Orilium: The Novice Path – Mid-Readathon Check-In

The first half of of G’s new and improved version of the Magical Readathon is over and it’s time for a little check in. We’re on our way to Orilium Academy, the place where we – the Magical Readathon community – shall spend the next few years studying the magical arts, learning about the lore of our land, and growing our characters.

I was lucky enough to spend a week of this readathon in beautiful Tuscany which was a much-needed little holiday. The pool was wonderful, the weather was amazing, the little towns we visited were gorgeous (also Florence, but that’s not so little). And the food! You guys, the Italians really have food figured out! I already miss the mozzarella and the nduja and the extra fluffy pizza dough and the olives and the Italian espresso… Then again, there were so many mosquitoes that my legs started looking like a body builders because of all the swollen areas. So being back home again has that going for it. No more mosquito bites. And catching up on the blog, of course.


The Journey

I have enterd the Novice Path Entrance by starting Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt but that one will probably take me all month and that’s okay. The recently released trailer for the TV show made me both more excited for the books and a little less excited about the adaptation. I like the actor choices a lot but the overly bright colors make everything look a bit cheap.
I have finished the prompt for Ruin of the Skye by reading Small Paces by Katherine Arden and I breezily skipped past Obsidian Falls with the very exciting The Echo Wife by the always original Sarah Gailey.
And because I finished my re-read of Raybearer on September 1st, I jumped right into the audiobook of Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko which led me to the Tower of Rumination. To make sure I don’t miss out on the Orilium Academy prompt, I am now in the middle of The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino. Reviews of finished books will be coming soon.

So far, my book choices have all been damn great and I’ve just been happily jumping around between these fantastic reads depending on my mood. I did also fix one of my character traits already, but more on that below.


Books Read

BOOK TITLEREADING PROMPTFULFILLED
Robert Jordan – The Great HuntNovice Path Entrance reading
???Ashthorn Tree
Holly Black – The Darkest Part of the ForestMists of Solitude
Katherine Arden – Small SpacesRuin of the SkyeYES
Sarah Gailey – The Echo WifeObsidian Falls YES
Jordan Ifueko – RedemptorTower of Rumination YES
Tori Bovalino – The Devil Makes ThreeOrilion Academy reading

I’ve already switched things around on my TBR in the very first week of the readathon! Originally, Sarah Gailey was my book pick for the standalone prompt but when that the book turned out to be a really exciting sci-fi thriller, I’ve moved it to the thriller prompt and added a Holly Black standalone novel I’ve been meaning to read for ages… I fully expect something like this to happen several more times throughout the month. 🙂


My Character

I wanted to save the character-related prompts for later in the month (or even year, depending on my reading speed) but I have to say, the more characters and backstories I see on Twitter and Discord, the more impressed I am with my fellow travelers and the more I get an itch to do more for my own character. I had decided on three basic traits:

  • Iltiran
  • Kerador
  • Urban

Now I have already thought about making my character half-Elf, just because I like Elves, they’re wise and beautiful and – in Aeldia, the world of this readathon – attuned to the stars and moon. That’s not at all like real me but I like the idea of that kind of character. I also quite enjoy the thought of the Elf and Iltirian romance which would eventually lead to my character being born. I can totally picture it in my mind. Head-in-the-clouds dreamer Elf man meets quick-witted and confident Ilitiran woman and after a lot of bickering they somehow end up together.

At the moment, my plan is to fulfill the three prompts above and then just read whatever I feel like. If those books happen to fit prompts for other character traits, I’ll check out my stats in the end and finalize my character. Her name, Sistani, was picked by my boyfriend, by the way, who finds this whole readathon business both cute and a little crazy but who humors me anyway. ❤

BOOK TITLEPROMPTFULFILLED
Colson Whitehead – The Underground RailroadIltirianYES
Linden A. Lewis – The Second RebelKeradorreading
Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the SaintsUrban
Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless MoonElf

The State of SFF – September 2021

August is over and the colder season is fast approaching. At least here in Vienna, it feels like autumn is already here. Whether you’re sad that summer is leaving or looking forward to sweater weather, Halloween, and fall book publishing, there’s plenty of news and new books to be excited for.

Quickie News

  • NPR’s poll about our favorite 50 SFF novels of the past decade is over and the results are in. The list looks absolutely fantastic with a great mix of authors and works, series and standalones, and all sorts of subgenres. I love this book list and have already decided I’ll try to read them all
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  • The Shirley Jackson Award for outstanding horror has gone to Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians, which reminds me that spooky season is coming up and this book looks juuuust perfect for an October, Halloween-ish read.
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  • The third book in Nnedi Okorafor’s YA series has a title – Akata Woman – and a cover and it looks gorgeous!!! Also, the series name has apparently been changed to the Nsibidi Scripts. The book is set to come out on January 18th 2022. Now I only have to wait for it to come out in paperback as well, so it goes with the other two PBs on my shelf…

Owlcrate breaks their promise (for money) and then changes their mind again (for money)…

If you don’t know how book subscription services work, here’s the nutshell version: Once a month, you get a box in the mail based on a theme. In this box will be a mystery book as well as a handful of items (art, socks, enamel pins, mugs, tote bags, scarves, etc.) based on popular fandoms that fit the theme. Last year, Owlcrate, one of the best known book subscription services decided not to feature any Harry Potter merchandise in their monthly boxes anymore after J.K. Rowling made her views on trans people known on Twitter.
If you somehow missed that JKR TERF outburst, google at your own risk. Let’s just say that when it comes to trans rights, it’s probably smart to listen to, you know, actual trans people, and many of them were shocked and hurt and deeply saddened by Rowling’s behaviour. Most subscription boxes I know came to the same conclusions and stopped featuring or promoting Harry Potter in their boxes.

Now, about a year later, Owlcrate have decided to go back on their decision and sell the rest of their Harry Potter mug collection. To make matters worse, they posted a lengthy (!) explanation which mostly boils down to “but my nostalgia” except once you look at it more closely, it really says “my money is more important than trans people”.
Some commenters were asking questions like “will these mugs really hurt trans people?” but as is so often the case, it’s not quite as simple as that. Licenced products put actual money into JKR’s actual pockets. Money she can then use to support the kind of organization that makes it harder for trans people to live their lives. Even unlicenced products still help to promote Harry Potter. And yeah, sure, you could say that one subscription services not featuring any HP merch won’t change the world. But many or even all subscription services doing that is a different story. At the very least, it’s a start. There is power in numbers and if humans stick together we can truly change things.

The cherry on top of it all is that Owlcrate wanted to “donate” 20% of the profits to one of three charities (buyer’s choice), only one of which is an LGBTQIA+ charity and none of which are trans specific charities. And in order to fund that oh so generous donation the mugs were just a bit more expensive than they used to be. Funnily about 20% more. Because obvioulsy Owlcrate doesn’t want to lose money simply because a “donation” makes them look slightly better in the eyes of their customers.

As expected, there was a lot of backlash to this decision in the comments, a lot of people stopped following Owlcrate on social media and many cancelled their subscription. So a few days later, they posted yet another update on social media, stating that the mug sale is OFF, all mugs that have already been ordered would still be shipped but 100% of the profits would be donated. 80% to The Transgender Law Center, no less. So people’s voices were heard and lessons seem to have been learned. They also promised to never feature HP merchandise again in either of their boxes (Owlcrate and Owlcrate jr.).

