April Redux: not my favourite

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

April flew past in a blur of obligation and dismay, as I interviewed for a new job and continued to worry about a very sick family member whilst rather busy at work. The combination put a dent in my reading and blogging, so I end the month in a bit of a tizz over Wyrd and Wonder prep. May will certainly be an adventure… just perhaps not the one I had in mind!

Reading Round-up

April reading felt lacklustre (although I suspect some of that was the reader rather than the reading), with a string of decent but not stellar reads and 2 DNFs.

Native Tongue is a mid-80s feminist dystopia with a focus on language as a form of resistance; the conceit is brilliant, but the execution at times so absurd I wondered whether I should have approached it as satire. Still, I feel a little bad for Elgin; a linguist, she hoped fans would want to learn her fictional language, and even developed teaching materials for it. Elvish and Klingon remain significantly more successful.

The Collarbound is an upcoming fantasy debut that I shall review in full next month. I liked the world-building and slow unpacking of characters, but there is an awful lot of set-up and very little pay-off in this first volume. Recommended for readers who enjoy multi-volume epic fantasy.

Rereading Babylon’s Ashes ended up harder work than expected; the bajillion POVs wore thin this time around, although I respect what Corey was trying to achieve. Thank heavens for Michio Pa, who only improves on further acquaintance.

I closed out the month by refocusing on Subjective novella nominees. Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters recasts the Little Mermaid as queer SF, with our heroine requiring the assistance of the World Witch when her land-bound beloved and his people are struck by a plague. It didn’t quite work for me, although it has persuaded me to look into more of Ogden’s work. A Manslaughter of Crows is a feast of world-building as pirate culture collides with Imperial Rome in a magical city where dragon-enhanced cats set out to foil a plot to rig elections. Hilarious if exposition heavy.

  • Native Tongue – Suzette Haden Elgin ★★★
  • The Collarbound – Rebecca Zahabi ★★★☆
  • Bite-size Books:
    • Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters – Aimee Ogden ★★★☆
    • A Manslaughter of Crows – Chris Willson ★★★
  • Audio Read: Babylon’s Ashes – James S A Corey ★★★★ (spoilers in review)

Of the 2 DNFs, my biggest struggle was The Carnival of Ash, which wasn’t at all what I expected. After wading through 50 pages of a young poet being melodramatic because the world doesn’t revolve around his literary ambitions after all, I called it a DNF and moved on. When I’m in the mood for a slow faux-historical novel it may suit me better.

The Faerie Thorn is a collection of original fairy tales by Jane Talbot, the next candidate for my Bitesize Reads project. Unfortunately, Talbot’s use of language – while it could make for brilliant oral storytelling – grated on me as written word; I DNFed halfway through the second story as my dentist has recently warned me I need to stop grinding my teeth if I want to keep them all.

Additional Reviews

I did at least get some reviews written over the course of the month, making some minor inroads on my backlog and bringing me up to date on my ARCs. I’ve got a few more fantasy reviews in progress for May, which is good as that’s (checks notes) tomorrow (eek).

Stacking the shelves

If March was all about ARCs, I began April by grabbing copies of books I already own in other formats (not shown here), and promptly got led astray into just buying books. You know how that works, I’m sure. On the plus side, this includes cheeky sale copies of Green Rider and One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I’ve been meaning to try for years. As I gave up my Goldsboro SFF membership this month, Wild And Wicked Things will be my last spiffy hardcover from this subscription. I found Goldsboro SFF selections physically beautiful but both very mainstream and almost always fantasy (with far too many ’first in a debut series’ titles that left me wondering if I really wanted to spend £20 on matching sequels – which I never did). I’m looking forward to putting the money towards intriguing small press titles instead. To get things started, I ended the month by pre-ordering the 2022 Solaris Satellites (not shown; I’ll include them when they arrive in the post), as these once again look amazing.

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).

Books completed: 27 | DNFs: 4*

  • 7 off the shelf (i.e. not acquired in 2022)
  • 12 ARCs
  • 10 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 4 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: 10 male (32%) / 16 female (52%) / 3 trans, enby or genderqueer (10%) + 2 collaborations (6%)

  • Authors of colour: 9 (29%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 7 (23%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 3 (10%)
  • Small press / independent: 13 (42%)

Reading Challenges

Challenges took a back seat this month, as neither ARCs nor Subjective Chaos books came from my backlist.

#TidyTheTBR with Runalong Womble | Join in on Storygraph

This month we’re invited to start a new series that’s sat on our backlog. I’ll have to come back to this later in the year; I wasn’t reading enough to squeeze in a lot of backlog this month.

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

I’m stretching the boundaries a leetle bit for this month’s theme of Hidden Places: Native Tongue is all about oppressed women secretly defining a new women-only language to carve out a space for themselves in a patriarchal world. An intellectual hidden place, if you will.

There’s Always Room For One More Backlist Challenge | Join in on Storygraph

Prompts completed: Move Over Mister: Planetfall | Written in the 80s: Native Tongue

The Great Series Read Project | No progress | Goal: 1 / 3 completed

BookForager’s Picture Prompt Challenge

I could claim some of this month’s reads against my open prompts, but I’m choosing not to (for now; I may loop back and claim some later in the year if I haven’t filled them). So no changes here in April.

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 | Witch: Witchmark

What’s coming up?

WYRD AND WONDER STARTS TOMORROW EEEEEEEEE.

How was your April?