O.W.L.s Magical Readathon – Third Year Edition TBR

The OWLs are happening and I AM SO EXCITED!!!! I love a good readathon but none ever motivated me and made me read as much as G’s Magical Readathon. Check out her YouTube channel Book Roast for all the info, downloads, and the pure joy she spreads! The OWLs Readathon is the first part of this Harry Potter based readathon, with the NEWTs happening in August. Like last year, you can choose a wizarding career (or several) and pick which classes to take based on that. Depending on how well you do on your OWLs, you can then continue on to take the same classes in the NEWTs. That sounds like the rules are pretty strict, but G always makes it very clear that everyone can read what they like and do this readathon the way they want. The reading police won’t come to pick you up if you interpret the rules differently, promise. 🙂

 

Careers and Hogwarts House

I am of course representing Ravenclaw again and I really hope we’ll win the House Cup this year. For my chosen career of Trader of Magical Tomes, I will have to pass the following classes:

  • Ancient Runes
  • Charms
  • History of Magic
  • Transfiguration

But because readathons are way more fun when you do extra credit work, and because I actually studied languages, I will try to qualify for a course in Mermaid Linguistics as well, which adds another class:

  • Herbology

I actually have about a dozen careers that interest me but, like last year, I will focus on one and see how the readathon goes. If I pass all my OWLs classes again, I may pick a secondary career for the NEWTs. And if that goes well, I’ll just do ALL THE JOBS in the wizarding world. And become an Animagus of course.

OWLs Classes

I marked the classes I have to take for my career, but I prepared a TBR for every single class. You know. Just in case…

Ancient Runes

A book with a heart on the cover or in the title: Eddie Robson – Hearts of Oak

This is a new publication by an author I don’t know yet but it sounds like a crazy wild ride. There’s an expanding city, people behaving strangely, and a talking cat who’s advisor to the king! I mean, that’s all I really needed to know. Also, I love this cover and the way the title blends in with the artwork.

Arithmancy

A book outside your comfort zone: Catherynne M. Valente – Oracles: A Pilgrimage

So, okay, this is my favorite author of all time, but it’s also poetry and I am extremely picky with poetry. It’s something I almost never read and when I do, more often than not, I don’t particularly like it. I’m hoping that I’ll like this, of course.
My alternate pick is The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, a non-fiction book exploring POC in fantasy fiction. I don’t read much non-fiction but this sounds pretty amazing.

Astronomy

Read a book only at night: ???

For this, I’ll go with an audiobook because I usually listen to  audiobooks in the evening and before going to sleep. Now that I’m working from home and not going outside, the chances of me picking up a current read on a break are high, but audiobooks are reserved for the evenings. I don’t know which book will end up here, but I’m thinking maybe something by Octavia Butler? If you have recommendations for great books on Audible, please let me know in the comments.

Care of Magical Creatures

A book with a beak on the cover: ???

I’m a bit undecided about this one. I have a surprising amount of books on my TBR that fit the criteria (who’d have thought?) but I just can’t decide. So here’s my potential canditates for this prompt. I will probably just read a chapter in each of them and see which one grabs me the most.

  • Isabel Ibañez  – Woven in Moonlight
  • Nghi Vo – The Empress of Salt and Fortune
  • Octavia Butler – Parable of the Sower

Charms

A book with a (mostly) white cover: Julia Ember – The Seafarer’s Kiss

I’ve been meaning to read this book last year for the Retellings Challenge but didn’t get to it, so it has to be prioritized this year! Being pretty short and a Little Mermaid retelling, this is a perfect choice for a readathon book. Plus, it will help me with the 2020 Retellings Challenge as well.

Defense Against the Dark Arts

A book that’s set on the sea coast: Ursula K. LeGuin –  The Tombs of Atuan

I re-read A Wizard of Earthsea last year mostly so I could finally continue the series. And while I don’t know if this story is set at the coast all the time, it is set in Earthsea, which consists of lots of small islands. So I’m sure there’ll be a sea coast here or there.

Divination

Let fate decide: K. J. Parker – Prosper’s Demon

For this prompt, I made a list of 12 books, then had my boyfriend choose three random numbers. Then I made him choose a random number from among the remaining three, and this is how Prosper’s Demon became my pick. It was much more fun than using a random number generator on on the internet (and my boyfriend is much better looking).
I kept misreading the title as “Prospero‘s Demon” for the longest time and still have to remind myself that this has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s Tempest. Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.

Herbology

A book that starts with the letter “M”: Brandon Sanderson – Mistborn: Secret History

I have been caught up on all the Mistborn books for some time now and while both trilogies had satisfying endings, there is always room for more from that universe. I’ve been meaning to read this for ages and now it’s finally time. Being a novella and thus quite short, even a Brandon Sanderson book can make a good pick for a readathon.

History of Magic

A book that features witches or wizards: Sarah Gailey – When We Were Magic

This was a no brainer. I loved Sarah Gailey’s novel Magic for Liars and while this is their first YA book, I’m sure they will deliver another great story with brilliant characters. It’s also about teen witches so I’m sure it’s a good pick for this prompt. The cover is giving me major nostalgia vibes as well.

Muggle Studies

A book from a Muggle perspective (contemporary): Chuck Palahniuk – Beautiful You

It’s been too long since I read a Palahniuk book. I miss his weirdness, his crazy ideas, his strange protagonists. The premise for this one is weird (men being replaced by elaborate vibrators, apparently?) and there are many one-star reviews – so I’m not sure whether I’ll like it. But that just makes me all the more interested and excited to return to the strange worlds of the man who gave us Fight Club.

Potions

A book under 150 pages: Ruthanna Emrys – The Litany of Earth

This series is the only 2019 Mythopoeic Award nominee I haven’t read and since the other ones were all absolutely fantastic, I think I’ve been missing out. Good thing the first instalment (technically part 0.5) is very short and fits this prompt. If it’s great, I may just read the next one for the NEWTs.

Transfiguration

A book that features shapeshifting: Seanan McGuire – A Local Habitation

I can’t 100% guarantee that there will be shapeshifters in this book but it’s an Urban Fantasy series that I started last year and in the first book, there were. Incidentally, it was this readathon that prompted me to even start the series and, to my own biggest surprised, I really liked it even though I am not usually a fan of Urban Fantasy. So let’s hope, the second book is just as good.

This is it, my tentative TBR for the OWLs readathon. Since the Hugo shortlist will be announced in April, I may change around some of my book picks because Hugo reading is usually a lot of work and I want to get started as soon as possible. Without knowing how many finalists I’ve already read, I can’t predict how much time it will take for me to catch up. But I’ll do some check-in posts during the month of April to keep you up to date on how things are going.

What about you? Are you participating and if yes, which career did you pick?

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Follow on Social Media

Today, we are getting such a great topic for Top Ten Tuesday (created by The Broke and the Bookish and currently hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl). I love some good recommendations, I love lists, I love people gushing about their favorite books. This week, however, we are asked to pick our top ten in a way I’d never have thought of. It’s kind of favorite characters – although maybe not? – but in a funny way. We all know what social media is like, how a small comment can explode, how one misunderstanding can cause a whole shitstorm. But we also know that a retweet can help people find lost pets, give them the motivation they need to reach a goal, and generally spread some love. So here are ten book characters I would follow on social media and the reasons why.

Top Ten Characters I’d Follow in Social Media

Death from Discworld by Terry Pratchett

Whether it’s a recommendation for a great place to get a curry or wise insights into human nature, I think Death would be an amazing character to follow on social media. The fact that he loves kittens would also guarantee lots of adorable cat pictures, and who doesn’t want cute baby animals in their timeline?


Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

Obviously, I’d be following her for book recommendations. But her eagerness to learn new things would also motivate me to better myself, to learn something every day, and to follow the goals I’ve set for myself. Plus, I’d never forget the rules of whichever social media site Hermione uses.


Murderbot from The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

I adore Murderbot. Although I’m not sure Murderbot would post much an social media, I would follow anything they had to say. It might mostly be talk about its favorite TV shows but I’d love to send Murderbot some love, even if it’s just a like or retweet. I’m sure it would appreciate it. Silently. From afar.