I’m not currently nor have I ever been an Owlcrate subscriber but even if the issue at hand didn’t bother me (and it does!) I wouldn’t want to purchase anything from a company that doesn’t keep its promises, goes back on their word whenever it’s convenient and openly admits that their reasons for it are pure selfishness and greed! Let’s face it, it wasn’t the many, many comments by hurt and disappointed people that swayed Owlcrate. They don’t publish subscriber numbers but I think it’s fair to assume that they lost a lot of subscribers – meaning MONEY – and that was the reason they decided to stop the mug sale after all. None of us can look into another person’s head of course so maybe it really was remorse, but to me, this leaves a decidedly bad aftertaste.

There are many book subscription services out there who care about their subscribers – of all genders – and who actively work to promote diverse authors and books. I’m just saying…


The Mythopoeic Award Finalists Have Been Announced

The Mythopoeic Awards aren’t as well known as some other SFF book awards but when I discovered them, I found out that so many of my favorite books had won or been nominated for one. Although “typical” Mythopoeic books cover a range of styles and themes, there is often a fairy tale feel to it, a sense of mythology to the world building, and I find most of the winners to be super immersive. I’ve read three out of the five finalists this year, all books that I adored, so I have high hopes for the remaining two.

  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
  • Alice Hoffman – Magic Lessons
  • TJ Klune – The House in the Cerulean Sea
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Mexican Gothic
  • Garth Nix – The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Congratulations to the ALL THE finalists!!!


The Magical Readathon Is Back!

I am so stoked for this readathon hosted by G from the YouTube channel Book Roast. She used to do the Magical Readathon based on Hogwarts classes but discontinued it after JKR made her views on trans people public. But with G’s creativity and what must have been enormous effort and time, we can now look forward to a new and improved Magical Readathon, set in a world of her own devising, peopled with fantasy creatures, and filled with excellent reading prompts.

I have already vaguely planned my TBR and I can’t wait to get started. If you like pretending to be a character in a fantasy world, walking a dangerous path by reading books, building your character, and exploring the world, then check this out. The Magical Readathon community is also one of the most welcoming, kindest, open-minded group of people I have ever encountered on the interwebs. So whether you’re an old readathon pro or just trying it out for the first time, whether you’re into fantasy or not, you can be sure you will find people here that will cheer you on, push you to reach your reading goals, and maybe even buddy read a book with you.


Exciting September Publications

Okay, so September and October are always crazy months for publishing, and this year promises to be no different. There’s exciting sequels, a new feelgood book, the starts of several series, and particularly pretty covers. Also, so many books coming out on September 28th. What is with that?

ZORAIDA CÓRDOVA – THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUÍDEA DIVINA (September 7th)

I admit, I found this book because of its stunning cover but once I saw it was written by Cordova, author of the Brooklyn Brujas trilogy, I was sold. Also, this book will let us travel to Ecuador. Only through fiction, but I’ll take it.

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptism. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to come and collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers. Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked backed.

Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.


JAY KRISTOFF – EMPIRE OF THE VAMPIRE (September 7th)

Look, I’ve only read one book by Kristoff and wasn’t impressed. His co-writing with Amie Kaufmann on the Illuminae files was fun, though, so I’m willing to give this newest book of his a try. The cover is stunning at the very least. I’m sure I will either end up loving or completely hating this.

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From holy cup comes holy light;

The faithful hands sets world aright.

And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,

Mere man shall end this endless night.

It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order couldn’t stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.

Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.


CADWELL TURNBULL – NO GODS, NO MONSTERS (September 7th)

This book sounds so good. The synopsis promises current topics such as police brutality and hate crimes but also monsters? Also, I knew I needed this as soon as I read “trail of bread crumbs”… are there fairy tales in this? I simply must know!

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One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.


BRIGID KEMMERER – DEFY THE NIGHT (September 14th)

I have yet to finish Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers trilogy but I found the first book very refreshing and incredibly readable. Like stay up until three in the morning readable. So I don’t expect Literary Genius from this but it sounds like a lot of fun that I don’t want to miss out on.

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From New York Times bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer comes a blockbuster fantasy series about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

Set in a richly imaginative world with striking similarities to our own, Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without . . . and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future.


XIRAN JAY ZHAO – IRON WIDOW (September 21st)

This is probably one of the most hyped YA boks of the season and it’s largely due to the cover. However, once you get past those sunset colors and the aweome pose of the cover character, the story also sounds pretty damn cool. There’s a definite Pacific Rim vibe to it what with girls piloting giant robots and all. Also “concubine-pilot” is a thing, apparently and I want to learn everything about that.

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.


TJ KLUNE – UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR (September 21st)

I’m already crying from reading the synopsis. Just shut up and take my money!

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy with TJ Klune’s signature “quirk and charm” (PW) about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.


RYKA AOKI – LIGHT FROM UNCOMMON STARS (September 28th)

This sounds absolutely bonkers and I cannot wait to read it. Also TJ Klune loved it, so brownie points.

Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California’s San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.


LEE MANDELO – SUMMER SONS (September 28th)

Just in tie for October and creepy season comes this debut novel that sounds intriguing and scary and like it has a lot of atmopshere.

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.


SOMAN CHAINANI, JULIA IREDALE – BEASTS AND BEAUTY (September 28th)

You knew I couldn’t resist an illustrated (!) book of twisty fairy tales! I’ve read two of Chainani’s School for Good and Evil books whichwere sweet, and I’ve read a short story by him which was amazing, so I have very high hopes for this book. Also, another pretty cover.

You think you know these stories, don’t you?

You are wrong.

You don’t know them at all.

Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that capture hearts long kept tame and set them free, truths that explore life . . . and death.

A prince has a surprising awakening . . .                           

A beauty fights like a beast . . .

A boy refuses to become prey . . .

A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again.

New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare.


NAOMI NOVIK – THE LAST GRADUATE (September 28th)

I look forward to this book with mixed feelings. I had many issues with A Deadly Education but I also just really liked it. We’ll see if the second Scholomance book can turn me into a proper fan yet.

A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . .


AYANA GRAY – BEST OF PREY (September 28th)

Another book I found because the cover is gorgeous, but then I read “Night Zoo” and broken city and lost magic and okay, fine, I’m in.

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home—and discover much more than they bargained for.

Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand—and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six—an elite warrior—and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani—a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century—but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon—each keeping their true motives secret from the other—form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.


News from the blog

Whew, August

What I read:

  • Mary Robinette Kowal – The Fated Sky (8.5/10)
    Elma goes to Mars – sexism/racism/anxiety – villains are humans too – characters and action well-balanced
  • P. Djèlí Clark – A Master of Djinn (6.75/10)
    delightful writing – pacing uneven – plot tries too much at once – lovely LGBT couple
  • Marjorie Liue, Sana Takeda – Monstres Vol. 5: Warchild (7.5/10)
    my favorite issue volume so far – besieged city – sacrifice the few for the many? – dealing with the past
  • Robert Jordan – The Eye of the World (6.25/10)
    WOW this is like Lord of the Rings – female characters all the same – pacing issues galore – world building has great potential – fun to read despite its flaws
  • S. A. Chakraborty – Empire of Gold (7.25/10)
    takes a while to get going – then gets going properly! – epic ending – very good trilogy finale
  • Isaac Asimov – Foundation (5.5/10)
    there are no women in this galaxy!!! – mostly this is men talking in rooms – almost no story, just ideas – writing decidedly sub-par
  • Isaac Asimov – Foundation and Empire (5/10)
    One woman in this galaxy!!! – writing style improved – still dialogue-heavy – mostly ideas, not real story-telling – plot predictable, quite boring, and nothing new compared to the first book
  • Becky Chambers – A Psalm for the Wild-Built (8/10)
    exactly what we’ve come to expect from Chambers – feel-good, quiet, thoughtful – hopepunk with a nonbinary protagonist and a life-affirming robot 🙂
  • Catherynne M. Valente – L’Esprit de L’Escalier (8/10)
    free to read novelette – Orpheus gets Eurydice back – she’s different, though (mostly dead)- Greek myth references galore – pretty dark
  • Isaac Asimov – Second Foundation (3.5/10) (review coming on Friday)
    pulls the same thrick as previous two books – not a single new thought – characters still bad – mediocre writing – mostly repetition and dialogue – why was anyone impressed by this in the 1950s???

