The Liebster Award

I’ve been tagged by Lisa from Way too Fantasy  – thank you so much for thinking of me! 🙂
The end of the year is the perfect time for tags, if you ask me, so I’ll do my very best to answer Lisa’s questions.

 

Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you
  • Nominate 11 bloggers
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions
  • Notify your 11 nominees

Lisa’s questions:

What is the last book you read that annoyed you and why?

Oh, that one’s easy. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue because that book promised me so many things and then delivered none of them. I found it predictable, it didn’t establish its settings or time periods, the characters were flat, and it was just a totally forgettable read.
The most annoying part is how much I wanted to love this book. My review is coming on Monday, so you can read my rant in its entirety then.

What is your favorite non-book related hobby?

That’s a hard one. I discovered bouldering a few years ago through my boyfriend and it’s a really fun sport. It’s like solving riddles while exercising your body and the thrill I get whenever I manage to climb a route that is difficult for me is so great!
I also like to draw (although I haven’t in a long time), and play video games. I suck at first person ones, but I’m really good at jump and run games and ones involving riddles. I have a thing for riddles and puzzles, apparently.

Something about yourself that people may be surprised to learn?

Hm… I’m really not that interesting. 🙂
The only thing I can think of is that my first language is actually German. People may not know this because I blog only in English. I’ve always loved languages and I’m glad I have books and blogging to keep my brain using English so I don’t forget everything I’ve learned. It happens, people. My French and Spanish are proof of that. I used to speak French so well but once you stop using it or hearing/reading that language, eventually all that vocab just goes away.

How do you pick your next read?

It varies. When there’s a readathon I’m participating in, the prompts dictate my reads for that month/week. When Hugo voting season is upon us, I read as many finalists as I can (the order is decided by my mood). The rest of the year, I vaguely follow my goals – reading diverse books and authors, continuing ongoing series, keeping up with new publications, reading a few award winners, etc.
Sometimes, I make my boyfriend draw a book from my TBR bag. It’s filled with little papers with the books I’ve been putting off too long. But when he picks something I’m not in the mood for, I make him pick again, so I guess I’m cheating a little.

If you had to move to another country, where would you choose to live?

That’s a super hard question! I love France (I’ve lived there for half a year and I still miss all the amazing wines and cheeses) but when I consider everything – politics, jobs, socio-economic issues, etc. – I’d much rather live in Scandinavia. Sweden has always intrigued me, although I’ve never been there. Then again, I hate the cold, so that’s a no no.
I’m honestly quite happy here in Vienna, Austria. Sure, my country has problems like any other but there’s a reason my city has been voted the one with the highest quality of living for many years in a row.

What is your first favorite book that you were maybe a bit obsessed with?

There really was something before Harry Potter and it was by a German fantasy writer duo named Wolfang and Heike Hohlbein. I got the book Katzenwinter (“Cats’ Winter”) for my 11th birthday and I must have read it four times in a row, I was so obsessed. There were ten cats in that book, I knew all their names by heart, and would tell them to anyone who was interested (which was nobody – thanks for listening anyway, grandma!).
This is also the book that got me into the fantasy genre. I’m pretty sure I would find many, many things wrong with this book and the others by Hohlbein but for 11-year-old me, it was a revelation!

Have you ever joined in a fandom? If so which one?

How do you officially join a fandom? I consider myself part of many fandoms because… well, I’m a fan. But I haven’t posted any fanart or fanfiction publicly. I’m way too shy for that. Blogging is about as outspoken as I get on the internet and sometimes, especially when I have a negative review about a well-beloved book, that still takes me some courage.
I’ve recently discovered that I love Laini Taylor, Holly Black, and Leigh Bardugo. They have pretty big fandoms with lots of great art and I love to discover it!

Besides blogging, what is another way you participate as part of a book community?

I’m on Goodreads, mostly to track my reading, but I do occasionally post in the group forums there. I follow many people on twitter who write about books and publishing, and I sometimes post my current reads to Instagram. But honestly, I’m not too into social media. The internet is eating up enough of my time as it is.
I also listen to SFF podcasts: The Sword & Laser, SFF Yeah, The Fantasy Inn, The Writer and the Critic, The Coode Street Podcast.

What is your least favorite part of blogging?

Writing negative reviews. It can be cathartic of course, but I’d always rather love a book than hate it. It’s especially bad when I dislike a book that everyone else seems to love.
When I do hate a book, I stand by that opinion and I try to explain why I hated it. But I can’t say I enjoy saying bad things about books. Even if I think the author did a shitty job, they still put a lot of work and effort into it and that deserves respect at least.

Your favorite book you’ve read so far this year?

Just one? You’re kidding, right?

Pre-2020 releases:

How large is your TBR pile?

Hahahahahahahahaha! Goodreads says around 2600 but I do occasionally un-haul books, so maybe a little less than that. Still, it’s ridiculous.

My questions:

  1. Which author do you own the most books by?
  2. What underrated/underknown book would you recommend?
  3. What’s your favorite chonky (like 500+ pages) novel?
  4. How many books did you read this year and are you happy with that number?
  5. What are your favorite books published in 2020?
  6. What’s a book/author you go to when you need a feelgood read?
  7. Who are your top 3 couples from books?
  8. How has the Corona pandemic influenced your reading?
  9. What was the last book that gave you a book hangover?
  10. What are your reading goals for 2021?

