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. 🙂

The State of SFF – August 2021

The second half of 2021 is moving just as fast as the first and there are many things to look forward to. Adaptations, new books, awards, and hopefully a return to something resembling normal.

Quickie News

  • Good Omens is getting a second season on Amazon Prime and we can all look forward to more of our favorite angel and demon combo as David Tennant and Michael Sheen are reprising their roles as Crowley and Aziraphale. And Neil Gaiman will be co-writing the season, so we’re definitely in for a treat. What more is there to say than YAY?
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  • The Wheel of Time TV show has a publication date. Well, publication month. The first season of the long awaited show is set to air in November 2021 on Amazon Prime. The series has already been renewed for a second season.
    To prepare, I have finally started reading the first book. I would like to experience this huge epic story in book format first before I dive into the TV show.
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  • A new Dune trailer is out and it looks pretty damn great. I am excited, everyone is excited. That’s all there is to say.

Scott Lynch and a Thorn of Emberlain Update (Sort Of)

Scott Lynch has always been transparent about his battle with depression and the resulting delay in publishing further books in the Gentleman Bastard series. When The Republich of Thieves came out years after the previous volume, me and the other Locke Lamora fans were happy and excited and hopeful that the series would continue soon. In 2019, Lynch mentioned that the next instalment, The Thorn of Emberlain, was as good as finished. It had a cover and everything. But as of 2021, the book hasn’t been published yet.
Scott has recently posted an update about his struggle with anxiety and his difficulties letting go of his work (handing it in to the publisher, making posts public, etc.). I found the post both brave and educating. I am no stranger to anxiety but it can take so many shapes and forms and not all of them are well-known. Scott is now taking medication to help him and as far as comments on the internet go, I think we all agree that we wish him the best! Whether the next book comes out soon or not isn’t even a point of discussion. We just want Scott to be okay.

In a time when fans can be very demanding, even going so far as to harrass authors whose work they feel they are entitled to (spoiler: we’re not!), I find it heartening that an author opening up about why he’s not publishing more works or not publishing faster can lead to such positive reactions.
Scott is one of the few authors I’ve actually met at a convention and we had a lovely chat in which he apologized for killing some of my favorite characters 🙂 . I wish him all the best so that he can continue to write stories and kill off characters to his heart’s desire.


The World Fantasy Award Finalists Have Been Announced

And much like all other SFF award finalists this year, they look amazing! There is some overlap with other awards but there are also books here that didn’t make other awards list (some to great bafflement). I am particularly happy to see Alaya Dawn Johnson on this list as well as Mexican Gothic which I loved and The Only Good Indians which has been on my TBR forever. I think October will be just right to pick up this hopefully creepy horror novel.

  • Silvia Moreno Garcia – Mexican Gothic
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the Saints
  • C. L. Polk – The Midnight Bargain
  • Stephen Graham Jones – The Only Good Indians
  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi

Congratulations to the amazing finalists!!!


Exciting August Publications

August for the win! Okay, so there may not be a ton of publications that I am hyped for but the ones that are coming out in August are suuuuper exciting.

JORDAN IFUEKO – REDEMPTOR (August 17th)

IT’S FINALLY COMING!!! The second and final part in the Raybearer Duology will arrive in August and I am stoked! Raybearer was such a surprise for me, a debut I unabashadely loved with characters that defy all YA tropes and world building that would work just as well in an adult Epic Fantasy. Plus, Jordan Ifueko is the most adorable person on Instagram and I want to be best friends with her.

The hotly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestselling YA fantasy about Tarisai’s quest to change her fate

For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.

Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.

With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.


LINDEN A. LEWIS – THE SECOND REBEL (August 24th)

And here’s another sequel I am excited about. The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis sure had its flaws but it’s a space opera that has stuck with me since I read it. Sadly, it went a little under the radar and I didn’t see many reviews. Hopefully, I can nudge some of you to try the first book. 🙂
I highly recommend going with the audiobook version in which the nonbinary protagonsit (one of three) is actually read by a nonbinary narrator.

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Linden A. Lewis returns with this next installment of The First Sister Trilogy, perfect for fans of Red RisingThe Handmaid’s Tale, and The Expanse.

Astrid has reclaimed her name and her voice, and now seeks to bring down the Sisterhood from within. Throwing herself into the lioness’ den, Astrid must confront and challenge the Aunts who run the Gean religious institution, but she quickly discovers that the business of politics is far deadlier than she ever expected.

Meanwhile, on an outlaw colony station deep in space, Hiro val Akira seeks to bring a dangerous ally into the rebellion. Whispers of a digital woman fuel Hiro’s search, but they are not the only person looking for this link to the mysterious race of Synthetics.

Lito sol Lucious continues to grow into his role as a lead revolutionary and is tasked with rescuing an Aster operative from deep within an Icarii prison. With danger around every corner, Lito, his partner Ofiera, and the newly freed operative must flee in order to keep dangerous secrets out of enemy hands.

Back on Venus, Lito’s sister Lucinia must carry on after her brother’s disappearance and accusation of treason by Icarii authorities. Despite being under the thumb of Souji val Akira, Lucinia manages to keep her nose clean…that is until an Aster revolutionary shows up with news about her brother’s fate, and an opportunity to join the fight.

This captivating, spellbinding second installment to The First Sister series picks up right where The First Sister left off and is a must-read for science fiction fans everywhere.


TORI BOVALINO – THE DEVIL MAKES THREE (August 10th)

This is my wild card pick for the month. This is a debut novel whose cover normally wouldn’t speak to me. But it’s about libraries and evil books and two people who have to team up unwillingly (do I see bickering coming my way? I think I do!), so it simply has too many buzzwords for me to ignore. Dark Academia, here I come.

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Tess Matheson only wants three things: time to practice her cello, for her sister to be happy, and for everyone else to leave her alone.

Instead, Tess finds herself working all summer at her boarding school library, shelving books and dealing with the intolerable patrons. The worst of them is Eliot Birch: snide, privileged, and constantly requesting forbidden grimoires. After a bargain with Eliot leads to the discovery of an ancient book in the library’s grimoire collection, the pair accidentally unleash a book-bound demon.

The demon will stop at nothing to stay free, manipulating ink to threaten those Tess loves and dismantling Eliot’s strange magic. Tess is plagued by terrible dreams of the devil and haunting memories of a boy who wears Eliot’s face. All she knows is to stay free, the demon needs her… and he’ll have her, dead or alive.


SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA – VELVET WAS THE NIGHT (August 17th)

Ever since Mexican Gothic I have jumped on the Silvia Moreno-Garcia hype train with the rest of you. Looking at that cover and reading that synopsis makes this book a no-brainer. Of course I’m going to buy it. How could I not?

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a “delicious, twisted treat for lovers of noir” about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes.


ELAYNE AUDREY BECKER – FORESTBORN (August 31st)

I’m not sure about this one. Magical illness, shapeshifter with a dark past that has to do with the forest? Okay, why not. But “obstinate prince” is what did it for me. Even if the rest of the book isn’t that good, if it has a good bickering couple, I’m sold.

TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE.

Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness–and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble.

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up–and to which she swore never to return.

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.


News from the blog

I managed to read much more in July than I had thought. With the Hugo nominated graphic novels, my numbers look kind of inflated, but I had a few big prose novels in there as well. Also, the fact that I’m listening to shorter audiobooks again helps a lot.

What I read:

  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun
    epic fantasy set in the pre-Columbian Americas – great characters – interesting world but could use more depth – unsatisfying ending – great series-starter – will definitely read the sequel
  • Seanan McGuire – An Artifical Night
    October Day #3 – about the Wild Hunt – slow beginning, action-packed rest –
  • Brandon Sanderson – Oathbringer
    re-read – it really is the weakest of the first three books – still super epic and exciting – I’m ready for Rhythm of War now
  • Seanan McGuire, Takeshi Miyazawa – Ghost-Spider Vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over
    fun comic book – snappy dialogue – introduction to Gwen from a parallel universe – lots of set-up, no finished story arc – good but didn’t make me want to continue the series
  • Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans – Die Vol. 2: Split the Party
    cool artwork – should have read the first book again – still very dark – it’s got the Bronte siblings! – missing that spark (maybe if I’d read both volumes in one go I would have liked it more?)
  • Tamsyn Muir – Harrow the Ninth
    absolutely batshit crazy – nothing makes sense for most of the book – then almost everything makes sense – difficult read but I really liked it
  • Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy – Parable of the Sower: The Graphic Novel Adaptation
    amazing adaptation – art is not pretty but striking – as dark as the novel – recommended
  • G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward – Invisible Kingdom #1-2
    re-read the first, red the second – space opera meets religion – cool art – fighting against big corporations – great characters – LGBTQIA rep
  • Rivers Solomon – Sorrowland
    tough to read – explores gender and sexuality – religious cult – body horror – personal but science-fictiony at the same time
  • John Crowley – Little, Big
    I finally finished this – very little plot – beautifully written – atmospheric, dense, mysterious – little plot pay-off – probably brilliant but I think I need to re-read this when I’m older
  • Ava Reid – The Wolf and the Woodsman
    messy plot – great folklore and mythology – slow-burn romance – debut mistakes – showing, then telling

Currently reading:

  • Robert Jordan – The Eye of the World
  • P. Djèlí Clark – A Master of Djinn
  • Mary Robinette Kowal – The Fated Sky

I’m doing it! I’m reading the freaking Wheel of Time!! And it’s just as much of a Tolkien knock-off as everyone said. I’m not letting that keep me from it, however. I’m determined to give the first three books a shot and if, by then, I don’t feel the series is interesting enough or has its own story to tell, I’ll drop it. So far, I’m having fun although the Lord of the Rings parallels are truly ridiculous, the characters are pretty bland, and the plot is dragging. But in between sloggy bits are glimpses of cool world building and ideas tha I want to learn more about. I hope the characters and plot will improve in the second book. We’ll see how it goes.
Clark’s first full-length djinn novel is delightful, although it doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to do plot-wise. And Mary Robinette Kowal managed to suck me in super fast into the Lady Astronaut’s second book. I’m glad the Hugos made me pick this up because as much as I hate the sexism, racism, and many other -isms that protagonist Elma is confronted with, these books are also just really, really good!

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

The State of SFF – July 2021

Holy moly, this year is halfway over! I am back from a proper holiday and I almost can’t believe it. We went to Barcelona (on a plane and everything!), saw a lot of this beautiful city, went to the beach, ate tons of delicious food, and of course I got a lot of reading done.

Quickie News

  • Pride Month may be over but I’ve discovered The Queer Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Database and want to share this resource with you. It helps you find LGBTQIA+ SFF books, you can search by identity, relationship, genre and age group, or you can just browse and see if something interests you. I found it quite helpful because often I just don’t know that a book I have on my TBR has LGBTQIA+ representation in it and this database really helps.
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  • The Hugo Voter Packet is here and it’s pretty damn great! I was very happily surprised that some companies offered codes for the games nominated in the new Best Game category (I’ve since been playing Spiritfarer A LOT). While some publishers only offered excerpts of the nominated work (which is fine), others delivered entire series. Either way, there is huge amount of stuff to read, watch, or play. I am super impressed and have already started to work on the pile of material.
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  • If you’re one of the people who loved Graceling by Kristin Cashore, you’re getting two treats this year. The fourth instalment of the series, Winterkeep, came out earlier in the year, and in November, we’re getting a Graphic Novel version of the first book, adapted by Gareth Hinds. I am excited to see this underrated YA series come to life again through a different medium.
  • I will be eternally jealous of anyone who can participate in this pre-order campaign, but if you’re in the US and you’ve pre-ordered The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (and you really should!), then you can get a shiny enamel pin naming you 8th Best Daffodil. It will make perfect sense once you’ve read the book, trust me. I’ll just sit here in little excluded Europe, pin-less but still looking forward to my paper copy of the book.

The Nebula Awards have been announced

The livestream happened at 2am in my time zone, so I am super proud that I managed to watch it the next morning without getting spoiled. There was much excitement and consequent squeeing in my house, I can tell you that. You can still watch the ceremony on Youtube.

Congratulations to all the winners!

As always, there are some categories I care about more than others and I am super stoked about the winners. First and foremost, my favorite novella of last year (and possibly ever) Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark won for Best Novella. The Andre Norton award for YA/MG fiction didn’t go to my top choice Raybearer but instead to my second favorite A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by the inimitable T. Kingfisher. Her speech was just as lovely and hilarious as her books are. Lastly, the Best Novel Nebula went to Network Effect by Martha Wells. While the competition was stiff, who can be mad at Murderbot taking home an award? That’s right, nobody!

There is considerable overlap between the Nebula finalists and the Hugo finalists and so I am even more excited to catch up on the novels, novelettes, and short stories I haven’t read yet.


And so have the Locus Awards

Man, awards season is great and this year! I’m particularly happy and a little proud that I’ve read almost all the winners before they were announced!

Best Novel (Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, respectively):

  • Martha Wells – Network Effect
  • N. K. Jemisin – The City We Became
  • Silvia Moreno Garcia – Mexican Gothic

YA Novel went to A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher, First Novel to Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. I would have preferred to see Micaiah Johnson or Andrea Stewart win this one, but things could be worse.
Best Novella went to the amazeballs Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark, Best Novelette to “The Pill” by Meg Elison (I just read that for the Hugo Awards), and Best Short Story to “Little Free Library” by Naomi Kritzer which I also found really cute.

I am very happy about the works that have won. Congratulations to all the winners as well as the other finalists. It was an excellent year for SFF.


Poll: NPR’s Top Fantasy and Sci-Fi Novels of the Last Decade

If you love lists, like me, you may be aware of NPR’s Top 100 Fantasy and Sci-Fi Novels List from the year 2011. Well, they’re doing another one and to make things better (and not be reminded that, yes, The Lord of the Rings is still everyone’s favorite of all time) choices are limited to books published in the last 10 years. I have already voted, I am super excited for the results, and I hope you’ll all go vote for your favorites a well.

