December reads

I had a week off from work and Plans to read a lot more books (or at least finish the ones I’d started) before this year was over, but it didn’t really happen… I lost track of time and watched a lot of trashy tv instead, but well, everyone needs time off sometimes.

I still read some good stuff this month, so, final recap of the year here we come!

  • Rise of One, by Dixon Reuel. Indie Irish novel about vampires living through the zombie apocalypse! It was a fun little read, although I still struggle through ebooks in general. Full review here.
  • Pemberley: Mr Darcy’s Dragon by Maria Grace. Anyone say dragons and regency romance? Really loved the concept, not fully into the execution, but the audiobook narrator really made this worth listening to. Full review here.
  • The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett. I’ve spent this year trying to get through my Pratchett backlog, with the help of the library app… I’m not a fan of all the books, it turns out. But this one was a shortie but a goodie, it went against some of my expectations and well worth 3h of my time.
  • Dragon Physician, Joyce Chng. It had been on my wishlist for years and I finally got my hands on it! Who doesn’t love the idea of a trans commune taking care of dragons? It was perhaps a bit rushed and too short for the concept to be developed fully, which saddens me because I was really into it in theory. It’s a decent novella, but it could’ve been a great one with a bit more polish.
  • Drowned Country, by Emily Tesh. Along with the next book on this list, one of the highlights of this month for me. It was a highly anticipated read, and while it wasn’t at all what I expected, it did not disappoint! Full review here.
  • Queen of Coin and Whispers, by Helen Corcoran. I gotta admit (to myself, mostly) I’m a sucker for queer romance. I’m also a sucker for fantasy stories but that’s no news to anyone. I’m also ALSO a sucker for women making their way through in a complicated and kinda patriarchal society. And this one is also queernorm, somewhat, which we could use more of. It was a serendipitous read but I could hardly believe how much I enjoyed it. Full review here.

Ending 2020 (and looking forward to 2021)

In retrospect, I think we can all agree that 2020 was a shitty, shitty year. Personally I started it in a drafty overpriced studio with terrible heating, finances sucked, I had to move out in February, plus I had to have (minor) surgery and spent some weeks recovering… Then lockdown started and my office job because very, very boring (but I’m one of the lucky people who still had a job so… can’t really complain here.)

I had something of a burnout during the summer because pandemic + abusive manager at work + a lot of other things going on, but I managed to turn this around with a new job and some decent things happening in the past month or though.

But through all that, and through the pandemic, one thing that’s kept me sane has been reading. I’ve read more this year than… Probably any year, really. There’s still a few days but I’m at 123 books read this year, and I think that’s a neat number. Mostly, it’s because I discovered that with my limited attention brought on by *gestures at the world* and bad mental health, I could now actually focus on audiobooks instead of needing to do 3 things at once. And the library app had a lot of cool audiobooks. The library’s been another great help – when they were open, but also when they weren’t, with online ebook and audiobook resources. I’ve listened to classics like Picnic at Hanging Rock or Little Women that I’d ignored so far. I’ve read a lot of amazing novels, and comic books.

I did #OcTBR in October, with the challenge of reading 30 books in 30 days, and got most of the shorter comicbooks and nonfiction off my list. Today, there’s 514 books on my TBR, so I won’t be lacking reading material for next year…

Oh, and I started this blog 🙂 but that was only recently so I didn’t have time to cross-post all my reviews. I just want to take the time to highlight some of my favourite reads of 2020! It’s a long list.

