May Redux: fantastic journeys

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

May saw me travel halfway around the world to see family for the first time in 3 years. Stir in Wyrd & Wonder, the worst jetlag of my life and ongoing family health worries and it was a good month, but a lot. It also meant I was less present for Wyrd & Wonder than I would have liked, so don’t be surprised if you get very delayed comments from me as I still mean to blog hop!

Reading Round-up

A lot of this month’s reading was done on aeroplanes, my favourite place to power through reads I’m not looking forward to. I didn’t get through quite as many books as I hoped, and it was about as enjoyable as I expected – which is to say May was mostly another mediocre reading month about which I will say very little (although watch out for a review of The Knave of Secrets, a decent debut that didn’t quite ring my bells).

Fantasy book of the month goes to audio serial The Dark Tome, a portal fantasy horror in which a troubled teen is drawn into parallel worlds through a grimoire in her local second hand bookstore. Excellent atmospheric full cast production – think radio play rather than audio book (available on Realm.FM or via Soundcloud at The Dark Tome). Review (hopefully) to follow – I look forward to getting back to season two.

However, my star read wasn’t fantasy (oops) – Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace is an excellent dystopian tech thriller of water scarcity, corporate warfare, massive multiplayer online gaming and amoral branding exercises (yessss, give me those Marketing villains). I loved Mal, the ace spec, socially awkward gamer who is braver than she thinks she is; and enjoyed the themes of friendship and resistance in the face of overwhelming odds. Highly recommended – somebody give it a UK release!

  • The Knave of Secrets – Alex Livingston ★★★
  • Alyx: an AI’s Guide to Love and Murder – Brent A Harris ★★
  • Noughts and Crosses – Marjorie Blackman ★★★
  • The Summer Tree – Guy Gavriel Kay ★★★★
  • Where Oblivion Lives – T Frohock ★★★
  • Firebreak – Nicole Kornher-Stace ★★★★☆
  • Bite-size Books:
  • Audio Read: The Dark Tome – created by Fred Greenhalgh & Bill Dufris ★★★★

One DNF this month – I find Valente’s style overwhelming, so The Past is Red was abandoned at the halfway mark. Valente fires so many ideas at me at such a rate (and wrapped in such overworked prose) that I generally disengage with a headache; this was no exception, and I found it irritatingly quirky and perky to boot. I suspect it will suit fans of Space Opera better.

Additional Reviews

I expected to squeeze a few more reviews in this month, but here we are (although to be fair, most of my backlog is SFnal at this point, so was never going to suit Wyrd & Wonder). Everything I read this month made me retrospectively appreciate The Collarbound even more – I’m suspect it will bump up to 4 stars on a reread.

Stacking the shelves

May being hard in many ways, I put up no resistance to temptation. I intended to, then thought ‘eh, why’ and surrendered and I have no regrets. I have a month off coming up before I start a new job and I think I might just read all the things. ALL OF THEM.

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: 36 | DNFs: 4*

  • 7 off the shelf (i.e. not acquired in 2022)
  • 16 ARCs
  • 13 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 5 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: 13 male (32%) / 21 female (52%) / 3 trans, enby or genderqueer (8%) + 3 collaborations (8%)

  • Authors of colour: 11 (28%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 9 (23%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 4 (10%)
  • Small press / independent: 17 (43%)

Reading Challenges

Challenges remained in the back seat this month (and will likely stay dormant until July as I continue to focus on Subjective Chaos shortlists)

#TidyTheTBR with Runalong Womble | Join in on Storygraph

This month was a random pick from our TBR, which I’m very much looking forward to at some point. Sadly none of this month’s reading qualified!

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

This month’s prompt was starlight, which is begging for interesting interpretation. I’ll get back to it!

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

Again, I could probably make progress here, but I’ll revisit and update at the end of June.

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?

I planned to spend June mopping up my Subjective Chaos shortlists and getting some downtime – the past 3 months have been very intense with family and travels, and this bookwyrm needs to recharge!

…or so I thought. Then The Fantasy Hive announced a read-along of She Who Became The Sun for Women in SF month; and The Summer Tree read-along demanded to continue to The Wandering Fire and well read-alongs for rereads aren’t exactly demanding so now I have More Plans.

How was your May?