Because I really need another list of books to read…


Exciting July Publications

July feels a bit quieter to me. There are novellas by Becky Chambers and Cat Valente coming up, a stuning-looking debut, and new fairy tale retellings. But while I’m interested in all these books, my excitement levels aren’t as high as last month. Which is probably good because my TBR is making me nervous as it is.

BECKY CHAMBERS – A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT (July 1st)

Now that Becky Chambers is done with the Wayfarers, she is treating us to a new novella series – with robots! Having a tea monk and a robot become friends is already enough to convince me but I’m sure there’ll be a lot more to it than that.

In A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers’s delightful new Monk & Robot series gives us hope for the future.

It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.

They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers’s new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?


ELIZABETH LIM – SIX CRIMSON CRANES (July 6th)

I’m always up for a good fairy tale retelling! While I still haven’t read the Elizabeth Lim book on my TBR, I do look forward to this Six Swans version a lot. And not just because the cover is gorgeous. Although it is. Really, really gorgeous.

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Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.


NICHOLE KORNHER-STACE – JILLIAN VS PARASITE PLANET (July 13th)

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I stumbled across this book on Tachyon Publication’s homepage and I just couldn’t scroll past that cover without checking it out. This looks and sounds like so much fun. A space adventure for Middle Grade kids feels like the perfect summer read, even if it has parasites in it. 🙂

Can an anxious eleven-year-old find her chill and save her family from creepy aliens? Only if she’s the most awesome, super-brave astronaut since Spaceman Spiff! So take a deep breath, grab your sidekick, and blast off with Jillian to Parasite Planet.

Eleven-year-old Jillian hates surprises. Even fun ones make her feel all panicky inside. But, she’s always dreamed of joining her space-explorer parents on a mission. It’s Take Your Kid to Work Day, and Jillian finally has her chance to visit an alien world!

The journey to Planet 80 UMa c is supposed to be just a fun camping trip. But then the local wildlife starts acting really dangerous. Only the onboard computer SABRINA sorta knows what’s happening—at least when it’s not goofing off or telling bad jokes.

Looks like it’s Jillian vs Parasite Planet—and Jillian is determined to win!


LUCINDA ROY – THE FREEDOM RACE (July 13th)

I am a little unsure whether I will like this book. After a civil war, slavery is somehow back… I do like the idea of a race, of people banding together to find out their own history, but I’m not quite sure what the speculative aspects of this book are going to be.

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The Freedom Race, Lucinda Roy’s explosive first foray into speculative fiction, is a poignant blend of subjugation, resistance, and hope.

In the aftermath of a cataclysmic civil war known as the Sequel, ideological divisions among the states have hardened. In the Homestead Territories, an alliance of plantation-inspired holdings, Black labor is imported from the Cradle, and Biracial “Muleseeds” are bred.

Raised in captivity on Planting 437, kitchen-seed Jellybean “Ji-ji” Lottermule knows there is only one way for her to escape. She must enter the annual Freedom Race as a runner.

Ji-ji and her friends must exhume a survival story rooted in the collective memory of a kidnapped people and conjure the voices of the dead to light their way home.


CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE – THE PAST IS RED (July 20th)

This is my favorite book of the year so far and its only flaw is that it could have been a big chunky novel but only wanted to be a novella. It’s post climate change but somehow in a funny and hopeful way. Protagonist Tetley Abednego is the easiest to love, what with her eternal hopefulness, her way of looking at life positively, no matter how many curveballs it throws her. And there are some great twists. Just pick it up and if you like shiny covers, get yourself a hard copy because the cover and its small details are just stunning and actually relevant to the story.

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Catherynne M. Valente, the bestselling and award-winning creator of Space Opera and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland returns with The Past is Red, the enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world.

The future is blue. Endless blue…except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.

Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time.

But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.


RACHEL VINCENT – RED WOLF (July 20th)

Is it mean if I say I don’t expect to like this book? The author comparisons make alarm bells ring in my head and the synopsis sounds thin at best. So why am I listing it here? Well, it’s a Red Riding Hood reimagining and I can’t resist fairy tale retellings. Plus, I really like when my prejudices are shattered and I hope Rachel Vincent can do that.

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This high stakes, pacey reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood is perfect for fans of Stephanie Garber and Megan Spooner.

For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember the village of Oakvale has been surrounding by the dark woods—a forest filled with terrible monsters that light cannot penetrate. Like every person who grows up in Oakvale she has been told to steer clear of the woods unless absolutely necessary.

But unlike her neighbors in Oakvale, Adele has a very good reason for going into the woods. Adele is one of a long line of guardians, women who are able to change into wolves and who are tasked with the job of protecting their village while never letting any of the villagers know of their existence.

But when following her calling means abandoning the person she loves, the future she imagined for herself, and her values she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.


SHELLEY PARKER-CHAN – SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN (July 20th)

Here’s one of my most highly anticipated novels of the year, and yes, the cover is to blame at least in part. But if you tell me it’s “Mulan meets The Song of Achilles”, I’ll buy it even with a bad cover. I mean it just sounds super exciting. Girl pretending to be a a boy, high stakes, constant danger of being found out… yeah, I think I’ll love this one.

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Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.


ERIN A. CRAIG – SMALL FAVORS (July 27th)

I read the first few chapters of Craig’s Hous eof Salt and Sorrows and found it a bit too YA tropey for my taste, but I may give it another try. And I may also try this new book of hers which sounds pretty intriguing and gives me Goblin Market vibes.

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.

As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.


NEWS FROM THE BLOG

Ah, reading plans work out much better for me when I don’t make a strict TBR. I made myself a list of all my LGBTQIA+ books on my Kobo (that list turned out to be quite long) and then just picked books by mood. I was also granted another Cat Valente ARC so life is good.

Tags and such:

I did the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag and it was, indeed, filled with me freaking out about the amount of books I still want to read this year. My review for The Witness For the Dead by Katherine Addison finally went up and I’m a bit surprised that I read and reviewed the few eARCs I requested this year in such a timely fashion. Go me!

What I read:

  • Nino Cipri – FINNA
    very disappointing – cool idea, bad execution – characters are flat (they have one trait only) – world-hopping was too short – no emotional impact at all – not interested in the sequel
  • T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
    fun and funny – surprising uses of bread dough – fantastic protagonist – pretty exciting story with high stakes
  • T. J. Klune – The House in the Cerulean Sea
    EXACTLY like everyone said – a book like a warm blanket – a feel-good, heartwarming tale of found family – made me laugh and cry
  • Catherynne M. Valente – Comfort Me With Apples (review coming in October)
    wonderfully eerie – Steford Wives vibe – great twist – atmospheric – read in one sitting
  • Joan He – The Ones We’re Meant to Find
    so good – mystery upon mystery – two sisters searching for each other – climate change – emotional and dramatic – beautiful understated romance
  • John Scalzi – The Collapsing Empire
    reads like a movie – super fun – interesting ideas – okay characers – can’t wait to read the next instalment
  • Kieron Gillon, Dan Mora – Once & Future Vol 1: The King is Undead
    fun idea – King Arthur zombies – hilarious grandma character – pacing issues (Gillon has those a lot) – great art

Currently reading:

  • Brandon Sanderson – Oathbringer
  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun
  • Seanan McGuire – An Artificial Night

My Stormlight Archive re-read is going well, although I do have to say Oathbringer is my least favorite this time. The world building, extensive as it is, could be done better than just have a character say “Oh there are old documents about this and that” and then “this and that” is supposed to always kind of have been known. I am also just not as engaged this time around whereas the first two books were just as exciting on a re-read as they were the first time I read them. All that said, I still have so much fun re-reading the series and I can’t wait to finally get started on Rhythm of War.
Black Sun is great, except there’s something missing. It has a cool setting, interesting characters, and a story that promises to become pretty epic, but it all feels a bit predictable. I enjoy reading it when I pick it up and I don’t want to put it back down. But once I do, I have no urge to continue… I’m almost done with it so we’ll see what my final thoughts will be.
Aaaaaand October Daye #3 is fun. I was worried at first because it re-hashed a lot of ideas from the first two books (and certain things just lose their shock value after the first time) but it picked up speed and is now very entertaining. Not my favorite so far but in general, I like the series, and it’s great to know there’s a lot more Toby Daye when I’m in the mood for her.

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

The State of SFF – June 2021

It’s already June and that feels more than a little crazy. But in the most excellent news, I got my Covid shots and I couldn’t be happier! I’m still drowning in work and trying to balance that with some exercise and cooking healthy meals which leaves very little time for reading or blogging. But I don’t want to complain. Overall, things are good.

Quickie News

  • It’s Pride Month and Book Riot has a quiz that helps you choose your next LGBTQIA+ read. I got The House in the Cerulean Sea which I should have read already but haven’t because I suck. Anyway, it seems like a really got fit for me and I enjoyed taking the quiz, so maybe it will help you find a good book for Pride Month as well.
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  • Hugo Award voting is open! If you’re a member of DisCon III, you can sign in to vote here. Votes can be changed as many times as you like until the voting period is over. No news about the voter packet as of May 28th but fingers are crossed that it will be available soon.
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  • Timothée Chalamet is going to play Willy Wonka in an origin story movie. And I have to ask: Why would anyone make this? Who wants to see a Willy Wonka origin story and why doesn’t Hollywood throw its money at something new for a change?! Or not even new, just not a remake/prequel/sequel/in-between-quel of an established movie or series but something not yet filmed. There’s literally a ton of books you could adapt, and I’m sure there are just as many original screenplays.
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  • Catherynne M. Valente has posted the first chapter of Space Oddity, the sequel to the hilarious Space Opera on her Patreon. Not that I want to make you jealous or anything but it’s pretty awesome!

TorCon is happening (June 10th – June 13th)

For my readers in a better suited time zone than mine, TorCon is an upcoming online event of interest. This virtual convention will run from June 10th through June 13th and there are a lot of cool and interesting things to see. Below is the panel schedule and you can find all the details and links to sign up here.

I am particularly interested in “All the Feels” and “Etherial & Eerie”, the first because it’s just totally up my alley and the second because I love to geek out over seasonal reads and I love it even more when my favorite author (Cat Valente) does it. As both of these panels are happening on Saturday and the times are acceptable (11pm for me), I will try to watch them live. Yay!


The third Skyward book is titled CYTONIC and has a cover

I am a big Sanderfan and although I definitely like some of his series more than others (not fond of Steelheart), I do enjoy his YA sci-fi series about aspiring young pilot Spensa, the sentient ship M-Bot, and a whole lot of secrets. The third volume, set to come out this November, finally has a title and cover. You can say what you want about Brandon Sanderson, but the guy is a writing machine!

This might be the first time I don’t love the UK cover (the proportions of that person seem off to me) but I’ll buy it anyway because it goes with the two UK covers I already have. 🙂

Exciting June Publications

June will be great, trust me. I don’t read many ARCs (because I suck at sticking to a TBR, in case you haven’t noticed) but I did get to read two June publications early and I can recommend them both. In addition to those, there are a lot of books coming out that sound cool.

NGHI VO – THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL (June 1st)

If you haven’t read Nghi Vo’s novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune, do yourself a favor and pick it up. And afterwards, you will be just as excited for this novel as I am. It’s fantasy Great Gatsby from a fresh new perspective and I cannot wait!

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Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society―she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice. .


HANNAH F. WHITTEN – FOR THE WOLF (June 1st)

This book has been on my wishlist SO LONG. In my mind, it’s quite similar to the book that comes next in this list. Both have a Red Riding Hood vibe, both seem to be a bit darker, both have very pretty covers, and both are written by debut authors that I’m excited to get to know.

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The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

The author has provided a list of content warnings here.


AVA REID – THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN (June 8th)

Helloooooo, shiny book that wants to be mine. Here’s the second book with the same comparisons as For the Wolf. Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale are both big favorites here so I am super curious to see how these new books hold up. For some reason – and I really have nothing to go on here – I think I will like this book better than Hannah Whitten’s. It’s a total hunch but I look forward to finding out if I’m right.

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In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.


HELENE WECKER – THE HIDDEN PALACE (June 8th)

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG! It’s the follow-up to the brilliant, wonderful, gorgeous The Golem and the Jinni which I discovered much later than everyone else but didn’t love any less for that. As excited as I am for this new Wecker book, I will probably save it for the right moment, when I’m ready to sink into that world and see those lovely characters again.

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Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, able to hear the thoughts and longings of the people around her and compelled by her nature to help them. Ahmad is a jinni, a perpetually restless and free-spirited creature of fire, imprisoned in the shape of a man. Fearing they’ll be exposed as monsters, these magical beings hide their true selves and pretend to be human—just two more immigrants in the bustling world of 1900s Manhattan. Having encountered each other under calamitous circumstances, Chava and Ahmad’s lives are now entwined—but they’re not yet certain of what they mean to each other. 

Each has unwittingly affected the humans around them. Park Avenue heiress Sophia Winston, whose brief encounter with Ahmad left her with a strange illness that makes her shiver with cold, travels to the Middle East to seek a cure. There she meets a tempestuous female jinni who’s been banished from her tribe. Back in New York, in a tenement on the Lower East Side, a little girl named Kreindel helps her rabbi father build a golem they name Yossele—not knowing that she’s about to be sent to an orphanage uptown, where the hulking Yossele will become her only friend and protector.

Spanning the tumultuous years from the turn of the twentieth century to the beginning of World War I, The Hidden Palace follows these lives and others as they collide and interleave. Can Chava and Ahmad find their places in the human world while remaining true to each other? Or will their opposing natures and desires eventually tear them apart—especially once they encounter, thrillingly, other beings like themselves?