I tag:

You don’t have to participate if you don’t feel like it. Consider this a shoutout to some bloggers I really like and appreciate:

I hope you’re all doing well and can enjoy the holidays! Whether you participate in the tag or not, I look forward to your upcoming posts!

Jessica Townsend – Wundersmith

I discovered the Nevermoor books through Booktube and I am so grateful that I have this fun, quirky Middle Grade series in my life. While I don’t think comparisons to that most famous of teen wizards are quite fitting, these are books that you can just fall into. They are feelgood books that I highly recommend, especially for people who aren’t as lucky during these trying times as I am and need something to lift their spirits. Warning: Big SPOILER for the first book below!

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow Nevermoor, Band 2: Amazon.de: Townsend, Jessica: Fremdsprachige BücherWUNDERSMITH: THE CALLING OF MORRIGAN CROW
by Jessica Townsend

Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018
eBook: 545 pages
Series: Nevermoor #2
My rating: 7/10

Opening line: Morrigan Crow leapt from the Brolly Rail, teeth chattering, hands frozen around the end of her oilskin umbrella.

Wunder is gathering in Nevermoor …
Morrigan Crow may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And she is fast learning that not all magic is used for good.
Morrigan Crow has been invited to join the prestigious Wundrous Society, a place that promised her friendship, protection and belonging for life. She’s hoping for an education full of wunder, imagination and discovery – but all the Society want to teach her is how evil Wundersmiths are. And someone is blackmailing Morrigan’s unit, turning her last few loyal friends against her. Has Morrigan escaped from being the cursed child of Wintersea only to become the most hated figure in Nevermoor?
Worst of all, people have started to go missing. The fantastical city of Nevermoor, once a place of magic and safety, is now riddled with fear and suspicion…

Morrigan Crow is back and this time, we get to follow her to magic school! It’s a trope many readers love, me among them, so I was looking forward to this book a lot. Turns out, things don’t go exactly according to Morrigan’s (or my) plans but that just makes the story more exciting.

Morrigan is now a member of the Wundrous Society and, together with the rest of her unit, she will learn to use her Knack for the benefit of Nevermoor. Or so she hopes. Things start going downhill when her Knack is revealed to her unit and their mentors – people who have sworn an oath to each other, to keep each other safe, to be a found family, to always look out for each other. But Morrigan being a Wundersmith complicates matters and makes her very much an outsider in the group that was supposed to be her home.
Add to that the fact that, unlike the others in her unit, she only gets to go to one class, dealing with the history of Wundersmiths. While her best friend Hawthorne gets to ride dragons, learn their language, and acquire all sorts of useful skills, Morrigan reads endless passages about the terrible deeds of all the Wundersmiths that came before her. Oh yes, and lets not forget that people are mysteriously disappearing all over Nevermoor and nobody seems to have any idea what’s happening…

The magic school trope usually works really well for me and Jessica Townsend did not disappoint when it comes to originality. All the little rules and quirks of Morrigan’s new life made me smile and appreciate this magical world all the more.  Whether it’s the small W appearing on Morrigan’s index finger, the door that leads to her unit’s very own Wunderground station, or the school Mistresses, there is something fun and quirky to discover on every page.
But at the heart of this story is Morrigan’s relationship to the people around her. Jupiter is super busy and rarely has time for her, Hawthorne sticks to her no matter what, but the rest of the unit are not big Morrigan fans. When a blackmail letter arrives at their station, forcing one of Morrigan’s friends to do something terrible in order to keep her secret (about being a Wundersmith), this doesn’t exactly help her grow closer with her unit.

Nevermoor series author Jessica Townsend on crafting diverse characters, comparisons to JK Rowling - Living News , Firstpost

In this second instalment, you’ll meet all your favorite (and not so favorite) characters from the first book as well as some new ones. Morrigan’s classmates may not like her very much, but I liked them a lot as a reader. There are also tons of new things about the city of Nevermoor that were so much fun to read. Tricksy Lanes were probably my favorites, but Morrigan’s Knack slowly coming to life also kept things interesting. And learning about old Wundersmiths – while super boring for Morrigan – helped flesh out the world building and give us more background on why Wundersmiths are so feared. Not to forget the subplot about people going missing. That was my least favorite aspect of this book and although things come together at the end, I didn’t feel like this thread was needed for the larger story. Then again, I have no idea what Jessica Townsend plans for the next book so I might be completely wrong here.

Morrigan spirals lower and lower during this book and ends up feeling almost as lonely as she did before she ever came to Nevermoor. But this being a Middle Grade novel, albeit a darker one than the first volumen, you can rest assured that things will turn out mostly alright by the end. You can also expect some twists and turns along the way, as well as the trademark heartwarming love between Morrigan and Jupiter (and all her friends). I loved this book. It’s a fun adventure story but it has so much heart that it makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. The third – and final, at least for now – book will come out later this year and I’ll be very surprised if I don’t pounce on it the moment it is out.

