Bout of Books 24 – Goals and Updates

I am so very excited about participating in Bout of Books 24! So I thought I would write down my reading goals and a tentative TBR for the coming week. As always, new books may flutter into my hands and take over any plans I have made… you know how it is. This post will remain a sticky throughout the week and I’ll try to update daily. Happy reading, fellow read-a-thoners!


Bout of Books

Reading goals:

  • Finish  three books
  • Review two of them
  • Participate in one challenge

TBR:

  • R. F. Kuang – The Poppy War finished on Tuesday
  • Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races finished on Thursday
  • Natasha Ngan – Girls of Paper and Fire
  • Susan Dennard – Windwitch
  • C.S.E. Cooney – The Breaker Queen
  • Aliette de Bodard – In the Vanisher’s Palace

I am almost done with A Conjuring of Light and I have a third of The Poppy War left. The Cooney and Bodard books are both very slim so I’m thinking I might manage both of them. But we’ll see how the week goes (considering I caught some kind of a stomach bug and spent the last two days mostly sleeping) and I won’t be disappointed if I don’t manage all of these.


OVERALL STATS

Books read: 3
Pages read: ~ 801
Challenges:
Titles read:


MONDAY

Total books read:  0
Pages read today:
~ 160
Books I’m reading:

  • R.F. Kuang – The Poppy War
  • Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races

Notes:

I finished A Conjuring of Light yesterday, so that’s off my read-a-thon TBR. It was a bit underwhelming and some story lines really disappointed me in their conclusion. All things considered, the first book is still my favorite, the third book had some excellent ideas but the characters grew weaker and weaker as the story went along.
Quite by coincidence, The Scorpio Races fell into my hands. I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, I just looked at the prologue a little bit and – whoops – now I’m reading the book.

I read a fair bit in The Poppy War today and dipped my toes into the terrifying waters of The Scorpio Races. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THOSE HORSES???


TUESDAY

Total books read:  1
Pages read today:
~ 172
Books I’m reading:

  • Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races
  • R.F. Kuang – The Poppy War  finished today, it was SOOO good!

Notes:

I’m almost certain I can finish The Poppy War today although I’m not at all sure how it will end. The sequel is on my wishlist though. Whatever happens, I’ll need to know what happens next.

The Scorpio Races is something else. Because I trust the name Maggie Stiefvater ever since she blew me away with the Raven Trilogy, I didn’t do much research about this book. Killer horses that come from the sea? Let’s just say it’s very hard to believe but I’m willing to go along with it. The two protagonists are certainly intriguing enough to enjoy the book.

Also, I realized that today The Winter of the Witch comes out which may change all my reading plans for the week. Let’s see how long my pre-order takes to arrive. Until then, it’s back to the crazy horses for me.


WEDNESDAY

Total books read:  1
Pages read today:
~ 146
Challenges:
Books I’m reading:

  • Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races
  • Natasha Ngan – Girls of Paper and Fire

Notes:

Since I finished The Poppy War yesterday and will probably race through The Scorpio Races in a couple of days, I get to start a new book. So today, glorious read-a-thon day, I get to spend time picking what to read next. Sure, there’s a TBR right on top of this page, but let’s be honest, the real TBR is about 1000 books long so I have a lot to choose from. This will be fun!

Of course I picked a completely different book from my TBR than expected but it’s not my fault when an introduction and opening chapter are that gripping. So it’s Natasha Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire which not only starts great but also has the most gorgeous cover! Look at the colors. Look at them!


THURSDAY

Total books read:  2
Pages read today:
~ 323
Books I’m reading:

  • Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races finished today, holy shit, all the stars!
  • Natasha Ngan – Girls of Paper and Fire
  • Aliette de Bodard – In the Vanishers’ Palace

Notes:

So, I finished The Scorpio Races while my boyfriend was watching The Godfather. This book! It had a really slow start but once I got into it, I was in it! I don’t think I put the book down for the entire second half. I took it with me to the bathroom and read while brushing my teeth because even though it has next to no plot, it was so damn thrilling. The ending tore my heart out and now I don’t quite no what to do with myself…

Girls of Paper and Fire continues to be exciting as well but I’ve got a bit of a book hangover now and may have to push in a lighter, shorter book to recover. Also, tomorrow will be review day. I have read a lot of great books in the last few months and still need to catch up on posting reviews for them.


FRIDAY

Total books read:  2
Pages read today:
~ 148
Books I’m reading:

  • Natasha Ngan – Girls of Paper and Fire
  • Aliette de Bodard – In the Vanishers’ Palace Finished today, it was alright.

Notes:

I’ve started In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard and it is a strange little book, part retelling of Beauty and the Beast, part post-apocalyptic (?) story with Vietnamese influences. As it’s also a very short book, I’ll probably finish it today but I have no idea what to expect or what the ending could be. The writing is beautiful but I find the world building rather challenging.

And I’m still hung up on The Scorpio Races. If I didn’t have 1000 books on my TBR, I’d re-read it immediately.


SATURDAY

Total books read:  3
Pages read today:
~ 35
Books I’m reading:

  • Natasha Ngan – Girls of Paper and Fire
  • Leigh Bardugo – Siege and Storm

Notes:

Today, I didn’t read much because the boyfriend and I went to visit friends who just adopted a dog. We went for a long walk and then decided to have pizza. So while it was an amazing day, it was not a day filled with reading.

I did finish In the Vanishers’ Palace yesterday (wasn’t as crazy about it as many others, but it was okay) and I started Leigh Bardugo’s Siege and Storm today. Not only because of the announcement that there will be a TV show based on the Grishaverse but also because I need to get on with this series. I liked the first book, I adored Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, so it’s about time I finished the original Grisha trilogy.


SUNDAY

Total books read:  3
Pages read today:
~
Challenges: Stretch Goal
Books I’m reading:

  • Natasha Ngan – Girls of Paper and Fire
  • Leigh Bardugo – Siege and Storm

Notes:

It’s the last day of the read-a-thon and I am making up for yesterday’s lack of reading. I’m almost halfway through Siege & Storm and I already like it much better than the first book in the trilogy. Girls of Paper and Fire is still there, but I’m only reading bits of it at a time because I want to make it last a bit longer.