TASHA SURI – THE JASMINE THRONE (June 10th)

I only recently read my first book by Tasha Suri and I definitely want more! This sounds like so much fun. Inspired by Indian epics and history, I’m expecting the same atmospheric writing and creative magic that I got to know and love in Empire of Sand.

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Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.


MARJORIE M. LIU – THE TANGLEROOT PALACE (June11th)

I have already read this collection of shorter works from the author of the comic book series Monstress. If you like the comics, you will probably like this collection as well. If you don’t like (or don’t know) the comics, then there is something in this collection for you. The stories range from creepy, gothic horror stories to post-apocalyptic zombie tales, to fairy tales retold, to near future sci-fi pieces. I enjoyed this book immensely, my review will be up soon, and I now want to read many other books by Liu.

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New York Times bestseller and Hugo, British Fantasy, Romantic Times, and Eisner award-winning author of the graphic novel, Monstress, Marjorie Liu leads you deep into the heart of the tangled woods. In her long-awaited debut story collection, dark, lush, and spellbinding short fiction you will find unexpected detours, dangerous magic, and even more dangerous women.

Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously-plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods.

Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings. 


A. C. WISE – WENDY, DARLING (June 15th)

Look at that, a Peter Pan retelling/reimagining by an author I’ve had my eyes on for a while. If done well, Peter Pan retellings are my favorites, but unfortunately I’ve come across very few truly clever and original ones. I have to say the synopsis is pretty much exactly the same as every other Peter Pan retelling. Neverland is dark, Peter isn’t actually nice (he isn’t in the original either) and grown-up Wendy looks back on her time as a kid. But I have high hopes for this book, nonetheless.

A lush, feminist re-imagining on what happened to Wendy after Neverland, for fans of Circe and The Mere Wife.

For those that lived there, Neverland was a children’s paradise. No rules, no adults, only endless adventure and enchanted forests – all led by the charismatic boy who would never grow old.

But Wendy Darling grew up. She left Neverland and became a woman, a mother, a patient, and a survivor. Because Neverland isn’t as perfect as she remembers. There’s darkness at the heart of the island, and now Peter Pan has returned to claim a new Wendy for his lost boys…


KERSTIN HALL – STAR EATER (June 22nd)

I am super unsure about this one. It sounds really great but it also makes my Spidey-sense tingle. Because I don’t know if I’m only intrigued by the super cool elevator pitch “cannibalistic nuns” and will end up disappointed when it turns out all the good stuff was “in the trailer” (you know what I mean), or whether there’s also a great story there. But I do love spy stories, books where women run things, and fantasy that plays with the theme of religion. So I think I’ll be cautiously optimistic about this one.

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All martyrdoms are difficult.

Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.

So when a shadowy cabal approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.

A phantasmagorical indictment of hereditary power, Star Eater takes readers deep into a perilous and uncanny world where even the most powerful women are forced to choose what sacrifices they will make, so that they might have any choice at all.


KATHERINE ADDISON – THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD (June 22nd)

Me and pretty much everyone else fell utterly in love with Addison’s The Goblin Emperor a few years ago. So a new story set in that world, even one that doesn’t involve our beloved emperor Maia, is something to look forward to. I’ve had the pleasure of reading an e-ARC of this rather short book. I enjoyed it a lot, but I do warn people that it’s quite different than The Goblin Emperor. It’s much more fast paced and less character-focused. It does have an excellent murder mystery plot, shows more of the world, and of course, there’s tons of crazy polysyllabic names. I quite loved it.

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Katherine Addison returns to the glittering world she created for her beloved novel, The Goblin Emperor, in this stand-alone sequel.

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin.

Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference. He lives modestly, but his decency and fundamental honestly will not permit him to live quietly. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered.

Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.


G. WILLOW WILSON & CHRISTIAN WARD – INVISIBLE KINGDOM Vol. 3: IN OTHER WORLDS (June 1st)

I’ve copied the synopsis below blindly because I’ve only read the first volume and don’t want to get spoiled. 🙂 But I did adore the first book in this series, the second volume is currently nominated for a Hugo Award and I’ll read it as soon as the voters packet is available. For everyone who joins me in this endeavour, we can then continue straight onto the third book which is already out by the time this post goes up.

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The Eisner Award winning series concludes!

Just when the crew of the Sundog thought they’d made it through the most dangerous edge of space–they are taken by a faction of mysterious new Nones to an even further and more deadly place: The Point of No Return. As revolution looms, these Siblings of Rebirth have an unthinkable mission to carry out, and they can’t do it without Vess…or with Grix in the picture.

But who can be trusted? And will Vess choose destruction…or love?


SUSAN DENNARD – WITCHSHADOW (June 2nd)

I am one book behind on this series and I’m still not even sure I want to continue. I was very positively surprised by the first book. It set up great relationships, especially the central female friendship, but also the romances. YA romances don’t often work for me but they did here so I stuck with it. The second book turned out to be quite a drag but the prequel/sequel was good again. So you see, I’m a bit torn, but I kind of do want to know what happens next.

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Susan Dennard’s New York Times bestselling, young adult epic fantasy Witchlands series continues with Witchshadow, the story of the Threadwitch Iseult.

War has come to the Witchlands . . . and nothing will be the same again.

Iseult has found her heartsister Safi at last, but their reunion is brief. For Iseult to stay alive, she must flee Cartorra while Safi remains. And though Iseult has plans to save her friend, they will require her to summon magic more dangerous than anything she has ever faced before.

Meanwhile, the Bloodwitch Aeduan is beset by forces he cannot understand. And Vivia—rightful queen of Nubrevna—finds herself without a crown or home.

As villains from legend reawaken across the Witchlands, only the mythical Cahr Awen can stop the gathering war. Iseult could embrace this power and heal the land, but first she must choose on which side of the shadows her destiny will lie.


ZOE HANA MIKUTA – GEARBREAKERS (June 29th)

I’ll admit, that cover and the words “for fans of Pacific Rim” are what did it for me. I don’t even know how that would work in book-form but I’m willing to find out. This will probably be one of those books where I wait for early reviews and then decide whether to go for it or not.

Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they’re fighting for a common purpose–and falling for each other–in Zoe Hana Mikuta’s high-octane debut Gearbreakers, perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga, and Marie Lu’s Legend series.

We went past praying to deities and started to build them instead...

The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.

Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.

As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer–as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…


NEWS FROM THE BLOG

I didn’t really stick to any kind of schedule during May and I didn’t post nearly as much as I wanted to but I LOVED Wyrd and Wonder and reading everyone else’s reviews, lists, and creative posts.
My TBR for May might as well not have existed at all. I mostly ignored it and somehow ended up reading all my e-ARCs instead. As they were all good books, that wasn’t a bad decision but it also means I have more Hugo reading to catch up on now. And the reviews I wrote in May won’t be published until later. I’ve linked them below but they will each go live one day before the book’s publication.
My Stormlight Archive re-read is also not helping but if I want to properly enjoy Rhythm of War, it is necessary. I have forgotten so many details and the re-read is actually a lot of fun!

What I read:

  • Catherynne M. Valente – The Past is Red (comes out July 20th)
    OMG I LOVE IT SO MUCH – ahem… – hilarious – post-apocalyptic, post climate-change – heartbreak and humor – favorite book of the year so far – go pre-order it – that cover is to die for
  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe
    fun and cute – characters felt much younger than the were supposed to be – emotionally distant – cool murder mystery
  • Marjorie Liu – The Tangleroot Palace (comes out June 15th)
    collection of stories – Superman-inspired sci-fi and fairy tale novella were my favorites – seriously great writing
  • Brandon Sanderson – Words of Radiance
    re-read – still so much fun – not quite as good as the first time – I have a much better sense of the world-building now
  • Katherine Addison – The Witness for the Dead (comes out June 22nd)
    murder mystery – interesting world building – not that character-focused – great book – just don’t expect The Goblin Emperor 2.0
  • Seanan McGuire – Come Tumbling Down
    exciting beginning – Jack-focused story – world building and characters suffer in the second half – okay ending – tried to cram too much onto too few pages

Currently reading:

  • Brandon Sanderson – Oathbringer
  • T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
  • Nino Cipri – Finna

I’m sure I’ll finish Defensive Baking either today or tomorrow. It’s so much fun, T. Kingfisher’s humor is hilarious, and this book has a sort-of-character who is a sourdough starter named Bob Do you need to know more?
Oathbringer will take me a bit longer, which is totally okay. I’m re-reading it without any pressure, I just want to be up to speed when I finally tackle Rhythm of War.
I haven’t started Finna as of writing this but it is prepared and I will start reading it today. Not only is it nominated for a Hugo Award, but it also fits into Pride Month as the author is trans/nonbinary. And right after that I’ll get started with Cerulean Sea.

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

The State of SFF – May 2021

You guys, everything is so exciting! All the Awards are happening. Well… all the finalists are happening, but that means reading the best books and stories of last year, catching up on things we missed, celebrating the great stuff we already read, and generally enjoying being in SFF fandom.

Quickie News

  • WorldCon, the annual convention that gives out the Hugo Award, has been moved to December 2021. For the first time ever, the Hugos won’t be announced in August but just a bit before Christmas. The reason is of course to make an in-person con possible (hopefully, nobody knows what will happen until then) but it also means more time to read all the finalists and that, my friends, is reason to celebrate. At least for me.
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  • The nomination period for the Dragon Awards is open. It’s a rather strange award that doesn’t go by calendar year when it comes to eligible titles. You can nominated one work per category, just make sure that the works have been published between July 1st 2020 and June 30th 2021 because that’s the rules. Anyone can join and nominate so if that’s your jam, go right ahead.
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  • The Shadow & Bone TV show has hit Neflix and I am far from the only person who binged it right on the first weekend. Although there is much to discuss, my overall feelings towards the show are positive. I adore the cast and the way they chose to bring the characters to life. And while I may disagree with some storytelling decisions and the way the Six of Crows and Shadow and Bone stories have been intertwined, I will definitely re-watch the first season and look forward to the next one.

The Hugo Award Finalists are here!

I am very invested in the Hugo Awards (if you follow this blog, you may have noticed :)) so there is a separate post about all my OPINIONS about the final ballot. But for those who aren’t interested in my thoughts, here are the finalists for Best Novel:

  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun
  • N. K. Jemisin – The City We Became
  • Martha Wells – Network Effect
  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi
  • Tamsyn Muir – Harrow the Ninth
  • Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless Moon

And the finalists for the Lodestar (which makes me so very, very happy!):

  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe
  • Tracy Deonn – Legendborn
  • T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
  • Aiden Thomas – Cemetery Boys
  • Naomi Novik – A Deadly Education

Congratulations to all the finalists!

The Best Novel ballot is not surprising in that all the novels on it were fairly buzzy, are sequels in beloved series, or the long-awaited newest novel by a previous Hugo winner. So the only surprises are the novels that didn’t make it. There were others that could have made the cut but didn’t. I won’t be surprised if we see Mexican Gothic, The Once and Future Witches, Andrea Stewart’s The Bone Shard Daughter or Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds on the list of nominees just below the top 6. But we’ll have to wait for that data until December, and it’s not like we don’t have a great selection of finalists to entertain us until then.

As with the Nebulas/Andre Nortons, I’m insanely happy that Raybearer made it as a Lodestar finalist. It was my favorite YA book of last year, I nominated it myself, and I wish Jordan Ifueko all the success in the world. That said, the finalists I haven’t read are all books I’m super excited about. Elatsoe has been calling to me for months now, Cemetery Boys was my second choice for trying out Aiden Thomas (Lost in the Never Woods, a Peter Pan retelling, just interested me more) but I heard such good things about it. And T. Kingfisher needs no introduction. I’ve been a fan of hers long before WorldCon realized how great she is and I will follow her fiction for ever and ever.


And The IGNYTE Finalists too!

Even more awards excitement! I am again super happy to see some of the books that got some award recognition but with ballots this good, choosing one favorite won’t be easy. Voting is open up through May 31st, so make sure you read the wonderful finalists and then vote for your favorites.
Make sure to check out all the finalists (link in header) because there’s a lot of great stuff to discover. For space reasons, I’m listing only Best Novel and YA Novel here.

These are the finalists for Best Novel:

  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun
  • N. K. Jemisin- The City We Became
  • C. L. Polk – Midnight Bargain
  • Stephen Graham Jones – The Only Good Indians
  • Hao Jingfang – Vagabonds

The Stehen Graham Jones book was the second horror book that was very hyped last year. Although I haven’t read it yet, I’m happy that it made the ballot. Horror books often have a hard time on SFF ballots. I’m even more excited to see Hao Jingfang’s Vagabonds here, a book I’ve been meaning to read but still haven’t got to.

And the finalists for Best YA Novel:

  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe
  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
  • Tracy Deonn – Legendborn
  • Bethany Morro – A Song Below Water
  • Sabaa Tahir – A Sky Beyond the Storm

I’m surprised (and kind of delighted) that the final volume of Sabaa Tahir’s series is on here. I didn’t much like the second book and was debating whether to continue the series. If the final volume is good enough to be nominated for an IGNYTE award, I have high hopes. I look forward to A Song Below Water, a book I first heard a lot about and then nothing at all anymore. Legendborn was fun, and Elatsoe and Raybearer seem to be universal favorites. My absolute favorite is still Jordan Ifueko’s book. I loved it so much I’m going to ge me a special edition, so it can sit on my shelf and be pretty. 🙂

Exciting May Publications

May is going to be great, you guys. I have been rubbing my hands for that new Rivers Solomon book for months now. Maggie Stiefvater continues her Dreamer Trilogy, Joan He – she that wrote the amazing Descendant of the Crane – has a new book coming out and P. Djèlí Clark brings us his first full-length novel set in his alternate Cairo. 2021 seems to just be getting better and better.

RIVERS SOLOMON – SORROWLAND (May 4th)

There are few authors who have made me fall in love as hard with their fiction as Rivers Solomon. Their writing is just brilliant, they create multi-layered, interesting and diverse characters to tell original stories that are like nothing you’ve ever read before. So you could say I’m excited about their newest book.

