(February and) March wrapup

Teal coloured title card reading £March Wrap-Up" with flowery teal and purple ornaments above and below the title

So things got a little bit away from me there…

To give you a bit of context, I’ve been struggling with my health (yes, again, that’s the “chronic” part unfortunately, and it’s making me exhausted, and also depressed, so that’s a double whammy there) while having to restart work, and job searching for something better for both my sanity and my health. Oh, and I moved apartments! So, it’s been busy. And in the middle of all that, I kept thinking I needed to do a February wrapup, until it was mid-March and I thought, well… The same happened with reviews, where I’ve been postponing some so much that I just can’t think what I wanted to say anymore.

So here we are, March has just ended, I’m still in the same job, I’m still exhausted all the time… but on the plus side, I’ve read some cool books! I managed to finish the r/fantasy bingo, as you might have seen earlier this week. I’ve read some of my physical books, too, and a buttload of audiobooks because they help me get through stuff when I otherwise don’t have the spoons to focus.

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an update on r/fantasy bingo

I said last year I’d be doing the r/fantasy bingo, which runs from April to the end of March. I’ve completed it, mostly, except for the SFF-related nonfiction square. I know you can replace one square with any from a previous year but if I’m being honest, I don’t really have the energy to go look for previous ones, and I’d rather just admit I’ve not done the one square. 24 out of 25 prompts feels pretty good if I’m being honest!

I also lost track of which ones I managed in regular or hard mode, and sometimes I have the regular+hero (review) mode. I had a tracker in my planner, with little star stickers, but I switched reading journals and planners with the beginning of 2022 so it’s weird to go back…

It ended up being mostly reading whatever I wanted and then matching it to the prompts. I think if I do it again this year, I’ll try to assign books from my TBR to the card first, then tick them off, it feels more in the spirit of the game.

Let’s have a look at what I read!

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ARC review: Spelunking through Hell, by Seanan Mcguire

So as some of you might know, I’m a big fan of Seanan McGuire. I’ve made it one of my goals this year to reread all of the October Daye series (I’m at the start of book 6 now, thanks largely to audiobooks), but I also enjoyed what I’ve read of the InCryptid series quite a lot, so I jumped on the chance to grab this review copy from netgalley. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!

The Story

Now in trade paperback, the eleventh book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.

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My Top Horror Reads

Tile card in teal colour with flowery decorations, reading "top horror reads" in bold letters

I’m the first to say I don’t particularly enjoy horror books. I don’t naturally gravitate towards them. But sometimes you do read a book that stays with you, and horror novels do tend to stay with me. So I thought I’d make a little list with my favourites. I know it’s nowhere near halloween and all that, but I rarely end up reading horror books in October anyway, and just grab them whenever I’m in the right mood.

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ARC Review: Love, Activism, and the Respectable Life of Alice Dunbar Nelson, by Tara T. Green

I’m still hoping to read more nonfiction books in 2022, so I jumped on the chance to get this one through NetGalley – the biography of a queer, Black woman who was a writer and activist from the late 1800s to the 1930s.

The Book

Love, Activism, and the Respectable Life of Alice Dunbar-Nelson is about the love one Black woman had for her race, of men and women, and, finally, of herself.
Born in New Orleans in 1875 to a mother who was a former slave and a father of questionable identity, Alice Dunbar-Nelson was a pioneering woman who actively addressed racial and gender inequalities as a writer, suffragette, educator, and activist. While in her 20s, she took the national stage from New Orleans as an early Black feminist, active with the Black Club Women’s Movement. From there, she built important relationships with leaders in New York, Wilmington, DE, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. She used her fiction, drama, poetry, and journalism to give voice to immigrants, poor people, women, Black people, and Creoles of color. Despite chronic illnesses, financial instability, and other struggles, her diaries reveal the ways she put herself first for the good of her mind and body, practices that became necessary after surviving an abusive relationship with Paul Laurence Dunbar—the first of three husbands.
Tara T. Green builds on Black feminist, sexuality, historical and cultural studies to construct a biographical study that examines Dunbar-Nelson’s life as a respectable activist-a woman who navigated complex challenges associated with resisting racism and sexism, and who defined her sexual identity and sexual agency within the confines of respectability politics.