I have no idea how much I read on Sunday.  I finished Siege & Storm and loved it! I jumped straight into The Language of Thorns which I finished on Monday, and I have no intention of getting out of the Grishaverse soon. It was an excellent read-a-thon for me and I managed to kick-start the year with some great reads, a handful of reviews, and a headstart at my reading challenges. YAY!

Challenges:

Well, today’s challenge comes in very handy because it is to review our goals,  change them or set ourselves a new one just for today. As one of my goals was to participate in one challenge, this is the one I’m going for. My mini-goal for today is to read to the 70% mark in Siege & Storm. Let’s see if I can manage that. I have no other plans today but the book is not exactly slim.

 

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Bout of Books 24 – Sign-Up

What better way to revive this blog than with a read-a-thon? Bout of Books is one of my favorites and I happen to have some time on my hands while the read-a-thon is happening, so this is my official sign-up post.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 7th and runs through Sunday, January 13th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 24 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I am not going to set myself goals just yet. There are still a few days left before Bout of Books starts and I don’t know what books I’ll finish or start until then. But I definitely have some books that I want to get to very soon, so I’ll post my goals on the first day of the read-a-thon.

 

My Top 7 Books of 2017

It’s a sort of unwritten custom to post a best of the year list whenever a new year arrives and I think it’s a good way of getting this blog back on its feet. After surviving my roughest year yet with lots of personal challenges, I believe I’m slowly getting ready to turn a new page. I wouldn’t have been able to keep going without my wonderful friends and family whose support means so incredibly much to me. Life goes on, even when a loved one leaves us, and all we can do is fill our days with things and people that make us happy. I’m trying to make my grandmother proud every day, even if she’s not here to see it. Books and reading have always been a source of joy for me and I had no greater cheerleader in my obsession than my grandmother. So here’s to a new great year of reading. Let me welcome it with my favorite books from last year:

My Favorite Books Published in 2017

Katherine Arden – The Bear and the Nightingale

Without a doubt, my favorite book of last year (both published last year and older), this Russian-inspired fairy tale had so much atmosphere and told such a riveting story that it catapulted Katherine Arden onto my top author shelf immediately. Vasya is a fantastic heroine who – despite the slow loss of old beliefs – holds on to the old gods and tries to save her home, all by herself. The snowy landscape, the threat of true winter, the politics and magic and mythology all go so perfectly well together to make this book a perfect read for a cold day by a chimney (if you have one) or in front of a nice steaming cup of tea (if you don’t).

Martha Wells – All Systems Red

A rogue robot with a preference for soap operas doesn’t go on a killing spree – although they could – but instead helps the people they’re meant to protect survive a plot on an unexplored planet. The narration was just too damn good to not read this in one sitting! Murderbot is amazing and has so much personality that the edges between human and artificial intelligence get blurred. I can’t wait to read the sequel(s).

Mishell Baker – Phantom Pains

The follow-up to Borderline was as amazing – if not more – than Baker’s debut novel. Millie has to deal with the consequences of the events in Borderline and although a lot of terrible things happen once more, this is still one of those uplifting, feel-good series that I can’t quite explain. Millie still isn’t a perfect heroine and maybe that’s what makes her so wonderfully likable. In addition to telling another exciting story, this novel opens the world a bit and expands on what we learned in Borderline. It also made my mouth water for the third book which will come out in 2018.

Catherynne M. Valente – The Refrigerator Monologues

Cat Valente does wonderful things with words! While I prefer her when she’s playing with fairy tales and mythology, this short novel shows that she can do comic book style narration as well. Giving the women of famous comic book heroes a voice – after their death, that is – is not only a great idea, but it also shows just how carelessly some comic books create and kill/rape/torture their female characters, simply to give the (male) hero something to do or someone to avenge. Valente shows that there’s more to these girls than existance as a tired old trope.

My Favorite Books Published Before 2017

Brandon Sanderson – Words of Radiance

So yeah, everybody who’s been raving about The Stormlight Archive for the last years, was absolutely right. It is the most epic of epic fantasies with characters you can actually care about and a world so large and so filled with history and mythology that it probably will take those 10 volumes to explore it all. While the first book was very much an introduction into this crazy world (although it didn’t feel like it at the time), this one digs a little deeper, grants the characters more powers (both magical and personality-wise), and shows a bit more of what the world holds in store for us. I can’t get over how much I love Kaladin, and his interactions with Shallan were my favorite bits of the book, although that probably makes me sound like a huge fangirl.
The only reason I haven’t read Oathbringer yet is that I’m waiting for Graphic Audio to do the audio version of it. The actors doing the character’s voices, to me, have completely become those characters and I hope I can experience the entire series in this format.

Catherynne M. Valente – Palimpsest

Oh Cat, is there anything you can’t turn into a gorgeous story? Seriously, a sexually transmitted city is the premise for this gorgeous tale, and although there isn’t much plot at first, not a single chapter is boring. Because Valente plays so much with imagery and symbolism, even chapters where nothing happens are so full of meaning that reading feels more like devouring a fantastic meal. This is a book that rivets the senses and – Valente’s weakness, in my opinion – even delivers a beautiful ending that left me happy and satisfied.

Laini Taylor – Lips Touch: Three Times

This was my surprise of the year. I never warmed to Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series because the old-man-in-a-young-body falling in love with a teenage girl trope crept me the hell out. But this collection of three novellas absolutely blew me away. Taylor invents her own mythologies and plays with more well-known legends and tells beautiful stories within them. Whether you’d like to read a modern take on Goblin Market or read about how to deal with a devil, each story is beautifully told and has gorgeous illustrations. I am beyond happy to have a hardback copy of this on my shelf. Plus, this book convinced me to give Taylor’s other books another try.

