September Redux: mercurial times

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

I’m not a big believer in the influences of the planets, but damn my September had the hallmarks of Mercury going retrograde. From national drama to big personal decisions and professional challenges, there’s been a lot going on – not all in a bad way, although I could have done without spending half the month sick. It’s going to be a busy autumn…

Reading Round-up

The first half of September was so reading-light it was almost reading-nonexistent as unplanned travel and work overwhelm left me with very little time or concentration. I made up for it with an intense reading stint mid-month (the up-side of being sick) and then promptly got overwhelmed by work and life again. I suspect it’s going to be a very stop start autumn… On the upside, it’s been a good and very varied reading month. The Bruising of Qilwa was one of the best reading experiences of my entire life, thanks to an annotated proof courtesy of author Naseem Jamnia (hands-down the best giveaway ever). There’s so much world-building and character packed into this novella, it was amazing to explore it with the author sitting at my side (figuratively speaking).

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull may be the first ARC that has ever been read as soon as it came through my letter box (blogger goal: unlocked). Expect duelling secret societies and battles with prejudice, but I enjoyed this for providing a very personal lens of seismic change as monsters are revealed to the world. However, it’s definitely a set-up book – the character arcs weren’t quite enough to stand alone for me.

Fiona Barnett’s debut The Dark Between The Trees goes exactly where you expect with a premise of modern academics dismissing legends to hunt for facts in a haunted forest, delivering oodles of atmosphere and terrible decision-making as it descends into nightmare. Good stuff, although the final act felt under-developed (to be fair, horror often loses me in the final act: too gory, too weird, or too ambiguous; your mileage may vary).

The rest were rereads – The Darkest Road is my least favourite book of the Fionavar trilogy, which played out as a struggle to focus on our read-along (sorry folks). It’s good, but these were not the tropes or archetypes I was longing for this month (as evidenced by the fact that I’m now hoovering up some popcorn SF).

The Fifth Season kept me company as I painted the garden fence; Robin Miles is one of my favourite audiobook narrators, and Jemisin’s modern classic is just as good second time around.

  • The Darkest Road – Guy Gavriel Kay ★★★★
  • No Gods, No Monsters – Cadwell Turnbull ★★★★
  • The Dark Between The Trees – Fiona Barnett ★★★☆
  • Bite-size Reads: The Bruising of Qilwa – Naseem Jamnia ★★★★☆
  • Audio Reads: The Fifth Season – NK Jemisin ★★★★★

I bounced off The Peripheral by William Gibson, which I was hoping to read in advance of the show coming out in October. Ironically, my immediate impression was ‘I think this would work better for me on screen’… which is convenient, at least. Guess I’ll just watch it during SciFiMonth.

Additional Reviews

Unsurprisingly, September hasn’t been a good month for reviews, so no additions this month.

Stacking the shelves

I went to Unsung Stories to pick up a copy of The Coral Bones by EJ Swift; I came away many books the richer, having found a sale on. If you’re not familiar with this small UK press, they’re well worth getting acquainted with – expect genre tales with literary flair (and iconic covers). An ARC of No Gods No Monsters and a cheeky 99p Kindle deal on The Book Eaters rounded out the 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: 61 | DNFs: 7*

  • 7 off the shelf (i.e. not acquired in 2022)
  • 30 ARCs
  • 16 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 11 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: 25 male (37%) / 30 female (44%) / 9 trans, enby or genderqueer (13%) + 4 collaborations (6%)

  • Authors of colour: 22 (32%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 18 (27%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 9 (13%)
  • Small press / independent: 25 (37%)

What’s coming up?

As suspected, September was quiet on the blog as other aspects of life took centre stage. However, October will feature Spooktastic Reads (October 19-31st) and then it’s November and SciFiMonth so I better get my blog boots back on!

Spooktastic Reads is a Wyrd and Wonder mini-event: I’m taking a back seat this year, but expect reviews and other posts from mid-October to focus on horror and darker fantasies. This is a super low-key affair – no sign up, no schedule, no commitments, although host Annemieke is putting together a prompt challenge so keep an eye on the Wyrd & Wonder instagram feed. You can join us by adopting the #SpooktasticReads tag and sharing your thoughts on witches, ghosts, shifters, urban legends, haunted forests and other tales from the darker side of fantasy.

SciFiMonth is our annual community celebration of all things science fiction – and would you believe it’s been going for ten years? Join me, Lisa and the crew as we set a course for outer space, hop across timelines and dimensions, and put tales of science and discovery in the spotlight. Everyone is welcome aboard – being crew can be as low-key as chattering on Twitter (or in the comments on blogs), sharing the love via pics on Instagram, or you can join us in generating a heap of reviews, recommendations, memes, and discussion posts on our blogs. Whatever works for you, works for us.

Sign up to join the crew and enter the draw for our first giveaway! We’ve got an amazing set of tenth birthday giveaways lined up this year courtesy of our friends at Rebellion Books – the sign up bundle features recent releases The Immortality Thief by Taran Hunt, Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings, The Chosen Twelve by James Breakwell and Someone In Time edited by Jonathan Strahan. Open internationally; one lucky winner; see the SciFiMonth sign up page for full details.

How was your September?