Currently reading:

  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer (re-read)
    just as good as the first time, if not better – man I love Sanjeet – I also love Dayo – and Kirah – just let me hug all of them, okay

I’m re-reading Raybearer so I can jump straight into Redemptor. My Illumicrate special editions of these books have arrived, by the way, and they are stunning! They came with a couple of extras that are sitting on my shelf now and I can’t get over how gorgeous they are.
I finished the Foundation trilogy and I am… not impressed, to say it nicely. The next instalment, Foundation’s Edge, was written 30 years after this “trilogy” and won a Hugo Award, so maaaaybe I’ll give it a try sometime. But honestly, I don’t understand why this series is such a beloved classic. It’s really not good!

In happier news, it’s readathon time this month so I hope to get a lot of books read in September. I have some big ones to tackle but I also spontaneously got a week and a half off work, which I’ll be spending in Tuscany with nothing but time for reading (and swimming in the pool, sunbathing, and eating delicious food, of course). According to current weather reports, this means I can escape the cooler Austrian weather for 32 degrees (Celsius) of pure sunshine! Wish me luck.

Until next month: Stay safe, stay kind, and keep reading. 🙂

Magical Readathon 2021: Orilium – The Novice Path

Summer is slowly coming to an end and there’s still so much reading to do in 2021, so naturally what the book community needs is a new readathon. G from The Book Roast used to do a Harry Potter inspired Magical Readathon but didn’t feel comfortable with the theme anymore. So she has come up with another, even more brilliant, complex, beautifully illustrated and detailed readathon set in her very own magical world. There’s maps, people! And character sheets! For an introduction and all the information, watch the video below.

All the details, prompts, descriptions, and images are available here on Google Drive.

This month-long readathon is a sort of introduction to the world we’re going to play in for the next few years, so the main challenge is easy to achieve but you can always try and fulfill more prompts than strictly necessary. In order to complete this readathon, all you have to do is fulfil two of the seven prompts that we encounter on our journey to Orilion Academy. Starting next year (probably in April) this readathon will be about our studies at said Academy where we can achieve the title of Master. If you’re so inclined – and you can bet that I am – you can fulfill all seven prompts on the map.

But wait, there’s more! As an added challenge and in order to prepare for next year, you can create a character that you then play with. For the super fast readers out there, you can create as many characters as you want. That’s right, the readathon comes with character sheets and everything. G has also thought up some cool fantasy races, some of which are familiar but others are her own creations. They come with different affinities which will probably be important for later readathons.

I don’t know if you can tell but I am beyond excited. For someone like me who loves lists and challenges and playing around in a magical world with my own character, this is the best readathon I can imagine. Naturally, I am already frantically planning my TBR and trying to decide on my character traits.


The prompts and my tentative TBR

So this whole TBR planning isn’t as straight forward as you might think. The prompts are easy enough to fulfill but it turns out my TBR is full of big, chonky books and we all know those are not great readathon material. So I’ve picked a selection of books for each prompt and once September starts, I’ll see which way things go.

click to biggify

The Novice Path Entrance – read a book with a map

Robert Jordan – The Great Hunt

This one is a fixed choice because I want to read the Wheel of Time books mostly in one go. I’ve decided to try the first three to see if the series is for me at all (I’m liking the first, despite its heavy LOTR vibes) and then either quit the series or continue reading one book per month. It would be smart to make sure this is the only gigantic book on my TBR for September…

Ashthorn Tree – a book that keeps tempting you

C. J. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless Moon

I have a Graphic Audio version of Downbelow Station that I am super hyped for but I also loved the first two books in Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series and cannot wait to read the third, which is nominated for a Best Novel Hugo Award, with the trilogy as a whole nominated for Best Series. I will decide which one to pick based on format. If I feel more like an audiobook, C. J. Cherryh wins, if I want to read an ebook, it’ll be Mary Robinette Kowal.

Mists of Solitude – read a standalone

Sarah Gailey – The Echo Wife
Simon Jimenez – The Vanished Birds
Holly Black – The Darkest Part of the Forest

Jimenez is nominated for an Astounding Award this year and I’ve heard nothing but good things about his book. Sarah Gailey does brilliant new things with everything they write, so I’m quite excited to read their latest publication. No idea which one I’ll choose and technically, The Echo Wife would also work for the thriller prompt further down, so maybe I’ll switch it around a bit. For a completely different mood and setting, I have The Darkest Part of the Forest prepared, in case I prefer fairies and magic to time travel and clones.

Ruin of the Sky – read a book featuring ghosts/a haunted house, or other supernatural elements

Katherine Arden – Small Spaces
Seanan McGuire – Late Eclipses
Ryan Douglass – The Taking of Jake Livingston

I adored Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy but I haven’t yet tried her Middle Grade horror books. They look and sound adorable and creepy at the same time, so I’ll just pick the first one up. Should I not like it – and I very much doubt that – I still have the next Toby Daye book on my TBR. Although I don’t know the details about this one’s plot, there’s always supernatural stuff happening so I should be safe. And just to cater to a different mood, there’s a very new book that’s been compared to Get Out, so yeah, of course I need to read The Taking of Jake Livingston.

Obsidian Falls – read a thriller or mystery book

Catherynne M. Valente – Mass Effect: Annihilation
Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Velvet Was the Night
Jim Butcher – Storm Front

This is a tough one because these books sound really cool and one was written by my favorite author (Cat Valente). It will very much depend on my mood during September because although they are all thrillers/mysteries of a kind, they’re are about totally different things. One is a plague story on a space ship with alien species, one is a 1970s noir mystery, possibly with magic, and the third one is about a modern magician solving supernatural cases I think. I’m new to the Dresden Files, as you can probably tell.

Tower of Rumination – read a five star prediction

Jordan Ifueko – Redemptor
Hannah Whitten – For the Wolf
Sofia Samatar – The Winged Histories

Redemptor is my top choice and I will definitely read that one first, but having a backup plan is always a smart idea, so there’s two other books I think I will adore. It’s been too long since I read anything by Sofia Samatar but she satisfies that literary itch I sometimes get. And Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf just ticks so many of my boxes, I simply must end up loving this book

Orilion Academy – a book with a school setting

Victoria Lee – A Lesson in Vengeance
Tori Bovalino – The Devil Makes Three
R. F. Kuang – The Poppy War

Okay, so I probably won’t re-read the Poppy War during a readathon. Not only is it a biiiiig book but it’s also not exactly light in content and when I do re-read it, I want to then finish the trilogy in one go. But I’m keeping my options open, just in case I have too much time on hands. I do look forward to the other two books, however, both of which have a dark Dark Academia vibe. I am very much in the mood for that right now. They’re also by two authors I haven’t read yet so I’m always hoping to discover a new favorite.