I know there are a ton of books from last year that I didn’t get to and I’m trying to catch up now. Hugo nominating season will arrive soon and I want to make informed decisions about the books that are eligible. Here’s a few from the top of my list:

  • Mur Lafferty – Six Wakes
  • Yoon Ha Lee – Raven Stratagem
  • Nicky Drayden – The Prey of Gods
  • Sarah Rees Brennan – In Other Lands
  • Laini Taylor – Strange the Dreamer
  • Jeanette Ng – Under the Pendulum Sun
  • N. K. Jemisin – The Stone Sky

There are far more books that interest me but a bit of realism doesn’t hurt. I don’t read as much as I used to, these days, so if I manage to read half of that list, I’ll consider it a success.

Which books did you read last year that you think nobody should miss?

#TheReadingQuest Sign Up

Hello everyone! My hiatus is still ongoing, although I am sorting out my life and things are looking much more positive at the moment. I won’t be posting much for the next couple of weeks because – drumroll – it’s Worldcon!!! And because things have to get back on track sometime, I am joining another reading challenge by the wonderfully creative Aentee from Read at Midnight. It will start on August 13th, just as Worldcon ends.

This challenge lasts for an entire month, so although I may be starting late, I will have enough time to catch up on all the books I neglected these last two months. As you may have guessed, although I pretty much stopped reading and reviewing, I have been busily buying new books the entire time and my TBR has reached heights that I would call seriously threatening.

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#ReadDiverse2017 – A Recommendations List (Part 3)

Here it is, the third and final part of my recommendations for the Read Diverse 2017 challenge. As I mentioned in part 2, these are books and authors on my TBR, so I have no idea if they are any good. But I’ll tell you a little about the books and what made me decide to buy them. Whether it’s a particular buzz word or a setting or a character that drew me in, it may do the same for you.

(even more) diverse authors to read

SILVIA MORENO-GARCÍA

Every book Moreno-García has published so far immediately jumped at me and begged to be read. The reason I still haven’t is that same old tune – too many books, too little time. But I mean, who could resist Mexican noir vampires or a story set in 1980ies Mexico City, involving music and being sold “for fans of Stranger Things”.
Silvia Moreno-García is a Mexican-Canadian writer and she seems to be full of excellent ideas. I’ll definitely be reading Signal to Noise this year and watching out for any new books she publishes.

Books on my TBR: Signal to Noise (I’m including both covers, one of which definitely gives that Stranger Things vibe) and Certain Dark Things.

ROSHANI CHOKSHI

I won’t lie, it’s the covers that drew me in first. But, on closer inspection, it turns out that The Star-Touched Queen is a retelling of the Hades and Persephony myth with a fairy tale flavor. So how could I not buy it? The second book is a companion novel, rather than a sequel which gives Chokshi extra bonus points. Plus, there’s the Book Smugglers story “The Vishakanya’s Choice” which has an Indian setting. Seriously, everything Roshani Chokshi writes sounds up my alley, so I should really get started on reading.
Also, check out her blog – she does make-up based on book covers and characters and it is GORGEOUS!

Books on my TBR: The Star-Touched Queen, its companion A Crown of Wishes and “The Vishakanya’s Choice”.

MIYUKI MIYABE

Miyabe is a Japanese author who writes a lot. In a lot of different genres. And I have actually read one of her books, although it was a novelization of a video game (remember Ico in the Mist, anyone?). Since I really liked the stuff that Miyabe made up, but didn’t like the “retelling” of the game so much, I knew I’d have to try her original fiction. There are gargoyles, sisters saving brothers, and portal fantasies – all things I enjoy. Plus, put a girl with books on the cover and I’m guaranteed to want to read it. I hope that this reading challenge will give me the final nudge to finally pick up one of the books I own and properly discover this author.

Books on my TBR: Brave Story, The Book of Heroes and the recently released The Gate of Sorrows (which is a sequel of sorts so don’t start there).

CORINNE DUYVIS

Much like with Silvia Moreno-García, I have immediately bought Corinne Duyvis’ books when I first discovered them but haven’t read any yet. She is a Dutch author who co-founded and edits Disability in Kidlit (if you don’t know this, definitely check it out) and was herself diagnosed with autism. From what I know of her books, they all feature diverse characters with disabilities and some really original science-fiction/fantasy ideas.
In Otherbound, whenever the main character closes his eyes, he sees through a mute girl’s eyes (and vice versa, I think). On the Edge of Gone sounds darker and more adult with a full-blown apocalypse.

Books on my TBR: Otherbound which features a mute character, and On the Edge of Gone, a post-apocalyptic story with an autustic character.

NICOLA GRIFFITH

Here’s a more established author who I am ashamed to have never read. She has written highly acclaimed novels and a ton of short stories, some of which I own but never seem to get to… My plan is to read Hild this year which not only sounds amazing but also features a bisexual protagonist. Griffith is married to a woman and from the Goodreads tags, I have deduced that pretty much all of her novels feature queer characters.

Books on my TBR: Hild which – from cover to synopsis – pushes all my happy-buttons, Ammonite and Slow River. All standalones. Plus the short story “Cold Wind”.

KAMERON HURLEY

It’s strange because I’ve been reading Hurley’s non-fiction for years now, but I never actually read any of her novels. Most recently, I read her non-fiction collection The Geek Feminist Revolution which exceeded all my expectations and I highly recommend it! But since Hurley always writes interesting female characters, many of whom are queer or bisexual, it’s time I tried one of her novels. I’m unsure whether to start with God’s War, the first of a trilogy, The Mirror Empire (another trilogy starter), or The Stars are Legion, which is a standalone space opera from what Goodreads tells me.

Books on my TBR: The Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy and The Mirror Empire.