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Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.

But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.

To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future – outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.


NICOLE KORNHER-STACE – FIREBRAND (May 4th)

I still haven’t read anything by Kornher-Stace, although I do have her Archivist Wasp on my TBR somwhere… Everything about this new novel sounds amazing. Virtual Reality supersoldiers, a near future (probably?) world where an evil company controls people’s lives, and humans have to work several jobs just to afford water. I have heard nothing but good things from authors who had the pleasure of reading this already, so my excitement levels are high!

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Like everyone else she knows, Mallory is an orphan of the corporate war. As a child, she lost her parents, her home, and her entire building in an airstrike. As an adult, she lives in a cramped hotel room with eight other people, all of them working multiple jobs to try to afford water and make ends meet. And the job she’s best at is streaming a popular VR war game. The best part of the game isn’t killing enemy combatants, though—it’s catching in-game glimpses of SpecOps operatives, celebrity supersoldiers grown and owned by Stellaxis, the corporation that runs the America she lives in.

Until a chance encounter with a SpecOps operative in the game leads Mal to a horrifying discovery: the real-life operatives weren’t created by Stellaxis. They were kids, just like her, who lost everything in the war, and were stolen and augmented and tortured into becoming supersoldiers. The world worships them, but the world believes a lie.

The company controls every part of their lives, and defying them puts everything at risk—her water ration, her livelihood, her connectivity, her friends, her life—but she can’t just sit on the knowledge. She has to do something—even if doing something will bring the wrath of the most powerful company in the world down upon her.


JOAN HE – THE ONES WE’RE MEANT TO FIND (May 4th)

Look, I don’t even need to read the synopsis to look forward to this, okay? Descendant of the Crane was such a surprising, twisty, well-crafted book that I will read anything by Joan He. The fact that this is called Black Mirror meets Studio Ghibli is just an added bonus that makes me squee with joy.

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One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But as the public decries her stance, she starts to second guess herself and decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.


ZEN CHO – BLACK WATER SISTER (May 11th)

Zen Cho’s writing is always charming. The Malaysian setting and this gorgeous cover decided it for me. I have to have this book. Hearing your dead grandmother’s voice in your head and having her spirit accompany you is also a thing I would like to happen to me, so there’s that.

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A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy.

Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there’s only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god–and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it.

Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she’ll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.


P. DJÈLÍ CLARK – A MASTER OF DJINN (May 11th)

Clark is a treasure and one of the most interesting current writers in the SFF field. This book is the first full-length novel in his alternate Cairo setting with Fatma el-Sha’arawi as protagonist.

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Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…


SUYI DAVIES OKUNGBOWA – SON OF THE STORM (May 11th)

Young scholar, forbidden magic, skin-changing warrior. Just shut up and take my money.

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A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.

In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.


LAURE EVE – BLACKHEART KNIGHTS (May 13th)

This could go either way but it sounds too bonkers and fun to miss. Camelot but with bikers? Ok, count me in. I have another Laure Eve book (The Graces) which sounds much more fairy tale-esque, so the author definitely likes to change things up a bit.

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Power always wins.

Imagine Camelot but in Gotham: a city where knights are the celebrities of the day, riding on motorbikes instead of horses and competing in televised fights for fame and money.

Imagine a city where a young, magic-touched bastard astonishes everyone by becoming king – albeit with extreme reluctance – and a girl with a secret past trains to become a knight for the sole purpose of vengeance.

Imagine a city where magic is illegal but everywhere, in its underground bars, its back-alley soothsayers – and in the people who have to hide what they are for fear of being tattooed and persecuted.

Imagine a city where electricity is money, power the only game worth playing, and violence the most fervently worshipped religion.

Welcome to a dark, chaotic, alluring place with a tumultuous history, where dreams come true if you want them hard enough – and are prepared to do some very, very bad things to get them . . .


DARYL GREGORY – THE ALBUM OF DR. MOREAU (May 18th)

I didn’t want to want this book. That whole Dr. Moreau story is just not my thing but then I read the synopsis and, well, murder mystery, genetically engineered human-animal hybrid boy band sounded too good. I think this novella might be funny as well as creepy.

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Daryl Gregory’s The Album of Dr. Moreau combines the science fiction premise of the famous novel by H. G. Wells with the panache of a classic murder mystery and the spectacle of a beloved boy band.

It’s 2001, and the WyldBoyZ are the world’s hottest boy band, and definitely the world’s only genetically engineered human-animal hybrid vocal group. When their producer, Dr. M, is found murdered in his hotel room, the “boyz” become the prime suspects. Was it Bobby the ocelot (“the cute one”), Matt the megabat (“the funny one”), Tim the Pangolin (“the shy one”), Devin the bonobo (“the romantic one”), or Tusk the elephant (“the smart one”)?

Las Vegas Detective Luce Delgado has only twenty-four hours to solve a case that goes all the way back to the secret science barge where the WyldBoyZ’ journey first began—a place they used to call home.


MAGGIE STIEFVATER – MISTER IMPOSSIBLE (April 18th)

It’s a new Maggie Stiefvater book!!! If you’ve read the Raven Cycle, you probably also have a soft spot for Ronan Lynch – I certainly do. The first book in this new Dreamer Trilogy didn’t sweep me off my feet as much as I had hoped but I do keep thinking about it and definitely want to find out what happens next and how my Ronan and his brothers are doing.

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Raven Boys, a mesmerizing story of dreams and desires, death and destiny.

The stakes have never been higher as it seems like either the end of the world or the end of dreamers approaches.

Do the dreamers need the ley lines to save the world . . . or will their actions end up dooming the world? As Ronan, Hennessy, and Bryde try to make dreamers more powerful, the Moderators are closing in, sure that this power will bring about disaster. In the remarkable second book of The Dreamer Trilogy, Maggie Stiefvater pushes her characters to their limits – and shows what happens to them and others when they start to break.


A. M. STRICKLAND – IN THE RAVENOUS DARK (May 18th)

I always like to include a few books I’m on the fence about and here’s one of them. I don’t know Strickland, but this book sounds pretty good. Being bound to a sexy spirit, but one that can control your body? Creepy and intriguing. A Greek-inspired world? Yes! And a pansexual protagonist – definitely not someone I’ve read about, so give it to me.

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A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead.

In Thanopolis, those gifted with magic are assigned undead spirits to guard them—and control them. Ever since Rovan’s father died trying to keep her from this fate, she’s hidden her magic. But when she accidentally reveals her powers, she’s bound to a spirit and thrust into a world of palace intrigue and deception.

Desperate to escape, Rovan finds herself falling for two people she can’t fully trust: Lydea, a beguiling, rebellious princess; and Ivrilos, the handsome spirit with the ability to control Rovan, body and soul.

Together, they uncover a secret that will destroy Thanopolis. To save them all, Rovan will have to start a rebellion in both the mortal world and the underworld, and find a way to trust the princess and spirit battling for her heart—if she doesn’t betray them first.


E. K. JOHNSTON – AETHERBOUND (May 25th)

Johnston is another author I’ve never read, but I own some of her books, both fairy tale retellings. This book just sounds like a lot of fun, a space adventure with some social commentary.

A thought-provoking new YA space adventure from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Ahsoka.

Set on a family-run interstellar freighter called the Harland and a mysterious remote space station, E. K. Johnston’s latest is story of survival and self-determination.

Pendt Harland’s family sees her as a waste of food on their long-haul space cruiser when her genes reveal an undesirable mutation. But if she plays her cards right she might have a chance to do much more than survive. During a space-station layover, Pendt escapes and forms a lucky bond with the Brannick twins, the teenage heirs of the powerful family that owns the station. Against all odds, the trio hatches a long-shot scheme to take over the station and thwart the destinies they never wished for.


NEWS FROM THE BLOG

Haha! Finally I have some good news in regards to my reading. I’ve done pretty well in the Mythothon readathon and, as all the best readathons do, it made me pick up some books I definitely wouldn’t have gone for otherwise. The experience isn’t always pleasant but I like to consider reading a bad book as a useful experience rather than a waste of time.

What I read:

  • Tamora Pierce – Alanna: The First Adventure
    a gread middle grade adventure – very fast paced – lovable heroine pretending to be a boy – mentions menstruation (yay!)
  • Tamora Pierce – In the Hand of the Goddess
    still super fast paced (a bit too much!) – fun and quick read – not a lot of depth
  • P. Djèlí Clark – “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”
    fun murder mystery short story – great world building – makes you want more (good thing there’s a novel coming out set in this world)
  • A. G. Slatter – All the Murmuring Bones
    gothic atmosphere – Irish mythology – takes a while to get going – brilliant protagonist – dark secrets – great ending
  • Maria V. Snyder – Poison Study
    very thin world building – plot-focused – fast paced, easy read – shallow but perfect for fighting reading slumps
  • S. A. Chakraborty – The Kingdom of Copper
    middle book syndrome – great characters – political intrigue – twisty ending – little plot for the most part
  • Aiden Thomas – Cemetery Boys
    brujos and brujas – trans protagonist – amazing characters (I love them so much!) – obvious twist – recommended
  • Catherynne M. Valente – Under in the Mere
    King Arthur Valente-style – experimental, purple prose – imagery-heavy

Currently reading:

  • John Crowley – Little, Big
  • J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal
  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe

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

My Thoughts on the Hugo Finalists 2021

It is time for excitement, for making reading lists, for having opinions. Because DisCon III announced the Hugo Award finalists on April 13th and

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE FINALISTS!

I’ll do this the same way I did it last year. I’ll go through the categories one by one, see how many books I’ve already read and what I think about the finalists. I will – again – leave out the categories about which I have little to say and/or which I don’t plan to vote in (like Best Editor, Long Form) or which don’t really fit this blog (the Dramatic Presentation categories).

Warning: This is going to be a long post. Feel free to skip ahead to a certain category or to my general thoughts at the very end.


BEST NOVEL (3/6)

  • Martha Wells – Network Effect
  • N. K. Jemisin – The City We Became
  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi
  • Tamsyn Muir – Harrow the Ninth
  • Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless Moon
  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun

Network Effect and The City We Became were both books I nominated for obvious reasons. I left out Piranesi because, well, I knew it didn’t need my help and I had some other, less buzzy books I wanted to support (Micaiah Jonson’s The Space Between Worlds ended up on my ballot for example – Johnson is an Astounding finalists so that makes me happy). And as much as I loved Clarke’s newest book, I don’t feel it’s a Hugo novel. It feels more like a World Fantasy or Mythopoeic Award kind of book, you know?

I look forward to finally continuing Mary Robinette Kowal’s excellent Lady Astronaut series and I knew – I just knew – that my fellow Hugo nominators would make me read the entire Locked Tomb series simply by nominating it. I was one of the very few people who didn’t find much to like in Gideon the Ninth but I’m willing to give Harrow a try. Although from what people have been saying it’s even more bonkers than the first so I don’t have high hopes that I will like it. But hey, I’m open for it. Maybe this time, aesthetics and cool names will be enough to entertain me.

I’m surprised that Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia didn’t make it. It was on my nominations ballot and there was a lot of hype surrounding that book. The author beats her own marketing drum hard all year round and it’s impossible to miss this book’s gorgeous cover. I was so sure she would make it onto the final ballot. Then again, horror books have a hard time at the Hugo Awards, so I guess I should have known better.
I also expected Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future to be on here because Robinson is an old Hugo darling and always ends up as a finalist. To me, he is one of the authors the older Hugo voter generation nominates simply because he has written something – which doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving! I haven’t yet read any of his works so I wouldn’t know but I dislike authors being nominated rather than books and that seems to happen a lot. I guess times have changed a little and I can’t say I’m too upset. 🙂


BEST NOVELLA (4/6)

  • P. Djèlí Clark – Ring Shout
  • Sarah Gailey – Upright Women Wanted
  • Nghi Vo – The Empress of Salt and Fortune
  • Tochi Onyebuchi – Riot Baby
  • Nino Cipri – Finna
  • Seanan McGuire – Come Tumbling Down

Ah, the inevitable Seanan McGuire and her Wayward Children series. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that last year’s novella was actually very good but that doesn’t change the fact that, overall, she just shouldn’t be a finalist every year simply for having lots of fans. Not EVERY SINGLE ONE of her books is award-worthy. That’s not me being mean to her in particular, that goes for every author, even someone like N. K. Jemisin. But you can be sure, if McGuire has written something (and she’s always written something) it will end up on the Hugo ballot wherever it fits, taking a potential spot from a debut or underrated or marginalised author.
I’ll read Come Tumbling Down and I hope it’s another good one, but can we please all admit someday that apparently, she just doesn’t write Hugo Award novels/novellas? She has won once for the first Wayward Children novella and then nothing ever again. And it’s really not for lack of chances as you’ll see when we meet her again further down the ballot, not once, but twice, because of course.

I wasn’t a big fan of Upright Women Wanted, and Riot Baby surprisingly fell flat for me. I loved the message of both these novellas but they lacked story/plot and didn’t hit me emotionally the way they promised. I think that’s mostly me, though, not the quality of the work. Gailey and Onyebuchi are both authors whose other work I adore!
(This is a good example of how not to nominate authors simply because I like them but to nominate based on the quality of their eligible work. I would gladly throw Hugos at Gailey and Onyebuchi (figuratively speaking) but these particular books weren’t for me so I didn’t nominate them. It’s really not that hard…)

Ring Shout is a different story. I nominated it because that novella did everything right and completely blew me away. With two novellas still to read, I am fairly certain it will remain on the top of my ballot. The Empress of Salt and Fortune was also excellent, although very different in tone. So far, these are my top two. I’m going to check out Finna and the McGuire, mull things over a bit and then decide on my final ranking.