My character sheet

The reading prompts that determine certain aspects of your character don’t have to be fulfilled in the month of September. There’s time until the next part of the Magical Readathon begins, which is April 2022. But because I like making lists and going through my TBR to see which books fit, I’m planning ahead a little and choosing the blueprint for my character.

My character Sistani

Background: Urban (a book set in a city or town)

I love foresty books as much as the next fantasy reader but I’ve always been a big fan of living in cities, so I want my character to be a city person too. Plus, speculative fiction books with a well-written city setting are among my favorites. You know, when the city seems to be a character in its own right. Possible books:

  • M. A. Carrick – The Mask of Mirrors
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the Saints
  • Nnedi Okorafor – After the Rain
  • Hope Mirrlees – Lud-in-the-Mist

Province: Kerador (a book from an ongoing series)

I admit it was tough not to choose Darkmeadow, what with the secret underground library (!) but “melting pot province” where all fantasy races come together and there is lots to see and do and discover just sounded too good to pass up. So this is where my character makes her home, in a bustling city on the continent Kerador where there’s a little bit of everything – art, music, parties, and friends from all over the world. Possible books:

  • Linden A. Lewis – The Second Rebel
  • Seanan McGuire – Late Eclipses
  • C. L. Clark – The Unbroken
  • Hannah Whitten – For the Wolf
  • Martha Wells – Fugitive Telemetry
  • Tasha Suri – The Jasmine Throne
  • Jessica Townsend – Hollowpox

Heritage: Iltirian (a book with a crow on the cover or in the title/with a red cover)

Iltirians are so not like me but I decided that my character can be whatever I want her to be and the shapeshifting (especially into crow form) was a very good selling point. Plus, spy librarians! Hello?! I’m not too keen on the red eyes and in real life, I am definitely not vegetarian, let alone vegan, but I’ve stayed true to myself with the other two prompts, so I’m allowed to go a little crazy with this one. Possible books:

  • Lindsay Ellis – Axiom’s End
  • Shelley Parker-Chan – She Who Became the Sun
  • Maureen F. McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
  • Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad

Heritage: Elf (a book with the moon/stars on the cover or the title)

Depending on how well my reading goes, I might make my character half-Elf just because I really like elves and this reading prompt. Possible books:

  • Mary Robinette – Kowal – The Relentless Moon
  • Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
  • Shveta Thakrar – Star Daughter

Orilium Academy (artwork by @Lisa)

I cannot wait to get started and to see you all on the journey (on blogs, BookTube, Twitter, and Discord), chat about books, exchange recommendations, discover new stuff to read, and just have fun. The Magical Readathon being back is so wonderful. Thanks to G for the enormous amount of work and love she pours into it every year! ❤

Reading Goals and Challenges: Mid-Year Check In 2021

Hello, dear reader friends! Since it’s already mid-July (how did that happen?!), I thought it would be a good idea to check in on my reading goals and challenges. My gut feeling is telling me I have fallen behind on some of them and I may need a course correction, but cold numbers speak louder than fancy words. So here’s where I stand on my reading goals, how I am going to adapt during the second half of 2021 and which challenges I may be dropping or loosening up a bit.

Goodreads Reading Goal

I’m doing quite well on this one, at currently 7 books ahead of schedule. Just like last year, reading novelettes, novellas, and graphic novels for the Hugo Awards has pushed me ahead and there’s still some of those left for me to read. So I should have a buffer for a hypothetical reading slump or some big books that take me ages to finish.

I’m not gonna lie, if I could read 150 books per year I would be ecstatic but 100 is a fine goal that I will be happy to achieve. Considering some of the chonkers I’ve read (hello, Stormlight Archive re-read), I’m even a little proud.


Beat the Backlist Challenge

This is the only offical reading challenge I’m participating in this year but I’m not taking it super seriously. Mostly I just read whatever I would anyway and see if the book happens to fit one of the prompts. It does push me to pick up older books, however, and for that I already consider the challenge a win.

  • Prompts fulfilled: 18/52
  • Bingo: almost, but not yet

Reading the Hugo Awards

This is a two-part challenge, actually, because on the one hand, I want to read past Hugo Award winners and finalists, but on the other, more pressing, hand, I need to read this year’s finalists in order to rank them on my ballot. As this is the first year with a lot of time to catch up on the nominated works(WorldCon being in December instead of August for Covid reasons), my plans have become more ambitious. Meaning I want to read more complete categories than I usually would be able to. Here’s my current status:

  • Best Novel: 4/6
  • Best Novella: 6/6
  • Best Novelette: 5/6
  • Best Short Story: 6/6
  • Best Graphic Novel: 4/6
  • Lodestar: 6/6
  • Astounding: 2/6
  • Best Series:
    • Daevabad: 2/3
    • Murderbot: 5/6
    • Interdependency: 1/3
    • Lady Astronaut: 1/3
    • Poppy War: 1/3
    • October Daye: 3/14

Technically, I still need to read 3 books to be fully caught up on Best Novel because I’ve only read the first in Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series and the third volume is nominated for Best Novel. But the series as a whole being a Best Series finalist means that I’ll be able to finish two categories in one go.

I have no plans of finishing the entire Toby Daye series but a couple more volumes can definitely be done.
I’m actually caught up on the nominated Murderbot books but by now there’s another novella out which I want to read. Because Murderbot.

And I’m not sure I should really do it but I’m debating a Poppy War re-read before I finish the rest of the trilogy. I have forgotten so many details and I know the series will destroy me anyway, so why not make it a full trilogy of emotional destruction?

The second part of this challenge is to read a few past Hugo winners or finalists. I had a handful picked out at the beginning of the year but I haven’t done too well so far. I hope I can do two more this year.

Past Hugo winners/finalists read: 1

I just bought the Graphic Audio adaptation of C. J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station and I’m very much looking forward to that. My second Hugo winner will either bei Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog or A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller.


Read More Black Authors

I am quite, quite behind on this one and I blame Brandon Sanderson. No, not like that, the poor guy didn’t do anything. It’s just that my Stormlight Archive re-read (or rather: re-listen) has taken up a lot of time that would have otherwise gone to other audiobooks. I’m not saying all of those books would necessarily have been written by Black authors but I have a few favorite Black writers who tend to get incredible audiobook narrators, so chances are I would have listened to at least a couple of them instead of the incredibly long Stormlight Archive. Either way, this is why we’re checking in on our goals, so we can still adjust and reach our goals by the end of the year.

Books by Black authors read: 6/20

The Hugo Award finalists are also not helping a lot because this year, there aren’t many Black authors on the ballot (at least not ones whose books I haven’t read yet) and a large percentage of my yearly reading is for the Hugo Awards.

I am currently reading the new Rivers Solomon book (so amazing!) and I can’t wait to get into P. Djèlí Clark’s Master of Jinn but I want to do better in general during the second half of the year. In addition to these 6 books by Black authors, I have read another 10 by non-Black Authors of Color, so my reading is at least somewhat diverse. But still, lots of room for improvement.


New Releases

I’m doing okay on this one. There are still plenty of novels that came out this year (or are still coming out) that I want to read before nominating for next year’s Hugos, but I have already discovered some favorites as well as some others I can safely ignore for my ballot.

2021 releases read: 10/??

Favorites: The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente, The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He, All the Murmuring Bones by Angela Slatter. Unsurprisingly, these are all authors who have previously written books that ended up being favorites. I wouldn’t mind a new favorite author discovery now and again. Just sayin’.