Laszlo Strange from Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Just because I wish I could see the world the way Laszlo sees it. I imagine he’d describe his travels in poetic language, share gorgeous pictures of the sights, and generally convey a sense of wonder that many of us have lost while growing up.


The Fool from the Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

I do love the fool but I think his timeline would be filled with riddles that I’d endlessly puzzle over only to figure out that he trolled his followers and just posted gibberish for fun. Then again he’d throw in an actual prophecy from time to time which would make following him all the more exciting.


Locke Lamora from The Gentleman Bastard by Scott Lynch

Not that he’d post how his latest heist went down but Locke might just be cocky enough to brag a little about it afterward and I would be there for it. Plus, there would be awesome back and forths between him and his bestie Jean Tannen. Gifs would be exchanged, there would be bickering, and I would watch it all with glee.


AIDAN from The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

AIDAN may be an AI but there is definitely so much love in him. He’d be the kind of social media user who reposts all his favorite people’s posts, makes sure the trolls stay away from anyone he loves, and generously blocks people who behave badly.


Every Protagonist Ever written by Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher

For practical advice and to remind me of what’s important in life. Spoiler: It’s not what lipstip brand you use or the shape of your eyebrows. I want to be best friends with all of her protagonists, especially the ones that are wombats. 🙂


Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

Okay, there is a chance his entire timeline would consist of “Hmms” and random grunts, but I would take that chance to catch the occasional conversation he has with others where he shows just how deep an insight he actually has into human nature. Also, I’d hope for bathtub selfies every day.


Flora Fyrdraaca from the Flora Segunda Trilogy by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Flora is delightful and that would be enough for me to follow her. But I believe her Instagram account would show lots of pictures of her crazy home with its ever changing rooms, misbehaving elevators and the occasional ghost. And of course Nini Mo quotes and pictures of her best friend Udo and his daily fashion statements.


Man, now I kind of wish all these characters actually were on social media. It would be way more fun to see posts by these people than, you know, what actually happens on social media every day. Oh well, at least a girl can dream, right?

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover

I haven’t participated in a Top Ten Tuesday tag in soooo long. But this week’s topic really spoke to me. On the one hand, I love reading books that get to me so much that they give me a book hangover. On the other hand… who likes book hangovers? Whichever book comes next has a really hard time, nothing feels like you really want to read it, and the world is just a little sadder because that one book is now over.

But let’s focus on the good thing which is that all of these books are excellent and made me feel all the feels.

The last ten books that gave me a book hangover

Laini Taylor – Strange the Dreamer

Oh Laini Taylor! It may have taken me a second start to finally finish this book but that was entirely my own fault (time management, man) because this is a masterpiece. Everything about this book was amazing. The characters, the story, the world, and especially the language. It’s lyrical without feeling too flowery, it evokes such images in my mind, it literally made me daydream. Which is also the reason I have saved the second part of this duology for a time when I need a book I just know I’m going to love.

Helene Wecker – The Golem and the Jinni

This is a book that quietly grew on me the more I read. The story of two mythical creatures – the titular Golem and Jinni – are thrown into a world that is completely unknown to them. While this may be read as an immigrant story, the fact that we’re talking about two beings who are literally magical makes this all the morei interesting. Getting to know Ahmad and Chava, learning how to navigate the world alongside them, and figuring out who they really were was such a wonderful journey. I felt so deflated after I finished this book because whatever came next would have a hard time living up to this.

Nnedi Okorafor – Akata Warrior

This was a more pleasant type of book hangover. I absolutely adore the world Nnedi Okorafor has created and I just want to spend more time in it! The only reason I didn’t have a book hangover after the first book, Akata Witch, was because I had the second one ready to go. These books sucked me in so much because of the amazing world-building and characters and because it’s so different from any YA fantasy novel I had read before. I’ve said it in my review and I’ll say it again: the Akata books had the same effect on me as when I first read Harry Potter. It is entirely its own story but that feeling of discovering a secret magical world was the same. And who doesn’t want to feel that way again?

Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races

It took me a while to find my way into this book. Stiefvater isn’t known for flowery language but nobody can create a three-dimensional character with just a few lines the way that she can. In this case, she has created not just a cast of wonderful characters but an entire island filled with tradition and myth and life. Once I had allowed myself to get fully immersed in this world I never wanted to come up for air again. The ending was a thing of singular perfection. I cried and wanted to start reading the entire book again.

Katherine Arden – The Bear and the Nightingale

This entire trilogy swept me off my feet, but the first book gave me a particularly tough book hangover. It was like the author had looked into my brain, picked all the things I like about stories and stuck them into this novel. Russian fairy tales, a brilliant heroine, lots of conflict, a compelling wintery setting and fantastic writing. How could I not love this? The problem was that I read this shortly after it came out, so I had to wait for the next book. In the meantime, all I could do was yearn for another novel that combined all of my favorite things as beautifully as this one did.

S. L. Huang – The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist

Nobody was more surprised than me when this little book completely destroyed me. It’s a reversed Little Mermaid retelling – where the human scientist wants to become a mermaid – that packs way more punch than you’d expect. I’m so glad I bought the physical book from Book Smugglers Publishing because this is a story I want on my shelf. As it’s a retelling, you do know what’s coming ahead of time, but nothing could prepare me for the emotional punch. I was devastated, I was shocked, and I was very impressed. Here it was not so much that I didn’t think anything could live up to this book again, but more a general feeling of depression because of the story.

C. S. E. Cooney – Bone Swans

You can always tell when writers are also poets because even when they write prose, there is something special about the way they use language. C. S. E. Cooney is one such poet and in this collection, she wrote nothing but stories that gave me hangovers. Seriously, after every single one I thought to myself “This was the best one yet, nothing can be better” and then I repeated this until I reached the end of the book. One story in particular hit me right in the heartstrings (the Rumpelstiltskin retelling) but all the others were gorgeous as well. I have since tried to buy everything I could find by this author and I hope we’ll get to read much more by her.

N. K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season

As a three-years-in-a-row Hugo winner for this particular trilogy, I probably don’t have to tell you how great this book is. I had read Jemisin’s work before and was already a big fan, but when The Fifth Season came out, it was clear that she had reached a whole new level of excellence. All the things that are important to me (characters, language, world-building, plot) exceeded my expectations, and then there is one of the best most surprising twists that I have ever come across. This deserves every award it has won and it still makes me doubt I’ll ever read anything quite as good again.

Angela Slatter – The Bitterwood Bible

Here’s another short story writer that completely blew me away. Slatter’s short stories are interconnected (and also connect to her other collection Sourdough) so this didn’t feel so much like a story collection but rather like a mosaic novel. Fitting the pieces together, seeing how each story fits within the context of the others, was almost as much fun as the stories themselves. Slatter writes fantastic characters, putting women front and center. Her writing has a fairy tale vibe, all while doing completely her own thing.

Catherynne M. Valente – Radiance

There had to be a Valente novel on this list, didn’t there? It’s not surprising that my favorite writer also gave me one of my biggest book hangovers. In this retro futuristic novel, she combines so many styles and voices that at first I was most impressed with the writing. But then she also created this heartbreaking characters and tells an extraordinary story that I didn’t know what to love more. Reading this was truly an experience. This is a book you fall into like a dream and waking up feels just as painful as leaving loved ones behind.

I had to browse through my “read” list on Goodreads for quite some time to find all these books. It turns out I have read a lot of fantastic novels but not that many of them gave me proper book hangovers. Either because they had really satisfying endings that made me happy to start a new and different adventure or because they may have been great but not as outstanding as others.

BookQuest Vol. 1 – Wrap-Up

This wrap-up is coming to you a bit late because I’m actually on holiday and won’t be writing new posts, so I had to spread out all the reviews I had already prepared. BookQuest Vol. 1 was my super fun start into 2020. This is still a very new readathon and the hosts are working out some technical quirks, but it was a lot of fun to participate and I can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for us with the next one.