MY RATING: 7/10 – Very good

An Update During the Corona Pandemic

Hello, everyone! I hope you are all safe and healthy! I just wanted to post a short update on how the Coronavirus is affecting me and this blog. The short answer is: a little.

My boyfriend and I have been working from home for the past week and will continue to do so for the next three weeks. We are allowed to go outside for three reasons:

  • urgent shopping (food, hygiene products, etc.)
  • trips to the pharmacy
  • helping others who can’t or shouldn’t go outside

Going for walks or a run is still allowed, as long as you keep at least one meter distance between you and other people, so I don’t really feel all that constricted in my daily life. Sure, it’s strange to work from home because I’m used to a huge office where I can just get up and talk to people. But honestly, I have it pretty easy. I’m lucky enough to have my own terrace, so I don’t even have to leave my apartment to get a bit of fresh air or enjoy the sun. And the neighbour’s cat comes to visit every once in a while which always makes me happy.

I’m putting all the extra time I have to (hopefully) good use. I’m reading a lot, I hope to publish reviews more frequently during the next weeks, and I’m trying to stay as close to normal as possible. I think the restrictions our government put on the population are smart and helpful and I hope that humanity sticks together so we can get through this with the least amount of damage possible.

I have seen so much solidarity in the last few weeks – people offering to go shopping for elderly neighbours, people applauding every evening for those working in hospitals and supermarkets, people sharing creative ways to keep yourself and your children happy while stuck at home – and I’ve also seen total ignorance. People still partying, walking around in groups of 20 or more, ignoring the rules set in place to protect those who most need protecting… but overall, I think most people understand the responsibility each and every one of us carries and are trying to do their best. Thank you, fellow humans!

That’s all the news I have. I just didn’t want to keep posting like nothing is happening in the world, thus this little update.  I hope, my dear readers, that all of you are doing well! And in case you are quarantined or self-isolating at home, I will try and do my little part in keeping you entertained with book reviews and reading challenges and readathon TBRs. Stay healthy, stay safe, help others, and we’ll get through this together!

The Triwizard Tournament Readathon: The First Task (TBR)

November is here and the three magic schools competing in the Triwizard Tournament Readathon have found out which dragon they will face in the first task. I am a Beauxbatons student for this readathon (the school is determined by your birthday) and I cannot wait to join my school mates. We can face this challenge and win the Triwizard Cup!

I’ve already posted a very loose TBR, simply because I needed to have a book ready for any given prompt. I know I spend way too much time going through my unread books, looking for just the right one for the readathon – and that time could be much better spent, you know, actually reading. But now that the dragons have been announced, I have finalised the two books I am going to tackle during the first task.

The Dragon

Beauxbatons have to sneak past the Hungarian Horntail to get the golden egg which will lead us to our second task. The reading prompt for this task is to read a book with lots of action.

I believe I have just the thing for that. Jade War by Fonda Lee is not only the sequel to one of my favorite books from 2018 but – if it’s anything like the first book – will have plenty of action. In this series, gifted and trained people can use jade as a sort of magical enhancer for their abilities. So imagine martial arts but with magic. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for all these characters I’ve come to love.

The Method

There are four methods one can use to finish the first task and get that golden egg from the dragon. I have picked out a method and book already, but as I might change my mind, I’ll leave all the methods and reading prompts listed here.

Conjunctivitis Curse: Temporarily blind your dragon by reading a book with eyes on the cover.
Bewitched Sleep: Send your dragon to sleep by reading a whole book in bed.
Speed: Race past your dragon to retrieve the egg by reading a graphic novel.
Distraction: Distract your dragon by transfiguring a rock into an animal, read a book with an animal on the cover.

I am going to use Distraction on that dragon by reading Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher which has an adorable armadillo on the cover. If I finish that book fast enough, I may throw in another book for extra points. I don’t even know if you can earn extra points in this task, but more books read during a readathon is always a good thing, right? Depending on how the week of the first task goes, I have a comic book and another short book lined up that I could read in bed.

The first readathon task begins on November 11th, so until then, I’ll do my very best to finish my current reads (and not start any new ones!) in order to be ready for the Triwizard Tournament Readathon. I cannot wait to see what all the others are reading and I already love seeing people’s excitement over on Twitter. The bookish community on the internet is the best! 🙂

The Triwizard Tournament Readathon – A Tentative TBR

Since I’ve had so much fun and success with my last Harry Potter themed readathon, I thought I’d jump straight into another one. The Triwizard Tournament Readathon is hosted by Chapter Charms and is split into three week-long challenges. If you want to join, there’s still time to put your name in the Goblet of Fire.
The school you represent depends on your birth month. As I was born in January, I am proud to represent BEAUXBATONS! I also just came back from a week in Paris which makes this magical school an even better fit.

As in any proper Triwizard Tournament, there are three challenges to face, each with its own reading tasks to complete.

TASK ONE – DRAGONS

Monday 11th November – Sunday 17th November 2019
On Halloween, each school will learn which dragon we have to battle. Depending on which one we get, these are the prompts our books have to fulfill. We have to read one book that fulfills the prompt for our dragon and one book that represents a method of our choosing. So two books to complete this task.