Generally, I’m very sad that the entire ballot is made up of Tordotcom novellas. I love Tordotcom as much as the next guy but it wouldn’t hurt to have more variety on the ballot. And because I am one of the culprits who only nominated stuff from Tordotcom, I know that I myself should do better as well.
So, here’s my appeal to other publishers: Please step up your game and promote your novellas the way you do novels if you want them to reach a wide reader base. Dear old-timey magazines: It’s 2021 so get with the times and make sure your online presence is inviting. Then people will come and read your stuff and, if it’s good (which I suspect it is), they will nominated it for awards.


BEST SERIES (5/6)

Boy, am I glad it’s a Toby Daye year, not an InCryptid year! I’m only two books into the series (14 novels published so far, plus a ton of shorter stuff) but I genuinely liked both. I didn’t consider them award-worthy, because they are fun and have interesting characters but tons of books have that. For a Hugo Award, there should be a little more. I’m hoping to catch up a LOT on this series because people say it gets better and better and I’m curious to see if I hit the point where I go “oh, I get it now” and where I think the series as a whole should get a Hugo Award. Either way, this is one Seanan McGuire series I enjoy and would continue even without the bi-yearly nomination.

If you think it’s clear that Murderbot will win, wait a second. Yes, it’s universally beloved and it totally deserves an award. BUT. The series is still ongoing which means it has a chance of being nominated again and then winning, whereas The Daevabad Trilogy and the Poppy War series are finished. If we want to honor them with a Hugo, now is the time! That said, I also totally think Murderbot will take home the award.

I loved City of Brass and just started Kingdom of Copper which is also very good so far. I love how much more depth and politics the first book offered than I had expected. I also admit to shipping a certain couple and I’m curious to see where that goes. The question I’m going to ask with all the finalists here is whether the series as a whole is more than the sum of its parts – if it makes a difference whether you’ve just sampled the world and story or actually followed through until the end.
The Poppy War is a tough one, in every way. I loved the first book, as much as you can love something that so utterly depresses you. I want to finish the trilogy but knowing a little of what’s ahead (pain, tears, death,…) it’s difficult to get in the right mood. I will absolutely read the other two books before the voting period ends but I need to pick them up between some super happy stuff!
I enjoyed The Calcuating Stars a lot and it earned its Hugo Award two years ago. With the third in the series/universe being up for a Best Novel Hugo again, I’m even more excited to continue. Although I’ve mixed things up in the past – with Becky Chambers’ books for example – I will go in publication order here and read The Fated Sky before I dive into The Relentless Moon.
The only series I haven’t even started yet is Scalzi’s Interdependency. I heard great things about the first book and… not so great ones about the last book. Scalzi is a strange one for me. I am a huge fan of him as a person and his online writings. I haven’t been such a fan of his fiction which makes me all the more curious to see what this sci-fi trilogy is like. My fingers crossed but I’m keeping expectations low.


BEST GRAPHIC STORY (0/6)

  • Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans – DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party
  • Seanan McGuire, Takeshi Miyazawa, Rosie Kämpe – Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over
  • G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward – Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything
  • Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda – Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild
  • Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora – Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead
  • Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy, John Jennings- Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Okay, okay. There’s nothing too surprising on this ballot but I’m looking forward to all of those, even the – who would have expected this nomination?! – Seanan McGuire comic. (Can you tell I’m a little bitter when it comes to her? Cause I am definitely a little bitter and will tell you more at the bottom of this page.)
Although I have technically read zero out of these finalists, I have read the first volume(s) of 3/6 of them.

Monstress is on the ballot yet again and while I’ve never fallen head over heels for this series, I find it beautifully drawn, I like the story, and I don’t begrudge it its success. It just doesn’t get me emotionally for some reason but I’ll gladly read the latest instalment when and if it’s included in the Hugo Voters Packet. Last year’s packet was amazing so I’m all caught up on the series except for this newest volume.

I am thrilled that G. Willow Wilson’s Invisible Kingdom vol 2 is on here because I read volume 1 a few months ago and immediately put the second part on my wishlist. I haven’t gotten to it yet but I’m cackling in anticipation! This is such a cool world with original characters.
Last year, Die vol. 1 was nominated and I found it pretty good, very dark, but also a bit too much of a set-up volume to really grip me. Again, this is a universe and an idea I’ll happily explore further and Kieron Gillen is someone I’ve come to trust.
Gillen is nominated a second time, for the first volume in a new series, Once & Future, which seems to be a dark contemporary spin on the King Arthur legend. I have no idea what to expect but I’m here for it. King Arthur seems to be cool again, he also shows up in the Lodestar category.
I also can’t wait to see what the Graphic Novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower will be like. It hasn’t been that long since I read the book so it’s all still fresh in my mind and I know there are things in that book that I do not want to see… I’m intrigued to read the graphic novel and see how things are depicted but at least I know the story is good.
And last but not least, Seanan McGuire has written a Gwen Stacy comic titled Ghost-Spider. I am always up for some Spider Gwen, although reviews of this one are pretty middling. Also, it appears this “volume 1” is set after two volumes of Spider Gwen, the second of which is called Ghost-Spider Vol. 2? I haven’t made sense of it it yet and need to do more research but I am properly confused.


LODESTAR (3/6)

  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
  • Tracy Deonn – Legendborn
  • Naomi Novik – A Deadly Education
  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe
  • T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
  • Aiden Thomas – Cemetery Boys

Aaaaaaaah, this is such an exciting ballot! With the exception of Naomi Novik’s book – more on that later – I love how diverse and different all these books are.

Obviously, my beloved Raybearer is on here. I am so hyped for its sequel (and duology ender) so maybe I’ll give this a re-read before voting is over. I haven’t heard many people talk about this book so I am doubly glad enough people read and liked and nominated it. Because now even more people will read it and get to know Sunshine Girl and this beautiful found family!
I just read Legendborn and enjoyed it quite a bit. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the way the King Arthur legend was used, but as a story of its own about a secret society at college, it worked fine. Its strengths were definitely the themes of dealing with loss and grief, racism and finding a place to belong. So I’m happy to see it nominated but for now, it feels like a middle of the ballot kind of book.

I have so much excitement for Elatsoe – it has a ghost dog, apparently! – as well as Cemetery Boys – a trans, Latinx protagonist is something new for me and I love reading different perspectives from my own. And T. Kingfisher is just T. Kingfisher. I can’t wait to meet her latest pragmatic protagonist and the shenanigans they get into. Maybe I should read this after one of the R.F. Kuang books…

Now, about A Deadly Education. We’re talking arbitrary frontiers here, like what even is the line between YA and adult fiction? Most of these lines are drawn by publishers and/or book sellers who put the book in a category and that’s what we sticks. I could be wrong (I can’t find the interview I remember reading) but didn’t Naomi Novik herself make clear that this is not YA? Like how dare we assume that just because a book is written by a woman and takes place at a magic school with teenage protagonists, it’s automatically YA? And I agree, that assumption is stupid and we should all be better than that. But then, when it gets nominated for an award, it’s suddenly okay again that the book is considered YA? That leaves a bad taste in my mouth, to say it mildly.
I was one of the people who enjoyed this book – although I still can’t quite tell you why, it has so many problems – but I find the author’s behaviour a little strange. Add to that the fact that Novik is well established and beloved in the SFF community and doesn’t really need an awards boost. If you look at the other authors, they are all either new or not well know or not the big bestselling types and can each benefit greatly from being nominated. If Novik had declined the nomination (based on the fact that she doesn’t consider her book YA and it thus doesn’t fit the category), who would have gotten the last finalist spot? Guess we’ll have to wait until December to find out.


ASTOUNDING AWARD (2/6)

So that’s where those other buzzy books went. 🙂
The Unspoken Namen by A. K. Larkwood has been popping up here and there over the course of the last year. I haven’t read it yet but I’m glad to pick it up for Award reading. The same goes for The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons and the rest of the series – the speed with which these books are being published is stunning. I don’t know if it was the Game of Thrones-y style of the covers that kept me from picking them up so far or something else. But I look forward to checking it out.

The two authors I’ve read are Micaiah Johnson – I nominated her myself – and Emily Tesh. Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds was excellent and I even nominated it for Best Novel as well. I read the first of Tesh’s novellas, Silver in the Wood which was good, but didn’t stick in my memory for very long. I’ll read the second one, Drowned Country, but unless it has more memorably characters or a more exciting plot, I can’t say anything much nicer than that Tesh is a competent writer.

I am most excited about Simon Jimenez‘ novel The Vanished Birds. This feels like such a quietly buzzy book. I kept coming across it, in more literary circles as well as genre spaces, but the reactions to this book were overwhelmingly positive. So I cannot wait!
Lindsay Ellis wasn’t on my radar at all, although I have seen Axiom’s End floating around. Whisleblower/first contact/conspiracy story sounds intriguing, especially because it’s not my usual cup of tea.


BEST FANCAST (5/6)

  • Be the Serpent
  • The Coode Street Podcast
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show
  • Worldbuilding for Masochists
  • Kalanadi
  • Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel

Here’s another category that gives me OPINIONS. Or, to say it better, that makes me feel like a bit of a fool.

Last year, I was so excited that a BookTuber was nominated, and even one that I knew and liked. Claire Rousseau used to do these Genrewise SFF News videos that summed up what’s going on in the field really well. She has a nice D&D based TBR game going with herself, and I liked her reviews, even when we didn’t agree. So I felt she totally deserved her nomination (last year). But in 2020, she has barely uploaded any videos – which I absolutely don’t mean to sound reproachful. It’s a pandemic and holy shit, we all understand when you have other things on your mind than creating content. But if you don’t create anything, should you be nominated for an award? Like, for what? For having made some videos for the first few months of the year and then just stopped? I follow Claire’s channel and I get notified when she uploads new stuff. She was completely off my radar for the second half of 2020 because there was simply nothing there. Her channel literally shows you the newest video (one day ago) and the video before (7 months ago). Again, I’m not saying Claire has any obligation to produce videos but I do believe that we should award fancasters who actually, you know, fancast.
Her channel will probably be at the bottom of my ballot because I’ve already seen all her 2020 videos and they will have a hard time keeping up with what the other finalists have to offer. But I’m glad she plans to re-launch her channel and I’ll happily nominate her next year if she makes great videos again in 2021.

This year, Claire isn’t the only BookTuber on the Hugo ballot this year. Rachel from Kalanadi, a wonderfully calm and thoughtful person, has been making videos consistently for years. I also follow her (although I didn’t nominate her, I instead nominated The Fancy Hat Lady Reads, another BookTuber) and I especially like her long-term projects of reading certain award winners – she did the Tiptree a while back, she’s reading through the SF Masterworks, but she’s also very self-aware and checks in on her goals and reading stats. As with any reviewer, we don’t always agree, but I appreciate her reviews and the way she talks about books. I would definitely be happy to see her take home a Hugo Award.

Now to the podcasts. I like The Coode Street Podcast and its two incredibly well-read hosts, which I say every year. 🙂 I sometimes love, sometimes don’t like Skiffy and Fanty, also like every year. I have to listen to Be the Serpent more to make up my mind properly. And I don’t know Worldbuilding for Masochists at all, so this is exciting. I love discovering new things through the Hugo ballot and this is one of the few that’s actually completely new to me.

I will admit to a general bias on my part towards the BookTubers. This category has been going to podcasts for so long that I feel it’s time for a change. Having two BookTube finalists on the ballot is already a win but unless Be the Serpent or Worldbuilding absolutely blow me away, Kalanadi will be my first choice for this award.


GENERAL THOUGHTS

In general, there is nothing overly surprising on this year’s ballot. In the Best Novel category, so many potential great books could have made it, it was really just a matter of who was nominating this year and what their personal favorites were. Some years, you just know one or two of the most hyped books, the ones everyone was talking about. But 2020, we were all talking about many buzzy books that we loved.

The one thing that I did notice last year, and in part with the Hugo finalists, is the blurry distinction between YA and adult novels. The Bone Shard Daughter, for example was very well received but was it YA or adult? I think it’s sold as adult but the marketing campaign gave it YA vibes, if you know what I mean. Maybe that kept people from nominating it or maybe some nominated it as Best Novel, others as a Lodestar? I’ll be interested to see the final stats in December.

The Best Related Work category is interesting this year. I don’t have enough to say about it to warrant its own section in this (huge) post, but it’s cool that a convention is nominated – although I have no idea how I, as a non-attendee, am supposed to judge that – as well as the ConZealand Fringe, a sort of side event alongside regular WorldCon which can be watched on YouTube. Add the obligatory ranty blog post and one actual non-fiction book and you have a pretty diverse category.

My (yearly) Seanan McGuire rant:

I’m so tired of having to read so much Seanan McGuire every year. You guys, I know I can sound mean when I talk about her, but I’m really just tired. It’s like this war inside me where, on the one hand, I want to give all nominated books a chance and vote fairly for what I thought was best, but on the other hand, I spend my precious time reading her books when I could be reading a debut author, a marginalised author, an underrated author, or even re-reading an old favorite.
It’s getting to the point where I want to just not read her work, no matter the book – just the way she gets nominated every year, no matter the book. And if I don’t read it, I won’t vote for it. If her fans can convince themselves that every single of her works deserves an award, then I can convince myself of the opposite. The truth is probably somewhere in between but I guess we’ll never know because people aren’t always fair and authors aren’t always gracious.

