November Redux: pocket universe

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

November was intended to be full throttle blogging for our tenth celebration of SciFiMonth. Instead, it involved moving to the opposite end of the country while it was full steam ahead at work, which left me a frazzled bundle too exhausted to write most of the blog posts I had planned. Sorry, crew.

Reading Round-up

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a lot of reading done in November either. The long drive north meant I did get to listen to The Stone Sky by NK Jemisin though, which left my heart sore and full. The Broken Earth has quite rightly won many accolades; I have nothing but admiration for its unusual and deep world-building, relentlessly difficult characters who I couldn’t help but love, and epic twin timeline plot. It deserves a review that I don’t have time to write; and I look forward to rereading it in print in future.

Life being what it is, it took me several weeks to read Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings, which is a fast-paced, cosy space opera about two ships trapped outside of time and trying to survive without wrecking their respective timelines. It’s a fun read, but too cosy for me in the end – I wanted more challenge and felt the characters would have benefitted from a little more development. Still, an entertaining diversion.

Aurora by Jo M Thomas is a curious novel about the ways we interact with social media, focusing on a fictional platform whose algorithms may be developing a mind of their own. From user profiling to that guy who can’t help but argue with you to a multiplayer game that requires a worrying level of meatspace activity (my privacy-fond heart was screaming), Thomas riffs off current themes to create a story that was more compelling that its log file narrative format suggested.

I found less to compel me in Warlady by Jo Graham, a romantic, plot-driven space opera in which former lovers must solve a murder, survive a deadly conspiracy and avert an imminent invasion. While I liked the characters (and even the romance, which is an established attraction between two middle-aged people who have agreed they shouldn’t, because reasons), I wanted a great deal more than I got from the world-building and politics. At just over 200 pages, I couldn’t help but feel there was room for more – and I missed it.

  • Under Fortunate Stars – Ren Hutchings ★★★☆
  • Aurora – Jo M Thomas ★★★☆
  • Warlady – Jo Graham ★★★
  • Audio Reads: The Stone Sky – NK Jemisin ★★★★★

Additional Reviews

I had so many planned for this month. I have written none. Damn it. Time for a little soul searching – will there be a Twelve Days of Bookmas where I put 2022 to bed, or a hiatus while I get back on top of life? We’ll see.

Stacking the shelves

Stress is a fabulous motivator for buying books. I finally spent the Audible credits I’ve been accumulating on 3 books I’ve been longing to read (Babel, The Seawomen and Our Wives Under The Sea) and succumbed to 3 more in the Angry Robot sale (The Hollows, Bluebird and The Circus Infinite).

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: 69 | DNFs: 7*

  • 8 off the shelf (i.e. not acquired in 2022)
  • 33 ARCs
  • 17 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 13 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 (33%) / 37 female (49%) / 9 trans, enby or genderqueer (12%) + 5 collaborations (7%)

  • Authors of colour: 24 (32%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 20 (26%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 9 (12%)
  • Small press / independent: 31 (41%)

And yes, I’m overdue looking at my challenges to see where I’ve accidentally ended up but as we’re this close to the end of the year, why ruin the surprise? Let’s have a laugh next month…

What’s coming up?

Hard to say. While I would like to catch up on my review backlog – and will at least review any ARCs – I’m so overwhelmed at the moment that I’m not going to commit to anything specific. I need a holiday, as Bilbo Baggins once said. A long holiday, although I’m not ready to turn my back on my little blog quite yet. But first I need to get to a point where life stops making everything a stressful obligation rather than a joy. So – I’ll continue posting intermittently for the time being, and see where I am by year’s end.

How was your November?