August Redux: dog days

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

I started a new job this month, meaning spending (some) time in an office for the first time in 2.5 years. It’s been great – the people are lovely, the culture is really welcoming – so other than trying to make like a sponge absorbing information my biggest challenge has been wearing shoes and trying to figure out make-up all over again. But how did I get on with ARC August?

Reading Round-up

Having made a head start on ARCs in July with the dark relish of Just Like Home, I segued straight into CA Fletcher’s excellent Dead Water (water zombies vs ill-equipped islanders) for more fantasy horror. From there, things got tougher – I only stuck with A Man of Shadows because it was audio, but it was a slog – and there was a lot of bouncing off books mid-month. Thankfully, I had African Monsters to dip in and out of along the way; this globe-trotting series of short story anthologies is a fascinating glimpse into unfamiliar folklore and a visual delight. 3 is fewer ARCs finished than I hoped this month, but a dent made on my NetGalley shelf all the same. Or at least, there was a dent until I put in some new requests.

On the Subjective Chaos finalist front, I didn’t love Iron Widow, which is a fast-paced, action-packed YA read, but if YA isn’t really your thing then this probably isn’t either. It stands out for embracing rage and spelling out patriarchal nonsense, but I found the characters one-note and longed for more nuance across the board. I’ve been savage with low ratings for subjective reasons this year, and Iron Widow makes me feel guilty about almost all of them as they were objectively better in every way. But it was more fun, okay? (and any YA narrative that has an authority figure snap don’t you dare get involved in a love triangle gets an extra half star from me)

  • Dead Water – CA Fletcher ★★★★☆
  • Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao ★★★
  • Bite-size Reads: African Monsters – Margrét Helgadóttir & Jo Thomas (eds) ★★★☆
  • Audio Reads: A Man Of Shadows – Jeff Noon ★★★

As predicted, I DNFed Kristen Ciccarelli’s The Sky Weaver. I understood it should work as a standalone, but its lack of interest in establishing world or character left me uninvested in the plot it pursued at great pace from the first page. It also telegraphed its romance in the way that typically puts me off YA titles, so it was an early victim of August’s ruthlessness. This led to an honesty session in NetGalley admitting I’m never actually going to read this book, am I that resulted in further reductions to the size of my TBR. Whew.

Additional Reviews

I’m more or less on top of my review backlog – this month’s ARCs plus shorter reviews I’d like to write for a few remaining Subjective Chaos nominees – which is usual for this time of year, but reassuring all the same. Autumn is my cue for better get reading, and I have an enticing stack of books lined up to do just that.

Stacking the shelves

I realised late in the month that I hadn’t acquired any new books in August. That’s not a bad thing – just a rare one – and only true in a particular definition of new (I spent my Audible credits on audio editions of The Broken Earth trilogy). No sooner had I noted this than I bought a copy of The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina (which I’ve been meaning to do since it was first released last year) and requested two books on NetGalley to restore the balance. Consequently, I close ARC August on – ahem – broadly the same stats as where I started, only less aged.

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: 54 | DNFs: 9*

  • 7 off the shelf (i.e. not acquired in 2022)
  • 28 ARCs
  • 15 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 10 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: 23 male (37%) / 28 female (44%) / 8 trans, enby or genderqueer (13%) + 4 collaborations (6%)

  • Authors of colour: 19 (30%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 17 (27%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 9 (14%)
  • Small press / independent: 23 (37%)

What’s coming up?

I’ve managed to stay more consistent on the blog than I expected through August, but I make no promises through September. While first impressions of my new company are very good, I’m finding the role incredibly challenging to get to grips with – it builds on everything I’ve done previously, but the focus on sales rather than delivery is alien to me. Brain permitting, I’ve got lots of posts planned so here’s hoping I get the time and mental space to write them!

That said, things you can expect on the blog in September: we return to Fionavar next week for the final leg of our read-along. If you dare take The Darkest Road, we will be reading a Part per week starting immediately. If you want to join us, drop me a comment (and if you’re on Twitter I can add you to our little read-along community). Expect the first discussion post next Friday.

All going to plan, we’ll be announcing our Subjective Chaos Kind of Award winners mid-month at FantasyCon.

Watch out for more SciFiMonth news through September and put a note in your calendars for Spooktastic Reads: our low-key mini-event will be back as usual for 13 days of horror, dark fantasy and haunting from October 19th through Hallowe’en.

How was your August?