages) with Tessa Gratton’s retelling of Shakespeare’s King LearThe Queens of Innis Lear which was pretty amazing. And I finally read Diana Peterfreund’s sci-fi retelling of Jane Austen’s PersuasionFor Darkness Shows the Stars.
What I like about this challenge is that it forces me to read outside my comfort zone – that was very much the case with Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, which is exactly what the title suggests. It was a great book, although very different from what I normally read. I’m so glad to have picked it up as it’s also the first book translated from Arabic that I’ve ever read.
I also really enjoyed the March group read, A Study in Charlotte, which is about the descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. It was different than what I expected but a fun, quick read that made me want to pick up the sequel. And an even quicker read was Keturah and Lord Death, which is kind of Hades and Persephone and kind of 1001 Nights wrapped in a medieval romance. It was really sweet.
An audiobook that started out really well and then sort of meandered on to a mediocre ending was Juliet Marillier’s Beautiful. The only book I read that I would call bad was Kiersten White’s The Guinevere Deception. One bad book and one middling one out of 11 total is a pretty good ratio, I’d say.

My retellings reading plan

As usual, I don’t set myself a specific TBR but I do want to stay on top of this challenge because the Hugo shortlist is about to be announced and that always means reading a lot of works I missed last year. For the Retellings Challenge, I have picked out at least one book for each prompt, just to be prepared, but if I discover something new that fits a prompt, I may just go with that.
I have already started my book for the African myth prompt, Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James, during my vacation and I’m absolutely loving it. It’s not an easy book to read, though, and it wants to be savored so I may be “currently reading” this one for a while yet. But if it continues the way it started, it may end up on my favorite books of the year list!

  • Marlon James – Black Leopard, Red Wolf (African myth)
  • E. K. Johnston – A Thousand Nights (1001 nights)
  • Alexa Donne – Brightly Burning (set in space)
  • Julia Ember – The Seafarer’s Kiss (features mermaids)
  • Victoria McCombs – The Storyteller’s Daughter (German fairy tale – Rumpelstiltskin)

General Thoughts on the Challenge

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this year’s challenge as much as last year’s because the prompts seemed much more difficult for me. While retellings of fairy tales and Jane Austen are abundant, there isn’t as much to choose from when it comes to Frankenstein or Les Misérables retellings. But with a bit of research and recommendations from other participants, I think this year may turn out to be even more rewarding. Because the prompts challenge me more, I am forced to discover  books I would otherwise not even consider and I’m sure there will be at least one hidden gem among them.

If you’re doing this challenge as well, how is it going for you? Have you discovered a new favorite? Have you been disappointed by an over-hyped book? Let me know in the comments!