The Quest

The first thing you had to do was choose which team you would be joining. I picked the Knights of the Kingdom because the quest descriptions were really funny and the prompts fit several books I had been wanting to read anyway.

Each group had to finish seven quests, including reading the group book, The Guinevere Deception. I loved the texts that came with each reading prompt, there was even a map that showed these quests (book with an animal companion was the quest at the stables, book with a weapon on the cover was in the armory, etc.). A lot of love went into this readathon! Even though some technical bugs had to be fixed mid-readathon, Chris was always quick to respond to bug reports and usually fixed the problem within a few days. Now that all of that programming is already done, I can only imagine the next readathon will run much more smoothly and maybe even add some new functions.

My shelf

During this readathon, I managed to read nine books, although one of them was a graphic novel and two were actually novellas. But still, considering that my other reads were all rather hefty, I’m very proud of my success.

As you can see, I could have read more but I’m very happy with my result. Here are my readathon books:

  • Andrzej Sapkowski – Sword of Destiny
  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew – Winterglass (re-read)
  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew – Mirrorstrike
  • Brandon Sanderson – Starsight
  • Marissa Meyer – Archenemies
  • Maggie Stiefvater – Call Down the Hawk
  • Kiersten White – The Guinevere Deception (review to come)
  • Jeff Smith – Bone Vol. 3 (review to come)
  • Tessa Gratton – The Queens of Innis Lear (not finished yet)

MY RESULTS

In total, I read almost 3000 pages, which is not as crazy as it sounds. Two of my books were audiobooks so I could listen while doing other things – folding laundry, doing dishes… it’s all so much more fun when someone’s telling you a great story. And I was quite lucky with the books I’ve chosen. Not all of them were instant favorites but they were at least all good.

The fact that updating your books (pages or percent read) helped level up your character also motivated me a lot! I ended up as a Level 7 Knight of the Kingdom:

All things considered, this was a great readathon! I can’t wait to see what Chris and Ellie come up with for the next one and I’ll definitely be joining again. And yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t do too many readathons this year but come on! 🙂

BookQuest Readathon – Sign-Up

What better way to start a new reading year than with a readathon? My motivation is still super high and I want to get a head start on my reading in 2020 so when I stumbled upon this amazing-looking readathon, I knew I had to participate. BookQuest runs from January 5th through January 25th, which makes it even better. I like readathons that take more than a week because it’s just easier to organize my reading around my other activities if the time frame is longer.

The organizers at The Paper Tavern seem to have put a lot of effort into this readathon. There is a bounty board, there will be a possibility to level  up and check up on our reading stats and it all just sounds wonderful and exciting.  I can’t wait to get started!

This readathon’s quest is to defeat a scary dragon, which you can do by joining either the Mages of the Guild or the Knights of the Kingdom team. Depending on which team you choose, you get different reading prompts for a total of seven books. That includes the group read, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White (which fits well into my 2020 Retellings Challenge, yay!).

Normally, I would immediately go for the team that has magic – because magic is awesome – but for this readathon, I have decided to join the Knights of the Kingdom, led by Sir Chris the Dullhead. I mean, how could I resist. 🙂

Naturally, I already thought about what I am going to read for these prompts. Knowing myself, I may change my mind on some of these choices but I like having a TBR prepared so I don’t have to stress about finding books when the readathon is already underway.

The readathon allows for single books to count toward several prompts but as I want to read as much as possible, I picked one book per prompt.

Pick out a Weapon: Andrzej Sapkowski – Sword of Destiny
Meet With the King: Benjanun Sriduangkaew – Winterglass (re-read)
Get Fitted for Armor: Brandon Sanderson – Starsight
Visit the Stablemaster: C. A. Fletcher – A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World
Defeat Your Sparring Partner: Shelby Mahurin – Serpent & Dove
Sign Up for the Joust: Elizabeth Lim – Spin the Dawn
Study the Code of Chivalry: Kiersten White – The Guinevere Deception

I look forward to checking out those books. Maybe, if I’m really fast with the first quests, I’ll switch up my TBR for some bigger books. I already started reading Starsight but since one book can cover several prompts, I don’t think this readathon will be super strict about that.

Are you joining as well? If so, what team will you support and which books will you read? Let me know in the comments!

Best of 2019: My Favorite Books of the Year

I have head SUCH a fantastic reading year, you guys! Not only did I surpass my goal by a crazy amount (mostly thanks to the OWLs and NEWTs readathons) but I also did really well balancing older and newer books, catching up on unfinished series, finally picking up that book everyone loved ten years ago, and so on. I am quite proud of myself and I am even happier that I have such a long list of favorites. 2019 has been good to me, reading-wise.

As per usual, I’ll split my top reads into books published in 2019 and books published before this year. This will also give you a good idea of which books will make it onto my nomination ballot for the Hugo Awards. I’ll include all the 2019 publications I’ve read that didn’t make my list of favorites, so you know what pool I have chosen these books from.

Favorite Books Published in 2019

Novels

The most recent publication of 2019 and a book I did not expect to love as much as I did was Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo.  I knew I liked her writing, her characters, and her stories (so… everything, basically), but this is her first novel for adults. It is set in the real world and it deals with ghosts and demons and stuff. That didn’t sound like my jam. But boy, did I fall into this story! It took me all of one chapter to fall in love. Then the crazy world of secret societies in Yale drew me in more and more. Alex Stern is one hell of a protagonist, the plot was exciting, the storytelling structure kept me intrigued the entire time… I hope that enough people read this in time for nomination season because it totally deserves an award nod or two.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine was a fantastic start to a space opera trilogy (series?) that I went into without much expectation. Reviews had generally been positive, so I thought I’d try it out. And then Arkady Martine blew me away with great world building, brilliant ideas, and characters that sneakily weaseled their way into my heart. We follow Mahit Dzmare, the embassador of a small space station, to the capital of the gigantic Teixcalaanli empire because the previous embassador has been mysteriously killed. Now, figuring out whether it was murder and if so, who murdered him, is one thing. But navigating that foreign-to-Mahit society with a second person implanted into your brain is a whole different story. I was hooked immediately and enjoyed every single page. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

I am one of many people who loved the clever mind-fuck that was Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. Part military science fiction, part time travel story, lots of nods to Heinlein and Haldeman, but entirely its own thing, this novel kept me transfixed the entire time. When I wasn’t trying to figure out what the hell was going on or putting the puzzle pieces together, I was engaged by the protagonist and their internal struggles, and especially by the world Hurley has created. There are so many details in this book that I suspect make it a great candidate for multiple re-reads. I urge everyone who likes either time travel, riddles, or military SF to pick it up. I am pretty sure this will end up on the Hugo Award short list.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey came out of nowhere for me. It was sold as Harry Potter for adults but with a Muggle protagonist. And yeah, it pretty much is that, but it’s also a detective story at a magic school. The murder mystery was exciting and I loved following along with Ivy as she gathered clues, interviewed people, and so on. But what made this book so special for me was the frayed relationship between our muggle protagonist and her magical sister (there is some jealousy involved, as you can imagine) and the student characters we get to know throughout the story. This was just an incredibly well written book that I hope more people will pick up. I haven’t heard a lot of buzz around it yet but it absolutely deserves it.

Other 2019 books I’ve read:  Tamsyn Muir – Gideon the Ninth, Alix E. Harrow – The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Gods of Jade and Shadow, G. Willow Wilson – The Bird King, Helen Oyeyemi – Gingerbread, Katherine Arden – The Winter of the Witch, Fonda Lee – Jade War

Young Adult

For the Retellings Challenge I picked up Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer, which retells one of my favorite tales, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Instead of a polar bear, the male character in this story is a white wolf. And while all the stops of the original fairy tale are there, Meyer has made this quite her own story. Echo is a lovable heroine whose decisions remain understandable the entire time (if you know the fairy tale, then you know that is not the case with the original protagonist).  The magic castle where Echo lives with the wolf almost feels like its own character (it has a magical library!!!), and the ending was such a thing of perfection, I have no words to describe it.

