Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Category: A Day in the Life of a Bookdragon Page 1 of 4

Tackling the TBR

Hello. My name is TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle and I am a book addict.

That might not have needed to be pointed out, but it’s good to admit to it sometimes. I love buying books, I love hoarding books, but do I read the gems on my shelves?

This week I decided to actively read at least one book off the TBR shelf, which led me to actually read two novels by the same author, Naomi Novik.

Spinning Silver – a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin (gah, I hate the English spelling). Although I liked the Slavic touch of the story, I didn’t like the many POV in the book. Some characters were written so similar to each other that it always took me a moment to get into the story again. Also, some POV were introduced and then dropped without further notice, which made me wonder whether I had missed some pages. That and the feeling of the story of these three women somehow getting nowhere made me skim most of the second half of the story. I just didn’t care for what would happen. I might have liked the book ten years ago, but my tastes have changed. I hadn’t had the book lying around for a decade though.

I had a similarly hard time with Novik’s Uprooted. Again, I liked the Slavic fairy tale-ish background to the story, but the dragon character verbally abusing the young woman and then seemingly suddenly the two characters are head over heels in love with each other? Just didn’t gel with me.

I was wondering whether it’s the author and her writing style that I don’t like. No that’s not it. The writing is good. Actually, I’ve read the two Scholomance novels by Novik and liked them. In fact, I have the third book of the trilogy on my TBR. I’m assuming it’s the fairy tale retelling I struggle with; they don’t really work for me most of the time.

Reviewing Books you did not finish…

… and why we think that is ok. We recently got a comment about a review of a book that The Right Honorable Harpy Eagle did not finish, but had a lot to say about. Even writing the review was called out to be very reprehensible. We think differently.

Even DNF’ing (Did Not Finish) a book is very difficult for me, the Lady Duck Of Doom. Often, I feel the need to skim the rest of the book so I can say I have “finished” it. This year, I actually managed to put a book away that I really, really did not like. I was incredibly proud, and vowed to do it again. It is an incredible freeing feeling. In this case, writing a review seemed very pointless to me, as I had no feelings whatsoever about anything in this book except that it wasn’t for me. And I was far too lazy to write a review that’s essentially “It’s me not you”.

But sometimes, it is more than “It’s me not you” that makes you not like a book. Sometimes, there are serious issues with a book. Sometimes, there are so many small details that are just wrong, or just not your cup of tea, that you don’t want to finish the book. These issues can be of all kinds, for example representation, logical or timeline flaws and inconsistencies, racism, or just another sci-fi written by a man with only male characters except for one scarcely clad female hologram. These might not be the issues other readers have with the book, but these are your issues.

So are you essentially forbidden to have an opinion about this book, just because you did not make it until the end? It does not make any sense to me. Are you required to invest time in something you already know you do not like to earn the right to have an opinion? In my opinion, no. And in our small blog, we are absolutely allowed to write about it. Of course, you are free to disagree, but it won‘t stop us 🙂

To write a DNF review or not to write?

That is a tough question.

Am I allowed to write a review about a book that I didn’t finish? In my humble opinion? Bloody hell, yes! Especially if I can point out reasons why I didn’t like the part of the book I read. That doesn’t mean I’m slanting the author or the book or that I want to prevent other people from reading the book. I’m just talking about the things that triggered my not liking it; I’m pre-warning fellow readers who might have issues with the same things.

Would ploughing through and eventually finishing such a book change my mind about it? I want to write no, it wouldn’t change my mind, but I cannot do that. Nevertheless I am fairly certain that in more than 90% of my DNF cases, my review and rating would be similar -if not worse- had I read the whole book.

To keep this short. I’ll continue to write reviews about books that I haven’t finished reading. It’s my free time that I am spending on books and I am writing my thoughts about them to not only encourage people to read a certain book, but also to offer critical views and/or content warnings about books that I didn’t enjoy. And if you are a bit like me, then my DNF reviews might actually encourage you to pick up the books and read them to form your own opinion.

If you liked Murderbot

TheHatchling#1 (aka my son) re-re-…-re-read the Murderbot series so many times, since he just couldn’t find anything that kept his interest, that I was actually very happy when he read and liked Six Wakes and then alerted me to the Indranan War series after he had read the first chapter that was printed as a teaser at the end of Six Wakes. We decided to do a buddy-read, which ended with TheHatchling#1 reading all three books and then nagging me to get started already since he wanted to discuss.