More of the gorgeous books I read this year (most were library or ebooks and audiobooks so… they can’t be on the picture)
  • Seanan McGuire: I want to highlight books, but really when it comes to Seanan, I absolutely loved every single one I read. I’ve continued the October Daye series, which is still so much fun even some 13 books in, and read more of the Wayward Children series which keeps blowing my mind by its complexity and joyful representation. 10/10 I’ll read any book of hers I can get my hands on.
  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. I’m a space junkie. I absolutely adored the Hidden Figures movie and this is that but with a side of science fiction/alternate history. It’s also really good to see Jewish characters centre stage, and that was weaved very well into the story. I need to read the next one!
  • Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett. I read it. I read it again with my Shakespeare book club (I’m a nerd, I know). It’s absolutely brilliant, it questions the colonialism and sexism inherent to The Tempest, it’s got magic, and f/f romance, and ghosts, and kickass young ladies. What more could you want?
  • All Systems Red (murderbot diaries) by Martha Wells. The main reason I’ve not read the whole series yet is that it’s really hard to get your hands on books 2 and 3 in paper… I want to know more about the sarcastic murder robot!
  • The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, by Olivia Waite. This book converted me into a romance reader. I just enjoyed every page of it, it’s beautifully crafted, it’s got astronomy and writing and embroidery and a great, complex f/f relationship, and I got book 2 as soon as I could find it. I’m currently savouring it very slowly to make it last. If I had to recommend one book out of all I read this year, this would be it.
  • Becky Chambers. Again, I read Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and Closed and Common Orbit but really I will read anything by Becky Chambers I can get my hands on. She hasn’t got nearly any books out there and I’m excited to see what’s coming out in 2021. If I had to describe them, I’d say space operas with a heart. It’s all about the found families, and I really dig it.
  • The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling. I don’t normally read horror but this book had me at the edge of my seat the whole time. I couldn’t put it down. It’s pretty claustrophobic, so fair warning, but it was just a little jewel and I wish I could read it again without knowing what’s going to happen. It got me really curious about spelunking too.
  • Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn. What if the French revolution… with magic? It’s basically the Scarlet Pimpernel without the pro-monarchy bs, it’s a well-balanced narrative on the Terror and how both nobles and revolutionaries were hurt, and all the people who really did not deserve what they got. It’s also got magic, and love, and queer women running around in pants saving the world their friends. Can’t wait for the next one!
  • The Invisible Library series, Genevieve Cogman. I read all the ones the library could get me and then promptly bought the next 3 at once… This is like the childhood dream come true for me, a magic library with all the books in the world(s). With added dragons, and fairies, and the possibility to make things happen with a word. They’re also more or less mystery books. There’s a lot going on in these, and they’re quick fun reads that always make my day.
  • This is How You Lose The Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Oh. My. God. This is one book that really deserved the hype around it. There was not NEARLY ENOUGH hype around it. It’s an absolutely brilliant, poetic, timey-whimey romance goodness.
  • Bitch Planet comics. I don’t… really know how to explain this one but it’s basically a futuristic patriarchal society that upholds some weird 80s gender bs, and women and gender non conforming and trans people go and just… kick the patriarchy’s ass. It comes with a trigger warnings attached but woah. absolutely brilliant.
  • Verona Comics, Jennifer Dugan. My other Shakespeare adaptation highlight of the year, absolutely brilliant. Full review here!
  • Big Black Stand at Attica, by Jared Reinmuth and Frank “Big Black” Smith. I’ve read quite a few Black comics, and books around the Black rights movement, but this one is just burned in my mind. It’s about the Attica Prison riot, an absolutely horrendous event for which there was no real justice. (TW: police violence, torture, murders)
  • Queen of Coin and Whispers, by Helen Corcoran. Look, my life doesn’t have nearly enough f/f fantasy in it. I’m not sure what I loved most, the political intrigues or the pining. Who am I kidding, it’s the pining. Full review here!
  • last but not least, Drowned Country by Emily Tesh. Great sequel to Silver in the Wood, and another writer added to my list of “will buy anything she writes”. Full review here!

There were so many more great books I read this year, but I tried to keep this list “short”. If you’ve read this far, I wish you a great end of year, and wish we all have a better year ahead!

Drowned Country

I’d been trying to get my hands on this book ever since… well, before it came out. Hodges Figgis (the Waterstones of Dublin) was unable to preorder it because it’s “a US publisher” for some reason, and other local bookshops didn’t have it on their website (lockdown and all that). I finally got it from The Portal Bookshop so many thanks to Lali for going through the trouble of posting to Ireland. Give them your business if you can!

