Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Category: Adventurer’s Guide Page 1 of 2

Astronettes? Lady Astronauts? Astronauts!

Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut Universe series is the latest rabbit hole I fell down. Or should I say a black hole that drew me in? Three main works have been published so far, as well as two novellas. Book four will hopefully hit the shelves next year.

I’d wanted to read The Calculating Stars for some time but the audiobook kept gathering dust on my TBR. After listening to The Original, co-authored by MRK, I decided to not ignore it any longer.

In this alternate history the fate of humanity is threatened shortly after the end of World War II. This time not by war, but by a meteorite, which hits the east coast of the United States of America. The impact is similar to the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, and doesn’t bode well for humanity. Colonising space might be the only option for humanity’s survival.

Elma York, a child prodigy with two doctorates and former pilot in WWII, is at the heart of this series. She’s working as a computer for the International Aerospace Coalition to help bring the first man to space. But with her skills as a pilot she soon wonders, why she can’t become an astronaut, too. Women will be needed in space colonisation sooner rather than later. Which leads her to notice that not only women are left out of the space programme.

This character driven story uses the sexism and racism of the 1950s and 1960s, sprinkles a good portion of humour, lots of ambition, some grief and heart break, and character flaws on it and out comes a story with characters to root for.

Without wanting to give away too much about the content of the sequel novel, The Fated Sky, let me just tell you, I bought book two and three (The Relentless Moon) right after finishing The Calculating Stars.

The Fated Sky reminded me, in part, of Weir’s Martian and Artemisin part! Yet, it is it’s own unique story about the possible colonisation of Moon and Mars, including months of space travel with all its obvious dangers, but far more interesting and gross are the not so obvious dangers, like regurgitating vacuum toilets. I’m looking forward to the third book in the series, but I am pacing myself a bit, because the fourth book, The Martian Contingency, won’t be published before 2022.

The audiobooks are narrated by the author herself. Something that I enjoy very much in general and enjoyed with this series in particular. MRK does an excellent job giving Elma and her friends and foes a unique voice.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that I truly appreciate all the research that MRK put into the series to represent science and history as accurately as possible. I especially enjoyed the lengthy acknowledgements and lists of bibliography at the end of the books, which probably only represents a fraction of what the author actually learned and looked up.

5/5 Harpy Eagles for The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky

Talk dirty to me

Ha, made you look, right?

I love a good audiobook. What’s even better than a good audiobook? An audioplay. Better than an audioplay? [Yes, yes, there can be a superlative here.] Better than an audioplay is an audioplay based on a story by Neil Gaiman, played by a whole cast of gorgeous voices and narrated by Neil himself. That’s reason enough for me to not fiddle with the speed of my audioplayer, which I usually set to somewhere between 1.75 and 2.5.

The Sandman audioplay is based on the DC comics/graphic novels of the same title. I’m going so far as to say that I enjoyed the audioplay much more than the GNs, because the cast surrounding James McAvoy makes the story/stories really come to life for me.

I can’t say much more without either starting to go all CAPS, or gushing about details. Get yourself a copy of the original version – trust me, I dared to listen into the German version for a few minutes, just not the same feeling – and enjoy it. Each episode is worth your time, and, at the same time, you can pace yourself by at least trying to listen to not more than one episode at a time. Something I failed at spectacularly.

5/5 Harpy Eagles

Sceptre Summer Reading Program

Welcome to our self-organized, highly individual, just for fun summer reading program. Each of us has created a list of books we really want to read, but somehow haven’t picked up yet. So, picking them for our summer reading seemed entirely logical. Given our success with challenges or reading lists so far, it’s highly unlikely we will follow through with them. But, as we all know, planning is half the fun.

