October Redux: autumn break

A pair of burgundy boots rest on a bookshelf of fantasy novels

October has been a delightful month of downtime, kicked off with a long weekend catching up with my Mum in the Peak District and continued with two weeks exploring Ireland. It has been deliberately low-key, which extended to making reading and reviewing aspirational (if not quite making not doing either entirely guilt-free). My conclusion? I’d like some more time off please…

Over in meatspace, I didn’t get a job I was interested in but I did get contracts that will see me through until Christmas, so more time off is unlikely in the immediate term. Still, I’m hoping winter will let me hunker down to spend quality time on books and blog as we at least seem to have cleared most of our immediate life admin.

Reading Round-up

October was a month of very specific plans but very little intention to hold to them, and another month in which I hit the mid-month mark having finished just one book. This was partly because I was juggling several and enjoying very few of them so it was more tempting to do other things than read (on the plus side, I reviewed a bunch of recent reads instead!)

The Green Man’s Challenge is another reliably entertaining instalment in the adventures of Dan Mackmain, which was set to be my book of the month until The Space Between Worlds came along and stole its thunder. Micaiah Johnson’s SF debut is a well-paced thriller that makes the most of its central conceit, deftly delivering plot and character developments such that I struggled to put it down. Too Like The Lightning gets the backhanded compliment of being the most effort I’ve put into reading a book all year. A million thanks to reading buddy Mayri for sticking with me; I’d have DNFed without her and it is a fascinating read so I’m glad I didn’t – but it gets 2 stars for enjoyment and a slightly resentful 4 stars for ambition. The Secret Skin is one of this year’s crop of Neon Hemlock novellas: a Gothic tale that twists classic tropes, but which felt rushed to me. For me, this needed double the page count to capitalise on its atmospheric ingredients rather than spilling its secrets almost as soon as they were hinted at.

  • The Green Man’s Challenge – Juliet McKenna ★★★★
  • Too Like the Lightning – Ada Palmer ★★(★★)
  • The Space Between Worlds – Micaiah Johnson ★★★★☆
  • Bite-size Books: The Secret Skin – Wendy N Wagner ★★★

Additional Reviews

October reads aside, I’m down to just 3 pending reviews (2 of which are half-written), so I’ve set my goal firmly on finishing the year with a clear conscience. Stretch goal – as always – is to achieve 80% on NetGalley, which is tantalisingly close: just 1 more book to read and review, which history suggests means I’ll go on a request spree any day now…

Stacking the shelves

My foraging into classic SF continued this month with John Christopher’s climate apocalypse novel The Death of Grass (brought to my attention by Calmgrove, thank you sir), while an ARC of The Burning God by RF Kuang means I can complete Rin’s journey this year. I’ve heard mixed reviews about The Actual Star by Monica Byrne, but I am curious enough not to pass on this month’s gorgeous Goldsboro SFF edition. Also in this month were my pre-orders for the second batch of Neon Hemlock novellas – The Secret Skin by Wendy N Wagner (no sooner received than read) and Shingai Njeri Kaguna’s time travel novella & This Is How To Stay Alive. Last up, Hard Reboot by Django Wexler which I thought I already owned and is my first SciFiMonth read.

Reading statistics

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: 59 | DNFs: 3

  • 7 off the shelf (i.e. not bought in 2021)
  • 26 ARCs
  • 18 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 9 audio reads

Authors: 16 male (26%) / 30 female (48%) / 8 trans, enby or genderqueer (13%) + 8 collaborations (13%)

  • Authors of colour: 23 (37%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 22 (36%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 6 (10%)

BookSpin: 2 read | 2 WIP | 2 DNF

What’s coming up?

SciFiMonth starts tomorrow! I don’t feel I’ve done a particularly good job of promoting it in advance this year and I can’t promise I’ll be all over social media during the month (2021 is hard, folks; I’m doing my best), but I’m so excited to see and share what the crew gets up to. I’ll be focusing on ARCs and novellas and a buddy reread of Dune, and I’m kinda hoping I get so engaged that I just keep reading SF all winter – my reading has been fantasy-dominated this year (confirmed by this year’s reading stats for once, rather than being one of those entirely false impressions I sometimes build up over the course of a year).

How was your October?