July was going to be my month of reading and reviewing all the books, as I had two weeks off. Instead, it turned into an unexpected reading slump and blogging hiatus as the heat dialled up and going away meant getting an awful lot of real-world things done ahead of time. Our trip to the Highlands meant we escaped the worst of the heatwave, although sadly we had to come back a day early following a confirmed close contact / self-isolation ping. Pandemics, eh.
I’ve never seen Scotland so green, its skies so blue, its seas so calm (we usually go up in autumn and winter). We had an amazing time – spent mostly outdoors with rarely another soul in sight, meaning my plan to get lots of reading done wasn’t realised. It’s hard to have any regrets! I can claim a literary connections for some of our rambles: the house on the left (Barnhill) is the farm on Jura where George Orwell finished 1984; the sea view on the right features the Waverley, the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world (here chugging up the Kyles of Bute). Look, I said they were vague connections…
This month was a reading rollercoaster. While The Splinter King didn’t work very well for me (too many storylines, too little tension), She Who Became The Sun was always going to be an almost impossible act to follow – a virtuoso debut that shows you don’t need likeable characters to craft a tense military epic with enough tangled emotions and stunning visuals to make Zhang Yimou weep. The Witness For The Dead is its polar opposite: a tale whose driving force is compassion, making it entirely heartwarming in spite of all the murder and church intrigue (plus it has the most adorable ship available in port). By contrast, Celtic YA fantasy Sweet Black Waves neatly ticked every box for why I usually avoid YA fantasy romance. I don’t know if its doing what it does well, because I don’t enjoy what it’s doing at all. The Difficult Loves of Maria Makiling – Wayne Santos’s contribution to the Solaris Satellite novellas – wasn’t really my cup of tea stylistically, but I enjoyed the wide-eyed mash-up of Filipino mythology, contemporary geekdom and Canadianisms.
- She Who Became The Sun – Shelley Parker-Chan ★★★★★
- The Splinter King – Mike Brooks ★★★
- The Witness For The Dead – Katherine Addison ★★★★☆
- Sweet Black Waves – Kristina Pêrez ★★
- Bite-size Books: The Difficult Loves of Maria Makiling – Wayne Santos ★★★
Stacking the shelves
I resisted the HarperCollins sale (yes, I was proud), so this month’s acquisitions are limited to the monthly Goldsboro box; an irresistible Kindle deal on The Starless Sea, which I’ve been meaning to pick up since it came out; and ARCs of The Bone Ship’s Wake (to sate my curiosity of what Joron and the gullaime will do next and keep me from achieving 80% on NetGalley) and Kings Of A Dead World (Jamie Mollart’s intriguing debut). Place your bets on how long I can resist reading the last two…
My goal – always – is to read diversely and to love every book. I decided not to set any particular targets for my reading this year – no Goodreads Challenge or even Game of Books – although I continue to monitor my reading mix.
Books completed: 43 | DNFs: 2
- 6 off the shelf (i.e. not bought in 2021)
- 20 ARCs
- 13 bite-size (excl. short stories)
- 6 audio reads
Authors: 12 male (27%) / 23 female (51%) / 5 trans, enby or genderqueer (11%) + 5 collaborations (11%)
- Authors of colour: 15 (33%)
- LGBTQIA authors: 15 (33%)
- Non-US / UK based authors: 5 (11%)
BookSpin: 2 read | 3 WIP | 1 DNF
What’s coming up?
August will be focused primarily on ARCs and Subjective Chaos novellas – I’ve nominally got two left to read, but I may have to reread the whole category to come to a decision. We’ll be choosing our finalists at the end of the month, so keep your eyes peeled for further announcements in early September.
Autumn means Spooktastic Reads and SciFiMonth, so I’ll be getting my plotting hat out. Watch out for a sign up announcement for SciFiMonth in the next few weeks. As usual, Spooktastic Reads will be much more casual – no sign-up, giveaways or challenges, just 13 days to dip into horror, ghost stories, and darker-tinged fantasy in the run up to Hallowe’en.
My biggest goal is to catch up on reviews – I am so close to a clean conscience (single digits outstanding) and an 80% NetGalley rating (3 reads/reviews without making requests). I can do this. I can do this! And then I can request How High We Can Go In The Dark…
How was your July?