Seanan McGuire is by far not the only author who has lots of Hugo nominations but only a single (or even no) win. The difference is that she writes so damn much that she takes up space in at least two categories every year. If she wrote a novel, a novella, and an instalment in a series, you can be damn sure she will be on the ballot in all three categories. If she really were that much of a literary genius, shouldn’t she be swimming in Nebula Awards? World Fantasy? Mythopoeic? I mean, those are the ones that get judged by other authors, by her peers. Interestingly, she was only nominated and won once for Every Heart a Doorway which is also her sole Hugo win (except for fancast but she was part of a larger group there).
I know nothing I say here will sway the hardcore McGuire fans. And look, I’m glad she has so many fans and I’m glad they love her work that much. Finding a favorite author is a great thing, especially when that author churns out a ton of content every year.
But if you count together all the spots taken up by McGuire works in the last few years, spots which eventually all ended up not winning – the potential other books for those spots could have given at least 10 other authors a hands up in the industry, a chance for a career, a chance to build their own fan base just like the one McGuire has. Simply not accepting a nomination – at least in one of the three/four/five categories – has apparently never crossed McGuire’s mind. After being told by the voters that her work is not deserving of a Hugo this many years in a row, maybe giving someone else a chance is a viable option?

This year, I will read all her nominated works again because I would feel like a quitter otherwise and they all sound interesting. But next year, I will definitely skip InCryptid – the first one is a book I’d be ashamed to have published – and only pick and choose the rest. Depending on this year’s Wayward Children novella, I may or may not read next year’s. And if you think these won’t make the ballot next year, don’t make me laugh. If it has the name Seanan McGuire on it, it will be on the ballot…

So now that’s out of the way again, I have decided to focus on the postives. There are so many books, graphic novels, and series I look forward to discovering or continuing this year. I hope this ballot will push me towards my goal of finally finishing up some series I’ve started and show me some new authors and creators I can follow in the future.

What do you think about the finalists? Did your nominees make it? Am I too touchy about Seanan McGuire? 🙂 Are you going to read the finalists and if yes, are you voting?

The State of SFF – April 2021

I had hoped I could tell you of my vaccination experience by now but, alas, the only thing the Austrian government is really good at this year is creating scandals to distract from the other scandals they’re responsible for… We’re vaccinating much too slowly and the people being vaccinated aren’t always the ones who are supposed to come first. So I do what I’ve done for the last few months: I wait patiently while some rich dudes with connections get vaccinated before those who need it the most. Because the world is a shitty place…

Anyway, on to happier topics!

Quickie News

  • The Hugo Award nomination period has officiall ended and the finalists will be announced on April 13th. I hope you saved your ballot in time. We don’t have much longer to wait to for the finalists and I am so excited to catch up the 2020 releases I missed.
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  • Outlander, the Starz TV show based on Diana Gabaldon’s books, will get a seventh season! I should read the third book sometime and/or continue season four of the show… 
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  • N. K. Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy has been optioned for series development with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s studio producing. Now we know that “optioned” doesn’t say much, but if we actually get a TV show with Yeine and Nahadoth, there will be many happy squees.
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  • There will be a new illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings featureing J.R.R. Tolkien’s own illustrations. The shiny-looking hardback (or deluxe slipcase if you’d like to splurge) are set to come out in October. Now I’m a sensible person who understands that two editions of LOTR is enough to have and I really, really don’t need another one.

The Nebula Award Finalists are here!

The Nebula Award Finalists 2021 have been announced and they look EXCELLENT! As we know, there is usually a big overlap between Nebula and Hugo finalists but 2020 was such a great year for SFF publications that I wonder if there might be more different works on the two ballots this year. We’ll see, but either way, I am excited and will do my best to catch up on the Nebula finalists I haven’t read yet. Also: Congratulations to all the finalists!

The Nebula finalists are:

  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi
  • N. K. Jemisin – The City We Became
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Mexican Gothic
  • C. L. Polk – The Midnight Bargain
  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun
  • Martha Wells – Network Effect

I’ve read four out of six and the two remaining ones have been on my TBR since they came out. And they’re both books that I’ve been super excited about. If you’re interested in my thoughts about the books I have read, my reviews for Piranesi, The City We Became, Mexican Gothic, and Network Effect can all be found on the blog. Spoiler for my Hugo nominations: all but one of these made my ballot. 😉

I’ve heard nothing but great things about Black Sun and while there hasn’t been as much buzz around The Midnight Bargain, what I have read was also very positive. I’m looking forward to both, especially since Polk’s book has been recommended as “Bridgerton with magic” and I am very much in the mood for that.

And because I’m equally excited about them, here are the Andre Norton Finalists for Best YA Fantasy and Science Fiction. My favorite YA novel of 2020, Raybearer, is on here. Yay!

  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe
  • Shveta Thakrar – Star Daughter
  • Jenn Reese – A Game of Fox and Squirrells
  • T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

If Raybearer wins, I’ll be happy without having read any of the other finalists, because that book was so so good! Then again, I have adored everything T. Kingfisher has written, so Defensive Baking may be another favorite. And Elatsoe has been on my TBR for a while. It keeps looking at me and tempting me with its promise of GHOST DOGS! Star Daughter is also sitting on my shelf with gorgeous gold-sprayed edges. So, in short, I am looking forward to reading all of them.
The only book I hadn’t heard of before is A Game of Fox & Squirrels. But I believe Jenn Reese has been a Norton finalists before, so maybe I should check out her books.

Exciting April Publications

I’ve been reading very slowly so far in 2021 and that’s not good, considering the staggering amount of interesting books being published each month. April is no different, what with not one, but two sequels from well-beloved series coming up. And of course new books by well-known authors, plus some books by debut writers or at least new-to-me authors. 

HELEN OYEYEMI – PEACES (April 6th)

I adore Helen Oyeyemi, even if some of her books go right over my head and I’m not at all sure if I understand all she wants to tell me. This sounds like it’s going to make absolutely no sense at all but since it’s written by Oyeyemi, I’ll bet that it’s a beautiful kind of non-sense. Plus, there’s a pet mongoose.

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The prize-winning, bestselling author of GingerbreadBoy, Snow, Bird; and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours returns with a vivid and inventive new novel about a couple forever changed by an unusual train voyage.

When Otto and Xavier Shin declare their love, an aunt gifts them a trip on a sleeper train to mark their new commitment–and to get them out of her house. Setting off with their pet mongoose, Otto and Xavier arrive at their sleepy local train station, but quickly deduce that The Lucky Day is no ordinary locomotive. Their trip on this former tea-smuggling train has been curated beyond their wildest imaginations, complete with mysterious and welcoming touches, like ingredients for their favorite breakfast. They seem to be the only people onboard, until Otto discovers a secretive woman who issues a surprising message. As further clues and questions pile up, and the trip upends everything they thought they knew, Otto and Xavier begin to see connections to their own pasts, connections that now bind them together.


KRYSTAL SUTHERLAND – HOUSE OF HOLLOW (April 6th)

I’ll admit I discovered this book because of its stunning cover, but then I read the synopsis and had to put it on my wishlist. Dark fairytale, three sisters disappeared and came back without any memories. Now strange things happen around them? I sense fairies and underworlds and a dark, nature-y curse of sorts? I am definitely intrigued.

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A dark, twisty modern fairytale where three sisters discover they are not exactly all that they seem and evil things really do go bump in the night.

Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they’re changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. They have insatiable appetites yet never gain weight. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful, and inexplicably dangerous.

But now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school on time–something her two famously glamourous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing without a trace, leaving behind bizarre clues as to what might have happened, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her though. As they brush against the supernatural they realize that the story they’ve been told about their past is unraveling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.


CHARLIE JANE ANDERS – VICTORIES GREATER THAN DEATH (April 13th)

I love Charlie Jane Anders’ writing, so of course I want to see what her YA debut is like. Her adult books were both thought-provoking and lyrical, with complex characters and filled with big ideas. This book sounds much more lighthearted and fun but I’ll take lighthearted and fun written by Anders any day.

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A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.

Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.

And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

From internationally bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders (All the Birds in the Sky) comes a thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war—Anders’s long-awaited YA debut.


RENA ROSSNER – THE LIGHT OF THE MIDNIGHT STARS (April 13th)

Aaaaah, look at that pretty cover! That’s basically the evolution of me buying a book. Shiny cover – great synopsis with a few buzz words – book purchase. Jewish folklore is pretty new to me, so I’m excited to dive into that, fairy tale vibes are totally my thing, and the Hungarian woods setting speaks to me because, well, Hungary is right next to my home country and that makes me feel like whatever fairy tale will happen in this book could be happening not that far from where I am.

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An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles – and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent – whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars.

When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice – and change the future of their family forever.

For more from Rena Rossner, check out The Sisters of the Winter Wood.


ALEXANDRA OVERY – THESE FEATHERED FLAMES (April 20th)

Russian folktales, twins, and queer characters – count me in. This is part one in at least a duology, so if I do read this, it’s yet another commitment to at least give the series a shot. But I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to resist if the fairy tale mood strikes me.

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A queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.


CIANNON SMART – WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD (April 20th)

This cover has been going around since last year and I think many people are looking forward to this Jamaican-inspired witchy read. It does sound great but I want to keep my expectations rather low so the reading experience isn’t ruined by the internet’s tendency to overhype books with pretty covers.

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Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes.


ASHAYE BROWN – DREAM COUNTRY (April 27th)

Sibling rivalry between gods sounds awesome! Add to that a murder mystery and meddling humans and you can just call the book Dina bait.

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A sibling rivalry to fuel your worst nightmares.

The dysfunctional triplet gods of Sleep, Dreams and Nightmares are kept separate by the deadly Gates of Horn and Ivory. Only one fact keeps them tightly bound: each of them is a suspect in their mother’s murder. Their knife-edge feud worsens when a mortal enters the world with astounding abilities that threaten to change the game for them all.

In this thrilling young adult fantasy, Ashaye Brown brings to life a visionary world infused with Kenyan, Brazilian, Caribbean, and Grecian cultural references. A story like no other with stakes as high as they come.


MARTHA WELLS – FUGITIVE TELEMETRY (April 27th)

Everyone’s favorite Murderbot is back with a new novella and I don’t think I’ll need to say anything more than that. If you haven’t read Murderbot yet, go get yourself a copy of All Systems Red and join us fans of this lovable killing machine who doesn’t want emotions but sometimes (okay, quite often) has one. Let’s all look forward to another Murderbot story together.

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No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


NAOMI KRITZER – CHAOS ON CATNET (April 27th)

Catfishing on CatNet was a surprising delight. I didn’t expect to fall in love with that book so much but it was exactly as heartwarming as you’d expect, but also super exciting and myserious. I look forward to returning to CatNet and the adorable cast of this book, especially a certain AI character…

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In this follow-up to the award-winning near future YA thriller Catfishing on CatNet, It takes an AI to catch an AI…

When a mysterious entity starts hacking into social networks and chat rooms to instigate paranoia and violence in the real world, it’s up to Steph and her new friend, Nell, to find a way to stop it—with the help of their benevolent AI friend, CheshireCat.


NEWS FROM THE BLOG

My year didn’t start great but February was already much kinder, reading-wise. I did get sick and had to stay home from work… well, I work from home anyway, but you know, stay at home without working, for over a week. That gave me plenty of time to read and even though I often didn’t know what I was in the mood for, I ended up with some good books.

What I read:

  • Joe Abercrombie – Last Argument of Kings
    fantastic three-dimensional characters – epic battle scenes – fitting grimdark ending – twists not all that surprising
  • Terry Pratchett – Small Gods
    funny – heartwarming – religion on Discworld – made me laugh out loud and cry – book hangover
  • Octavia E. Butler – Parable of the Talents
    devestating yet hopeful – brilliant characters – epic but somehow still character-focused
  • Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs – Neverwhere (BBC audio)
    was a re-listen – amazing actors – great adaptation – atmospheric and exciting – a movie in your brain
  • Arkady Martine – A Memory Called Empire
    cool world-building – not as good as the first book – great characters and exploration of culture/identity
  • Vonda N. McIntyre – Dreamsnake
    strange but gripping – post-apocalyptic – LGBTQIA+ themes – kept me up late reading

Currently reading:

  • John Crowley – Little, Big
  • J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal

Yeah, yeah, so Little, Big is becoming the book that won’t disappear from the currently reading pile. In addition to that slow burn, I’ve added another one that’s taking me a while (although not as long as I had feared). I’m reading the first Harry Potter book in Spanish in the hopes of shoving a bit of vocabulary into my brain before – hopefully – going on a trip to Barcelona. I doubt that “wand” and “cauldron” will be massively helpful but hey, I’m getting a feel for the language again and having fun at the same time.

In April I’m participating in a readathon so I hope that helps me finally catch up on my reading goals a bit. I have some great books picked out but I suspect the Hugo finalists will make me change all my plans.

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

The State of SFF – March 2021

2021 is moving along FAST and although I’m still waiting for my Covid vaccine (late March/early April sounds realistic at this point), at least SFF publishing is running smoothly again and promises many great books to come out this month.
The land of TV and movies isn’t sleeping either and awards season is getting started as well.

Quickie News

  • The Mythopoeic Award winners have been announced and congratulations are in order. Theodora Goss won the Adult Literature prize for Snow White Learns Witchcraft. The children’s prize went to Yoon Ha Lee for Dragon Pearl.
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  • Hafzah Faisal’s novel We Hunt the Flame (the first in a duology) has been optioned for TV. I have yet to read the book but an Arabian-inspired fantasy book by an Author of Color getting an adaptation is definitely exciting. I’m so tired of remakes of the same old stuff when there are so many new and fresh stories out there.
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  • Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones, a book that just came out, will be turned into a movie. I’ve had an ARC of this book for months but as I’ve heard some very negative things, I’m putting off reading it. Depending on how long I can drag that out, the movie might be done before I ever read the book…
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  • Gina Carano will no longer be in The Mandalorian because of harmful statements made online. Unfortunately, she has promoted not wearing masks and lied about the US presidential election, among other things. At this point, I still get a little sad when people subscribe to conspiracy theories or post racist shit, but I’ve reached a level of tiredness that prevents me from the outrage I probably should be feeling. Someone was racist/anti-science/hateful/wrong on the internet? Must be Tuesday.
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It’s Time for Hugo Award Nominations!