And just because it’s always fun to have a list of books to look forward to (read: not yet published), here are some diverse titles on my wishlist that will be published later this year:

  • Mackenzi Lee – The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
    A bisexual young gentleman’s road trip in the 18th century? With magic? Sign me up!!
  • K. Arsenault Rivera – The Tiger’s Daughter
    Interesting setting, queer protagonist, and a seriously gorgeous cover – that’s all it takes to get me interested.
  • Jy Yang – The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune
    Beautiful covers, non-binary author from Singapore, and published by Tor.com – these books are bound to be amazing!
  • Anna-Marie McLemore – Wild Beauty
    I just have to read this book. It’s tagged as GLBT on Goodreads, but it was cover and synopsis that did it for me.
  • Julie C. Dao – Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
    East Asian setting, Vietnamese-American author, PLUS a retelling of The Evil Queen legend.
  • Tochi Onyebuchi – Beasts Made of Night
    Nigerian-flavored fantasy featuring sin-eaters. Just take my money.
  • Melissa Basherdoust – Girls Made of Snow and Glass
    An LGBT fairy tale retelling sold as “Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber” – that’s all I know but that’s totally enough.
  • Aditi Khorana – The Library of Fates
    An Indian author writing a coming-of-age story steeped in Indian folklore. Yes, please!
  • Leena Likitalo – The Five Daughters of the Moon and The Sisters of the Crescent Empire
    A Finnish author writing a Russian-inspired story about the Romanov sisters. Definitely sounds like not-your-average fantasy duology.

 

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#ReadDiverse2017 – A Recommendations List (Part 2)

I am so happy that my first recommendations post got such positive feedback. Thank you to everyone who commented – you have no idea how much joy it gives me when others pick up the books I love. I do a little happy dance every time somebody says they’re trying a new-to-them author because I recommended them. So because you guys seemed to like it and I have so many more diverse authors that I’d like to recommend, here is part 2 of my Read Diverse 2017 recommendations.

Note that I haven’t read as many books by most of these authors (one exception) which is the reason they didn’t make part 1 of my recommendations series. I’ll add covers to the most well known books by them but my recommended starting points are also based on what other people have recommended.

(More of) mY FAVORITE DIVERSE AUTHORS

SOFIA SAMATAR

I have only read one of Samatar’s short stories and the lovely A Stranger in Olondria which won a lot of awards and was nominated for more. It’s a book that I’d recommend also to people who don’t read or like fantasy all that much. While set in a fictional world, it has very few fantasy elements. Okay, there is a ghost, but the meat of the story is one man’s coming-of-age tale while discovering new places. The protagonist is also an avid reader and a lover of stories and history, so any book lover should feel right at home. Plus, the language is just beautiful and the story is very immersive.
Sofia Samatar has Somali and Swiss parents and taught in Sudan. I’ll try and find the interview where she talks about her travels and all the places she has lived but her interest in different cultures definitely shines through her fiction.

Recommended starting point: A Stranger in Olondria or, for the short story crowd, “Selkie Stories are for Losers” (which you can read for free).

KAZUO ISHIGURO

Here’s another one for those of you who don’t read much fantasy or science fiction but wouldn’t mind a little taste of it. Ishiguro is definitely in the literary camp and of the books I’ve read, only one can be called sfnal in any way. But he is a skilled writer who will definitely make you cry. Just give him 200 pages and get the tissues ready. In The Remains of the Day, he tells the life of a super dedicated butler which sounds boring but – trust me – isn’t. There are revelations in that quite book that left me seriously emotional.
Similarly, in Never Let Me Go, the revelation is kind of obvious from the start but while reading you try and pretend it’s not true. This is the book with a sci-fi bend to it, although the characters are so much front and center that it doesn’t matter what genre you normally read.

Recommended starting pointNever Let Me Go because the slightly larger cast makes it a faster read than The Remains of the Day, although I do recommend reading both (and you can watch the movies afterward) . The Buried Giant is still on my reading list, but as Ishiguro writes only standalones, you can pretty much start anywhere.

ZORAIDA CÓRDOVA

I discovered Córdova because I was actively looking for diverse reads and her wonderful novel Labyrinth Lost didn’t disappoint. It’s about brujas and the underworld and lots of cool stuff, and it features a bisexual heroine. The author was born in Ecuador (as far as I could find out) but grew up in New York – her book is flavored with Latin American mythology which made me like it even more. I look forward to the next Brooklyn Brujas book very much.

Recommended starting point: Labyrinth Lost, or the first in Córdova’s mermaid trilogy, The Vicious Deep.

KARIN LOWACHEE

Lowachee should be way better known than she is. Again, I have only read one of her books so far but after finishing Warchild, I immediately went out to get all her other books. Warchild is a science fiction story that focuses on character rather than space battles (although there are some of those, too). As a young boy, Jos’ ship is attacked, his parents killed and he is kidnapped by a space pirate. He is later trained to be a spy in the intergalactic war that is going on. Mostly, this book is about how war can shape humans. If you’re worried going into the story because the first chapter is written in second person, don’t worry, it’s only one chapter but I found the narrative choice gave it even more impact.
Plus, there will be a new book in that series coming out soon, The Warboy.

Recommended starting point: Warchild, which is part one of a loose trilogy (different characters in all the books), or the standalone fantasy novel The Gaslight Dogs.

KAREN LORD

Of the three books I read by Karen Lord, I adored one, liked another, and really disliked the third. But that may well be a matter of personal taste and I still want to recommend Lord because she is such a fresh voice in today’s SFF publishing. Her debut Redemption in Indigo retells a Senegalese folktale (which is much more interesting than the billionth version of Red Riding Hood) and reads very much like a bit of mythology.
My favorite book of hers was The Best of All Possible Worlds which took me a couple of attempts to read, but once I got into it, I was into it! It’s about the remnant (exclusively male) population of an eviscerated planet, trying to find a culture similar to theirs to so they can find wives and keep their own bloodlines and culture alive. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and also a little bit of a love story. The book I didn’t like was its sequel, The Galaxy Game.

Recommended starting point: Redemption in Indigo if you like some mythology and a fairy tale feel, or The Best of All Possible Worlds if you prefer a roadtrip of cultural discovery in a science fictional world.