Chinese Fireball: These dragons are rare for their ability to tolerate their own kind, read a book with a good community spirit.
Common Welsh Green: It is thought a Welsh Green may have started the Great Fire of London,  read a historical book.
Hungarian Horntail: Horntails are some of the most dangerous dragons, read a book with a lot of action.
Swedish Short-Snout: These dragons are sought after to use their skin to make shields and gloves, re-read a favourite that makes you feel protected.

I don’t really know what is meant by “good community spirit” of a book, but I’m interpreting it as a book that has some buzz surrounding it or that many people talk about.  I hope that’s correct, because in that case I’ll read House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig against the Chinese Fireball. To defeat the Welsh Green, I could read the fittingly green book Brightfall, a Robin Hood retelling by Jaime Lee Moyer. Should the Hungarian Horntail come my way, I may just pick up Jade War by Fonda Lee. I loved the first book and it had plenty of action. If I can get it, I’d love to defeat the Swedish Short-Snout with Little Witches by Leigh Dragoon, a Little Women retelling in graphic novel format.

All of us magic students have several tricks up our sleeve and can choose one of these methods to defeat the dragon in our first task:

Conjunctivitis Curse: Temporarily blind your dragon by reading a book with eyes on the cover.
Bewitched Sleep: Send your dragon to sleep by reading a whole book in bed.
Speed: Race past your dragon to retrieve the egg by reading a graphic novel.
Distraction: Distract your dragon by transfiguring a rock into an animal, read a book with an animal on the cover.

I have no idea which book to pick for the Conjunctivitis Curse, so I probably won’t use that one. If I want to go for the Bewitched Sleep I’ll read Desdemona and the Deep – it’s a short book by one of my favorite authors so I can definitely read this in bed in one or two nights. Speed may also come in handy, but my newest graphic novel La quête de l’oiseau du temps (The Quest for the Time Bird) is 225 pages long and in French, which takes me way longer to read than English or German. We’ll see. There is still Distraction, which I’d accomplish with Minor Mage by another of my favorite authors. The armadillo on the cover is so cute, it would distract any dragon, right?


SECOND TASK – THE LAKE

Monday 25th November – Sunday 1st December 2019
Just like Harry, Fleur, Viktor, and Cedric, we have to rescue someone who has been stolen from us and is trapped in the Black Lake. We will find out who that is after we completed the first challenge. For bonus points, we can first rescue our loved one and then go back and rescue the others.

Significant Other: Read a book with a romance.
Sibling: Read a book about siblings.
Friend: Read a book about friendship.

I’m prepared for all three prompts. The Queen of Nothing should be out by then and I hope it continues the strange and enticing romance from the first two books. Blanca & Roja is about two sisters in a fairy tale, and A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World will definitely contain a friendship between the boy and his dog. This was a hard task to find books for because I don’t know ahead of time which stories will actually be about friendship but I hope I’m safe with this choice.

Again, we can choose the method we use for breathing underwater:
Gillyweed: Gillyweed will allow you to breathe and move underwater, read a book with water on the cover.
Bubble-Head Charm: This charm gives you a continuous supply of oxygen, read a book set in space where this charm could also be useful.
Transfiguration: Partially transfigure yourself into a sea creature by reading a book about a sea creature.

I’ll pick my method as the mood strikes, but I got Gillyweed covered with The Future is Blue (water all over the cover), I am practising my Bubble-Head Charm and may read Brightly Burning (Jane Eyre in Space), and I’ve got my Transfiguration spells prepared with The Seafarer’s Kiss (mermaids are sea creatures).


TASK THREE – THE MAZE

Monday 9th December – Sunday 15th December 2019
In the maze, we have to complete at least one of the tasks, but can try and complete as many of them as we like.

Blast-Ended Skrewt: This is a hybrid creature, read a book outside your comfort zone.
Boggart: Read a book that contains something you fear.
Acromantula: You may need help to defeat this creature, read a book recommended by a friend.
Sphinx: Solve its riddle by reading a book about or with a puzzle.
Golden Mist: The mist turns everything upside down, read a book with something upside down on the cover.

To defeat the Blast-Ended Skrewt, I could go with A Local Habitation – I don’t normally read Urban Fantasy, but this series might work for me. Book one was pretty good but the entire subgenre is still out of my comfort zone. My boggart could easily turn into the dystopian society of The Handmaid’s Tale – it absolutely scares me and The Testaments is the brand-new sequel to that amazing novel. I am also terrfied of spiders but the Acromantula should be vanquished with  Gideon the Ninth, a book everyone has been recommending. All of Brandon Sanderson’s books contain puzzles, riddles, and mind-blowing plot twists, so I’m confident Starsight will defeat the Sphinx. The last one was the hardest to find, but Thorn with its upside down heart on the cover could get me through the Golden Mist. I doubt I’ll even get that far – I only have one week to read these books, after all.

Once we’ve made it through the maze and made sure the Triwizard Cup is not a Portkey, we simply have to read a book that involves travel of any kind to complete the Triwizard Tournament. Here are my choices for that – I will pick whichever book appeals to me the most when the time has come. I picked three time travel novels, and one that features a voyage on a ship.

