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 CĂ“RDOVA – THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUĂŤDEA 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. DjèlĂ­ 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. đź™‚

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! ❤

#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. 🙂

#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. 🙂

#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. DjèlĂ­ 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. DjèlĂ­ 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.

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. DjèlĂ­ 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. DjèlĂ­ 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!