Five Star Predictions ★★★★★

Again, I’m doing alright. Not only have I read almost all the books on this list, I also guessed pretty decently. Sure, one of my predictions ended up getting 1.5 stars only so… that was a miss. But the others ranged from very good to excellent.

Alechia Dow – The Sound of StarsRead1.5 stars
Everina Maxwell – Winter’s OrbitRead3.5 stars
Vonda N. McIntyre – DreamsnakeRead4.5 stars
Catherynne M. Valente – The Past is RedRead5 stars
Hannah Whitten – For the WolfNot Read
Fonda Lee – Jade LegacyNot Read

The books actually got better in the order that I read them. I’m wondering now why I put For the Wolf on that list instead of The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid but hey, I hope they both end up being five star books. Jade Legacy will of course blow my socks off, I have no doubt about it.


I guess things could be worse. I am pretty disappointed that my Black author reading challenge is going rather poorly but while it’s not an excuse, the Hugo Awards and my Stormlight Archive re-listen at least serve as a sort of explanation for it. The year is far from over though and I have a ridiculous amount of exciting books by Black authors on my TBR. I will just have to get to them sooner rather than later.

How are you doing on your reading goals? Do you even set yourself goals? Are you participating in any challenges (and can you recommend any)?

Let’s Freak Out Together! The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2021

June is almost over which means HALF of this year has gone by and that’s kind of crazy?! I mean, people say this every year, but I think we can all agree that 2020 and 2021 have been far from normal, so realizing we have lived through almost 1.5 years of pandemic just sounds ridiculous. Trying to look on the bright side, the numerous lockdowns, working from home, social distancing and isolation have opened up a lot of reading time for many of us, me included. I am doing okay as far as reading goals go, although work has been absolutely insane these past months and I’m glad it’s now looking like things will quiet down a bit.

So, on to the Mid-Year Freak Out Tag in which you shall see quite a few repeat offenders, one of which is (unsurprisingly) by my favoritest of authors. It’s not my fault she’s brilliant…

Best Book You Read So Far in 2021

Easily The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (review goes up on July 19th), although I have some other favorites like All The Murmuring Bones by Angela Slatter, a gothic fairy tale-esque novel about a woman breaking free from her family and finding her own place in a decidedly magical world, or The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He, a post climate change YA novel about two sisters trying to find and save each other in a hostile world. And, the only non-2021 title, The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune, which stole my heart so fast I didn’t even know what was happening.

Interestingly, all of these are ocean-themed. In one, there’s nothing left but oceans plus an island of floating garbage, in the second, the ocean is what keeps the protagonist sisters apart, in the third, it’s where the mermaids live who have made a bargain with the protagonist’s family and in the last one, the island setting is in the sea… I always find it funny when I look back on my reading and realize that I’ve been reading on a theme without noticing. 🙂

Best Sequel Read in 2021

Two new releases and three older ones is a good mix, I think. The Discworld novel is not technically a sequel, although it is book 13 in the series. But as it’s not part of either of the sub-series and stands perfectly well on its own, I kind of smuggled it onto this list, simply because I adored it and wanted to mention it here.
Both Arkady Martine’s followup to the amazeballs A Memory Called Empire and Addison’s companion/sequel to the beloved The Goblin Emperor weren’t quite as good as their predecessors, but that doesn’t mean much. They are still both very good novels that gave me more of what I loved in the first book.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

Like every year: So many!

  • P. Djèlí Clark – A Master of Djinn
  • C. L. Clark – The Unbroken
  • Joanna Ruth Meyer – Into the Heartless Woods
  • Ava Reid – The Wolf and the Woodsman
  • Tasha Suri – The Jasmine Throne
  • Nghi Vo – The Chosen and the Beautiful
  • Helene Wecker – The Hidden Palace
  • Maggie Stiefvater – Mister Impossible
  • Nicole Kornher-Stace – Firebreak
  • Martha Wells – Fugitive Telemetry
  • Naomi Kritzer – Chaos on CatNet
  • M. A. Carrick – The Mask of Mirrors
  • Rivers Solomon – Sorrowland

And then some, but these are the ones that feel the most urgent. Yes, I have a problem.

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

  • Jordan Ifueko – Redemptor
  • Catherynne M. Valente – The Past is Red (already read this – it’s perfect!)
  • Catherynne M. Valente – Comfort Me With Apples (already read this – super creepy!)
  • T. J. Klune – Under the Whispering Door
  • Fonda Lee – Jade Legacy
  • Linden A. Lewis – The Second Rebel
  • Ryka Aoki – Light From Uncommon Stars
  • Becky Chambers – A Psalm for the Wild-Built
  • Shelley Parker-Chan – She Who Became the Sun
  • Brandon Sanderson – Cytonic
  • Andrea Stewart – The Bone Shard Emperor
  • Zoraida Córdova – The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina

The Green Bone Saga is coming to an end and I am HYPED! The same goes for Jordan Ifueko’s duology which started with Raybearer (more on that below). We see continuations of Linden A. Lewis’ First Sister series, the Bone Shard universe by Andrea Stewart, as well as Sanderson’s Skyward series, all of which I enjoy a lot. Becky Chambers is starting a new series of novellas, involving a robot and a tea monk (I mean, how could I not want this?), and T. J. Klune offers what is hopefully another heartwarming story like Cerulean Sea. Ryka Aoki and Zoraida Córdova‘s books are on my radar because either I keep hearing about them (Aoki) or the cover is striking (Córcova). Plus, I’ve read Córdova before and like what she does with culture and fantasy.

I’ve already read both of Cat Valente’s upcoming novellas and they are EXCELLENT, although very different in subject and tone. The Past is Red is a post climate-change novel that’s both heartbreaking and hopeful and so, so clever. Comfort Me With Apples is wonderfully eerie but I recommend going into it as blank as possible. The less you know, the more fun you’ll have. There are lots of moments that will make you scratch your head and wonder what the hell is going on. In the best of ways.

Biggest Disappointment

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, and FINNA by Nino Cipri.

This is always such a sad question to answer because obviously, nobody sets out to read a book in order to dislike it. Disappointments can take many forms and have many sources. Was the book overhyped and simply didn’t live up to the expectations? Was the synopsis misleading? Is the plot/style/character development lacking? Is it none of the above and the book simply didn’t fit my current reading mood? It could be any or all of those things but no matter the reason, I would much rather have liked these books. I’m glad, however, that it was only these three.

Did everyone read a different FINNA than I did? The idea sounds sooooo great and really quite funny (a wormhole opens up in fictional IKEA and two unhappy and recently broken up employees have to go in to save a lost grandma) but the world-hopping didn’t work in novella format because things get too hectic and there’s no time for proper world building. The characters were one-dimensional (a gender identity isn’t a person, it’s just one part of a human being!) and the writing wasn’t very engaging. As this is nominated for several awards, I expected a lot more.

In the case of Persephone Station it wasn’t expectations or hype, I just didn’t think the book was very good. It lacks focus and it doesn’t ever manage to make its characters truly come to life. Props for representation but there was so little else there that I can’t even remember much of anything. A hundred SF ideas were shoved into it without ever executing any one of them properly, so it ended up as a big old mess.

