I had a ton of fun with this last year, so of course I jumped on it again! Basically a round-up of the last six months of my reading!
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU READ?
By this point last year I’d read 109 books, so all things considered I don’t think I’m doing too badly. I did raise my reading challenge from last year’s 175 to 200, and I’m behind schedule on that, but I’m not worried yet.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN READING?
I don’t think anyone is surprised that Fantasy dominated my reading – it always does, and I don’t see that changing! Although I have started reading more SciFi than I used to.
This looks pretty good, but bear in mind that most of the authors listed under Marginalised are still white. I’m mostly reading books by queer, nonbinary, and/or nuerodivergent authors…but I’m still pretty awful at reading books by BIPOC authors.
This is the first time I’ve counted DNFs in one of these charts, and I’m not that surprised to see that it’s almost a quarter of the pie. I’m very, very quick to DNF books; if I don’t care how the story will end by 25% on my kindle, I quit. There’s just too much to read and not enough time to waste on books that don’t interest me!
And a high DNF rate means that my book ratings stay pretty high; of course they do, because I’m only finishing the books I enjoy, or the ones I feel obligated to finish, like certain ARCs. So no surprises here!
BEST BOOK/S YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2021
I only really READ good books, so of course there are a lot of bests!!! Sorry, I know I’m only supposed to pick a maximum of 5 or something, but…let’s be honest, that’s never gonna happen.
All of these were amazing, and it’s kind of funny to me because I don’t see a unifying theme. I don’t think of myself as a very eclectic reader – I just read the things I like! – but when you stick a lot of my faves side-by-side, it’s hard to find a pattern. If you spot one, let me know!
BEST SEQUEL/S YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2021
All five of these were absolutely incredible – although strictly speaking, Paladin’s Strength and The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry are both standalone sequels: you don’t have to have read the previous books to enjoy these ones. (Although I recommend you DO read them, because otherwise you’re depriving yourself of some fabulous reads.) Call of the Bone Ships is the only one that didn’t finish its respective series (although I would not be surprised if we get more books set in the worlds of Paladin’s Strength and Ruthless, I’m almost positive they won’t be tied to the characters in these books) and gods almighty, I seriously cannot WAIT to get my hands on book three. WHAT. WHAT THE HELLS, BARKER. HOW DARE.
NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET, BUT WANT TO
I’ve dipped my toes in each of these, but had to put them aside when other books demanded my attention. Violet Ghosts in particular I’m a bit worried might be too dark for me right now, but I still really want to read it. The one I want to get to the most is probably Fireheart Tiger, the beginning of which was so utterly beautiful I’m about ready to carve up the clock to get time to read it!
MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE/S FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR
Some of these I’ve been lucky enough to have as ARCs, but I’m still dying for them to release into the world so everyone can know how amazing they are! And the rest, of course, I’m simply dying to get my hands on.
Joanne Harris has written some seriously beautiful books, and I love her poetic, fairytale-esque prose, but Honeycomb was just so full of bugs!!! I’m shallow as fuck, okay, I want my fantasy to be PRETTY, and crowns covered in a thousand eyes and woodworm feasts and whatever else just squick me out. No thank you. I might give it another go at some point, but…probably not.
Threadneedle is yet another reminder not to pay attention to the hype: the UK publishing industry was buzzing about it being the ‘fantasy debut of the year’, but the writing was so dull and blunt. Nope.
Love Bites was so boring and mundane!!! I thought I was getting a sapphic rom-com with a vampire girlfriend, but no, it was mostly just miserable and banal and angsty in a very undramatic way. The whole book had ‘life is miserable’ vibes, and then the magic-wand-fix ending didn’t work for me at all. Sigh.
The Centaur’s Wife was even more grim, with loveless marriages and the aftermath of an apocalypse and people starving and the earth deciding it wants to kill humanity and a scene that I think was meant to be centaur/human sex which was very random and came out of nowhere??? EVEN WORSE, it had one of those ‘hopeful’ endings which are not real endings and which are not really very fucking hopeful when you think about them for more than 0.2 seconds. URGH.
The rest I’ve either reviewed, or written about elsewhere.
The Year’s Midnight was quiet and gentle and only sneakily fantasy – the MC is a psychiatric doctor who believes his patient’s stories are delusions, but because it’s Neuemeier we know that she really is from another world, and everything she’s saying is true. Nothing obviously magical happens within this first book, although we do hear about past magics via the recitation of those ‘delusions’. It’s not a premise that I thought would interest me, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and then when I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. It was also a surprise in a more literal sense, in that I somehow missed that Neumeier was working on a new trilogy at all!
The Charmed Wife is a wry and sometimes cynical retelling of Cinderella, very clever with just enough Strange, mixing fairytales and the urbane in ways that are delightful and unexpected. I still can’t remember why I picked this up, and it’s nothing like what I usually read, but it was so much fun! I ended up loving it.
For Real isn’t spec fic at all, one of the only books I’ve read so far this year with no SFF elements. It’s a contemporary romance with a nicely realistic and unsterotypical take on BDSM, challenging a lot of the preconceptions and assumptions that even members of the community often hold/make. And it’s Alexis Hall, so of course it’s ridiculously wonderful in every way, from prose to cast.