Since we want to avoid any spoilers we’re only reviewing the first book in the series, Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers, published 02 August, 2016.

The blurb:

Meet Hail: Captain. Gunrunner. Fugitive.

Quick, sarcastic, and lethal, Hailimi Bristol doesn't suffer fools gladly. She has made a name for herself in the galaxy for everything except what she was born to do: rule the Indranan Empire. That is, until two Trackers drag her back to her home planet to take her rightful place as the only remaining heir.

But trading her ship for a palace has more dangers than Hail could have anticipated. Caught in a web of plots and assassination attempts, Hail can't do the one thing she did twenty years ago: run away. She'll have to figure out who murdered her sisters if she wants to survive.

A gun smuggler inherits the throne in this Star Wars-style science fiction adventure from debut author K. B. Wagers. Full of action-packed space opera exploits and courtly conspiracy - not to mention an all-out galactic war - Behind the Throne will please fans of James S. A Corey, Becky Chambers and Lois McMaster Bujold, or anyone who wonders what would happen if a rogue like Han Solo were handed the keys to an empire . . .

The blurb is partly spot on, partly misleading. Yes, Hail is a sarcastic princess-turned-pirate/smuggler who’s been forcefully returned to her home planet, because someone is killing off the members of her family, the royal family. She’s the only direct heir to the Indranan throne left alive and is struggling to stay breathing with assassination attempts from all sides. Although it is more a story of “courtly conspiracy” rather than action packed space opera, the novel is intriguing, and thanks to assassinations, scandals and betrayals there is never a dull moment.

Hail left her home twenty years ago to hunt down her father’s killers. She embraced the life outside the confines of an empirical princess’ life so much that she became a gunrunner and furthermore captain of her own ship. When she’s dragged back into the palace, she not only has to confront her now ailing mother, whom she has had a troubled relationship with, but also cope with her grief for her sisters’ deaths and come to terms with her new role. Moreover, she learns about the role her long-time companion/lover played without being able to reconcile with him.

As mentioned above, the people behind the murders of her family are also plotting to kill her, which turns out not to be as easy as the plotters thought it would be. Hail swears to uncover the conspiracy and bring the culprits to justice.

What we really liked about this book and the following two books in the trilogy: The Indranan Empire is a matriarchal empire built on Hindu/Indian culture and mythology. It has been matriarchal for more than a thousand years which is obvious down to the swearing, Hail calls people out on their “cowshit” several times.

What this book is not: It’s not a Star Wars-style SF adventure/space opera. It’s more Urban Fantasy set in an SF environment; taking place in a solar system far from our current one, there are space ships and futuristic technology, and there are alien races. There are no epic space battles, we hardly see the inside of a spaceship, and Hail is definitely not a female Han Solo. Whoever came up with that comparison might not have read the book they were writing the blurb for.

The writing: It is a character driven story told from the first person POV, Hail’s. This might mean that you need some time to warm to Hail, especially since she has the tendency to be a bit melodramatic. Further the writing style of this debut novel is ‘a tad bit’ exaggerated, but we soon ignored that the world came crashing down around Hail and that the air was sucked from her lungs, since we were drawn in by the plot enfolding and the secondary characters being more fleshed out. And while we, along with Hail, learned who she can trust and who is nothing more than a two-faced sycophant, Hail also proved that she is a strong ruler who cares for her people.

4/5 Harpy Eagles from the both of us

Duck’s Reading Quarterly

Reading this year has been so slow for me. I focus hard on learning game development, so one of the books I read was a gigantic chunkster about the Unity Game Engine. It was boring as well as educational.

I finished the Powder Mage Trilogy and all its novellas at the start of the year, which I announced in my end of the year post – so I actually read what I had planned. Let’s look back at the series that I wanted to read:

  • Murderbot by Martha Wells: I bought the 6th Murderbot installation, immediately read it in one sitting. Who does not love Murderbot????
  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson: I read Cytonic and 2 of the short stories. Evershore is waiting until the short story collection arrives at my doorstep. I cannot behave, I buy books. We might do a collective review of the series as a group.
  • The Hollows by Kim Harrison: Million Dollar Demon was my birthday present and I read it only a week or so after! What an achievement (insert irony here)
  • The Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire: No progress here, but I believe I am at least 2 books behind, so… I’ll let it sit.
  • The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman: I have The Untold Story on the shelf and plan to read it in the near future, when I need something a bit more fluffy.
  • Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne: I read Paper & Blood recently, and devoured it in a day. It’s funny, it’s wise, it has action, what more do you want? Read the review by TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle for book one here.