If you’re a member of this year’s WorldCon or were a member of last year’s WorldCon, congratulations! You can nominated works for the Hugo Awards. And the time to start is now. You can nominate whatever works you liked the best and then come back later and add new ones or swap out others. The nomination period will be open until Marth 19th.

I had a super hard time this year because, for the first time ever, I wanted to nominated more novels than is possible. In other categories I’m relying heavily on my fellow SFF fans to pick the best of last year. I haven’t read many short stories or graphic novels but I’m sure the shortlist will lead me to all the good stuff I’ve missed.

Also, here’s a reminder that Best Fancast is not only for podcasts but also works for other formats such as Youtube videos. I’ve nominated three podcasts and two Youtube channels this year and I hope that others are also trying to open up the category and include a wider variety of fancasts.


Baen’s Bar controversy

I initially had this in the quickie news but, like many things that start small, this has grown a bit too large to talk about it in just a sentence or two.
It all began with Jason Sanford’s report about Baen’s Bar – an online forum for authors by the publisher Baen. From what I’ve learned so far, people on the Baen’s Bar forum talked about the political climate in the US and some comments went beyond just expressing one’s opinion, but actively incited or approved of violence.  File 770 has a good post here that rounds up comments and reactions. Wherever you may fall on the political spectrum and whatever you think about this particular report-turned-discussion-about-free-speech-versus-promoting-violence, I urge you to read more than the pieces I’m linking to here, and to make up your own mind.

In the last few weeks, things have escalated more and more. After being made aware of the accusations, Toni Weisskopf, editor and publisher of Baen Books, temporarily closed the forum and promised to investigate. She was supposed to be Guest of Honor at this year’s WorldCon but has since been uninvited. She is still welcome to attend the convention, of course, just not as Guest of Honor. Obviously, this has made some people upset, among them Larry Correia (remember, the original Sad Puppies guy).
Larry Correia reacted, as he usually does, with an overly dramatic post about cancel culture and how “The Left” is evil and simply can’t appreciate one of the greatest women in publishing. I don’t think very highly of Correia (I have no interest in his books, I disagree with him politically, and I think the way he writes his blog posts only tries to additionally divide an already divided society when we should all be doing the opposite) but I think it’s important to listen to different opinions.

I have no idea how much further this topic will go until this post goes up but I will finally finish reading Sanford’s report in its entirety and then see if anything can be learned of this latest SFF drama…


Shadow and Bone Trailer

Sorry for another Shadow and Bone update but the first proper trailer has arrived and it is making everyone EXCITED! Holy shit, the Shadow Fold looks good!

And the characters are perfect! Even though you see many of the them for just a second or two, you can tell how well they are cast. Inej has amazing “I’ll kill you with one of my 100 knives” energy, Genya looks stunning, the Darkling is gorgeous and villainous-looking as he should be – that character is made of bad boy vibes – and both Kaz and Jesper are just like I imagined them. Alina also seems to be perfect. Her bewildered look in the few scenes we see in the trailer is exactly right. The only one I personally pictured differently was Mal, but hey, I’m not complaining. 🙂

Shadow and Bone“: Erster Trailer zur Fantasyserie im Grishaverse enthüllt – fernsehserien.de

SHADOW AND BONE Trailer Introduces a Dangerous, Beautiful and Magical World

Netflix Drops First 'Shadow and Bone' Teaser Trailer

So yeah, I’m just as excited as the rest of the internet and can’t wait for April 23rd when the show finally arrives. Even if you haven’t set an alert on Netflix yet, I don’t think anyone will miss the release day of this. Now we only have to hope it’s as good as the trailer looks.

Exciting March Publications

February was a good month for SFF publications, so March stood up tall, fixed its crown and is striding along confidently, showing us that it can do even better! At this point, my TBR is so ridiculously high that adding ten-ish more books in March won’t make much of a difference anyway.

ARKADY MARTINE – A DESOLATION CALLED PEACE

Probably many people’s most anticipated release of the entire year, the sequel to the Hugo-winning and absolutely brilliant A Memory Called Empire is finally coming! I’ve been missing Mahit and Three Seagrass and I cannot wait to find out how this story continues. Political intrigue, cultural nuance, great characters, and – so Twitter tells me – a SPACE KITTEN!

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An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.

In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.

Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.


C. L. CLARK – THE UNBROKEN

The book with the magnificent biceps on it doesn’t just look good, it also sounds fantastic and I have been looking forward to it for quite some time. A princess and a soldier reluctantly working together in a North-African inspired setting, plus assassins, epic stakes, and maybe a bit of romance? Yes, please.

54467051Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.


KAZUO ISHIGURO – KLARA AND THE SUN

I adored both books by Ishigoro that I’ve read and I really like that a Nobel Prize-winning author decided to write more science fiction. Clearly, the wider world is accepting that the genre has way more to offer than spaceships and aliens (not that those aren’t great).

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Klara and the Sun is a magnificent new novel from the Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro–author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day.

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?


A. G. SLATTER – ALL THE MURMURING BONES

Angela Slatter, writing as A. G. Slatter here, is a hugely talented Australian author who isn’t nearly known well enough. Her short story collections Sourdough and The Bitterwood Bible gave me All The Feels and I’ve been a diehard fan of hers ever since. This new fairy tale-esque book sounds amazing and I can’t wait to let Slatter break my heart again.

55302933. sy475 For fans of Naomi Novik and Katharine Arden, a dark gothic fairy tale from award-winning author Angela Slatter.

‘Harrowing and beautiful, this is the grim, fairy-tale gothic you’ve been waiting for’
CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN, New York Times bestselling author of Ararat

Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.


LEIGH BARDUGO – RULE OF WOLVES

The Nikolai Duology comes to an end with this gorgeous-looking book. I liked King of Scars well enough but didn’t love it. Of course I’ll read the series conclusion but I hope it steps up its game a little.

36307674. sy475 The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.

The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.


AIDEN THOMAS – LOST IN THE NEVER WOODS

From the author of Cemetery Boys (which I haven’t read yet… can you tell my TBR is gigantic?) comes a fairy tale retelling of sorts that pushes all my buttons. Okay, just two of them, but they are big buttons. It’s a Peter Pan retelling and it has a gorgeous cover. Look at the silhouette the trees are making – it’s two faces! And the colors are so pretteeeeh!

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When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.


ANNA-MARIE MCLEMORE – THE MIRROR SEASON

March really likes me, I think. Another (probably loose) retelling of a fairy tale, The Snow Queen, with a very pretty cover indeed. I’ve been buying all of McLemore’s books but – you guessed it – I haven’t read any of them yet. This should really be a priority in 2021.
The Mirror Season sounds like it has so much to offer. A girl and boy dealing with trauma and grief, magical pan dulce, disappearing trees. I may just make this my first McLemore book.

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When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.


GABRIELA HOUSTON – THE SECOND BELL

If, like me, you sometimes read fantasy novels and think that the monster’s point of view would be much more interesting than the hero’s POV, then this could be the book for you. The protagonist is a striga, a person with two hearts who is considered a demon, and the story seems to deal with a mother-daughter relationship.

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In a world which believes her to be a monster, a young striga fights to harness the power of her second heart, while her mother sacrifices everything to stop her…

In an isolated mountain community, sometimes a child is born with two hearts. This child is called a striga and is considered a demon who must be abandoned on the edge of the forest. The child’s mother must then decide to leave with her infant, or stay and try to forget.

Nineteen year-old striga, Salka, and her mother, Miriat, made the choice to leave and live a life of deprivation and squalor in an isolated village. The striga tribe share the human belief that to follow the impulses of their other hearts is dangerous, inviting unspoken horrors and bringing ruin onto them all.

Salka, a headstrong and independent young woman, finds herself in a life threatening situation that forces her to explore the depths of her true nature and test the bonds between mother and child…


KATE HOPE DAY – IN THE QUICK

I’ve only recently stumbled across this book (yet another cool cover!) and if it keeps what the blurb promises, this will be great! Bonding over scientific work, a mystery in space that needs to be solved, and two difficult characters who have to work together.

54072857A young, ambitious female astronaut’s life is upended by a fiery love affair that threatens the rescue of a lost crew in this brilliantly imagined novel in the tradition of Station Eleven and The Martian.

June is a brilliant but difficult girl with a gift for mechanical invention, who leaves home to begin a grueling astronaut training program. Six years later, she has gained a coveted post as an engineer on a space station, but is haunted by the mystery of Inquiry, a revolutionary spacecraft powered by her beloved late uncle’s fuel cells. The spacecraft went missing when June was twelve years old, and while the rest of the world has forgotten them, June alone has evidence that makes her believe the crew is still alive.

She seeks out James, her uncle’s former protégée, also brilliant, also difficult, who has been trying to discover why Inquiry’s fuel cells failed. James and June forge an intense intellectual bond that becomes an electric attraction. But the love that develops between them as they work to solve the fuel cell’s fatal flaw threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked so hard to create–and any chance of bringing the Inquiry crew home alive.

Equal parts gripping narrative of scientific discovery and charged love story, In the Quick is an exploration of the strengths and limits of human ability in the face of hardship and the costs of human ingenuity. At its beating heart are June and James, whose love for each other is eclipsed only by their drive to conquer the challenges of space travel.


News from the blog

My year didn’t start great but February was already much kinder, reading-wise. I did get sick and had to stay home from work… well, I work from home anyway, but you know, stay at home without working, for over a week. That gave me plenty of time to read and even though I often didn’t know what I was in the mood for, I ended up with some good books.

What I read:

  • Everina Maxwell – Winter’s Orbit
    fun romance in space – intriguing world building – slow middle part
  • Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs – The Sandman (Audible)
    great voice acting – works surprisingly well on audio – cool world and cool stories
  • Star Wars – From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
    anthology of 40 stories – some great, some not so much – nice for fans and to discover new authors
  • Andrea Stewart – The Bone Shard Daughter
    fast-paced – cool world building – complex characters – leaves you eager for the next part
  • Susan Cooper – The Dark is Rising
    disappointing – weak main character – hardly any plot – no conflict, no drive – nice writing
  • Nnedi Okorafor – Remote Control
    highly interesting world building – great writing – plot a bit unfocused/unsure what it wants to achieve
  • Tasha Suri – Empire of Sand 
    great world building – intricate characters – weaker middle-part – makes me want to read the companion novel NOW

Currently reading:

  • John Crowley – Little, Big
  • Joe Abercrombie – Last Argument of Kings

I’m still reading Little, Big and I’m still enjoying it. It is not a riveting read, there is very little plot to speak of and so my other books often take precedence. But none of them reach Crowley when it comes to atmosphere or pure strangeness.
I’ve also finally decided to finish the First Law Trilogy. I had forgotten how much I liked Abercrombie’s writing and how fast I can read his books. 670 pages doesn’t sound so intimidating when they’re flying by. Unless he messed up completely on the ending, you can expect a very positive review soon. Also, Glokta is the best!

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

The State of SFF – February 2021

Ah, 2021. We had such high hopes for you. Of course we all knew, the pandemic wouldn’t suddenly go away but progress has been… let’s say sluggish, at least in my country. Well, at least my grandfather has been vaccinated already and the rest of my family is waiting their turn, doing the same stuff we’ve been doing for the last 10 months. Working from home whenever possible, wearing masks, barely going outside. At least there are books, right?

Quickie News

  • The Dunk and Egg novella prequels to A Song of Ice and Fire are in early development at HBO. I personally look forward to this much more than any other spinoffs because these novellas are really good and a fun, lighter addition to the world of Westeros.
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  • Author Storm Constantine has passed away. She is best-known for her Wraeththu Chronicles, which begin with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit.
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  • Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow might be coming to FX. I’ve just recently read this book and it ripped my heart out. So I’m very much rooting for an adaptation, especially one written by Queen’s Gambit showrunner Scott Frank!

Wheel of Time Concept art revealed

This reminds me that I should maybe finally start reading The Wheel of Time, something I’ve been planning to do for ever and somehow never managed. If you’ve somehow missed the news, Amazon is developing The Wheel of Time as a TV show and fans are rightfully excited.
Now, some concept art has been revealed that evokes the exact epic fantasy feelings I have been hoping for. Although I haven’t yet read the series, I am super excited for the TV version. Now somebody please kick my ass into gear and make me read The Eye of the World.

The Wheel of Time Preview Honors "The Eye of the World" Anniversary

Shadow and Bone (Netflix) first look

Shadow and Bone First Look Photos and Characters Posters Released by NetflixWe’ve got a first look at what the Grishaverse Netflix show will be like. So far, character posters and some stills have been revealed and no matter if you’re part of the Grisha fandom or not, you have to admit that the costumes look fantastic!

I can’t wait for April 23rd (my Netflix reminder has been set for weeks) to discover how the cast will tackle their roles as well as how the two storylines of the Grisha Trilogy and the Six of Crows duology will be intertwined. Maybe they’ll do a Witcher and simply mix scenes set in different time periods, having the audience figure it all out. Or maybe they changed the plot so characters who never meet in the books do so in the show? I have no idea but I am excited!

jaspar, inej, and kaz draped in shadows

Exciting February Publications

You guys, February is going to be awesome! There’s a good mix of authors I already know and new-to-me authors but all of them have books coming out that tickle my interest. Also, this month’s covers are pretty stunning, don’t you think?

EVERINA MAXWELL – WINTER’S ORBIT

I am beyond excited for this space opera romance where a prince has to marry a guy to save the world (I guess) and then they fall in love. Marketing promises a trope-feast of the best kind and I cannot wait. Also, this is the UK cover because I like it more than the US version.

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Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.


T. L. HUCHU – THE LIBRARY OF THE DEAD

Edinburgh, ghosts, and a cynical teen. Need I say more?

52205603. sy475 Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.

WHEN GHOSTS TALK SHE WILL LISTEN

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and they sure do love to talk. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to those they left behind. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will rock her world.

Ropa will dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And although underground Edinburgh hides a wealth of dark secrets, she also discovers an occult library, a magical mentor and some unexpected allies.

Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?


GENEVIEVE GORNICHEC – THE WITCH’S HEART

A witch falls in love with Loki and that’s really all I need to know. But this also has a more literary feel to it, so maybe we’ll get a Norse mythology version of what Madeline Miller does with Greek myths?

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When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.

Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.

Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.

With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.


NAMINA FORNA – THE GILDED ONES

I’ve had an ARC of this book for months which means I’ve been excited for just as long. As with a lot of YA books, I feel an underlying dread that it could be the same cheap old story in new clothing, but I am quite hopeful that this will turn out to be great. That cover is definitely a stunner!

40024121. sy475 Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.


ALIETTE DE BODARD – FIREHEART TIGER

You can’t really go wrong with Aliette de Bodard but when you mention The Goblin Emperor and Howl’s Moving Castle in the blurb, just go ahead and take my money.

53317495. sy475 Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world.

Fire burns bright and has a long memory….

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?


SARAH GAILEY – THE ECHO WIFE

I love Sarah Gailey’s writing so much! They come up with new and interesting ideas, not least of them a husband cheating on his wife… with herself. I can’t wait to see how Gailey tackles clones and murder and whatever else they’ve put into this book. This is one of my most anticipated releases of the year.

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“When they said all happy families are alike, I don’t think this is what they meant…”

Evelyn Caldwell’s husband Nathan has been having an affair — with Evelyn Caldwell. Or, to be exact, with a genetically cloned replica.

After a morning that begins with a confrontation and ends with Nathan’s body bleeding out on the kitchen floor, the two Caldwell wives will have to think fast—before sharing everything includes sharing a jail cell.

The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride of lies, betrayal, and identity, perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and Killing Eve.


BECKY CHAMBERS – THE GALAXY AND THE GROUND WITHIN

February is good to us! Becky Chambers brings us a new Wayfarers novel so our need for cozy space opera, diverse characters, and a plot that doesn’t rely on action or blood and murder will be filled. Plus, the trope of being stuck in a place with complete strangers that you slowly get to know better totally works for me.

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With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.


NICOLE LESPERANCE – THE WIDE STARLIGHT

This is my February wild card. I have no idea whether this book will be as great as I hope but magical Northern Lights, a mysteriously disappearing mother, and a journey through a Northern setting sounds too good to miss.

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The Hazel Wood meets The Astonishing Color of After in this dreamy, atmospheric novel that follows sixteen-year-old Eli as she tries to remember what truly happened the night her mother disappeared off a glacier in Norway under the Northern Lights.

Never whistle at the Northern Lights, the story goes, or they’ll sweep down from the sky and carry you away.
Sixteen-year-old Eline Davis knows it’s true. She was there ten years ago, on a frozen fjord in Svalbard, Norway, the night her mother whistled at the lights and then vanished.

Now Eli lives an ordinary life with her dad on Cape Cod. But when the Northern Lights are visible over the Cape for just one night, she can’t resist the possibility of seeing her mother again. So she whistles—and it works. Her mother appears, with snowy hair, frosty fingertips and a hazy story of where she’s been all these years. And she doesn’t return alone.

Along with Eli’s mother’s reappearance come strange, impossible things. Narwhals swimming in Cape Cod Bay, meteorites landing in Eli’s yard, and three shadowy princesses with ominous messages. It’s all too much, too fast, and Eli pushes her mother away. She disappears again—but this time, she leaves behind a note that will send Eli on a journey across continents, to the northern tip of the world:

Find me where I left you.


News from the blog

January was not great. It wasn’t terrible either, but unfortunately I picked up some books that I had high expectations for and that I ended up disliking. On the other hand, I finished a trilogy, re-read an old favorite (still good) and liked one book more than I had expected.

What I read in January:

  • Stina Leicht – Persephone Station
    unfocused – bland characters – terrible dialogue – cool ideas
  • Alechia Dow – The Sound of Stars
    cheesy romance – half-assed world building – repetitive plot
  • Various Authors – Faraway
    great twists on fairy tales – sometimes dark – good writing – Soman Chainani rocks!
  • Naomi Novik – A Deadly Education
    slow start  – cool monsters – lots of open questions – shouldn’t have liked it but somehow did
  • Holly Black – How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
    nice little addition to the Folk of the Air Trilogy – not groundbreaking but good – lovely illustrations
  • Marissa Meyer – Supernova
    epic ending to the trilogy – loooong middle part – not my favorite but liked it
  • Michael Ende – The Neverending Story (re-read)
    fantastic ideas – writing style felt kind of distant – still great after all these years

Currently reading:

  • Neil Gaiman – Sandman (full cast audiobook) (re-read)
  • John Crowley – Little, Big
  • Various Authors – From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Nnedi Okorafor – Remote Control

I have two current reads that I consider longer projects. The Star Wars anthology is a chonker of a book and I’m not reading it all in one go. A few stories here or there is working well for me. That’s particularly nice when I’ve had an exhausting day and just feel like reading a few pages of something. And thanks to the anthology I’ve already discovered some authors that I want to read more of.
Little, Big on the other hand is taking me longer because it’s the kind of book you need to savor. It’s not about the plot so much as about discovering what the hell is going on and just enjoying the ride. And let’s not forget the language is beautiful and sometimes makes me linger and just admire how well Crowley can string a sentence together.

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

The State of SFF – January 2021

Happy New Year everyone!
I hope you’ve all had a good time during the holidays, surrounded by family (as much as possible, at least) and celebrated New Year’s responsibly. The shitshow that was 2020 is finally over and although that doesn’t mean we’re suddenly past the pandemic, there is hope on the horizon.

Quickie News

  • The 2021 WorldCon – DisCon III – might be held in December instead of August due to the pandemic. DisCon sent out a poll to all its members to see which date participants prefer. In December, the convention could most likely be an in-person event while August is anyone’s guess.
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  • Another piece of Hugo Awards news: In 2021, there will be a Best Video Game category. It’s a one time thing but when a WorldCon’s new category is well received, it might just stick around.
  • The Goodreads Choice Awards have been announced and the winners are… let’s say predictable. The authors with the most (or most active on Goodreads) fans have won. This is just my personal opinion but by no stretch of the imagination can I believe that Sarah J. Maas wrote a better novel than N. K. Jemisin, Susanna Clarke, Brandon Sanderson, R. F. Kuang, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Naomi Novik… But I do want to say congratulations to Silvia Moreno Garcia who won Best Horror for her excellent novel Mexican Gothic.

mythopoeic award finalists announced

The Mythopoeic Awards are not as well known as the Hugos or Nebulas but I am a huge fan of their finalists and winners. The 2020 finalists have been announced and they look great! P. Djèlí Clark alongside Theodora Goss and Alix E. Harrow, plus Jo Walton and G. Willow Wilson… what more can you want, really? I’ve only read Yoon Ha Lee in the Children’s Literature category but I’m excited to check out the other finalists. Look at those adorable covers!

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

  • P. Djèlí Clark, The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (Tor.com, 2019)
  • Theodora Goss, Snow White Learns Witchcraft (Mythic Delirium Books, 2019)
  • Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January (Redhook, 2019)
  • Jo Walton, Lent: A Novel of Many Returns (Tor Books, 2019)
  • G. Willow Wilson, The Bird King (Grove Press, 2019)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

  • Erin Entrada Kelly, Lalani of the Distant Sea (Green Willow Books, 2019)
  • Yoon Ha Lee, Dragon Pearl (Rick Riordan Presents, 2019)
  • Hilary McKay, The Time of Green Magic (Macmillan, 2019)
  • Suzanne Nelson, A Tale Magnolius (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019)
  • Anne Ursu, The Lost Girl (Walden Pond Press, 2019)

Shadow and Bone (the TV Show) is coming in April

I am so excited!!! I haven’t even been a Grisha fan for that long but all the cast pictures and this teaser trailer took me right back into that universe and reminded me how much I was enjoying Alina’s story. I cannot wait to see how the Netflix show will combine the storylines from the original Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, but I’m very pleased with the casting and the sinister, dramatic look of the trailer. There will be eight episodes, the first of which is appropriately called  “A Searing Burst of Light”.

Shadow and Bone (TV Series 2021– ) - IMDb


Exciting January Publications

STINA LEICHT – PERSEPHONE STATION

I only have unread books by Stina Leicht but they all sound amazing. This new one doesn’t only sound cool, it also has a stunning cover that I need to get my hands on. Shady bars on backwater planets? Criminals with a heart of gold? Sign me up!

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Hugo award–nominated author Stina Leicht has created a take on space opera for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop in this high-stakes adventure.

Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Rosie – owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner, caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.

Angel – ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will effect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try


M. A. CARRICK – THE MASK OF MIRRORS

Con artists, intrigues among noble houses, feuding aristocrats, and magic. It’s not like these things haven’t been there before, but I quite enjoy all of these tropes. Someone sneaking their way into a noble house sounds like there will be a lot of “will she be found out” moments and those always work very well on me. 🙂

Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams…

Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister’s future.

But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.

Darkly magical and intricately imagined, The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a rich and dazzling fantasy adventure in which a con artist, a vigilante, and a crime lord must unite to save their city.


JOANNA RUTH MEYER – INTO THE HEARTLESS WOOD

I adored Meyer’s retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon – Echo North. If you haven’t read it, do so! There’s such a great twist and a magical library!!! So of course I’m going to read her newest fairy tale-esque book.

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Epic, heartbreaking, and darkly atmospheric, Into the Heartless Wood is the story of impossible love between a monstrous tree siren and a boy who lives at the edge of her wood.

The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain.

When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.


NNEDI OKORAFOR – REMOTE CONTROL

Nnedi Okorafor is always a win and she gets better with every book. This novella has been on my radar ever since it was announced and I cannot wait to meet Sankofa and her FOX COMPANION!

34215764. sy475 The new book by Nebula and Hugo Award-winner, Nnedi Okorafor.

“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa­­–a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks–alone, except for her fox companion–searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?


S. T. GIBSON – A DOWRY OF BLOOD

This would not be the kind of book I usually  go for, but the author described it on Twitter something like this:

  • sapphic yearning at the opera
  • bi rep for days
  • obsessive love
  • tangled polyamorous relationships
  • kisses in cathedrals
  • gothic abandoned chateaus
  • eating abusive men

Of course now I am intrigued. I also realized I have one of Gibson’s books on my TBR (Robber Girl) but haven’t read it yet. It’s a fairytale retelling so this appears to be an author just to my liking.

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.


KRISTEN CASHORE – WINTERKEEP

I’m a little behind on the Graceling series (I’ve read the first two books, Graceling even several times) but that doesn’t stop my excitement for this fourth instalment in the series. I also quite love the new covers. This publication might just be the nudge I needed to finally pick up Bitterblue.

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The highly anticipated next book in the New York Times bestselling, award-winning Graceling Realm series, which has sold 1.3 million copies.

Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.

But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.

Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.


MOLLY RINGLE – LAVA RED FEATHER BLUE

Sleeping Beauty but Beauty is a prince instead of a princess – hell yes! The synopsis of this book alone has so many things that make me curious. I don’t think I’ve read Molly Ringle before but I definitely will when this book comes out.

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Awakening the handsome prince is supposed to end the fairy tale, not begin it. But the Highvalley witches have rarely done things the way they’re supposed to. On the north Pacific island of Eidolonia, hidden from the world by enchantments, Prince Larkin has lain in a magical sleep since 1799 as one side of a truce between humans and fae. That is, until Merrick Highvalley, a modern-day witch, discovers an old box of magic charms and cryptic notes hidden inside a garden statue.

Experimenting with the charms, Merrick finds himself inside the bower where Larkin lies, and accidentally awakens him. Worse still, releasing Larkin from the spell also releases Ula Kana, a faery bent on eradicating humans from the island. With the truce collapsing and hostilities escalating throughout the country, Merrick and Larkin form an unlikely alliance and become even unlikelier heroes as they flee into the perilous fae realm on a quest to stop Ula Kana and restore harmony to their island.


News from the blog

December was wonderfully quiet. I picked up some comfort reads or authors that I knew wouldn’t let me down, I caught up some more on my reading goals and I am altogether pleased with my December books. Even if I’m one of the very few people who didn’t like Schwab’s latest novel…

What I read in December:

  • V. E. Schwab – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
    cool concept – fell flat for me – one-dimensional characters – white-centric – romance-focused
  • Laini Taylor – Muse of Nightmares
    gorgeous prose – amazing ending – twists – brilliant villains
  • Matt Ruff – Lovecraft Country
    racism in the 1950s – anthology-like novel – great historical fiction, not so great fantasy
  • Octavia E. Butler – Parable of the Sower
    depressing – post-apocalyptic – brilliant writing – really  sad but also hopeful
  • N. K. Jemisin – The Stone Sky
    great series-ender – fantastic writing – exploring racism through fantasy – also just plain great fantasy
  • Karen M. McManus – The Cousins
    family mystery – nice and easy to read teen thriller – characters a bit bland – great twists
  • Frances Hardinge – Cuckoo Song
    trademark weird and original – brilliant character dynamics – magical world beside ours – good ending

Wrap-ups and end-of-the-year posts:

Currently reading:

  • Michael Ende – The Neverending Story (re-read)
  • Marissa Meyer – Supernova

It’s unusual for me to only read two books at the same time and even more unusual to make one of those books a re-read but I saw my old copy of Die Unendliche Geschichte on the shelf and just felt like going back to Fantasia/Fantastica – it’s called Phantásien in German which is simply the word “fantasies” with the emphasis on a different syllable. I keep thinking what a tough job it must have been for the translator not just because of made up words that simply don’t translate easily but also because each chapter starts with a different letter of the alphabet (so the chapter illustrations make sense). If I didn’t have such an aversion to some of my favorite characters having different names (Fuchur is Falkor), maybe I would actually read the translation one day. Oh well, not this time I guess.

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