Now The Dark is Rising is interesting because not only has it won lots of awards, it’s considered a classic of both children’s literature and fantasy and I Just. Don’t. See. Why. You literally don’t know what’s going on most of the time because the protagonist is a passive bag of meat who’s being shoved around by some immortal magical beings who also don’t tell him shit, except when it’s too late and then he still doesn’t do anything active but just waits around for the next magical being to save his ass and hand him some magical artifact. And it’s all got to do with King Arthur, apparently. I have great respect for any child who stuck with this because I don’t think child-me would have had the patience.

Biggest Surprise

John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire was a book I expected to not enjoy very much. I have nothing against Space Opera and nothing against Scalzi as a person, but I haven’t warmed to his writing very much. The few reviews I’ve seen hinted at this being rather shallow, an action movie kind of book. And while it was definitely as exciting as an action movie, I found much more to like in it than that. Yes, the characters are a little bland but in light of what else the novel has to offer, I was okay with that. Whatever the reasons for it, I didn’t want to put the book down, ever, and immediately after finishing it, I loaded the sequel onto my e-reader.

Favorite New Author

I’m glad I can list several new (potential) favorites here:

I have read one book each by these authors and they all resonated with me and made me want more. So now I have one or more other books by these authors on my TBR which will determine whether I’ve truly found new favorites or just authors who wrote one book I really liked. I have my suspicions, though, that I will end up loving the second book by all of them as much as I did the first.

New Favorite Character

Tetley Abednego from The Past is Red. She’s a ray of sunshine in a world of grey, she’s smart and loving and eternally hopeful. She makes me want to find whatever happiness I can in this messed-up place that is our world. I also want to be best friends with her and together win 8th Best Daffodil at some contest. 🙂

A Book That Made You Cry

Small Gods because Terry Pratchett writes characters that are so human you feel like you know them. And then he sends them out on adventures that sometimes go well, sometimes not so much, but there’s always a feeling of truth to the Discworld. Brutha was an amazing protagonist who has a secure spot in my heart.
Quite different but similarly endearing is Linus Baker in T. J. Klune’s House in the Cerulean Sea, a book that exceeded my expectations but gave me exactly what I had hoped for. Warm feelings, a sense of belonging, a lovely found family, and some ugly-cry moments.

A Book That Makes You Happy

The House in the Cerulean Sea obviously. I can’t think of a more wholesome, happiness-inducing book that I’ve read recently. Yes, it also made me cry. It’s just that kind of book. A close second is A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking which is by T. Kingfisher, so it’s got her particular sense of humor that I love. It’s also clever and heartwarming and just so much fun.

Favorite Book-to-Movie Adaptation You’ve Seen This Year

I’m not aware of anything other than Shadow and Bone but, yes, I did watch and enjoy its first season. After some initial pacing problems and storyline-combining, timeline-ignoring shenanigans, I actually liked it a lot. The actors are great, it’s visually beautiful, and nothing was ruined so far. That doesn’t sound like high praise but the show does a lot of things right. I was surprised at how much I cared about the Nina and Matthias story because, although I liked that bit in the Six of Crows duology, it was never my favorite. Alina and Mal’s relationship is shown beautifully through their letters and flashbacks, the Darkling is just as hot as he should be (and I’m just as uninterested as I was when I read the books), and it all seems to be coming together.

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year

So none of these books are actually here yet because they’re all pre-orders. But I am so excited about the special editions of Raybearer and Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko. I am apparently the only person who doesn’t like the UK covers and while I love the character illustration on the US covers, I am not a fan of the bright colors and all that glitter. But I adore Raybearer and absolutely needed a paper copy! So I grabbed these two beauties with stunning ombre sprayed edges. They’ll be arriving sometime in August or September, I think.

I’ve only had the eARC of The Past is Red to stare at, but that cover is not only gorgeous but also so full of little details that you don’t see the first time you look. It gets even cooler when you’ve read the book and discover that those details have meaning and aren’t just there because they look cool (although they do that, too). I can’t wait to hold the paper copy in my hands and just stare at it for a while.

Honorable mention to The Ones We’re Meant to Find (see first question).

What Books Do You Need to Read By the End of the Year

HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA why is this question even here? My TBR pile looks like an entire mountain range at this point, but okay, priorities can be set and certain books want to be read more urgently than others. Excluding all the books I’m reading for this year’s Hugo Awards and the new releases I’ve already mentioned above, here are my top need-to-read books for the rest of the year:

  • Andrzej Sapkowski – The Time of Contempt
  • Tamora Pierce – The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
  • Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog
  • Iain Banks – Consider Phlebas
  • Brandon Sanderson – Rhythm of War
  • Walter M. Miller – A Canticle for Leibowitz
  • Holly Black – Tithe
  • Laini Taylor – Night of Cake and Puppets
  • Lauren Beukes – Afterland
  • Roshani Chokshi – The Star-Touched Queen

Reading Goal/Challenges Status

  • Goodreads goal: 52/100
  • Beat the Backlist: 17/53 (2 books to go for a Bingo)
  • Black Authors: 6/20
  • New Releases: 10/??

There you have it. I’d say the first half of 2021 was pretty successful, reading-wise. With only a few disappointments but many very good books and several new favorites I really can’t complain. As usual, the Hugo Awards prove to be super rewarding, not only because it’s fun to participate in the community and to vote in the actual awards, but also because reading the finalists shows me new aspects of SFF and leads me down literary roads I would otherwise not have taken.

For someone who wouldn’t have picked up an Urban Fantasy series (because the ones I tried didn’t grab me that much), I am now slowly but steadily catching up on the October Daye series and enjoying it. I also never thought I’d pick up this particular John Scalzi trilogy but, even as I type this, I can’t wait to get started on the next book and find out what happens next!

Now let’s hope the second half of 2021 brings us back to some resemblance of normal and, of course, lots and lots of great books. 😉

#Wyrd and Wonder Day 12: Desert Island Reads

I’ve always hated when people ask me about my one favorite book or which 10 reads I’d bring to a desert island. Why are you putting me thorugh the stress of even thinking about this?! I’m not making you choose your favorite child, am I?
Well, for Wyrd and Wonder, I’m embracing the anxiety and I know that, whatever I post here, I will immediately regret at least half of my choices and think of different, better ones. Let’s do it anyway. Because this is fun. Right?

You can find the rules here. The very basic summary is: Choose 8 books, 1 movie/TV show and 1 luxury item/whatever you want to bring to bring on a desert island with you. TV shows include all episodes, movies include all volumes if part of a fanchise. Book series count as individual books unless there’s a bindup version (Lord of the Rings would count as one book, for example).

IMAGE CREDIT: pegasus image by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com

MY DESERT ISLAND READS… I’m not taking any chances here. Nothing that I haven’t read, unless it’s by one of my favorite authors.