Neophek Gloss blew me away, and I think is the reason I’ve been much more willing to try sci-fi this year; it wowed me to the point that my wariness against sci-fi has eased a lot. The sheer amount of imagination that went into it delights me, and the whole time I was reading, I felt like the author’s love of sci-fi was just emanating from the pages, which is something that’s not always so obvious. I’m not sure what I was expecting – or whose review convinced me to give it a try – but it definitely shook up my assumptions about modern sci-fi in the best way.
The Queen’s Weapons was a beautiful surprise to me, as a long-term fan of the series – mostly because I’ve always felt that the series wasn’t queer-friendly, and Queen’s Weapons definitively squashed that. Even if it didn’t also take a whole bunch of directions I wasn’t expecting, it left me with ALL THE FEELS.
NEW FAVOURITE AUTHOR/S (DEBUTS OR NEW TO YOU)
I haven’t finished reading Light From Uncommon Stars or The All-Consuming World…but I really don’t need to to know that Ryka Aoki and Cassandra Khaw are going on my auto-buy list. (Although I may skip Khaw’s second novel, which is horror…it sounds far too scary for me!) Neophek Gloss is Hansen’s debut, but was out last year, so it’s both a debut AND new-to-me. Velocity of Revolution is my first Maresca book, just as Helm of Midnight is the first thing I’ve read by Lostetter – but they won’t be my last! I’m going to comb through their backlists very thoroughly.
And I think the rest are all 2021 debuts 🙂
UNDERRATED GEMS YOU’VE DISCOVERED RECENTLY
I picked up Travel Light after Amal El-Mohtar sang its praises. It was published in 1952, so it’s not that odd that it’s not well-known these days – but according to El-Mohtar (and several other big names) it didn’t get the love it deserved even in its own time. Which is such a shame! Because it’s this beautiful, clever, sneaky, thoughtful kind-of-fairytale about a princess raised by dragons who chooses to live up to Odin’s challenge. I loved how mythology from different cultures was mixed up together, and how well Mitchison managed to balance a kind of cynicism with sweetness. A really lovely read!
Dawnhounds – boy, I got lucky, because I bought a copy just before it was taken off the market (the first edition was self-published, but now it’s been picked up by a trad publisher!!! I’m so happy for Stronach). I don’t remember who pointed me in its direction, but I’m deeply grateful they did, because Dawnhounds is just breathtaking, both in how gorgeous the prose is and in how imaginative and unique the worldbuilding and story are. The magic system reminded me a bit of quantum physics (as understood by us non-scientists, anyway!) but there’s all these sci-fi elements as well, and queer pirate queens, and!!! It’s just ridiculously brilliant, okay??? You bet I’ll be shouting from the rooftops when it becomes available again, because everyone needs to read it!
Tessa Gratton got some attention with her recent Innis Lear books, which are Shakespeare retellings, but she’s been on my radar for ages as someone who writes wonderfully strange, outside-the-box fantasy. Her book Nightshine was one of my faves of last year and one of my faves EVER, so this year I decided to give Strange Grace another try. The first time I read it I couldn’t get through it, but this time I couldn’t put it down. It’s a dark fantasy of a valley where everything is perfect so long as they sacrifice a boy every seven years, and the teenage threesome who break the system down. Strange Grace doesn’t even pretend to be a love triangle; it’s very obviously polyamory from the start, and it’s just dark enough to be enthralling without giving me nightmares (I am, if you remember, a total wimp when it comes to horror). More people need to read it!
REREADS THIS YEAR
I reread 28 books so far this year, quite a few so that I was ready to read their sequels, but some just because it’s been a long time since I first read the books in question and I missed them. Not going to list them here, or I’ll be here all week!
BOOK/S THAT MADE YOU CRY
Like I said above, The Queen’s Weapons gave me All The Feels – the Black Jewels series has been a major part of my life since I was far too young to have read them, and there’s something unspeakably painful – in a good way! – about a world that’s meant so much to me finally saying that yes, I’d have a place there if I wanted one. (And if it were possible to hop into books…you know what I mean, okay?)
Under the Whispering Door is a book about death and grieving and regret and making peace with your mistakes, so yes, it made me cry. I suspect it’s going to make most readers cry, just because Klune is gentle but doesn’t hold back at all when writing about subjects that are really, really tough for most of us.
BOOK/S THAT MADE YOU HAPPY
What can I say? These weren’t all feel-good books or anything, but they all delighted me deeply – even if some of them also had me biting my nails at times!
MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU’VE BOUGHT SO FAR THIS YEAR
I don’t buy physical books very often – my fibromyalgia is particularly bad in my hands, meaning I can’t hold or carry physical books. (Some days I can’t even manage my kindle.) I did pre-order a copy of Subterranean Press’ edition of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but that’s not here yet!
WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR?
A fair few, but hopefully not an insurmountable number!
And there you have it, a full round-up of what and how I’ve been reading the last six months! Here’s to the next six being even better!