ZEN CHO

I discovered Zen Cho before her wildly popular book Sorcerer to the Crown came out. This Malaysian writer has been publishing shorter fiction for a while now, and I’d say her most standout quality is charm. Her characters, her writing, her stories are just utterly charming. They don’t have the emotional impact I would like but there’s something about them that makes it hard to put her books down. My first read was The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, but I fell absolutely in love with Prunella Gentleman of Sorcerer to the Crown. Practical women for the win, especially if they can do magic!

Recommended starting point: Sorcerer to the Crown or the short story Monkey King, Faerie Queen which you can read for free or even download for your e-reader.

JACQUELINE KOYANAGI

So Koyanage has only published one book so far and I am still waiting for a sequel to that first novel. But I highly recommend it, especially if you’re reading it for the Read Diverse Challenge. Koyanagi writes queer women of color, protagonists with disabilities, and polyamorous relationships. All of that you get in Ascension, a pretty cool space adventure with lots of kick-ass characters and excellent world building. She suffers from chronic illness herself, and I felt that this experience showed in her protagonist, Alana. Alana’s condition doesn’t feel like a “characteristic” to make a character stand out, it feels like it’s part of who she is, a thing she lives with every day. In short, it felt real. Definitely check out this book!

Recommended starting point: Ascension, the first book in the Tangled Axon series. Hopefully, there will be a second book soon.

CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE

You didn’t think I’d write any sort of recommendation list and leave out Cat Valente, did you? As a bisexual author, Cat writes diverse characters in all her books. Here’s a podcast with lots of recommendations of LGBT+ books that made my wishlist grow quite a bit. Valente is incredibly prolific and while I have read most of her books, it’s difficult to recommend where to start. I will give you pointers that may help you pick the right book for your taste. But all of her books feature characters of all shapes and colors (literally! There are blue characters…) and genders and sexualities and physical abilities.

Recommended starting point(s): For the YA/MG lovers out there and those undecided, the best place to start is with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making. It’s the first in a (completed) series, so you can continue reading once you get a taste.
If you want something more grown up, and more difficult to read, you can pick either of these:

  • Deathless: A standalone fairy tale retelling set during WWII in Leningrad. It’s got lovely, lyrical language, beautiful imagery, Russian folklore, and lots of that fairy tale flavor.
  • Palimpsest: A standalone novel about a sexually transmitted city (no typo, that’s really what it is). It’s not exactly fast-paced, but focuses on character and imagery. Beautiful book, but not for everyone’s taste.
  • Radiance: This is AMAZING! The story of a disappeared film maker set in a pulpy version of our solar system. You can live on all the planets, Hollywood is on the moon, etc. But the best is the way it’s told: through interviews, movie script pages, different narration styles. You kind of have to read it to see what I mean. But it is pretty much a perfect book.
  • The Orphan’s Tales: This duology is difficult because of its structure (stories within stories within stories) but it has the most diverse cast I’ve ever read about. It reads like an alternate 1001 Nights and feels very much like folklore and mythology.
  • Six-Gun Snow White/Speak Easy/Silently and Very Fast: Three novellas if you just want a taste. Six-Gun Snow White is a Snow White retelling set in the Wild West with a biracial Snow White. It’s heartbreaking and kick-ass and very poetic.
    Speak Easy is set in a hotel in the Roaring Twenties where every room hides a secret, the basement is a portal to hell (or a really great party, depending on your stance) and there’s a great twist at the end.
    Silently and Very Fast is a more abstract novella about an AI coming to terms with its existence. It has some fairy tale elements to it but less plot than the other two novellas.

That’s it for my second round of recommendations. In the next and final part, I will tell you about the diverse authors on my TBR that I haven’t read yet. I hope this list was helpful and my favorite writers find new readers because then they’ll write more books and that will be great for all of us. Happy reading!

 

 

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#ReadDiverse2017 – A Recommendations List (Part 1)

It’s officially May and I’m still very much enjoying the Read Diverse 2017 Challenge because it helps me discover so many great books. Some people post Diversity Spotlight posts every week and I like those well enough, but they are always too short for my taste and not as useful as I’d like. I want longer lists of recommendations, and not just a list of book titles and the Goodreads synopsis, but a reason to pick those books up. So, although I could collect tons of points for the Read Diverse challenge by recommending only three books at a time, I thought I’d throw my favorites at you in a few longer posts, contaning lots of books.

MY FAVORITE DIVERSE AUTHORS

N. K. JEMISIN

If you haven’t heard about Nora Jemisin, then (1) where have you been these last years and (2) you are so lucky because you’ve got a ton of great books ahead of you. Jemisin writes fantasy, but unlike anything you’ve read before. There are no elves and dwarves, no European mythology, no setting that’s a blatant copy of medieval England. Her characters are usually people of color, and race and gender play a large role in most of her books. But it’s her original ideas that make her books so addictive to me. Humans controling gods, a thing called Dreamblood, people who can feel and alter seismic activity? It sounds wild and it is, but Jemisin also manages to create believable fantasy worlds, peopled with fleshed-out characters who are flawed and beautiful and heartbreaking.

Recommended starting point: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms or, if you feel adventurous and up for something heftier and darker, The Fifth Season.

HELEN OYEYEMI

This is for you if you prefer a more “literary” type of fantasy fiction. Oyeyemi’s writing is gorgeous, no matter what you call it. She plays with fairy tales and folklore, turns tropes on their heads, and above all, writes diverse characters in all her stories. In Boy, Snow, Bird (my favorite of hers) she uses the Snow White fairy tale to examine race and gender during the 1950ies. Her short story collection What is not Yours is not Yours is filled with all sorts of diverse characters. Whether it’s skin color, sexual orientation or gender identity, Oyeyemi tells stories where everybody gets a voice. I found Mr. Fox quite difficult to read so I wouldn’t recommend to start with that. I still have quite a lot of her books to read myself and I look forward to each one of them.

