February Redux: levelling up

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

February is my birthday month, so I levelled up as a human being by learning how to throw pots on a wheel and trying out yoga (both of which went pretty well and I’d like to do more of). Unfortunately the month has ended in global and family drama, so I am mostly offline at present and may continue to be an intermittent visitor over the next week or two.

Reading Round-up

I enjoyed my February reading significantly more than my January tally. The last few stories of Sinopticon did a lot more for me than the previous batch and then Planetfall knocked my socks off, both for playing with my expectations and for being a lovely piece of craft. I followed that up with This Is Our Undoing, now a Subjective Chaos nominee and an early contender for favourite book of the year that not only asks what we’re willing to do for love, but whether we ought to do those things. In spite of being set in a bruising near-future of spiralling climate change and resistance to fascist regimes, it manages not to be hopelessly bleak – a truly remarkable debut.

Next up was the finale of a beloved series: The God of Lost Words sees the dysfunctional found family of the Unwritten Wing try to save the whole Library from the afterlives that host it – and come to terms with what the future means for them personally. I haven’t squeezed in a review yet due to family matters taking over (TL;DR it’s a great finale; I am full of feelings), but AJ Hackwith was kind enough to swing by the blog for a Six Degrees of Separation challenge.

With Subjective Chaos Kind of Panic setting in (yes, I’m overcommitted), I dived into some nominees to end the month. & This Is How To Stay Alive grapples beautifully with grief and memory, with an execution as poetic as it is deeply-felt. I was sadly underwhelmed by Los Nefilim, a trio of novellas that didn’t live up to the potential of their epic pitch (gay angelkin fight Nazis), with a breathless focus on plot at the expense of coherent character and world-building. It did just enough that I will continue to the novels to see if it all works better given more room to breathe.

  • Planetfall – Emma Newman ★★★★☆
  • This Is Our Undoing – Lorraine Wilson ★★★★★
  • The God Of Lost Words – AJ Hackwith ★★★★
  • Bite-size Books:
    • & This Is How To Stay Alive – Shingai Njeri Kagunda ★★★★
    • Los Nefilim – T Frohock ★★★
    • Sinopticon – translated & edited by Xueting Christine Ni ★★★★
  • Audio Read: Nemesis Games – James S A Corey ★★★★★

Additional Reviews

Less reviewing action this month as I focused on Subjective Chaos and Wyrd and Wonder activities. Expect some mini review round-ups as I dive into more Subjective Chaos nominees, once I can grab a quiet space to marshal my thoughts (and type them up).

Stacking the shelves

I opted out of Goldsboro this month because I still struggle to generate any enthusiasm for most epic fantasy debuts (so the synopsis for The Justice of Kings leaves me absolutely cold) and treated myself to physical copies of the Our Lady of Endless Worlds novellas instead. The rest of my haul came in the form of birthday presents (yes, I’m considering any ARC that landed within a few days of my birthday a present, shh).

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 and flip the percentages of reading recent acquisitions vs off the shelf (so I am making very careful decisions about what books to buy and ARCs to request).

I’m loving using Storygraph – while it has a few usability kinks to work out, it’s so much faster and nicer to use than Goodreads I have zero regrets about making the switch. The ability to easily track reading challenges as a community activity has been the icing on the cake!

Books completed: 6 | DNFs: 1*

  • 4 off the shelf (i.e. not acquired in 2022)
  • 6 ARCs
  • 7 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 2 audio reads

* 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: 5 male (31%) / 9 female (56%) / 1 trans, enby or genderqueer (6%) + 1 collaboration (6%)

  • Authors of colour: 5 (31%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 2 (13%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 2 (13%)
  • Small press / independent: 7 (44%)

Reading Challenges

I’m mostly furthering my challenges by accident (and with Subjective Chaos kicking in, I won’t even be doing that for the next couple of months), but I did make some progress this month:

#TidyTheTBR with Runalong Womble | Join in on Storygraph

This month’s prompt was Valentine’s Day Gift – a book by a beloved author that you should show the love it deserves. I picked The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, but I haven’t fitted it into my reading rotation yet so I’ll pay this prompt forward to complete later in the year.

Bookish Valhalla Adult SFF Backlist Challenge (#ASFBB22) | Join in on Storygraph

This month’s prompt was Time – I doubled up as memory and the sins of the past are central themes in Planetfall, and & This Is How To Stay Alive explores ideas of memory and time travel.

There’s Always Room For One More Backlist Challenge (Contrition of a Bad SF Fan)

I’m in the game! The bar is that books must be older than this blog, which Planetfall is… by about three weeks. Shh. It fills the Move Over Mister (not written by a bloke) prompt.

…and yes, this means I have now set this challenge up on Storygraph if you fancy joining in.

The Great Series Read Project

This month saw the publication of The God of Lost Words by AJ Hackwith, which allowed me to complete Hell’s Library! However, I added the Planetfall series to the project, so it’s one in, one out.

Score: 1 / 3 completed | 0 WIP

BookForager’s Picture Prompt Challenge

No chance to update my prompt image as I’m travelling without my laptop, but I’m adding two to my score: The God of Lost Words is set in a library and features characters escaping the pages of their books, so I’m claiming the Ex Libris owl; and the overwhelming sense in This Is Our Undoing of racing against the clock / time running out seems like a great fit for the watch. I guess I could consider Planetfall for the planet, but I’ll sit on this for now in anticipation of future SF reads.

Prompts completed: The occult: Piranesi | Death: How High We Go In The Dark | Rocket: Far From The Light Of Heaven | Ex libris: The God of Lost Words | The house: What Abigail Did Last Summer | Watch: This Is Our Undoing

I am dropping BookSpin this year – it’s a lot of fun, but I really do have enough going on!

What’s coming up?

Beyond focusing my reading on female authors, I didn’t get to be an active participant in February She Wrote. Instead, preparations for the shiny new Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards website and the selection of our 2022 nominees took center stage. As usual, I now have a stacked reading list to keep me busy and distracted until the summer – we expect to announce our finalists in early July.

Beyond the chaos, I don’t have any big plans between now and Easter, but Wyrd and Wonder will most definitely be back in May for the fifth time! Sign up is now open if you want to put your name on the rolls and enter the giveaway. Watch this space next weekend for more information on what we’ll be getting up to in May…

How was your February?