Additionally, I finished the First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie as a buddyread with TheMarquessMagpie. It was a blast, the books are 5/5 duckies, review here.

Our Tigana buddyread went a lot worse, but that happens.

Here is the most! important bit of news: I actually managed to DNF a book!!!! Amazing, right? Me and Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston could not connect on any level, and I did not even have the motivation to skim the second half of the book, so I just put it away! Actually, I will sell it, which might be an indicator that I am still a bit ashamed and don’t want to have the culprit near me.

So what’s to come in the second quarter of 2022: Currently, we birdies are having a Mistborn buddyread. I am the only one who knows the story, and I am so excited what the others think! I might join an Instagram buddyread of The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons, if time allows for it. For the rest of my reading, I have made a list of 20 books on my TBR that spark my current attention and roll a D20 to find out my current read! Currently, it’s The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling.

Last year had quite a lot of shitty books

You might not believe me, but I actually did manage to reach my 100 stories goal mentioned here. Most of this is thanks to the amazing Powder Mage universe by Brian McClellan and its short stories and novellas. I fell in love with them again, and I will start 2022 by FINALLY reading The Autumn Republic. Probably.

I have a couple series to catch up to, which will be my prime reading goal, even if it means buying some books. Murderbot 6 is currently not on my shelf and even though I want to buy less books, some things can’t be avoided. These series include:

  • Murderbot by Martha Wells
  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Hollows by Kim Harrison
  • The Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire
  • The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
  • Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne

I’ve got a shit-ton of books here and I am excited about most of them. But somehow, my reading last year has come to a giant reading slump, similar to the Marquess Magpie. I believe most of the slump was cause by a) me actively learning stuff and working, so less time for reading and b) there were quite a lot of really shitty books this year.

My resolution is twofold: First, I will preemptively purge my TBR (I’m looking at a certain vampire book here) of books that I have less interest in reading. I tend to have a “work first” mentality and pick the books I don’t really want to read instead of those I really look forward to.

Second: DNF is an option and there is no shame in putting down a book that does not fit, or does not fit my current mood. Those books will have a second chance later.

I would list “more audiobooks” as another resolution, but I am currently watching Critical Role, and I have about 600 hours of content to watch/listen to before me. So I doubt that Audiobooks will work.

I think my kittens are responsible for me reading more at the end of the year, because one just ca not move if there is a kitty sleeping on top of you. So, I might as well read just one more chapter!

I do hope for some Buddyreads with my wonderful friends, but we will have to find books that are right for all of us, and that will prove quite a challenge.

And now I am off to purge the TBR! Cleanse it! Down with the unbelievers!! (What?!)

So long 2021 – Welcome 2022

We – the blog – has gone a bit quiet over the last few months. Well, with the world currently being even weirder than it was last year this time, I’d say you can certainly relate.

The good thing about this weird situation is, I read so much more than I had anticipated, or believed possible. My Goodreads Challenge says 452 books read – on 29th December. That includes books I bailed on, but also books I have read more than once, but didn’t add more than once, and doesn’t include books I read with my children but didn’t enter into the database. Neither does it include all the essays I have read on- and offline over the past year. I don’t want to brag. Truly. I read a lot. Stop.

As I have mentioned, I bailed on books, i.e. Did Not Finish. Just like all those years ago, when I first dared to not finish a book, it felt exhilarating. And, of course, I also felt like a snob, felt that something was wrong with me when so many other people liked a certain book, until I remembered:

“‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”

Marie Kondo

Which books sparked joy in 2021 – for me that is, your list might look much more different:

  • The Kingdoms – Natasha Pulley
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert
  • Unnatural Causes – Richard Shepherd
  • A History of What Comes Next – Sylvain Neuvel
  • Great Circle – Maggie Shipstead
  • Stranger Times – C.K.McDonnell
  • The Dinner Guest – B.P. Walter
  • Cultish – Amanda Montell
  • Hard Reboot – Django Wexler
  • The Calculating Stars – Mary Robinette-Kowal
  • The Man Who Died Twice – Richard Osman
  • Prosper’s Demon – K.J. Parker
  • The Guncle – Steven Rowley
  • A Master of Djinn – P. Djèlí Clark
  • Fugitive Telemetry – Martha Wells
  • The Butchering Art – Lindsey Fitzharris
  • Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir
  • The Galaxy, and the Ground Within – Becky Chambers
  • The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood
  • The Chronicles of St Mary’s series – Jodi Taylor

This Harpy Eagle has, of course, already set her sights on what she might read next year. Among the books that are expected to be published in 2022 are the next instalments in series like Neuvel’s History of What Comes Next, The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor, Ali Hazelwood might publish another RomCom set in STEM, and Mary Robinette-Kowal’s The Martian Contingency. Apart from that, I am hoping to make my way through the literally thousands of books I have piled onto my TBR.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year with lots of good books to read and the courage to bail on the ones that don’t spark joy.