I have loved Sam J. Miller‘s writing ever since I read The Art of Starving. His adult novel Blackfish City was even better! So naturally I grabbed Destroy All Monsters the moment it came out. While it wasn’t quite as perfect as his other two books, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, it had brilliant, flawed, difficult characters, and the relationships between them are anything but simple. This book wasn’t so much about the plot (there is one, don’t worry) but more about mental health, friendship, and how to deal with trauma. The fantasy element was cool but if you want nice, clean lines between your fantasy world and the real world, this may not be for you. Things get blurry, things get messy, and I loved every bit of it.

I will say again what I’ve said in my review of the book. I liked The Cruel Prince but I LOVED The Wicked King by Holly Black. The characters are already set up, the world isn’t new for us readers anymore, and the plot in this second book just keeps on giving. Jude and Cardan’s relationship has always been weird, to say the least, but Holly Black does such a fantastic job writing these characters that I kept catching myself hoping they’d end up together. It’s wrong… and it’s made clear that it’s wrong. Cardan’s a dick, Jude is getting more and more power-hungry, and their feelings for each other are probably more lust than love. But man, do I ship them! But this isn’t only a book about whether two characters get together – there is political intrigue, betrayal, really thrilling scenes where you worry for the protagonist’s life, and oh yeah… you may have heard that the ending offers a huuuuge twist. I did not see it coming and it hit me right where it hurts, like all the best stories do.

Other 2019 YA books I’ve read:  Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse so Dark and Lonely, T. Kingfisher – Minor Mage, Margaret Rogerson – Sorcery of Thorns, Holly Black – The Queen of Nothing

Novellas

My biggest surprise when it comes to novellas was probably To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers. Not only did that short book pack a lot of plot but it also shows great worldbuilding, the authors’ well-known almost too nice characters (a bit less nice but more realistic here than in her novels) but it also makes you geek out with the four space travellers over finding a tiny proof of life on a distant planet. There is so much to discover in these pages and I loved everything about the story. Even the ending – though it is a polarizing one – was okay for me. Sure, I may have preferred a slightly different one but I felt that the chosen ending hit the right tone for the novella’s ultimate message.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone turned out to be a completely different kind of story than I expected. Two agents of warring factions are changing events in time in order to achieve… some goal, I guess? You see, it’s not important why there is a Time War, what’s being fought for, or even who may win in the end. Red and Blue, the two protagonists, communicate across space and time via letters and coded messages. Their correspondence turns into friendship and even into love. So this is an epistolary story with a time travel background, but the heart of it are the characters and the beautiful language. It’s not what I expected but I enjoyed it very much. I admit, my esteem for the tale has grown a little less as I am slowly forgetting details about it, but while I was reading it, I was completely in that world. And for that, it deserves a spot on this list.

Other 2019 novellas  I’ve read: C. S. E. Cooney – Desdemona and the Deep

Graphic Novels

I knew I would love Colleen Doran‘s graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s short story Snow, Glass, Apples. I just didn’t know how much. This dark retelling of Snow White from the point of view of the not-really-evil stepmother hit all the right spots. It’s clear early on that Snow White is the villain in this one and the queen is just trying to save her people. As dark fairy tales go, this one is pretty damn dark! But what made it even better than the story as such was the amazing artwork by Colleen Doran. The story just flows across these pages, even though there is little use of panes. There are so many details that you can linger on every page, soaking in the gorgeous drawings. Highly recommended!

Other 2019 graphic novels I’ve read: V. E. Schwab & Andrea Olimpieri – Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince

Non-Fiction

Nnedi Okorafor’s Broken Places & Outer Spaces was a fairly short read, but it packed a punch. I have read many of Okorafor’s books and loved them all (most recently the Akata series which gave me the same vibes as Harry Potter did all those years ago), but I hadn’t known anything about her as a person. In this book, she talks about an operation on her spine which left her paralysed. She explains not just what life is like with limited mobility (spoiler: it’s difficult, and there’s lots of little things able-bodied people like myself don’t even think about) but also how this thing made her into the person she is, how it gave her ideas and how she then put those ideas into writing. As memoirs go, I have little experience, but this was as exciting to read as any novel, and I loved the insight it gave me into where some of Nnedi’s amazing ideas had actually come from.

Favorite Audiobooks (published whenever)

I have loved audiobooks for as long as I can remember but ever since I developed a serious audiobook habit, I have noticed just how much of a difference the narrator can make. In order to honor the people who have read me some gorgeous stories, I want to share my favorite audiobooks with you. These aren’t necessarily favorite books, but the narration or production of the audiobook feel noteworthy to me.

Nnedi Okorafor makes an appearance again, with her amazing novel Akata Warrior. This book also belongs to the list below (favorites published before 2019), but the audiobook was such a standout experience that I have to mention it here. As the book is set in Nigeria and features mostly Nigerian characters, but a protagonist who grew up in America, narrator Yetide Badaki had to do different accents. Now I can’t judge how accurate the Nigerian accents were (Badaki was born in Nigeria, so I assume she knows what she’s doing), but it was such a pleasure listening to the story and to the dialogue that frequently switched between American English and English with a Nigerian accent, that I was totally immersed in the experience. The duology (so far) also comes highly recommended in general. As mentioned above, it gave me strong Harry Potter vibes, not because it’s a copy of our favorite boy wizard but because reading it filled me with the same sense of wonder.

Holly Black’s The Queen of Nothing may not have made it into my favorites of 2019, because I just loved The Wicked King more, but the audiobook narration of all three novels in this trilogy is fantastic! The books are read by Caitlin Kelly and while she doesn’t do accents, I really liked how she differentiated between the various characters. She was especially great at reading Cardan. When audiobook narrators read a character of a different gender from their own, it can sometimes sound forced or even ridiculous (men doing squeaky high voices for female characters for example) but Kelly managed to deepen her voice and even to give Cardan a super sexy timbre without ever taking me out of the story’s flow.

Lastly, I have to recommend Graphic Audio yet again for their mindblowing productions. In 2019, I listened to the full cast audiboook of Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, and it was as much of a treat as the previous two books. The series itself is a highly ambitious riveting epic fantasy that I just can’t get enough of. But having the dialogues acted out by different people, with background music and sound effects, just turns these audiobooks into a whole new experience. Graphic Audio have adapted most of Sanderson’s work and while the audiobooks don’t come cheap, I highly recommend you check them out. You can start with one of Sanderson’s shorter standalone works or the Mistborn series to see if you like this type of radio play. I gladly throw my money at them and basically auto-buy any new adaptation that comes out. Because they’re just that good!

Other audiobooks I’ve listened to: Megan Whalen Turner – The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner – The Queen of Attolia, Seanan McGuire – Beneath the Sugar Sky, Becky Chambers – Record of a Spaceborn Few, Martha Wells – Rogue Protocol, Leigh Bardugo – The King of Scars

Favorite Books published pre-2019

My standout older book of the year was probably The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker. I had known that I would love this book but I didn’t know just how much. Every review I’d read has mentioned buzz words and plot devices that pushed all my buttons. But reading about Chava and Ahmad, these two mythological creatures pretending to be humans, following their day-to-day lives, and discovering their origins, was so much more rewarding than I could have guessed. I loved everyting about this book. The characters, the language, the structure… and then Wecker even goes ahead and delivers an action-packed perfect ending.

Another book that gave me tons of warm and fuzzy feelings was Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer. I had actually started reading this before 2019 but put it aside again (because the timing sucked). This time around, I was enthralled the entire time. When I wasn’t basking in Taylor’s lyrical language, I let myself fall into her world of blue-skinned demon children, a boy who grew up in a library, and a city trying to get over its dark past. I haven’t picked up the second part of this duology yet because I have a feeling I will need this book for bad times or a reading slump. Strange the Dreamer was one of the most gorgeous tales I have ever read and it has a firm place in my heart.