Now, without further ado…

The Story

Even the Wild Man of Greenhollow can’t ignore a summons from his mother, when that mother is the indomitable Adela Silver, practical folklorist. Henry Silver does not relish what he’ll find in the grimy seaside town of Rothport, where once the ancient wood extended before it was drowned beneath the sea – a missing girl, a monster on the loose, or, worst of all, Tobias Finch, who loves him.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I don’t know what I was expecting as a follow-up to Silver in the Wood. I know I wanted more of that universe but it was also very self-contained. 
This novella picks up 2 years later, Silver and Tobias have broken up (I was very confused by that at first) and have to work together to investigate the disappearance of a young lady, probably kidnapped by a vampire.
Turns out the young lady has much more agency than you’d expect, and quite frankly she was the highlight of the book for me. Young Gothic woman wearing pants and bossing magical men around? Yes please! 
We discover more about Silver’s character, in ways that surprised me – and I found myself actually disliking him, but still loving what I was reading. It’s rare for me to dislike a protagonist and still love the book. 
Silver in the Wood gave us a glimpse of a fantastic world, but Drowned Country goes so much further to extend that universe with subtle and not so subtle worldbuilding, a whole Fairy dimension and lore, vampires and ghouls… And yet it’s not overwhelming, it’s just enough to make the story work.
It’s hard to talk about the ending without spoiling it, but I was pretty satisfied by it. I know it’s a duology but if Emily Tesh writes more in that universe, I’ll me giving her my money in a heartbeat!

Get the book!

Portal Bookshop (UK) | Amazon UK, US (affiliates) | Barnes & Noble (US)

Queen of Coin and Whispers

The Story

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I absolutely loved this book! I read the audiobook, and the narrator really made it come to life. I really enjoyed the court intrigues, the plotting, but also the relationship between the main characters. This novel had me at the summary, honestly, because you can’t say queer f/f romance in fantasy setting without me being interested – but it also fully delivers on its promise. 
I especially loved Xania – I was frustrated alongside her, I could relate to her ethical quandaries, and I loved especially the subplot where she went from “all romance novels suck” to “let me just read this all night”, it was very relatable. 
There’s some tough themes of justice, torture, and recovery, that I was not fully expecting, but I really did enjoy where this book went and how it ended. I’m rarely this satisfied so I don’t really have the words. Just go read it!

Get the book!

From the publisher | Amazon UK / US (affiliates) | Gutter Bookshop (Ireland) | B&N | Waterstones

Pemberley: Mr Darcy’s Dragon

The Story

England is overrun by dragons of all shapes and sizes. Most people are blissfully unaware of them and the Pendragon Treaty that keeps the peace between human and dragon kind.  Only those born with preternatural hearing, like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are able to hear and converse with dragonkind.

When the first firedrake egg laid in a century is stolen from Pemberley, the fragile dragon peace teeters on collapse. Darcy has no choice but to chase down the thief, a journey that leads him to quaint market town of Meryton and fellow Dragon Keeper, Elizabeth Bennet. 

Elizabeth shares a unique bond with dragons, stronger than anything Darcy has ever experienced. More than that, her vast experience and knowledge of dragon lore may be the key to uncovering the lost egg. . But Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy’s arrogance and doesn’t trust him to care properly for a precious baby firedrake. After all, he already lost the egg once. What’s to prevent it from happening again?

Can he win her trust and recover the stolen egg before it hatches and sends England spiraling back into the Dark Ages of Dragon War?

The Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I was given a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for a fair review.

I’ve read somewhere that all stories can be improved with the addition of dragons – even in a Regency setting, why not? And this is exactly what this book does.

I’m a longtime fan of Austen, and Pride and Prejudice especially, so it was fun to see dragons added to that setting. And to spot the quotes and references as they went

Most of the main story arc has been kept–meeting Mr Darcy, the different balls, Mr Wickham, etc.– but this is woven with the existence of dragons, who have their own wishes and rights to order their keepers.

I really loved that Lizzie was given a major role in this dragon business, despite being a woman. Some of the male characters were rather more misogynistic than in the book, and I found that a particularly surprising choice for Darcy, who’s also a rightful classist pr*ck the first time we meet him, perhaps moreso than the original. This has made it hard for me to get interested in his relationship with Lizzie, but he does improve as he learns that *shocker* women can be competent too.

I appreciate the fact that the dragon society is given a lot of complexity, and its own prejudices and issues, especially with the local dragon claiming his right to dictacte who Lizzie marries. It was also great to see Mary given a more interesting role, I always felt like Jane Austen did her an injustice, so it’s good to see that righted. It did not entirely make sense to me that some of the plot points from the original happened here too – like the miscommunication surrounding Wickham. I feel like there should have been shared knowledge making it impossible, and it was a bit annoying, but it did make sense in the long term.