Recommended starting point: Boy, Snow, Bird because the language and structure are easy to get into, or What is Not Yours is Not Yours if you want to try short stories first.

NNEDI OKORAFOR

Okorafor has recently been very successful with her novella series about Binti, a young Himba woman who goes to a renowned space university and accidentally brings peace between two formerly warring alien species. It’s a wonderful novella series and I highly recommend it, but my first book by Okorafor – and the one dearest to my heart – is Who Fears Death, a story so powerful and gut-wrenching I will never forget it. Okorafor also writes short stories and YA novels, so there’s something for every taste.

Recommended starting point: Binti for a quick and wonderful introduction, Who Fears Death if you’re up for dark post-apocalyptic stuff, or Kabu-Kabu for short stories that are much lighter.

NALO HOPKINSON

Hopkinson is one of those authors who effortlessly make two ideas come together and turn into something new and beautiful. Her books are heavily influenced by Caribbean folklore, they are sometimes set in Canada, and they mostly feature women of color as protagonists. But Nalo Hopkinson also does amazing things with language. If you read Midnight Robber and don’t fall in love hard, then I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends.

Recommended starting point: You could start with Hopkinson’s debut novel Brown Girl in the Ring which is accessible enough but (comparatively) not that good. I recommend Midnight Robber and if the language puts you off, go for the short story collection Falling in Love With Hominids.

ALAYA DAWN JOHNSON

I admit to having only read one book by Alaya Dawn Johnson so far but that book was so wonderful that I have been buying her other books since then. My recommended starting point is fairly obvious in this case – start where I started, because apparently it gets you hooked. Johnson’s writing in The Summer Prince did so many things on so many levels. On the one hand, it’s a YA romance story, set in future Brazil, featuring a graffiti artist protagonist. But on the other hand, there is so much going on in this world on a politica, world-building, social level. I am still amazed that such a short book could convey this amount of detail.

Recommended starting point: The Summer Prince! Or Love is the Drug, which won the Andre Norton Award.

 

CAITLÍN R. KIERNAN

I read very little horror but when I feel like it, Kiernan is my go-to woman. Her books are beautiful mind-fucks in which you rarely know what’s real and what’s not, sometimes can’t trust your narrator, and will definitely see some crazy shit. But, you know, in the best of ways. Kiernan also writes amazing characters who suffer from mental illness, as she mentioned on her blog she does herself*. Of the books I’ve read, both featured lesbian protagonists and both led me into a beautiful labyrinth of creepy imagery, folklore and myth. It’s like the horror movies you love to watch even as they follow you into your dreams. Also, this woman has written a LOT of books and short stories.

Recommended starting point: The Drowning Girl, definitely. It is plenty weird, but Imp’s voice is one you can follow, I got super involved in her story and that ending is just perfection. For a darker, creepier, less optimistic start, go for The Red Tree. Or (although I have yet to read this myself) try her latest novella, Agents of Dreamland, if you want to start with something shorter.

YOON HA LEE

Okay, so I’ve only read one book by Lee so far but hey, it’s a Hugo finalist this year and for good reason. Lee’s writing is superb, especially when it comes to characters. I have also heard excellent things about the short story collection Conservation of Shadows. Lee is a trans man who doesn’t want to write about trans characters. Read more about him in his own words in this article at The Book Smugglers. But most of all, read Ninefox Gambit.

Recommended starting point: I have no idea, honestly. I started with Ninefox Gambit which took quite a bit of brain power and persistence. But if I can do it, so can you.

MISHELL BAKER

Here’s another author that stole my heart with only one book. I read Borderline not so long ago and, expecting very little from this Urban Fantasy (because no matter how hard I try, I am full of prejudice when it comes to certain sub-genres), I was blown away. With an amputee suicide-surivor, BPD suffering protagonist, you’d think it’s all a bit much. But Millie was a perfect heroine. Perfect not in the sense that she never messed up – quite the opposite. She was perfect because she felt so real, she makes mistakes, she apologises, she tries to make things right. She’s also just a really cool person that I’d want to be friends with.

Recommended starting point: You really don’t have much choice here. Assuming you don’t want to start with the second book in a series, I suggest you start with the brilliant Borderline. Or try one of the author’s short stories (none of which I know yet).

 

That’s it for my first recommendations post. I hope many other challenge participants continue to recommend books as well, especially SFF books. I see lots of contemporary YA out there and I’m thrilled that this genre is getting more and more diverse, but me, I am always on the lookout for new fantasy writers to discover. So throw them at me, people! And happy reading.

 

 

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#ReadDiverse2017 – An Update and a TBR Pile

I am so happy I found the Read Diverse 2017 Challenge! I have been reading and reviewing books for this challenge since January and have discovered so many new authors, books, and bloggers.

Normally, I am super motivated to read all the books for a challenge right away but then I lose interest. Not so with this challenge! Because the goal isn’t to read one type of book or genre but simply to take a closer look at the authors and books you want to read anyway.  Turns out – and I’m sure this is true for most people with a big TBR – I didn’t even have to buy new books for this challenge (although I did anyway) because many of my unread books were written by marginalised authors and featured diverse characters. And because the experience has been so much fun, I wanted to share the books I’ve read for the challenge and the books I have lined up for the next few months with you guys. May your wishlists grow.

What I’ve read so far

I have read a total of 16 books in 2017 so far, five of which were written by LGBTQI authors and/or featured LGBTQI characters. Five books were written by Authors of Color and/or featured POC main characters. Two books had protagonists with a disability, and five were #ownvoices books.
There was oviously quite a bit of overlap and in reality, I read only 10 books for this challenge so far. But 10 out of 16 is a pretty amazing ratio if you ask me.

And for anyone who believes that I am changing my reading habits or forcing myself to read certain books for the sake of diversity, I can only say that all of these books (except for Peter Darling which I discovered through the challenge) were already on my TBR and I would have read them anyway. The Read Diverse 2017 challenge only pushed them a bit further up on my TBR pile, that’s all.