  • The Tiffany Aching Series by Terry Pratchett
    Yes, there actually is an omnibus edition of these five books and you can imagine how happy I was that I didn’t have to choose just one Discworld book for my desert island. Although I would have loved to take all the Witch books.
  • Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine
    I’ve been meaning to re-read this book forever. It’s rather short but Valentine creates a whole world within its pages. It’s got steampunk elements, complex character dynamics, secrets and mysteries, and it’s about a wandering circus in a strangely broken world.
  • Flora’s Dare by Ysabeau S. Wilce
    Choosing the middle book of a trilogy may seem weird but it’s my favorite. It has some really great twists, the characters have grown up a bit from the first book and I just adore Wilce’s world building and writing style. Her alternate California and clever protagonist Flora are just amazing.
  • The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales Angela Slatter
    I have read the first two story collections in this loosely connected series and they are both favorites of mine. This new one is probably just as amazing so I’m bringing it even though I haven’t read it yet.
  • Nation by Terry Pratchett
    Well, you can’t have too many Pratchett books and this one especially fits the island setting. It’s a non-Discworld book but it has made me laugh and cry and fall in love with its characters. Pratchett’s deep understanding of and compassion for humanity gets to truly shine here.
  • Bone Swans by C. S. E. Cooney
    For someone who doesn’t read many collections, I sure do love a lot of them. Cooney is a poet and it shows in her prose writing as well. Her tales are fantastical, bizarre, creepy, atmospheric, inspired by fairy tales but utterly original. I adore her!
  • The Fairyland Series 1-3 by Catherynne M. Valente
    Unfortunately, only the first three books exist in a collected format but I’ll take what I can get. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of Cat Valente, her writing, her ideas, and especially what she did in this series. Infinitely re-readable.
  • In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
    Yeah, it kills me that there’s no edition with both volumes of The Orphan’s Tales but, fine, I’ll take the first and that’s that. Unless I should take Deathless instead?! Have I mentioned that I hate this game?

TV, MOVIE OR PODCAST… This is just mean. I want to go with a TV show, simply because more episodes means more hours of entertainment. But leaving Willow off the island? Or The Neverending Story? I guess the smart choice would be Friends but that’s not fantasy and I’m not that smart anyway. Battlestar Galactica (2003) and Deep Space Nine also aren’t fantasy so I guess I’ll just have to choose my perennial favorite Labyrinth. I’ve loved this movie since I was a child and I’m still not tired of it.

I CAN’T DO WITHOUT… I wanted to bring my boyfriend but he is far from inanimate and the rules say to bring only things. Favorite foods will only last until they’re eaten, so I think I’ll pick something more useful. How about one of those Swiss Army knives that can do practically anything? I can open coconuts, cut some wood, gut all the fish I’m catching… Yeah, I’ll go with that. 🙂

#WyrdAndWonder Day 8: Currently Reading

Oh boy, this really is the perfect challenge prompt for me at the moment. While I am okay with reading several books at once, I don’t usually go overboard the way I am doing currently. But you’ll see it’s really not my fault. How can I help it when reading challenges have great prompts, finalists for some major SFF awards are announced, and then an e-ARC falls into my lap that actually made me run around the house screaming because I’m so happy. Add to that my long-time projects or books I’ve put to the side hoping the right mood will strike me soon to finish them…

ACTUALLY currently reading

Tade Thompson – The Rosewater Insurrection

I read the first book in the Wormwood Trilogy last year because it was a finalist for the Best Series Hugo Award. Although it was a difficult book to read – different timelines, crazy ideas, complex characters – I really enjoyed it. Just before Wyrd and Wonder started, I got the audiobook of the second volume and I think I’m enjoying this one even more than the first. It’s science fiction, not fantasy, but I don’t think I can wait until the end of Wyrd and Wonder to finish the book. I may just finish it today which means more time for the next fantasy book.

Catherynne M. Valente – Under in the Mere

This take on Arthurian legends by my favorite author is one of her older works, which means it’s even wordier and has even less of a plot than her newer books. Although it’s very short, I’m reading this in half-a-chapter-increments because, man, does Cat know a lot of words! Some chapters are more readable than others, painting a picture of one of Arthur’s knights and his particular plight. Others are more like a fever dream, with tons of references to classical myths, and very little substance. It’s just pretty words strung together prettily. Also, I am not sure I completely understand it. It’s told from the POV of Arthur’s knights but they’re in California? Maybe you need to know a lot more about Arthurian legend than I do to get it.
So this won’t end up at the top of my Valente list but it also doesn’t change her status as my very favorite author!

Brandon Sanderson – Words of Radiance

This is a re-read (or technically a re-listen) because I haven’t actually read Rhythm of War yet and want to get myself back up to speed. The third book in the Stormlight Archive, Oathbringer, especially had lots of new important information about the world and characters and I remember very little of it. That’s no way to go into a new Sanderson book, so I’m re-reading the series before diving into the newest book. I actually started with the last two parts of The Way of Kings (just the ending, which in Sanderson means 250 pages) and am now reading all of Words of Radiance. It’s still as exciting as it was the last time, except now I am catching more hints for things to come than I did on my first read.

T. Kingfisher – The Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

I’ve only just started this book but ever since I met the sourdough starter named Bob in the very first chapter, I knew this would be hilarious. T. Kingfisher has been a favorite of mine for years (I actually first loved her fairy tale retellings) but combining baking, magic, and her brand of humor must be a new high. I cannot wait to join protagonist Mona on a search for who dropped that dead body in her bakery…

Marjorie Liu – The Tangleroot Palace

This isn’t technically a current read as I write this but by the time this post goes up, I will have started it. It’s an e-ARC (not the one I screamed about, but another one that makes me fairyl excited) and it comes out in June, so now is the perfect time to read it. This short fiction collection promises twists on fairy tales, magic in cool settings, and a full-length novella. And it’s by the writer of the Monstress comic book series.


Officially but not really currently reading

Okay, so I maaaay have started a book last year (!), put it aside and never picked it up again. I still want to finish it but there’s always other stuff that I need to read first. The book in question is Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James and if you’ve read, or sampled, that book, you’ll know why I needed a break. It’s not only dark in terms of subject matter, plot, and characters, but the language is complex and sometimes difficult to understand. At least for me, as a non-native speaker. I’ve been waiting for the urge to read the second half of that book for months now and it hasn’t really struck yet. But I’m not giving up. I definitely want to know how that crazy story ends!

Second, a similar situation, although I do read a few pages here and there, is Little, Big by John Crowley. This book was fun enough for the first third or so. Then I kept wondering when the plot would finally start or at least when all those stories about multiple generations of the Drinkwater family would make sense. I am at about 65% and the thought of picking this book up feels more like a chore than fun. But it’s my favorite author’s favorite book and I do like the general atmosphere of it. I just hope that I’ll get some kind of plot within the next 5% or at the very least a mind-blowing twist at the end…

And last but not least, a book I’m only reading casually to practice my Spanish (or rather to revive my Spanish, as it seems to have mostly left my brain after years of not using it). Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal, the first Harry Potter book, is something I’m reading without any pressure. I’ll pick it up and read a few pages one day, then put it down again for a few days – it’s not like I don’t know the story after all. The first few chapters took me forever because I had to look up so many words. By now, I can read without pausing after every sentence, but my brain is still much slower when processing Spanish than German or English. If I finish the book before our trip to Barcelona (if that even happens), that’s fine. No pressure, just lechuzas and varitas. 🙂


In case you’re wondering, the e-ARC I mentioned above is Cat Valente’s The Past is Red and I do want to dive into it right away. But. It’s science fiction, so not really the right fit for Wyrd and Wonder. And I am also feeling super guilty about those other books and feel like I should at least use this beautiful monthlong event to read a few chapters of them.

Then again, I already know reading everyone else’s #currentlyreading posts and tweets will distract me and draw my attention to all those exciting books I’ve been meaning to pick up and then my current reads will suddenly be forgotten again. It’s like a curse but at least we’re all suffering it together. 🙂

#Mythothon 4 – Wrap-Up

This is it! Mythothon is officially over and it’s time to see how I did.
Let me say first of all that I am super happy with this readathon. I am not the hugest King Arthur fan so I thought the prompts would make things difficult for me. But they are vague enough to fit many books and yet, there was enough King Arthur vibe to this readathon to actually get me in the mood for more.