New Year, Old TBR

Oh well, 2021 certainly was… definitely something. Looking at the TBR lists I created in the past, it feels like I fell completely off the bandwagon. I managed to start quite a few of them, but by far didn’t finish each one. It may be that the timing wasn’t right, but some were just complete disappointments. I’m looking at you, Mr. “I’ll reinvent vampire lore by making it cringy” Kristoff.

I went on a three week vacation which really boosted my book total for the year, but other than that the last couple of months felt like one big reading slump. Which is probably one of the reasons I wasn’t really active here.

Since I do miss living the bookish life to the fullest, here are some resolutions to get me into the flow again:

  • take notes during reading, this makes writing a blog post so much easier
  • DNF faster if the vibe doesn’t fit
  • finish some series before starting new ones
  • don’t follow the hype
  • read without fixed lists and choose by mood
  • buy fewer books

Ha, especially the last point will probably be thrown overboard quite quickly. But lately the amount of unread books waiting on my shelves just have been feeling a bit overwhelming. I miss being really excited about choosing the next book.

My current read A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay feels like a good pick to transition into the new year. Let 2022 be as exciting.

I am SO behind on my reading goal this year

I did SO MUCH this year. Broke up with my bf, moved into my own space again, started a new job, spend time with my learning: painting, 3D modelling, and game programming. Reading, not so much, unfortunately. I ONLY read 75 books so far, according to Goodreads (yeah, I know. It’s too few for me, for others, it is an unbelievably high number).

My reading goal each year is 100 stories. Not books, but also graphic novels, novellas, short stories. And I really can’t let it sit to not achieve that. So, in the days before Christmas, I have a genius plan to fill my days with reading.

Behold the mighty list:

  • The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex by Tamsyn Moor
  • The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t by Gail Carriger
  • Meat Cute: The Hedgehog Incident by Gail Carriger
  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson
  • Ascender Vol.3
  • The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Undefeated by Una McCormack
  • Awakening by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Last Witness by K.J. Parker
  • Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
  • City of Songs by Anthony Ryan
  • The Dream-Quest of Velitt Bow by Kij Johnson
  • The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Alice Payne Rides by Kate Heartfield
  • Monstress Vol. 4
  • Poems to Save the World With curated and illustrated by Chris Ridell
  • Sunreach by Janci Patterson and Brandon Sanderson
  • ReDawn by Janci Patterson and Brandon Sanderson
  • Evershore by Janci Patterson and Brandon Sanderson
  • Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
  • Paper & Blood by Kevin Hearne
  • The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
  • Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

It really is a wild ride between everything I like to read, and I hope I finally manage some catching up with the works of Brandon Sanderson and Gail Carriger, among others.

Wish me luck!

It’s that time of the month…

… when lots of my friends are trying to make time for NaNoWriMo.

I’m sorry this post is a little late, I feel swamped and hard pressed for writing time and I am not even doing NaNoWriMo this year.

As always, I have read a lot in October. I’m still on a Jodi Taylor spree. That means I managed to read the second book in her Elizabeth Cage series, as well as the latest Time Police novels; a spin-off of the Chronicles of St Mary’s series. I also read the second book in Sanderson’s Skyward Flight series [RTC]. Furthermore, I went on a Kerri Maniscalco roll mid-October, see my quick reviews here.

November, as I mentioned above, seems to have started with a lot of pressure on my free time. You know, the usual stuff before the year is out; appointments, Christmas shopping, not looking at the bank statement, etc. Yet, at the end of the month I’m going on a teensy-tiny reading retreat. I’m meeting a few friends at Gladstone’s Library in Wales for a weekend of reading, talking books and drinking tea. Okay, we might eat some cake, too.

Something to look forward to. And to plan a TBR for. At this moment I can only think of my Autumn TBR to take, which means the electronic part of my TBR, since I am not going to schlepp around physical copies of books. I couldn’t go on a shopping spree with a backpack full of books. Hand luggage regulations, you know.

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