  • Annalee Newitz – The Future of Another Time Line
  • Kate Atkinson – Life After Life
  • Diana Gabaldon – Voyager
  • Anna Bright – The Beholder

That’s a lot of books! Thankfully, I don’t have to read them all within three weeks. I love that this readathon is split into three separate weeks, so it’s not one stressful month of reading tons of books but one challenge week followed by a few “normal” ones. And I like that it’s three magic schools competing against each other, rather than the Hogwarts Houses. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m definitely excited!

Lyrical, touching, gorgeous: Patricia A. McKillip – The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

It’s easy to get swept up in the newest releases, the hyped-about fantasy debuts, the books nominated for awards – and it happens to me all the time. Last year, I made an effort to not forget about older books, to always read one newer and one older book at the same time, to catch up on classics, to read the books that inspired the books we’re currently hyping. I found some amazing books because of this and I will definitely try to read more older books in 2019 as well. Because, for one, it led me to The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD
by Patricia A. McKillip

Published by: Gollancz, 1974
Paperback: 208 pages
Standalone
My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: The wizard Heald coupled with a poor woman once, in the king’s city of Mondor, and she bore a son with one green eye and one black eye.

Sybel, the beautiful great-granddaughter of the wizard Heald, has grown up on Eld Mountain with only the fantastic beasts summoned there by wizardry as companions. She cares nothing for humans until, when she is 16, a baby is brought for her to raise, a baby who awakens emotions that she has never known before. But the baby is Tamlorn, the only son of King Drede, and, inevitably, Sybel becomes entangled in the human world of love, war and revenge – and only her beasts can save her from the ultimate destruction…

Sybel lives isolated on her mountain, surrounded only be her beloved animals – creatures of myth, collected by her father and grandfather, and now the only friends she has or wants. Until one day, a baby is dropped at her doorstep, and in taking that child in, Sybel discovers her all-too-human emotions because she grows to love the child. This is how this fairy tale of a book begins and while the languages continues to be lyrical, rife with symbolism, and simply beautiful to read, the plot goes into more familiar fantasy territory soon.

Tamlorn, Sybel’s adopted son, is not just any child. Away from Sybel’s mountain, two nations are at war. One led by an insecure king, the other by a group of nobles trying to rise up against him. Tamlorn is the king’s son and as such an important piece in their game of power. Although Sybel wants nothing to do with humans and their war, Tamlorn naturally longs to find out more about himself and where he came from. They are both dragged into a war they know nothing of and will each play their part, whether they want to or not.

I came to this book knowing nothing beyond the barest premise – a sorceress living with some magical beasts on a mountain – and I think that has made the reading experience even better. McKillip immediately draws you into her world with her poetic language. It’s never too flowery or cheesy, but it hits just the right note of lyrical. Another amazing part of this book is its main character: Sybel, so aloof, so distant, yet so very human at her core, without even realising it herself. Throughout this tale, she learns who she really is and who she wants to be and that alone would have been interesting enough to fill a novel, even without the war and love story and mythical beasts.

But, oh, the beasts. While at first, they don’t seem to have too much personality (dragon wants to hoard gold, gets really cranky when not enough gold is there), each of them seems to become more distinct during the story. They are not just mythical creatures with magic powers, they are living, breathing beings with a mind of their own, with a moral compass, with feelings – some of them fond feelings toward Sybel. In the beginning, the eponymous forgotten beasts may only appear like window dressing, like a way for Sybel to demonstrate her power, but they are actually vital to the plot!

The Fogotten Beasts of Eld is also a love story, although a very different one than I’m used to from current fantasy books, especially YA. Coren is wonderfully open about his feelings for Sybel and there are no unnecessary obstructions created by misunderstandings or love triangles. Sure, there is a war going on, and Sybel, Tamlorn, as well as her beasts could turn the tide of events, and the fact that Sybel wants to stay out of it all does cause difficulties between her and Coren. But the love story itself, their feelings for each other, are never in question.

I can’t say any more about the plot without giving too much away, but let me say that the best parts (plot-wise) of the novel I haven’t even hinted at. This is a quiet sort of book that is much more concernced with the matters inside its characters than with epic battle scenes. But the questions of morality, of using ones power – whether for good or bad (and who’s good and who’s bad anyway?) remain. This is as much a tale about family – found rather than born into – as it is about kings and warriors. It’s an emotional journey through a magical world and I loved every beautifully told page of it.

MY RATING: 8,5/10 – Damn excellent!

An Update

Hello, dear readers. Sometimes, things are hard and then they get even harder. Two weeks ago, my grandmother, who basically raised me and has been my closest family member since I can remember, passed away. Losing someone this close to me simply wrecked me. I am crying as I write this but at least I feel able to write something again.

I never cared about follower numbers or likes or any of that but I do want to apologise to those of you who read my blog and haven’t seen anything new for months now. I’m doing my very best to get back on my feet, I have actually been reading again (distraction is everything, at the moment) and I think I have a couple of reviews in me.

Thank you all for reading and if your nearest and dearest are sitting close by,  give them a hug.

Books in the Queue – The Review Copy Edition

I don’t think I’ve ever received as many review copies as I have since January 2014. I did get occasional offers to read self-published works, or traditionally published books that just didn’t interest me much. But this year seems to be a great one – at least judging by the pile next to me and the ebooks on my Kobo.

