January Redux: remote reading

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

I saw in the new year in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere and got to spend the first week of January tucked up with books and blog or tramping around in the snow. It felt indulgent and restorative, a lovely (and rather unfamiliar) note on which to start 2022.

That said, I still started January by bouncing off books like a pinball; I’m not holding that against any of the books I didn’t finish, it just took me a while to settle. ARCs and challenges came to the rescue as I had a reason to stick with them (see, signing up to half a dozen challenges is a good thing!) and I was grateful that my challenges all have generously broad prompts to give me plenty of mood reading wiggle room.

Reading Round-up

Restless reader that I was, most of my January reads didn’t get me excited. How High We Go In The Dark was highly anticipated, but didn’t hit the mark in spite of some good world-building; Inscape and Far From The Light of Heaven are competent thrillers, but I didn’t get a lot out of them (so maybe I’ll just avoid thrillers a while longer). The big surprises were how little I liked the latest novella from Becky Chambers (I found A Psalm For The Wild-Built preachy and its protagonist annoying); and how much I liked Susanna Clarke’s science-fantasy Piranesi.

  • How High We Go In The Dark – Sequoia Nagamatsu ★★☆
  • Inscape – Louise Carey ★★★☆
  • Far From The Light Of Heaven – Tade Thompson ★★★☆
  • Bite-size Books:
    • What Abigail Did That Summer – Ben Aaronovitch ★★★☆
    • A Psalm For The Wild-Built – Becky Chambers ★★☆
  • Audio Read: Piranesi – Susanna Clarke ★★★★

I gave Kings of a Dead World by Jamie Mollart my best shot, but it too was a DNF for me. This is a high-concept dystopia, but 100 pages in it hadn’t explained how the world actually worked, and I was rapidly developing a strong dislike of the protagonists without developing a balancing interest in their circumstances. Those with more patience – and who are less distracted by world-building questions such as but who is producing the food and electricity and if nobody works, what are the Janitors trading not to mention how are the drugs being manufactured (let alone administered) – may make more headway. I hate Basil Exposition, but a concept like “everyone sleeps for three months in four” needs some foundations to sustain my suspension of disbelief.

Additional Reviews

I started the year with the second half of my now apparently annual tradition of Twelve Days of Bookmas. I didn’t quite clear my review backlog, but I came close (and I did finally get back to – and have subsequently stayed at – 80% on NetGalley, hooray!)

Stacking the shelves

Book cover: Age of Ash - Daniel Abraham

After December’s book flood, I start 2022 with the intention of continuing to request a minimal number of ARCs and to limit my acquisitions. That goal will no doubt go up in smoke in February (it’s my birthday, and there’s some books due out for it that I’m very excited to read), but I’ve started the year on the right foot at least.

Reading statistics

My primary goal – always – is to read diversely and to love every book. This year, I plan to focus on reading what I already own (without any draconian measures like a book buying / ARC request ban) and flip the percentages of reading recent acquisitions vs off the shelf.

While I enjoyed target-free reading in 2021, I am setting targets for 2022 – mostly to help me reset my reading-adjacent habits. Specifically, I want to ditch Goodreads; I’ll be focusing on Storygraph instead, so I am setting goals to push me into updating it regularly until using it becomes second nature. Still, I’m setting very achievable goals because I loved finishing 2021 without feeling I needed to go cram in xx more reads to hit an arbitrary target.

Books completed: 6 | DNFs: 1*

  • 2 off the shelf (i.e. not acquired in 2022)
  • 3 ARCs
  • 2 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 1 audio read

* I only track DNFs where I made significant in-roads into the book – rapid bounces don’t count. Percentages are calculated across both completed reads and declared DNFs.

I track my author mix to keep me honest and I share it for those who are curious. This year, I’m also tracking publishers to see how many books are from small presses / independents (I may try to distinguish between the two, as Bloomsbury operate on a very different scale to, say, Rebellion – let alone Louise Walters Books! As my reading will be dominated by what’s on my shelf, this will set a handy benchmark for what may become a target in 2023…

Authors: 4 male (57%) / 2 female (29%) / 1 trans, enby or genderqueer (14%) + 0 collaborations (0%)

  • Authors of colour: 2 (29%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 1 (14%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 0 (0%)
  • Small press / independent: 3 (43%)

Reading Challenges

Start as you mean to continue: I’ve got half a dozen challenges nominally declared, and I only progressed two of them. Just so we’re clear on how seriously I take these…

#TidyTheTBR with Runalong Womble

This month’s prompt was New Beginnings – the book most recently added to your TBR. I got a stack over Christmas, and read What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.

Joining in? Did you know you can track your progress on Storygraph?

Bookish Valhalla Adult SFF Backlist Challenge (#ASFBB22)

This month’s prompt was Winter – my reading didn’t take me to colder climates in the end, so I’ll carry this prompt forward to a future month. Is that against the rules? No idea.

Joining in? Did you know you can track your progress on Storygraph?

There’s Always Room For One More Backlist Challenge (Contrition of a Bad SF Fan) – no progress this month, as I didn’t take part in Vintage Sci Fi Month in the end

Score: 0 read | 0 WIP | 0 bingos

…and yes of course I’m now considering joining the party and setting up a Storygraph book challenge to track this! Maybe once I actually read a book for it though.

The Great Series Read Project – no progress this month

Score: 0 / 3 completed | 0 WIP

BookSpin – I didn’t take part this month as there was a lot going on already

Score: 0 read | 0 WIP | 0 DNF

But wait, while I was busy making no progress, I added another challenge!

BookForager’s Picture Prompt Challenge is just too good to resist, although I reserve the right to change my answer to any prompt in subsequent months and shuffle things about (because these prompts are brilliantly open to interpretation, and How High We Go In The Dark can be deployed for about half of them).

Prompts completed for now: The occult: Piranesi | Death: How High We Go In The Dark | Rocket: Far From The Light Of Heaven | The house: What Abigail Did Last Summer

What’s coming up?

February is my birthday, but I’m making no plans this year – I will take the day off (I hate working on my birthday) and probably go for a long walk before settling in with a book and some cake.

In reading and blogging plans, February is February She Wrote hosted by LiteratureNLoFi so my mini goal for the month is to only read and review books written by women.

How was your January?