I was already in love with The Raven Cycle so when I picked up The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, I expected nothing less than a new favorite. And I got just that. But in addition to a beautifully told story about magical horses who come from the sea and eat humans (and whatever else they can find), Stiefvater also delivered a brilliant, quiet romance between two incredibly lovable characters, and the most perfect last line I have ever read. In any book. Ever!
I cried several times during this novel, but when I read that last page and got to that last line, I was a sobbing mess. If you want a gorgeous standalone novel with a bit of mythology, a bit of romance, and fantastic characters, pick this up.

This was the year of Leigh Bardugo for me. I finished her Grisha Trilogy (plus King of Scars) and I’m finally getting the hype. Her short story collection, The Language of Thorns, was a spectacular return to the Grishaverse.
These are the fairytales told in the actual Grishaverse. So you get “The Too-Clever Fox” (where Nikolai’s nickname comes from) plus a bunch of others. Each story is fantastic on its own but together they paint such a vivid picture of the world Bardugo has created. Plus, the book itself is stunning. The print comes in two colors and with gorgeous illustrations.

I enjoyed Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff’s Gemina – the second book in the Illuminae Files Trilogy – mostly because it was the right book at the right time for me. At a different time, my opinion of this book could have been very different, more critical, more analytical. But I needed a quick, thrilling adventure with a bit of romance and this fit perfectly. The format, transcripts of video footage, chat messages, phone calls, etc., made this really easy to read. The plot was like Die Hard in Space and the romance may not have been original, but it worked for me. While it is maybe not an award-worthy piece of writing, it gave me exactly what I needed and I enjoyed every single page. Who cares if this is great literature. It gave me plenty of enjoyment, silly romance, action and fun, and I will not feel guilty for loving it!

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman is a special book. I didn’t fall head over heels in love with it immediately, but the story grew on me over time. The longer I read, the more I liked it and the more I cared about Tess. It’s a quiet tale of a girl coming into her own, dealing with her past, and finding her place in the world – quite literally. Although it is an episodic story, it never felt episodic. The writing is beautiful, but the characters were the living, beating heart of this book. So though this wasn’t an immediate crush, once I finished the book I couldn’t stop thinking about it and the warm, happy feelings it gave me stayed with me for quite a while.

That’s it for my favorites of the year. 2019 has been good to me!
I discovered some new-to-me authors, I caught up on series and backlists by authors I already liked, I read a variety of books – graphic novels, non-fiction, novellas, and of course lots of novels – and it has been an incredibly rewarding year. What were your favorites? Leave a link to your post or share your standout 2019 books with me in the comments! I love to see what everyone else read this year and which books I may have overlooked. And of course:

Happy New Year!!! 🙂

N.E.W.T.s Readathon Wrap-Up

Hello and welcome to my wrap-up post for the nerdy madness that was the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon. What a ride this has been!

General Thoughts

I won’t lie, when I started my first two books – one hardback, one audiobook – I thought I had been a little too ambitious with my TBR. While I picked a few very short books (100-200 pages) for my O.W.L.s, the shorter books I chose for the N.E.W.T.s were all around 300 pages. Depending on the writing style, those can actually take a while to read. So I did switch around the TBR a bit, and I snuck in a graphic novel and two novellas. Lucky for me, it turned out all my books have been at the very least good and fun to read.

As I’m also a stickler for rules (Ravenclaws… we can’t help ourselves), I did read all the books in order, rather than reading the books for higher grades first and then catching up on the ones for the lower grades. I did always read books for several classes at once, I listened to some on audiobook, and I think that helped a lot in keeping me invested in this readathon. Although most of my books were full-length novels, I did choose a handful of short books. Otherwise, I would never have gotten all the grades I did.

Quidditch and House CUP

I am usually rubbish when it comes to appearing on Twitter at a certain time but by sheer luck, I was online when the Quidditch training matches were going on. And once I found out how much fun that stuff is, I made sure to be present during the actual Quidditch Cup as well. Basically, each team is asked trivia questions about Harry Potter and if you answer fast enough (and correctly, of course), your House can take the Quaffle and, answering more questions, score a goal. There are Bludger Moments, where both teams can answer and the fastest one wins, and the same goes for Snitch Sightings. Sometimes, the questions weren’t questions but word searches or “find the difference” pictures, but it was all amazing fun! And the best thing that I totally didn’t expect: RAVENCLAW WON THE QUIDDITCH CUP!

I didn’t follow the House Points that closely throughout the month of August. The few times I checked, Ravenclaw was always in last place which may not be good for House Pride but I didn’t really care all that much. My personal goals have all been achieved plus a lot of extra classes I didn’t even need. As it turns out, Ravenclaw came in second for the House Cup, so that was nice. And I do have to say, the Hufflepuffs were on fire the entire time!

CONGRATULATIONS TO HUFFLEPUFF FOR WINNING THE HOUSE CUP!

my N.e.w.t.s results and Career Options

CLASS

Grade achieved

Ancient Runes Exceeds Expectations
Arithmancy Acceptable
Astronomy Acceptable
Care of Magical Creatures Exceeds Expectations
Charms Outstanding
Defence Against the Dark Arts Outstanding
Divination
Herbology Acceptable
History of Magic Outstanding
Muggle Studies Outstanding
Potions Exceeds Expectations
Transfiguration Acceptable

As you can see, I passed my NEWTs in all classes except Divination. Although the prompts for that class were good ones, at some point I had to decide whether I wanted an Acceptable in all the classes or whether I wanted better grades in the ones that mattered to me. And if I really did go to Hogwarts, Divination would be the class I would care about the least. So I skipped it and instead grabbed some better grades in other classes.

Total books read 22
Total pages read 6148
NEWTs achieved 10

That leaves me with the two careers I aimed for – Hogwarts Professor for History of Magic, Muggle Studies, and DADA, as well as Writer – plus two other careers I could pursue: Auror and Ministry Worker for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, the Department of International Magical Cooperation, or even the Department of Mysteries . I’d say my magical future looks pretty bright. Realistically (you know what I mean), I would become a Hogwarts Professor who writes novels in her spare time. 🙂

The Diplomas

Hogwarts Teacher:

Writer/Journalist:

The Books

Here they are, people. All the books I read in August and all the NEWTs I passed. I have to say, I’m quite proud of myself. With two careers achieved plus a bunch of extra credit classes, I think I’ve done Ravenclaw proud this year. (For final thoughs, skip to the bottom of this post.)


Ancient Runes – Acceptable

For Ancient Runes, I picked up a book I normally wouldn’t have read. However, with its story dealing heavily with the Grimms’ fairy tales, real life interwoven with Faerie, and a curse to be broken, it was exactly the kind of book I should want to read. But I admit it, that cover put me off for a long time. The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein tells the story of the Feierabend family, from the point of view of young Will who falls in love with one of the Feierabend daughters. He finds out they are tangled in a bargain with The Other Folk and wants to solve the riddle, save the girl, and make a future for himself and his girlfriend. There was much to love about this book but I felt that the choice of perspective (Will’s first person POV) was not well done. I liked the many nods to well-known fairy tales but I would have liked to read this story from the girls’ perspective more, to be honest. (237 pages)


Ancient Runes – Exceeds Expectations

For my second Ancient Runes NEWT, I read The Lost Sisters by Holly Black. This was almost a short retelling of The Cruel Prince but from the point of view of Jude’s sister Taryn. There are spoilers for the fist book in this, so I won’t go into the plot much. But what this novella does quite well, is show why Taryn acted the way she acted, why she did or thought certain things that didn’t make much sense to Jude and us readers before. It was also a nice refresher on what happened in the first book and I enjoyed it way more than expected. Holly Black even makes her faerie world vivid in such a short tale. (50 pages)


Arithmancy – Acceptable

I had originally planned to read a shorter book for this one because the prompt leaves you a lot of options (ends on an even page number), but I just had to know how the Illuminae Trilogy ended. So I picked up the chunky beast that is Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The upside is that the way these books are written, they are quick reads, despite being over 600 pages thick.
I loved this series overall, but this was by far the weakest of them. Because it puts all the characters from the previous books together and adds a new couple, there was just not enough time for these new characters. I loved how everything came together and the new challenges our characters faced. The ending was also fantastic, but not nearly as good as the previous two books. (618 pages)