Seeing as I’m really looking forward to most of these books and I want to keep up my end of the bargain (a free book for an honest review is more than fair, in my opinion), I intend to read all of these in time for publication day. For organizational purposes, and your TBR-note-taking pleasure, I made a list:

divider1MARCH 25th

Karl Schroeder – Lockstep

I finished reading this one last weekend and my review will be up tomorrow. I didn’t love it. I even hated some aspects of it. But overall, it was an okay read. Something light and fun for in between meatier novels, a story with bland, stereotypical characters, but a story with some great ideas.

lockstepWhen seventeen-year-old Toby McGonigal finds himself lost in space, separated from his family, he expects his next drift into cold sleep to be his last. After all, the planet he’s orbiting is frozen and sunless, and the cities are dead. But when Toby wakes again, he’s surprised to discover a thriving planet, a strange and prosperous galaxy, and something stranger still—that he’s been asleep for 14,000 years.
Welcome to the Lockstep Empire, where civilization is kept alive by careful hibernation. Here cold sleeps can last decades and waking moments mere weeks. Its citizens survive for millennia, traveling asleep on long voyages between worlds. Not only is Lockstep the new center of the galaxy, but Toby is shocked to learn that the Empire is still ruled by its founding family: his own.
Toby’s brother Peter has become a terrible tyrant. Suspicious of the return of his long-lost brother, whose rightful inheritance also controls the lockstep hibernation cycles, Peter sees Toby as a threat to his regime. Now, with the help of a lockstep girl named Corva, Toby must survive the forces of this new Empire, outwit his siblings, and save human civilization.
Karl Schroeder’s Lockstep is a grand innovation in hard SF space opera.

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APRIL 1st

Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor

Now this is such a pleasure to read. Sure, it’s chock full of names I won’t even try to pronounce, but it’s also got insane court intrigue, a young boy suddenly being the ruler of an entire empire, learning to grow up and put his past behind him. The language is lovely, the characters are multi-layered, the story got me hooked, and I have no idea where it’s going. I’m not even halfway through it, but I suspect this book will demand a rather glowing review. (And airships! Did I mention the airships?)

The youngest, half-goblin son goblin emperorof the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.
Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

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APRIL 10th

Nnedi Okorafor – Lagoon

I’ve been looking forward to this ever since it was announced. Okorafor’s Who Fears Death still gets at me after more than a year, her short stories in Kabu-Kabu were mostly wonderful, and I can’t wait to see what she does with this subject matter.

lagoonWhen a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself. Lagoon expertly juggles multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives with prose that is at once propulsive and poetic, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.
At its heart a story about humanity at the crossroads between the past, present, and future, Lagoon touches on political and philosophical issues in the rich tradition of the very best science fiction, and ultimately asks us to consider the things that bind us together – and the things that make us human.

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APRIL 15th

Rjurik Davidson – Unwrapped Sky

Cover appeal, anyone? This book had me at minotaur. Not even the word minotaur, just the one on the cover. Apart from being gorgeous, it also sounds So Good. Magic, minotaurs, assassins.

unwrapped skyA hundred years ago, the Minotaurs saved Caeli-Amur from conquest. Now, three very different people may hold the keys to the city’s survival. Once, it is said, gods used magic to create reality, with powers that defied explanation. But the magic—or science, if one believes those who try to master the dangers of thaumaturgy—now seems more like a dream. Industrial workers for House Technis, farmers for House Arbor, and fisher folk of House Marin eke out a living and hope for a better future. But the philosopher-assassin Kata plots a betrayal that will cost the lives of godlike Minotaurs; the ambitious bureaucrat Boris Autec rises through the ranks as his private life turns to ashes; and the idealistic seditionist Maximilian hatches a mad plot to unlock the vaunted secrets of the Great Library of Caeli-Enas, drowned in the fabled city at the bottom of the sea, its strangeness visible from the skies above.In a novel of startling originality and riveting suspense, these three people, reflecting all the hopes and dreams of the ancient city, risk everything for a future that they can create only by throwing off the shackles of tradition and superstition, as their destinies collide at ground zero of a conflagration that will transform the world . . . or destroy it. Unwrapped Sky is a stunningly original debut by Rjurik Davidson, a young master of the New Weird.

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JANUARY 16th

Simon Ings – Wolves

This is already out but I’m still sitting on my review copy. I’ve been staring at the cover for weeks. It’s definitely on my read-very-soon list. Because it may look like fantasy, or even a fairy tale retelling, but it sounds like a crazy science-fiction ride.

wolvesAugmented Reality uses computing power to overlay a digital imagined reality over the real world. Whether it be adverts or imagined buildings and imagined people with Augmented Reality the world is no longer as it appears to you, it is as it is imagined by someone else. Ings takes the satire and mordant satirical view of J.G. Ballard and propels it into the 21st century.
Two friends are working at the cutting edge of this technology and when they are offered backing to take the idea and make it into the next global entertainment they realise that wolves hunt in this imagined world. And the wolves might be them.
A story about technology becomes a personal quest into a changed world and the pursuit of a secret from the past. A secret about a missing mother, a secret that could hide a murder. This is no dry analysis of how a technology might change us, it is a terrifying thriller, a picture of a dark tomorrow that is just around the corner.