The Review

TW: rape, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, sexism, racism.

I know Netgalley insists on giving star ratings, but I find this extremely hard when it comes to a nonfiction book, especially on a subject I’m not familiar with, from sources I’ve not seen. For me, as long as it seems logically and ethically sound, and I’m learning something… Look, it’s a biography, I can’t even say I like Alice, because that isn’t the point.

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Shakespeare book adaptions: The good, the bad, the ugly

If you don’t know it already, I’m a Shakespeare Nerd. I wrote my master’s dissertation on queer productions of Shakespeare. One of my hobbies is to read adaptations of the plays, because I love a good modernization or reworking, and there’s so much interesting stuff that can be done with this dude’s work. He’s not a Classic ™ for nothing.

But having read a number of adaptations also means I’ve encountered a fair share of books that made me go “yikes” and “nope”. Sharing now with you: my short guide to the good and the bad of Shakespeare adaptations, as well as some non-book stuff I want to highlight, starting with…

The Bad

These aren’t just books I did not like. They have Something Wrong With Them that made me absolutely pissed off. These are fights I’m ready to fight with the authors. I don’t normally post negative shit like this, but for these books I make an exception. These are my ultimate “do not read, if you love yourself”.

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Book Review: Soulstar, by C. L. Polk

This is the last novel in the Kingston Cycle, and I had to wait a little bit for the audiobook to become available, but it was worth the wait. You can see my reviews of Witchmark and Stormsong as well. There will be possible spoilers for the first two books at least, in the review below.

Do the three covers together make a bisexual flag? You bet!

The Synopsis

With Soulstar, C. L. Polk concludes her riveting Kingston Cycle, a whirlwind of magic, politics, romance, and intrigue that began with the World Fantasy Award-winning Witchmark. Assassinations, deadly storms, and long-lost love haunt the pages of this thrilling final volume.

For years, Robin Thorpe has kept her head down, staying among her people in the Riverside neighborhood and hiding the magic that would have her imprisoned by the state. But when Grace Hensley comes knocking on Clan Thorpe’s door, Robin’s days of hiding are at an end. As freed witches flood the streets of Kingston, scrambling to reintegrate with a kingdom that destroyed their lives, Robin begins to plot a course that will ensure a freer, juster Aeland. At the same time, she has to face her long-bottled feelings for the childhood love that vanished into an asylum twenty years ago.

Can Robin find happiness among the rising tides of revolution? Can Kingston survive the blizzards that threaten, the desperate monarchy, and the birth throes of democracy? Find out as the Kingston Cycle comes to an end.

The Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Trigger warnings: forced institutionalization, forced pregnancy, physical abuse and neglect, executions, police brutality, tear gas, abusive family (non exhaustive list, it’s been a while).

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Book review: Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

Tessa gifted me the hardback for this for my birthday (yes, yes, that was a few months back) and I finally got my sh#t together to read it, by buddy-reading it with Nikki. It was fun to be able to discuss it together and made the experience all the more enjoyable.

Book cover for Six Crimson Cranes. A landscape in pastel shades of blue and pink, with mountains and a japanese style palace in the background, plants also in blue and pink with gold foil in the foreground.  In the bottom third of the cover, a lady in an intricate kimono sits with our back to us, her long dark hair pinned up with a golden pin. Above the palace, the title reads in black: Six Crimson Cranes. A red lantern is in the middle of the O. Six white cranes with a spot of red on their heads swoop down in an arc above and to the left of the title.
This picture just does not do it justice

The Synopsis

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

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

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

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First off, I gotta gush about the cover for a minute. I mean, it is absolutely stunning, and the hardcover is a neat cream colour under the dust jacket, with the spine in foil. It’s also one of the rare cases where an author wins the cover lottery and both the US and UK covers are gorgeous as hell.

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January Recap and February TBR

As I try to recover from burnout, I’ve actually had quite a lot of time in January to read! I’m currently at 16 books as of writing this, and I might finish another before the day is out.

I do still want to read more ebooks (I’ve only finished 1 this month!) but I find it a lot easier to focus on audio at the moment! Plus I have a giant pile of library books to get through…

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