Astronomy – Acceptable

This book just fell into my hands, and because it fit the prompt, was immediately devoured. Becky Chambers’ To Be Taught If Fortunate may be written in the same, optimistic style as her Wayfarers Trilogy, but plot-wise, it is quite different. A group of four astronauts sets out on a trip to several planets, to see what they can discover there, if there are signs of life or other interesting information that they can take home to Earth. The planets they visit are quite different and all super interesting to read about. But at some point, the astronauts stop receiving updates from Earth with no way to contact them quickly or know what’s going on back home. I quite liked this story about the value of learning, about knowledge for the sake of knowledge. The fact that the four protagonists are super excited about their job was just an added bonus that almost makes you want to become an astronaut yourself. (144 pages)


Care of Magical Creatures – Acceptable

For Care of Magical Creatures, I picked up a rather daunting book but after just the first chapter, I was all in. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine is a sprawling science fiction epic that offered so much interesting world building that I couldn’t put it down. Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in Teixcalaan because her predecessor has probably been murdered.  It has amazing characters, deals with issues of empire and colonization, cultural differences, political intrigue, and to top it all off, there’s a murder mystery to investigate.
I don’t know what I enjoyed more – the world-building and the many cool ideas, or the characters and their interactions. Mahit Dzmare, the protagonist, has definitely grown very dear to me and I look forward to the sequel(s) already. (462 pages)


Care of Magical Creatures – Exceeds Expectations

I needed something shorter to read, at this point, because although I managed many longer books, sometimes you just need to feel that immediate success of finishing something in a day or two. So I chose The Ice Puzzle by Chatherynne M. Valente, a novella she has published on her Patreon (Patrons only). It’s a sort of retelling of The Snow Queen, but a very strange version that mixes together lots of different cultures and their (potential) representation of this fairy tale. It’s all there, the mirror shard, the beautiful Snow Queen who kidnaps children, the young girl Gerda who goes out to save her friend Kay. Some chapters are poems, other are prose. It was a strange, immersive experience, reading this, but there wasn’t enough of a red string, not enough actual plot, to make me love this as much as I do Valente’s other work. (144 pages)


Charms – Acceptable

For this class, we needed to pick a book with a gorgeous cover, so I went with Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer. Because look at this cover! I know “gorgeous” is totally subjective, but I love the intricate detail and the symmetry of this cover. Also, it has Ravenclaw colors, so I feel like I’m representing my house even better. As a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, it did a fantastic job in brining to life all the fairy tale elements but infusing them with a new and original kind of magic. Echo, the scarred and clever protagonist, was so easy to love. I loved her goodhearted nature, her thirst for knowledge, and her wish to help her captor – in this case, a white wolf, not a bear. I was absolutely blown away by the originality of this book. I loved Echo, I loved the many little ideas, and I especially the twist at the end. Highly recommended if you like fairy tales, especially East of the Sun, West of the Moon. (400 pages)


Charms – Exceeds Expectations

My graphic novel did arrive on time (thank you Amazon)! This adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples by Colleen Doran was everything I had hoped. I had read the Gaiman short story a few years ago and absolutely loved it. It retells Snow White from the point of view of the stepmother, but with a lot of twists! With Doran’s gorgeous art, the story gained a whole new layer. Good thing, too, that I didn’t remember all the details, so this was almost like reading a new story. I was fascinated that this graphic novel has almost no panels. The story flows on the page simply by the skill of the artist and letterer. And have I mentioned that the art style is amazing.?Although this is a very short book, every page is a feast for the eyes, and the story itself is dark enough to keep you thinking about it long after you’ve finished it. (64 pages)


Charms – Outstanding

To get an Outstanding in Charms, I went right ahead and continued The Queen’s Thief series with The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. I liked the first book but wasn’t overwhelmed and I didn’t really understand all the rave reviews. This second volume, however, pushed some of my happy buttons and made me really want to continue reading this series. It offered some surprising twists, nice political intrigue, and tender character moments that I wasn’t expecting. I also loved that we got to know the characters better in general, especially the two queens, Attolia and Eddis. Eugenides himself may still be a mysterious character but I’ve grown to really care for him. I will probably review this series as a whole when I’m done. If I keep reading the way I am now, that may happen very soon. (362 pages)


Defence Against the Dark Arts – Acceptable

I was going to read the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story “Snow, Glass, Apples” for this prompt but I didn’t think my pre-order would arrive on time.
So I took this opportunity to pick up another book I’ve been meaning to read forever – Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente. She is my favorite author of all time but I still have a lot of her older work to catch up on. This short book read, fitting enough, like a dream. It’s about a hermit woman who lives on a mountain and re-creates herself and others in dreams. She talks to the Mountain and the River, she is a woman and a sphinx, and although this book has no plot to speak of, it was a magical experience. Valente’s language alone makes all her stories worthwile and although this isn’t one of my favorite books of hers, I enjoyed it immensely. (149 pages)


Defence Against the Dark Arts – Exceeds Expectations

To advance my knowledge of Defence Against the Dark Arts, I read a book that is much older than the rest. George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin was charming and quaint. It’s the story of Princess Irene who has to be protected from the evil goblins who live underground and come out at night. Irene explores the big house she lives in, drives her maid crazy with worry, makes a friend in the miner-boy Curdie, and of course meets a goblin or two…
The story read very much like a fairy tale, with Morals on every page, especially on How To Behave As A Princess. The plot itself was nice; sometimes predictable, sometimes really original and sweet. I noticed that my mind is way too dark for this kind of story… I kept suspecting a helpful character of having some evil ulterior motive. But sometimes, fairy godmothers are just what they appear to be. (272 pages)


Defence Against the Dark Arts – Outstanding

Oh, it was so wonderful to read another Discworld novel. Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett reminded me why I love these books so much. Although this book belongs to the Death sub-series, there are many characters to follow. Susan, Death’s granddaughter and teacher par excellence, Jeremy, a young and gifted clockmaker (guess what he does during this story), Lobsang, a former member of the Thief’s Guild who visitis the History Monks, and of course the Auditors who have given Death some trouble in previous books. Plus, the five (yes, you read that right) riders of the Apocalypse. The title tells you what to expect from the plot, but all the little details, the insights about humanity that make a Pratchett book what it is, are also there. I loved this so much and I am again incredibly sad that my unread Discworld novels are shrinking in number.
(432 page)


Herbology – Acceptable

For this, I listened to The Wicked King by Holly Black, and boy, did that book sweep me off my feet. I liked The Cruel Prince well enough but I wasn’t as in love with it as the rest of the world. This sequel, however, hooked me right from the start and turned me into a proper fan. It was just the right combination of political intrigue, dangerous navigations of the Faerie Court, and very sexy (if problematic) romantic tension. Jude’s new position at court should make life easier for her, but of course it doesn’t. Being this close to Cardan – and being in her particular position when it comes to him – made things even more complicated. Then there is a threat of war, the fact that Jude’s plan has a time limit, and her estrangement from her sister… I think if I’d read the paper book I would have raced through it even faster, but I really enjoyed the audiobook narrator and will probably continue to listen to this series (although I do need a matching hardback copy for my shelf!).
(336 pages)


History of Magic – Acceptable

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi was my very first book for the readathon and although it only has 272 pages, the language made it a much slower read than I had anticipated. Oyeyemi’s prose is dense, she doesn’t use a lot of dialogue and there are few paragraph breaks. I was confused for a long time about this book’s plot, because it seemed to move this way, then that way, then somewhere completely different. But once I found my footing and was invested in the characters, I did really enjoy it. It is not a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, although it does use many motifs from the fairy tale and there’s definitely some magic. Gingerbread features prominently, as do breadcrumbs in a way (metaphorical breadcrumbs, but still). It’s the story of Harriet Lee, her daughter Perdita, and Harriet’s past on the mythical island nation of Druhástrana. There are complex family relationships, a theme of friendship, love between mother and daughter, and beautiful language on every page. As long as you know you’re not getting a retelling, I recommend this to everyone. (304 pages)