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You’ll be seeing my opinions on all of these soon, although I am still catching up with some reading for this year’s Hugo nominations. Between April and whenever the nominees are announced I will have All The Time for new books. Because, see, if I read newer titles right when they come out, I won’t be in the same dilemma next year as I am now – not having read enough titles to make good decisions about what to nominate for a Hugo. Lesson one learned. On to the next one. 🙂

Stuff That Bothers Me: NetGalley, Edelweiss and ebook formats

Ever since I found out about NetGalley, I’ve been requesting books that interested me. I love how easy it is for readers to connect with publishers, to get free eARCs of books and to send feedback directly to the publisher. HOWEVER.

I have NetGalley Logobeen granted a number of books lately that I would really like to read. But most of them are DRM-protected epubs that I load on my reader (Kobo) via Adobe Digital Editions. Now I don’t mind that (apart from my general dislike of DRM) but when I receive an epub copy that is clearly a scanned PDF file, there is really no way of reading it. The font type is tiny and I can’t make it larger on my reader because the file isn’t really text, it’s images. I could zoom in on every page, scroll down – if you have an eReader you know this is no fun – zoom out again, turn the page and repeat. But seriously, who does that for a few hundred pages? I certainly don’t, which means I end up not reading the books I’ve been given. Which again leads to a very guilty conscience on my side.

Am I the only one dealing with this problem? I truly want to hold up my end of the bargain but reading a terribly formatted ebook is so tedious and annoying that even a free book is not worth the effort. Then I’d rather go and buy my own copy and be able to read it like a normal person, on paper or in a format that lets me set the font to a size that won’t ruin my sight.

I don’t get (or ever expect to) paper ARCs because I doubt anyone would want to ship books to Austria – the amateur marketing part of my brain tells me it’s just not worth it. Even if I ended up writing a rave review. So dear publishers. If you want us to read and review the books you offer us for free, then please, please, please give us formats that are readable.

Edelweiss Logo

Just a few weeks ago, I also discovered Edelweiss, another website that makes it possible to request free ebooks prior to publication. Difficult to navigate as it is, I received an ebook of Brom’s Krampus and was on page 50 or so. The next day, I tried to open up the book on my reader and a very friendly message popped up, letting me know that this DRM-protected file had expired. A bit of research informed me that it was the official publication date. So my question here is: Do you NOT want me to review a book once it’s out? This particular blog may still be small and not very well-known but I am still generating free publicity for your publishing company and for a book and its author. I would have been done within the week! Most NetGalley books also expire, but at least they grant you a few weeks after publication date to finish the book.

I guess at this point I should at least mention the publishers who offer good copies of their books. Angry Robot always sent me epubs that were wonderfully readable, St. Martin’s Press answered my e-mail, asking for a properly formatted copy of Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer, with an invite to download an epub copy. Thanks again for that. I’ve read and reviewed all of these books here on the blog and if another one of their titles strikes me as interesting, I’ll be requesting it. Other publishers? Not so much.

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve read up on discussions about the blogger/publisher relationship. Again, I don’t have any personal experience with receiving paper copies but from what I’ve seen of NetGalley and Edelweiß, I am very close to throwing the towel (is that a Germanism?) and just going back to buying my own books, reading them at my own speed and writing reviews for whoever stumbles upon this page.

What I’m interested in is: Do any of you have the same problems? Do you convert your books (which requires you to remove the DRM-protection) and make them readable that way? Do you contact the publishers directly? Or have you given up on NetGalley?

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

I recently found out about this event, hosted twice a year by Dewey’s read-a-thon and, luckily, I was just in time to sign up. I doubt I’ll be able to make it through the entire 24 hours but I look forward to the read-a-thon nonetheless.  I will keep this post updated with the books I’m reading, how many pages I have read and how many hours I wasted sleeping. Coffee, green tea, snack food, and comfy places to read have been prepared and I am ready to tackle this challenge.

What I plan to read:

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
Mary Shelley is considered the first true science fiction writer because her story of Frankenstein is based on the scientific accomplishments and breakthroughs of her age. I can’t wait to read this book. Since we’ve never had to read it in school, I feel way behind on some of the classics. Plus, it’s very short .

                                                                                                                                       

READY – SET – GO!  (2pm)

Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Vienna, Austria.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (see above why)
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Mmh… probably my stash of chocolate. You can never have too much chocolate at home.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I’m 26, I study English, French, and Spanish and I have just enjoyed lunch with my boyfriend who is now spending time on the couch, watching TV. Which is perfect  because that leaves me the bed and my favorite chair for reading.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
This is my first time and I’m super happy that I discovered it in time (just last week). I look forward to just reading, an entire day (if I make it), and getting done with some of my other challenges. Plus, this gives me the opportunity to grab some books that I normally would have left on the TBR pile for much longer. Or books that I have started and never finished (read GRRM here).

                                                                                                                                   

HOUR 2

Pages read: 64
Books read: 0
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

It’s still early afternoon so I’m awake and happily reading along. Frankenstein is a lot more interesting than I expected it to be and I am equally surprised about how quickly Victor created his “monster”. Even though we have seen very little of the creature itself, I enjoy reading about Victor’s family and the gossip in Geneva. Sinister in tone, I’d recommend this as a Halloween read.

