July Redux: lazy days

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

I took July off to catch my breath before starting a new job (eee I’m starting a new job tomorrow) and buried my nose in books until soaring temperatures and the most delightful doggy houseguest distracted me for a few days. I had to change up my plans due to a short bout of illness, which – oh noes! – gave me more reading time, so frankly? The best July.

Reading Round-up

July reading started off a little ho-hum, as I pushed my way through some Subjective Chaos nominees that didn’t quite ring my chimes. The Unraveling is a great concept, but the world-building wasn’t conveyed clearly enough to carry a novel whose plot challenged it; and Girls of Storm and Shadow was both painfully predictable and had some terrible action sequences that shook me out of the book for laughing at them.

Thankfully, I had The Kingston Cycle, which has shot straight onto my list of comfort reads for its earnest protagonists and for its early 20th century fantasy world. I love fantasy that embraces trains, bicycles and skis – and CL Polk’s series does so whilst demolishing social structures that make my blood boil. A joy from start to finish in a series that becomes more than the sum of its parts.

The Moonday Letters was my first Emmi Itäranta; a cooling slice of literary SF that I read during the hottest part of the month. Epistolary, ephemeral, introspective, this was another unexpectedly soothing read in spite of nominally having a plot about eco-terrorism.

I finished my epic audioread of The Expanse this month (will I be lost without Jefferson Mays’s tones accompanying me on my walks and travels? Possibly). Leviathan Falls is another solid brick of entertaining space opera, but I was slightly disappointed that it shied away from fully embracing the theme of how much can we change without becoming someone else. On the other hand, there’s a lot to unpack in that final act and I think I need to reread it with my eyeballs to catch it all – I don’t take as much in when I’m reading with my ears.

…unless it’s spooky. I listened to Xe Sands narrate Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey, and – as usual – Sands loaded so much emotion and atmosphere into what is already a highly-charged book that it was chills from start to satisfyingly inevitable finish. Gailey is unapologetically interested in peeling back the skin to understand monsters over redeeming them, making Just Like Home an even more uncomfortable a read than The Echo Wife. Brilliant stuff.

Eversion by Alastair Reynolds is one of those books that felt longer than it was; not because it’s bad – it’s a well-executed homage to classic adventure fiction – but because it’s an homage to fiction that I don’t particularly enjoy reading (although I’d enjoy it on screen. Yes, I’m both fickle and also easily pleased by charisma and art direction).

  • The Unraveling – Benjamin Rosenbaum ★★★
  • Girls of Storm and Shadow – Natasha Ngan ★★★
  • Stormsong – CL Polk ★★★★
  • The Moonday Letters – Emmi Itäranta ★★★★
  • The Wandering Fire – Guy Gavriel Kay ★★★★
  • Soulstar – CL Polk ★★★★
  • Eversion – Alastair Reynolds ★★★(★)
  • Audio Reads:
    • Leviathan Falls – James S A Corey ★★★★
    • Just Like Home – Sarah Gailey ★★★★☆

Having found Girls of Storm and Shadow somewhat disappointing, I DNFed Girls of Fate and Fury as the UK melted around me. While I felt Girls of Paper and Fire transcended its tropes, I found both sequels frustratingly by the numbers. Those who enjoy YA fantasy more than I do may have a better time – there are good ingredients here, but I’m the wrong reader for it.

Additional Reviews

A month off was meant to be a month where I had no excuse to ignore my backlog, so guess what? In my defence, I had a dog to play with.

Stacking the shelves

I started July with an accidental NetGalley log-in and you know how those end. I have no regrets: The Time Trials was one of my ones to watch out for last autumn, and The Oleander Sword was firmly on the list of books I’m most excited to read this year. Dead Water is a new discovery that sounds like the sort of spooky Scottish horror that will make me question why I’m trying so hard to move to Scotland (without actually deterring me); and how had I missed a new Sarah Gailey thriller was coming out? Because I’m rubbish, I guess? Or because they don’t always get flagged as SF so I don’t catch them in my research. Either way, HOORAY.

A couple of Kindle deals rounded out the month: The Hands of the Emperor is one of those books that was below the radar but occasionally gets the most heart-felt recommendations from trusted bookfriends, and I have been wanting my own copy of Meet Me In Another Life ever since I borrowed it from the library. All in all, a great month.

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: 51 | DNFs: 6*

  • 7 off the shelf (i.e. not acquired in 2022)
  • 23 ARCs
  • 14 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 9 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: 21 male (37%) / 26 female (46%) / 7 trans, enby or genderqueer (12%) + 3 collaborations (5%)

  • Authors of colour: 17 (30%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 16 (28%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 8 (14%)
  • Small press / independent: 19 (33%)

What’s coming up?

Having had the temerity to look at my past seasonal TBRs and realise how long some ARCs have been on my shelf, I’m going to do #ARCAugust this year and alternate recent releases with ARCs that got away. You know the ones – ARCs you are excited about but that you don’t manage to read before release, which slip further and further down the priority list of books to read next until you realise in horror that they’ve been on your (virtual) shelf for years and are now backlist books in their own right. I am so, so, so sorry. Time to make amends. Or at least a dent.

Other than that, no goals this coming month because I’m starting a new job – so if it’s very quiet around here, don’t worry; I’m just stuck in the real world absorbing information and trying to find my feet.

How was your July?