There’s something to be said for the audiobook narrator, who went to great lengths to give characters–and dragons–their own voices. It was only a bit jarring to me that a book I often see as centred around women, and with Lizzie as the main character (though admittedly Darcy gets a good chunk of that too) is narrated by a man. But it was really immersive and I especially loved how the baby dragons sounded.

Overall I quite enjoyed it, I’m only sorry that this ends round the time that Darcy leaves Netherfields/ after the ball while Collins is still there, so even though the dragon story arc is complete, the main story is not, and having read Pride and Prejudice, it leaves me with the feeling that it’s uncomplete. Guess I’ll just have to read the next book!

Get the book!

Audible | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Rise of One

The story

As zombies roamed, the earth went quiet. It is as if every critter knew that the only way to stay safe was to lay silent.

Rise and his coven were running out of fresh blood to feed on. With only one human – albeit pampered beyond belief – at their disposal, there wasn’t enough food to go around. He must find other human survivors if they want to avoid succumbing to the blackness of oblivion.

When the human survivors he rescued were infiltrated by Warwolves, an ancient order of vampire hunters, Rise soon realizes the danger he brought upon his kind. With the full intent to survive, Rise must purge all threats to his vampire race.

The world, although decimated, is ripe for rule. If he wished to set history on a new path, he must triumph — starting with the rise of one individual.

The review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review

 This is one that is going to take me some time to digest.
First I’d like to say that I rarely read vampire books anymore, and zombie ones even less so, but there’s something intriguing about the two mixed together.
I was not entirely convinced at first, especially because I didn’t – still don’t – really know what to think of the main point of view character. And not everything the characters did made sense to me.
But the story threads all seem to pull together in the final act, and suddenly I couldn’t stop turning the page.
It’s inventive, there’s great morally grey characters who, although you may really disagree with them or think they’re assholes, really make you want to know what happens to them next. I’m not sure what I think of Rise, or Cypriot, or even what the hell was going on with Elaine and Marnie, and I feel like the author kept a lot hidden, perhaps for the next volume in the series. At the same time I really enjoyed the characters anyhow – and the fact that it was made clear when Rise was being callous and unaware of his privilege. Although I often find it hard to get interested in a book that’s got an unlikeable POV, and this was no exception – the first half or so was kinda hard for me to get into. If I’m being honest, what I really want next is a book centered on Salter and Annette.
In short: not really my kind of read, but still a good and interesting novel with a lot of potential for the next books. 

Get the book – it’s out today!

Amazon & Kindle |

November 2020 Reads

After trying to read 30 books in 31 days for #OcTBRChallenge, I took somewhat of a break in November. Still there were a few good reads and I’m pretty happy with what I got!

The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman : Third in the Invisible Library series, and still quite funny and enjoyable. I ordered the next one from the library the second I put it down (well, I tried – the library was on lockdown and not taking hold requests…)

Night of the Dragon, by Julie Kagawa: Last of the trilogy and the big disappointment of this month. Too bad because I really enjoyed the first two, but some things in the last one really did not sit well with me so I wouldn’t recommend any of it in the end.

Girl of Hawthorn and Glass, by Adan Jerreat-Poole: A great fairy tale / contemporary fantasy novel that reminded me a lot of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children. Probably my favourite read of the month! (see full review here)

The Four Profound Weaves, by R. B. Lemberg: Long-expected (by me, at least – i had to order it over from the UK), the writing style was not really my, well, style, but I loved the characters and universe. A good queer read.

Murder Most Unladylike, by Robin Stevens: I kept hearing about it, so I just had to see what the fuss was about! Fun middle grade mystery novel featuring girls in a 1930s British school, it was really enjoyable even as someone way out of target range. The fuss is merited!

Thief of Time, by Terry Pratchett: Part of my attempt to finish Discworld at some point in the near future. I still absolutely love Susan, she’s the highlight of the Death books for me. However, there’s some of the humour that’s a bit dated and, well, cringy (all the fake-Chinese-sounding-names-that-are-puns-in-English, I’m looking at you).

Unmasked by the Marquess, by Cat Sebastian: Every time I read a romance, I get more convinced that I need to read more romance. This was no exception. Fun, hot, gripping plot with two bi leads, one of them nonbinary – in a regency setting. What’s not to like?