                                                                                                                                         

HOUR 3

Pages read this hour: 32
Total pages read: 96
Snacking on: Kinder Schoko-Bons
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

Motivation level: Still quite high. My book is interesting, even though I can feel my weekendly afternoon slump coming on. I work so hard during the week that usually, on my weekends I spend a lot of the day sleeping, in addition to a good night’s sleep. But Frankenstein keeps me interested, especially now that the “monster” reveals his own story. And I can’t help but feel very tenderly towards him.

                                                                                                                                                   

HOUR 4

Pages read last hour: 30
Total pages read: 126
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

Motivation level: I’m taking a few minutes break from reading to check out other people’s blogs and random book news on the internet. My book is getting better and better, though, and I’m curious how it will end. I am probably one of the few people who have never seen a Frankenstein movie adaptation, so I have no idea how it will end. But I suspect it won’t be very happy.

                                                                                                                                                  

HOUR 5

Pages read last hour: 4
Total pages read: 130
Snacking on: chilli beans
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

Why only four pages? Because the latest episode of the Sword & Laser show got in the way. This time, Tom and Veronica interviewed Gail Carriger, who showed up with a parasol and tiny hat and all. I was only a huge fan of book one of her Parasol Protectorate books, the rest of the series was too repetitious for my taste, but it’s always a pleasure watching interviews with Gail.

                                                                                                                                             

HOUR 6

Pages read last hour: 32
Total pages read: 162
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

I have only a few chapters ahead of me and will finish this book within the next hour. I have participated in some of the mini-challenges (no wins so far) and am checking out other people’s posts regularly. Still reading, even though I got up at 8am this morning and can feel the sleepiness coming over me already.

                                                                                                                                     

HOUR 7

Pages read last hour: 110 (includes endnotes)
Total pages read: 272
Books read: 1
Snacking on: a pomegranate
Currently reading: ???

I have finished and reviewed Frankenstein and will now browse my lists and TBR pile for my next read.This book has led me one title closer to completing my personal challenges. Mary Shelley’s novel features on NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books, is part of Gollancz’ SF Masterworks series and was even listed on the BBC Big Read. I’d say, this one’s a winner!

                                                                                                                                     

HOUR 8

Pages read last hour: 0
Total pages read: 272
Books read: 1
Snacking on: toasties
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

I have spent the larger part of the last one-and-a-half hours looking for a new book. I didn’t feel like any of my choices so I read a lot of first pages to see where I get stuck. In the end, I went back to my current read, the first in the Codex Alera series, which I am enjoying as an audiobook.

                                                                                                                                       

HOUR 9

Pages read last hour: 25
Total pages read: 297
Books read: 1
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

Audiobooks mean slow going, but it is incredibly enjoyable to have somebody else read a story to you, and read it well. Plus, I can play little browser games while listening which helps keep me awake. It’s 10pm here and while that’s way before my bedtime, I have a week of hard work behind me and my boyfriend woke me up at 8 this morning. The time for green tea and a cup of coffee will be coming very soon…

And because challenges are fun, here’s my entry for Name That Book. Happy guessing:

It’s George R.R. Martin’s “A Feast for Crows”.

                                                                                                                                           

HOUR 10

Pages read last hour: 40
Total pages read: 337
Books read: 1
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

Yes, this kind of book is exaclty what I need now. I’ll continue listening to the audiobook in bed now, so there’s a fair chance I’ll be asleep soon. But I’ll be back for the last few hours, I promise.

                                                                                                                                           

HOUR 20

Pages read last hour: 13
Total pages read: 350
Books read: 1
Hours slept: 8,5
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

Aaaah, I’m getting old (not really). But I do need my eight hours of sleep, regardless of awesome challenges. But I’m awake, my boyfriend brought me coffee and I shall have books for breakfast. Even though I probably won’t read much this hour as I have to catch up on all the things that have been going on while I was sleeping.

                                                                                                                                     

HOUR 22

Pages read last hour: 5
Total pages read:
355
Books read: 1
Hours slept: 8,5
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

The last few challenges weren’t up my alley so I didn’t participate. I’m still reading, though slowly and without stressing myself.

                                                                                                                               

HOUR 23

Pages read last hour: 12
Total pages read:
367
Books read: 1
Hours slept: 8,5
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

I’m thinking I may start a new book. I am a bit more than halfway through the first Codex Alera adventure and while it is enjoyable, it feels a little bland. Too much generic fantasy themes going on that I’m not in the mood for right now. I might start that Patrick Ness book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, or Blackout by Connie Willis.

                                                                                                                             

HOUR 24 – the End

I have started Paoli Bacigalupi – The Windup Girl and read the very long first chapter. The print is tiny, so it was only 28 pages or so.

In conclusion to this read-a-thon, I can say that it was a nice experience to really sit down and just read for hours and hours. However, I expected more from the mini-challenges and just different things altogether. The interaction with other bloggers was okay but again, I probably expected too much. It was fun and nice to be a part of. But I doubt I’ll be participating in this read-a-thon next year. Too much stress and not enough pay-off.