General thoughs

The month of April was a bit meandering for me. Work was crazy most of the time, I had picked some bigger books (that’s not a super smart idea for a readathon), the Hugo finalists were announced, making me throw my entire readathon TBR out the window, and I got a Covid shot appointment (yay!). But yeah, it was mostly work that got in the way of me really rocking this readathon.

I started out okay but not super fast with a few shorter reads. I re-read the first book in the Song of the Lioness series, determined to just race through the entire series in April. Well, that didn’t happen. Because the Hugo Award finalists were announced and that gets me super excited every year. Since I’m voting again this year, I needed to start reading the finalists right away because reasons. There’s time until December so I really didn’t have to worry but you know how it is. But for what it’s worth, that gave me a reading boost and upped my motivation. I didn’t finish as many books as I would have liked but I’m happy with how I did, especially since I discovered some great books.

In addition to these fine knights I have recruited, I also finished the group read and the team prompt. The latter turned out to be my favorite read of the month, even though it was very different from what I expected and took a while to get going.


Books finished

Books started:

  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe (Sir Percival)
  • Catherynne M. Valente – Under in the Mere (Sir Lancelot)
  • Tade Thompson – The Rosewater Insurrection (Sir Bors)

The books


As you can see, I’m also behind on my reviews. Next week will probably be hell again at work but after that, things should relax a little and I’ll have time to catch up on reviews and current reads and maybe even do a tag or something. 🙂

Wyrd and Wonder: We’re Going On An Adventure (Sign-Up and TBR)

Okay, okay, so I may have a reading challenge/readathon problem. But last time, I just missed this event by a few days and this year, I forgot when it was going to happen and somehow only discovered yesterday that it will, in fact, happen now, throughout the month of May. So you see, I just had to join. Mind you, I don’t know how successful I’ll be or how many of the daily prompts I can participate in but, damn, do I look forward to Wyrd and Wonder. Not least becaues the community seems to be wonderful and welcoming and everything that makes the world feel a little better right now. Let’s all love fantas books together.

IMAGE CREDIT: pegasus images by Svetlana Alyuk

My Tentative TBR

Now that the Hugo Award finalists have been announced, I am much more convinced that I can stick to a planned TBR. At least mostly. And because Wyrd and Wonder is all about reading and enjoying and talking about fantasy, I’ll focus on that, even if there are some sci-fi books here, waiting to be read.

  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe
  • T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
  • Seanan McGuire – An Artificial Night
  • Seanan McGuire – Come Tumbling Down
  • Joanna Ruth Meyer – Into the Heartless Wood
  • S. A. Chakraborty – The Empire of Gold
  • C. L. Clark – The Unbroken
  • Tamora Pierce – The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
  • Leigh Bardugo – Rule of Wolves
  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun

I actually just threw those together randomly from whatever was near the top of my TBR but I’m quite happy with the variety we got going on.

There are YA and adult novels, Urban Fantasy and secondary world fantasy, books based on fairy tales and/or myths, quite a few BIPOC authors, two 2021 publications, a lot from 2020, and one much older one. Depending on how well I do, I might just throw in a fantasy classic. I’ve been meaning to read Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees and Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly and they would both fit well.

Then again, there are some books coming out in May that could destroy my reading plans by demanding to be read first:

  • Joan He – The Ones We’re Meant to Find (cannot WAIT)
  • P. Djèlí Clark – A Master of Djinn (Full length Clark novel, yay!)
  • Maggie Stiefvater – Mister Impossible (Gimme more Lynch brothers any day)
  • Rivers Solomon – Sorrowland (Is it sci-fi, is it fantasy? I don’t know but I need it!)

Plans for May

Other than hopefully read the books above (or at least most of them), I want to participate in some of the daily prompts. I really love the topics and ideas that are coming up. Some of them will take a bit longer to prepare, others can be answered quite easily. There are some prompts that require creativity (erm… spine poetry), and others that are easier to do (like a list of favorites). And of course, May shall be the month in which I deliver all those reviews that are still stuck in my brain.

I will also follow the Twitter #WyrdAndWonder and I look forward to reading the many posts my fellow bloggers write as well as seeing those gorgeous Instagram pictures of pretty books that everybody seems to be able to take.

Also, in order to fully enjoy Wyrd and Wonder and to get all that reading done myself, I plan to work less during May! You can hold me accountable if I fail. Seriously, guys, bring on the shame bell. 🙂

Let’s go on that adventure together…

#Mythothon 4 – Week Two

As I suspected, the announcement of the Hugo Award finalists made me completely overthrow my readathon TBR. 🙂 On the other hand, it also boosted my reading motivation and got me super excited for a lot of books!

How the week went

Thankfully, last week was much nicer than the beginning of the month. Work is still super stressful and in addition to the “normal” stress we’re starting new projects left and right, but I’m dealing with it better. I’ve been exercising regularly and sleeping better. A good night’s sleep really does work wonders!
I didn’t finish a lot of books (because daily exercise takes up time…) but I did get halfway through a chonker and a Lodestar finalist, so next week I’ll have more books to talk about.

My choice for the Nimue group read – set by the sea – was a total hit, although it didn’t start out that way. Full disclosure, the author Angela Slatter is one of my very favorites, so I trusted her to turn the rather slow start of this book into something more exciting after a while. And she did! This is a gothic, dark fairy tale, a family story interwoven with myths and legends, the tale of a young woman breaking free from the chains of tradition and making a life for herself.
The language is lyrical, the protagonist Miren’s strength grows with every chapter, and although it starts slowly, the plot picks up pace along the way and leads to a finale that had me biting my nails and worrying for the characters I’ve come to care for.
If you like fairy tales or mythology, a creepy atmosphere, and discovering dark family secrets, then this is for you.

My choice for the legendary romance prompt was very different. I didn’t have high expectations of this book but it delivered pretty much exactly what I thought it would. A book that’s super quick and fun to read but just not very good from a literary standpoint. Or a genre standpoint. It’s written inconsistently, the world building is haphazard and sloppy, the characters are shallow, there’s lots of telling instead of showing, and the plot is super predictable. BUT! I had a blast reading this because it’s one of those books that doesn’t require too much thinking. You don’t have to keep an entire history of this fantasy world in your mind, you don’t have to figure out difficult family relations between this royal or that. You just follow your Mary Sue, good-at-everything protagonist and the stereotypical sidekicks on their comfortingly predictable journey. This was by no means a good book, but I’d recommend it for when you’re trying to get out of a slump. There’s something comforting in books like this and I’m glad they exist.


Books finished in week 1:

Books finished in week 2:

Currently reading:

  • S. A. Chakraborty – The Kingdom of Copper
  • Aiden Thomas – Cemetery Boys

Plans for next week

I didn’t finish the Song of the Lioness yet but I hope to still manage that during this readathon. My excitement for the Hugo Awards has simply been too great and I wanted to get started on the finalists as soon as possible. The voting period will be extended this year and the winners won’t be announced until December, so I really shouldn’t stress myself. Starting now, I will mix up my reading. One Hugo finalists, one (older) book from my TBR. The most important thing is to keep it low pressure and have fun!

Here’s what I’m looking at for next week. Most of these are short and/or for a young audience so I think I can read them quickly. These are two Lodestar finalists and two backlist books. I’ll probably throw in an audiobook as well because I’m more than halfway through Kingdom of Copper and I can’t not listen to an audiobook. That’s just not an option. 🙂