Here are my diverse reads so far, all of which I would recommend. My full reviews can be found behind the links.

  • Emma Donoghue – Kissing the Witch
    A short story collection retelling fairy tales, most of which feature lesbian protagonists, and all of which focus on women.
  • Zoraida Córdova – Labyrinth Lost
    This book is a wonderful story about a young girl, dealing with her cultural heritage, her place in her family and witchcraft. After messing things up she tries to fix her dire situation. Incudes a trip to the underworld with a fantastic bisexual protagonist.
  • Leigh Bardugo – Six of Crows
    Not so much a heist story as a character study of six amazing, diverse, and absolutely lovable protagonists. Kaz is disabled and walks with a cane, Inej is dark-skinned, and I suspect (though don’t know yet) that at least one character is gay. I loved all of them!
  • Mishell Baker – Borderline
    This is such an amazing book. Millie is a double amputee after her attempted suicide who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. She also starts to work for the secret Arcadia Project which polices the traffic between our world and Fairyland. And it’s set in Hollywood. Everything about this book was perfect.
  • S. L. Huang – The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist
    A retelling of The Little Mermaid that gets really dark and broke my heart into a million pieces. The protagonist is a lesbian who falls in love with a “mermaid” and trades her voice for fins. But trust me, it’s much better and more sinister than I make it sound.
  • Helen Oyeyemi – What is Not Yours is Not Yours
    A story collection by the brilliant Helen Oyeyemi that features a diverse cast of characters, most of all highlighting women. I didn’t love all the stories but the collection overall was solid.
  • Marissa Meyer – Wires and Nerve
    Meyer’s first graphic novel, set after the Lunar Chronicles, finally gives Iko her own story. The protagonist android loves her body (which is a Woman of Color) and she deals with questions of identity, feelings, and friendship. It’s a lovely, quick comfort read and I need the sequel now!
  • Catherynne M. Valente – Palimpsest
    Valente’s characters in this book may not all be bisexual, but pretty much everyone sleeps with everyone in this luscious tale of a sexually transmitted city. There are no graphic or particularly steamy sex scenes here, but instead there are breathtaking descriptions of Palimpsest. The language and imagery are stunning, but you should like flowery prose if you pick this up.
  • Austin Chant – Peter Darling
    What if Peter Pan grew up as Wendy Darling? In this very short novel, Peter is a transgender man who comes back to Neverland as an adult. To my utter delight, he and Hook fall in love. I had some problems with this book (there was just not enough of it) but overall, I enjoyed it.
  • Nnedi Okorafor – Binti: Home
    I adored Okorafor’s Binti and couldn’t wait for this sequel. Binti, who has run away from home to study at a university far away from her home planet, has returned. She has to deal with her own identity, her past, her family’s culture and the life she wants for herself. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is that it ends on a pretty mean cliffhanger. Review to come.

What’s on my TBR

I have SO MANY BOOKS! Seriously, there is no shortage of diverse books in my home, but I do have a few lined up that I want to read very soon.

  • Yoon Ha Lee – Ninefox Gambit
    I’m already reading this and as much as the beginning tried to break my brain, I am completely in love with it now and can’t wait to find out how the story continues. If you start reading this, please don’t give up. Push through the first chapters and you will be rewarded!
  • S. Jae-Jones – Wintersong
    I am not sure if I will finish this book. I read half of it and it’s a huge disappointment. A whiny heroine who wallows in self-pity, a bland “romance”, and no plot to speak of. Maybe I’ll write something even if I DNF this book… we’ll see. For now, it’s on hiatus.
  • Heidi Heilig – The Girl From Everywhere
    This book just sounds soooo good. Time travel, maps, a biracial protagonist, a romance, and ships! Plus, the sequel is out already (I think), so if I love it I won’t have to wait for the next book.
  • N. K. Jemisin – The Obelisk Gate
    I actually saved this book up because I know it will ruin any book that is unfortunate enough to follow it. Jemisin is a phenomenal writer and this world is her most complex and ambitious yet. The cast ist effortlessly diverse and Jemisin’s writing is always stunning.
  • Rhoda Belleza – Empress of a Thousand Skies
    I’m a bit on the fence about this but people have said it has lots of diverse characters and a fast-moving plot. So I hope this book leaves away all the YA tropes and delivers an exciting space adventure.
  • Madeline Miller – The Song of Achilles
    I’ve wanted to read this for ages but somehow, every time I choose a new book to read this one slips my mind. Must remember this time.
  • Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett – Dragon Soul
    I love this series so much! The first book told (among other plot lines) a beautiful romance between two very different men, and all the characters are superb. Can’t wait to continue reading about this world of steampunk dragons, and the crazy people who fly them.
  • Caitlín R. Kiernan – Agents of Dreamland
    I love everything Kiernan writes and most things Tor.com publishes, so this is a book that is practically a guaranteed hit.
  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword
    I am SO behind on this series. The first book was my favorite the year it came out but then I never caught up with the sequels. It’s time to rectify that situation! If you don’t know this series, it’s about a former space ship AI, now existing in one human body, who uses all-female pronouns because it’s an AI and doesn’t know or care about gender. Also, it’s a super exciting space adventure with amazing characters.

The way I know myself, this reading plan will probably be thrown away pretty fast, especially with the amount of exciting recommendations this reading challenge produces. But then, I read for fun. So I’ll do my best to stick by this TBR but if I stray, so be it. 🙂

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#DiverseAThon Sign-Up Post and TBR

I am so sad that the DA readathon is over because I loved its focus on diverse books and how all my book choices ended up being fantastic reads. So I’m signing right up to the next readathon which is also about diverse books.

The #DiverseAThon lasts for one week – starting on 22nd January – and while I know I won’t be able to read a lot during a work week, I think aiming for three books is doable. And to make it a little more challenging for myself, I’m going to pick three books that all feature a different type of diversity: one book by an Author of Color, one book featuring LGBTQ characters, and one book featuring an autistic character and written by an author with autism.