History of Magic – Exceeds Expectations

Yet another book that took me longer than expected. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson feels like it was on everyone’s TBR for this readathon and I think many people will enjoy it, probably more than I did. Elisabeth Scrivener has grown up in a Great Library, a place that protects magical books from the world and the world from magical books. When shit hits the fan at her Library, Elisabeth has to go to the city, accompanied by a sorcerer, no less. She knows sorcerers are evil, but maybe country life hasn’t taught her everything there is to know about the world and maybe this guy isn’t all bad… The plot wasn’t exactly original and the characters rather flat, but I liked the action scenes, the friendship between Elisabeth and Katrien, and especially the side character Silas. The romance (come on, you knew there had to be one) was also okay. I am definitely not as crazy about this book as other people, but it was a nice lighter read, where you know what you’re going to get early on. (456 pages)


History of Magic – Outstanding

The prompt for this was to re-read a favorite or to read a classic. I kind of combined the two and re-read a classic, although not a favorite. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin was the kind of book, however, that I suspected I may like more on a re-read. I didn’t love it the first time I read it, but a few reading years can make a lot of difference. Although I still felt the story was kept rather distant from the reader and I was just missing that immersion, that way I feel like I am really accompanying the characters on their journey, it was still a lovely book that promises much more to come in the sequels. (206 pages)


Muggle Studies – Acceptable

For this class, I replaced my original book (A Wicked Thing by Rihannon Thomas) with a new one that I realized fit the prompt and I was very excited for. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone was absolutely not what I expected but as I kept reading, it sneakily wormed its way into my heart. Yes, it is about time travel, but not about daring adventures in the past in order to change the future. The acutal time traveling is only background. The heart of the story are the two protagonists, Red and Blue, who work for opposing sides in the Time War, and communicate across time and space and parallel universes to form a close bond with each other. With its short chapters and the generally low page count, this was the perfect book for a readathon. It also happened to be really good. (208 pages)


Muggle Studies – Exceeds Expectations

For the book set in our world, I went with Peter S. Beagle’s In Calabria. This was a lovely, quiet tale about a cranky middle-aged man who lives on his farm in Calabria and wants little do with other people. He is content with his goat, his cats and dog and cows, and with occasionally writing poetry. Until, that is, one day, a unicorn shows up in his vineyard. And with this change in his routine, other people enter his life as well. So Claudio Bianchi has to take a good look at his life and whether it is all he wanted it to be.
This novella may not focus very heavily on the unicorn itself, but I really enjoyed seeing the impact its appearance has on Bianchi and the few people in his life. It also shows just how disgusting humans can be and that some just want to destroy beautiful creatures. (176 pages)


Muggle Studies – Outstanding

For my Outstanding, I decided to read one of the few books by N. K. Jemisin I hadn’t read yet. The Awakened Kingdom was a novella set in the world of the Inheritance Trilogy and it took me right back to that world of gods and magic and characters I loved. We follow a very young godling named Shill, as she discovers her place in the world, her own powers, and the stupid things that humans are capable of. By living among the humans for a while, she sees injustice that she wants to fix, she meets people who grow dear to her. Simply put, she grows up. Shill tells her story herself and as she grows older and wiser as a person, her storytelling also evolves. It was a short but beautiful little book that made me want to pick up The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms all over again and re-live that beautiful story. (124 pages)


Potions – Acceptable

For this, I asked Twitter to help me pick my next book and the poll ended up at 90% of votes for Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Thank you, fellow Hogwarts students, for sending me on this wonderful journey!
I had already started this book once but then life stuff happened and I had to stop (although I loved the beginning). This time around, I loved it even more! It’s a chunky one and with Laini Taylor’s gorgeous, lyrical language not exactly a quick read. And I do admit, I dragged it out on purpose, not wanting this beautiful story to end just yet. Laini Taylor managed to create a stunning world, filled with incredibly endearing characters. She makes you love that world and then she goes ahead and rips your heart out. Needless to say, the second book has already arrived and sits comfortably next to this one on my shelf. (536 pages)


Potions – Exceeds Expectations

Here’s where I started switching around my TBR books. Although it was initially planned as a Care of Magical Creatures read, it ended up counting for my Exceeds Expectations in Potions class. Nnedi Okorafor’s Broken Places & Outer Spaces absolutely blew me away. It is a short memoir that tells the story of Nnedi’s paralysis and how she turned what she calls her “brokenness” into something wonderful. She became a science fiction writer – and a damn great one, at that – partly because of her paralysis. I loved everything about this book. How Nnedi deals with this difficult situation, what inspired her to write some of her brilliant novels, how she regained the use of her legs and what difficulties she still faces in everyday life – whether you know the author or not, I urge you to pick this up. It is truly amazing! (112 pages)


Transfiguration – Acceptable

I used this prompt to catch up on 2019 releases and read Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. This military science fiction novel starts out like a Heinlein book and then messes with your head in the best of ways. The protagonist, Dietz, goes through military boot camp to join the war against Mars. For that war, the soldiers are turned into light and thus transported to wherever a battle is to take place. But Dietz experiences these jumps different from other people. This book was mind-blowing! It deals with themes of war, the value of humans, world-ruling corporations, and the meaning of time. There is so much to discover and you really have to pay attention while reading. Things get quite mixed up, but it all comes together beautifully at the end. One of my top reads of 2019 so far! (356 pages)


Final Thoughts

Readathons can be a blessing or a curse, especially if you have a tendency towards ambition. Sure, it’s nice to have the motivation to read a lot during a given month, but there is also the pressure many of us put on ourselves to achieve a goal. And if we don’t reach that goal, we can feal like failures. There’s also the danger of comparing yourself to others and considering whoever has read the most as “the best”. That is totally silly and we all know it, yet deep down, we still feel less worthy than those voracious readers. I tried really hard not to compare myself to others, to just pursue my personal goals and stay relaxed during the readathon. I did sometimes catch myself thinking “Wow, how much time does this person have to read all 36 books, I’m so jealous”, but I managed to come around and see this for what it is. And most importantly, to see what I have achieved as the amazing success it is. I usually read between four and six books a month. So even with short stories, novellas, and a graphic novel, 22 is a crazy number for me!

But there are a few things that make this particular readathon truly special. Not only are the prompts and the ideas absolutely fantastic and created with so much love for detail, but the whole spirit of the thing kept me motivated. Whenever I’d go to Twitter to see what people were currently reading, which classes they had already passed or what they had to say generally about the readathon, I was faced with a group of people from all over the world who shared a love for books and a love for Harry Potter. We cheered each other on, we lifted each other up, we congratulated the people who got trivia questions right – no matter our Hogwarts House!

I also have to mention again how well G did with her career booklet and the reading prompts. There were a lot of prompts (36 in all) but each of them made perfect sense for its Hogwarts class. Reading something with “moon” in the title or on the cover for Astronomy, a book with a certain page number for Arithmancy, or something green for Herbology – it’s all really fitting and yet vague enough for everyone to find a book they can read. Another thing I loved (and which makes me even more excited for next year) was that this year’s theme was The Chamber of Secrets. That means next year’s will be The Prisoner of Azakaban, my favorite Potter book. So you can bet I’ll be back for both the OWLs and the NEWTs in 2020 and I’m already excited.

N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon – Check-In #3

Here we are again with my third readathon report. I have already surpassed all my expectations for this readathon and I can’t tell you how wonderful that feels. I have achieved all the necessary grades for my career as a Writer as well as a Hogwarts Professor (Muggle Studies and History of Magic). But because I have no intention of stopping the readathon before it’s officially over, I am now trying to achieve better grades on the classes I already passed and taking new classes to just achieve more grades.