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My Diverse-a-thon TBR

Helen Oyeyemi – What is Not Yours is Not Yours

I adore Oyeyemi’s writing but so far I’ve only read two of her novels, never any of her short fiction. This short story collection sounds like just my cup of tea and, since I know I love the author’s style, I believe I’m in for a treat.

Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. “‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea” involves a “house of locks,” where doors can be closed only with a key—with surprising, unobservable developments. And in “If a Book Is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don’t You Think,” a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).

Oyeyemi’s creative vision and storytelling are effervescent, wise, and insightful, and her tales span multiple times and landscapes as they tease boundaries between coexisting realities. Is a key a gate, a gift, or an invitation? What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours captivates as it explores the many possible answers.

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Molly Tanzer – Vermilion

The description to this book is so filled with buzzwords that I’ve been wanting to read it since it came out. A gunslinging heroine, the Weird West, ghosts, and (according to some reviews I read), a diverse cast of characters. What’s not to love?

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The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp

Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise “Lou” Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she’s too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It’s an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well… they’re not wrong.

When Lou hears that a bunch of Chinatown boys have gone missing somewhere deep in the Colorado Rockies she decides to saddle up and head into the wilderness to investigate. Lou fears her particular talents make her better suited to help placate their spirits than ensure they get home alive, but it’s the right thing to do, and she’s the only one willing to do it.

On the road to a mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth, Lou will encounter bears, desperate men, a very undead villain, and even stranger challenges. Lou will need every one of her talents and a whole lot of luck to make it home alive…

From British Fantasy Award nominee Molly Tanzer comes debut novel Vermilion, a spirited weird Western adventure that puts the punk back into steampunk.

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Corinne Duyvis – On the Edge of Gone

Now this is a big book! It’s a bit daunting to bit this on a readathon TBR but I’ve been wanting to read one of Duyvis’s books for a while now. The author was diagnosed with autism at a young age and this book also features an autistic character. I’m very curious to read it, so although her second novel (Otherbound) is shorter, I’m going with this one.

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January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

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I am very much looking forward to the #DiverseAThon, especially since there will be Twitter chats and loads of recommendations. And it’s not like you can ever have too many books.

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#DAreadathon Wrap-Up and Points

The DA Readathon is officially over and I have collected all my points as well as some thoughts about the experience.

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The short of it is: I loved everything about this challenge. As a readathon, it was casual enough, it lasted two weeks, and there was very little pressure (unless you count my personal ambition to collect lots of house points for Ravenclaw). My favorite part  was probably the reading prompts which corresponded with spells from the Harry Potter universe, and the fact that this readathon encouraged people to read diverse books.  Not only were these prompts accompanied by lovely graphics, they also give the readathon a bit of structure. They also helped me choose books. If your TBR is as big as mine, picking a handful of books can be quite overwhelming. Most of all, though, every book I read because of this readathon, has been fantastic and I’m so glad I participated.

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First of all, let’s see how many House points I’ve collected for Ravenclaw:

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Points for pages read:  101

  • Kissing the Witch: 228
  • Labyrinth Lost: 336
  • Six of Crows: 285
  • Borderline: 168

As you get one point for every 10 pages read, I added the “left-over” pages up until I reached another 10.
So for Kissing the Witch, I get 22 points, plus 8 left-over pages. For Labyrinth Lost I got 33 points, plus 6 pages. Those 6 added to the 8 pages from Kissing the Witch make 14 pages which got me another point (and 4 left-over pages). And so on. I hope I interpreted the rules correctly here. Otherwise, somebody let me know, please.

Points for books finished:  10

  • Emma Donoghue – Kissing the Witch
  • Zoraida Córdova – Labyrinth Lost

Points for reviews posted: 10

Points for social media: 5

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Now to the books I’ve read, started and didn’t get to:

I finished two books and reviewed both of them. They were both fantastic reads by new-to-me authors.

Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch is a short story collection which retells well-known fairy tales, but with a lesbian twist. The connections between the stories may not have made a lot of sense but the stories themselves were wonderful, sometimes dark reads.

Zoraida Córdova’s Labyrinth Lost was just lovely all around. Lacking a bit in characterisation, the book had great world building, a bisexual protagonist, an intriguing magic system, and a wonderful depiction of family! I really loved it and can’t wait for the sequel.

I almost finished two more books. These are very, very different reads, but I fell in love with them equally.

I don’t think I need to say much about Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows as everybody except for me seems to have read it. I’m in the last third of that book and by now, I know this thieving crew well enough to be quite emotionally invested.

Mishell Baker’s Borderline, on the other hand, is something I usually wouldn’t read. It’s Urban Fantasy set in Hollywood, featuring a disabled, mentally ill protagonist who tried to kill herself. If I hadn’t read a ton of great reviews, I would have said that’s a bit much for one book. But it works beautifully. Millie’s Borderline Personality Disorder is always there, but it never gets “in the way” of the plot, if you know what I mean. This is not an “issue book” like they made you read in school. It’s a great mystery with an unusual Urban Fantasy world – in that I haven’t met any werewolves yet – and the protagonist’s voice is so wonderful, it’s hard to put the book down. I read about half of that book during the readathon.

Unfortunately, because work left me too tired to read on most days, here are the books I didn’t get to. But I am determined to just continue reading them as if the readathon was still going on, I just won’t award myself any House points. 🙂

  • Madeline Miller – Song of Achilles
    This book tells the love story between Achilles and Patroclus and I hear tissues are needed for reading this.
  • Nicola Griffith – Hild
    A historical fantasy featuring a kick-ass heroine? Sign me up. Also, I heard this is a slow, more character-driven book and while some people don’t like those, it’s totally my thing.
  • Siliva Moreno-Garcia – Signal to Noise
    I am so looking forward to this story, set in 80ies Mexico City. I heard it’s magical realism and there’s lots of music (thus the cover), and that sounds like it could be amazing!

Thanks to Read at Midnight for the amazing challenge. I hope you will host this readathon (or a similar one) again next year!

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