Grades Achieved so far

Herbology: A
Muggle Studies: A, E, O
History of Magic: A, E, O
Charms: A, E
Defence Against the Dark Arts: A, E
Potions: A
Ancient Runes: A
Astronomy
: A

Grades achieved last week are again in Ravenclaw blue, the ones I had finished before are black. I didn’t read as much last week as I did at the beginning of the month because other things were just more time-consuming (work, chores, spending time with loved ones). But as I have already reached my biggest goals, I am going to take it easy for  the rest of this readathon. I am also thinking about switching around the books on my TBR because I started some of them and they just didn’t grab me. I want to read them someday, of course, but at this time, my mood demands something else. So I’ll probably look for a few replacements, maybe even bigger books because now I am not stressed at all.

Books read last week

  • Lisa Goldstein – The Uncertain Places (Ancient Runes: A)
  • N. K. Jemisin – The Awakened Kingdom (Muggle Studies: O)
  • Becky Chambers – To Be Taught if Fortunate (Astronomy: A)

The Uncertain Places is a very unfortunate book because its cover does not give you a feeling of what you’ll find inside. Personally, I don’t like the cover very much, but it feels like it belongs to an Urban Fantasy, maybe with vampires, or a haunted house with ghosts or something. In reality, this book is about a family in a special house (so far, so true) but it deals mostly with fairy tales, with The Other Folk, with the places where their world and ours blur together. It was a good book with lots of nods to the Grimms’ tales.
You can’t go wrong with N. K. Jemisin and I loved this novella sequel to The Inheritance Trilogy exactly as much as expected.
Becky Chambers’ latest novel just fell into my hands and because it clearly has a moon or two on the cover, I went ahead and passed my first Astronomy class with it.

N.E.W.T.s in Progress

  • Kameron Hurley – The Light Brigade (Transfiguration: A)
  • Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – Obsidio (Arithmancy: A)
  • Arkady Martine – A Memory Called Empire (Care of Magical Creatures: A)

I was very unsure what to read after Strange the Dreamer (talk about book hangovers!), but Kameron Hurley’s sci-fi story immediately hooked me. It starts very much like Starship Troopers (on purpose, with many nods to the Heinlein novel) but there’s so much more to discover. Dietz, the protagonist, signed up for the space military where they turn people into light to send them between planets. So far, I’ve only read some of the training they go through and it’s tough and super thrilling to read and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
I am also going to start Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff soon (maybe today, maybe Monday) because although it’s a big fat book, I need to finish this trilogy. And it ends on an even page number, so it counts for Arithmancy class.
Aaaaand I’m still listening to A Memory Called Empire. I am enjoying it a lot and I have reached the last quarter but this is just a dense read. The plot is exciting but it’s not the kind of book you can just rush through. You need all the information to figure out what’s going on and you also don’t want to miss any little detail about the amazing world Martine has created. But I’m sure I’ll finish this in a day or two.


How about your readathon experience so far? Are you on track? Let me know your Hogwarts House and your current read in the comments! And of course: Happy reading!

N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon – Check-In #2

There I was, thinking I couldn’t possibly do as well this week as I did at the beginning of the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon. The  experience has continued to be rewarding and fun and filled with excitement and I’m happy we still have a couple of weeks to go.
My career as a Writer is a given, and because I did way better than excpected, I have also achieved all grades necessary to become a Hogwarts Professor in History of Magic. I am now pursuing more Outstandings, so I can teach more classes at Hogwarts.  My career as a writer will happen in my free time… See, I got it all worked out. 🙂

Grades Achieved so far

Herbology: A
Muggle Studies: A, E
History of Magic: A, E, O
Charms: E
Defence Against the Dark Arts: A, E
Potions: A

Newly achieved grades are in Ravenclaw blue, the ones I had finished last week are black. I did pretty well again! Considering that Strange the Dreamer is quite a big book and I had to find a replacement for my original DADA pick), I’m happy that I managed to finish five entire books this week.

Books read

  • Catherynne M. Valente – Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams (Defence Against the Dark Arts: A)
  • Ursula K. LeGuin – A Wizard of Earthsea (History of Magic: O)
  • Laini Taylor – Strange the Dreamer (Potions: A)
  • George MacDonald – The Princess and the Goblin (Defence Against the Dark Arts: E)
  • Peter S. Beagle – In Calabria (Muggle Studies: E)

It will come as no surprise to most of you that I am absolutely in love with Strange the Dreamer and the world Laini Taylor has created. I ordered the second volume when I wasn’t even halfway done with the first because there is no way this story can be messed up.
Cat Valente is my favorite author, so this short early work of hers was very good, although I prefer her less experimental stories.
My Earthsea re-read went pretty much exactly as expected. I did like it a bit more this time around, but not much. The Princess and the Goblin was a much older work (and you can tell) but a lovely, quick fairy-tale-esque story. And Peter S. Beagle’s latest unicorn story was tender and quiet but quite well done.

N.E.W.T.s in Progress

  • Arkady Martine – A Memory Called Empire (Care of Magical Creatures: A)
  • Lisa Goldstein – The Uncertain Places (Ancient Runes: A)
  • Kameron Hurley – The Light Brigade (Transfiguration: A)

I was very unsure what to read after Strange the Dreamer (talk about book hangovers!), but with Lisa Goldstein’s story set in the 70ies, dealing with a haunted family that is definitely hiding a secret, I think I found something nice and palatable. I haven’t started Kameron Hurley’s sci-fi novel yet but everybody is raving about it, so I am excited!
Aaaaand I’m still listening to A Memory Called Empire. I swear the book is fantastic, it’s just not exactly a light read. There are space politics and confusing social structures, there’s a murder mystery and probably even more for our protagonist to discover. It’s a heavy book but I’m still enjoying it.


How about your readathon experience so far? Are you on track? Let me know your Hogwarts House and your current read in the comments! And of course: Happy reading!

N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon – Check-In #1

The first one-and-a-half weeks of the nerdy madness that is the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon is over and I thought I’d do a little check-in to see where I stand. I’m happy and quite proud to say that I’ve already achieved all of the necessary grades for my career of choice, Writer/Journalist. But because I don’t want to stop and I love everything about this readathon, I will continue to pursue a secondary career. I am still torn between Hogwarts Professor (teaching History of Magic) and Ministry Worker. For now, I’m just reading the books that speak to me most and I’ll see where that takes me.

Grades Achieved so far

Herbology: A
Muggle Studies: A
History of Magic: E
Charms: E

That means I have read 6 books so far which is pretty mind-blowing, considering that’s what I normally read in an entire month. I don’t know what it is about this particular readathon, but it keeps  me motivated like nothing else. Maybe it’s the idea of going to Hogwarts, taking all those magical classes, and pursuing a wizarding career. Maybe it’s the amazing energy of all the participants – on Twitter, YouTube, on other blogs… I just feel surrounded by friends and like-minded people, exchanging book recommendations and cheering each other on. It truly is magical!

Books read

  • Helen Oyeyemi – Gingerbread (History of Magic: A)
  • Margaret Rogerson – Sorcery of Thorns (History of Magic: E)
  • Joanna Ruth Meyer – Echo North (Charms: A)
  • Holly Black – The Lost Sisters (Charms: E)
  • Holly Black – The Wicked King (Herbology: A)
  • Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – This is How You Lose the Time War (Muggle Studies: A)

I just noticed that all of those books have covers in shades of blue or green… I mean, I am  a Ravenclaw but I swear this is total coincidence. 🙂

N.E.W.T.s in Progress

  • Arkady Martine – A Memory Called Empire (Care of Magical Creatures: A)
  • Laini Taylor – Strange the Dreamer (Potions: A)

I am currently trying to find out which of my books are black under the dust jacket. The ones I actually own in hardback aren’t really ones I feel like reading right now, and it’s quite difficult to find out which of my ebooks or paperbacks would have a black cover under the dust jacket. If they even have a hardback edition, that is.


How are your classes going? Are you collecting points for your Hogwarts House? Did you discover any amazing books because of this readathon? Let me know in the comments or leave me a link to your posts. I love seeing what other people are reading and which books they choose for the individual classes.