TheLadyDuckOfDoom:

  • Fortune’s Pawn
  • Rule of Wolves
  • Seven of Infinities
  • The Galaxy, and the Ground Within
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015
  • Dark Archive
  • The Reluctant Queen
  • American Hippo
  • Neon Birds
  • A Longer Fall
  • A Question of Navigation
  • The Outside
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
  • Way of Thorns
  • The Autumn Republic
  • How To
  • Velocity Weapon
  • Merciful Crow
  • Carpe Jugulum
  • Sisters of the Vast Black
  • Deal with the Devil
  • Bridge of Souls
  • One Day All This Will Be Yours
  • Shards of Earth
  • United States of Japan
  • The Thief
  • Ashes of the Sun
  • A Big Ship at the End of the Universe

TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle:

  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
  • Bridge of Souls
  • The Thief
  • Deal with the Devil
  • Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
  • For the Wolf
  • Nine Nasty Words
  • Arsenic and Adobo
  • The Dictionary of Lost Words
  • Master of Revels
  • Prime Deceptions
  • The Calculating Stars
  • The Butterfly Effect
  • The Beholder
  • Just One Damn Thing After Another
  • The Devil’s Thief
  • The Library of the Dead
  • A History of What Comes Next
  • Firebreak
  • How to Mars
  • Daughter of the Salt King
  • Swearing is Good For You
  • The Octunnumi

TheMarquessMagpie:

  • Iron Gold Reread, for….
  • Dark Age
  • The Final Empire
  • Temper
  • Sharks in the Time of Saviors
  • The Outsider
  • The Blade Itself
  • Snuff (Discworld)
  • King of Scars
  • Sins of Empire
  • Hyperion

  • Tyll
  • She Would Be King
  • Orfeia
  • Harrow the Ninth
  • Identitti
  • Life on Mars
  • Dune Messiah
  • The Betrayals
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January

I heart Murderbot

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.

Murderbot is a rogue sec unit. It hacked its governor module and could do anything it wants. Like, hide behind its opaque visor and watch endless hours of its favourite TV shows. It still works as a sec unit, tough. And soon Murderbot grows on you, just as it grows on the humans it protects.

I enjoyed this inhuman MC very much. It was wonderful seeing Murderbot interact with humans, basing its communication skills on the TV series it has been watching. Just as fun is seeing Murderbot ‘make friends’ with other bots, drones, and AIs. One of my favourite secondary characters is ART, by the way, the AI of a research transport. I do like its sense of humour.

Over the course of the five stories, Murderbot is evolving, of course. It is learning from its interactions with humans and machines alike. This is not necessarily making it seem more human, but definitely less of a machine designed to kill.

I can’t wait to see what its next adventure will be like. Fugitive Telemetry is going to be out 27 April 2021. I’m practically counting the seconds until the release. Not to mention that I applied for a review copy, which I was approved of only minutes after I wrote my first draft of this post.

As you can see, I’m not the only Sceptre who has a crush on Murderbot. TheLadyDuckOfDoom reviewed The Murderbot Diaries in September 2020.

Please be gentle, 2021

We all can agree that 2020 was… well, let’s say challenging for all of us. I wonder what this year has in store, but taking a bookish look at it is a sure way to get our hopes up. So, here we go.

I am sure our monthly Buddyreads picked by the Otherland staff will continue to be a source of joy and lead to interesting discussions with my fellow Sceptres. The next Buddyread delivery will be accompanied by some other books I ordered, so the year is off to a good start.

Usually I’m not really good at keeping track of new releases, but there are some I am really excited about:

  • Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
  • two new Becky Chambers books, the fourth Wayfarer book will even get here as a signed preorder thanks to TheLadyDuckOfDoom
  • Broken by Jenny Lawson
  • Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
  • The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

Apart from that, there are a couple of books already waiting on my shelves that I finally want to get to:

  • Dark Age by Pierce Brown – I excitedly preordered a signed edition back in 2019 and it has been waiting for me ever since
  • Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb, to finish the Farseer trilogy
  • 5 (!) books by V.E. Schwab
  • Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy and Warbreaker
  • The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin – also signed, also silently judging me from its place on the shelf

As always and against my better judgement, I also get really excited about reading challenges at the beginning of the year. The Goodreads challenge is the only I’ve really stuck with in the last couple of years, but I always take a look at Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge and the Popsugar Reading Challenge. I usually plan books for most of the categories in January and forget all about them by April at the latest. But still, the planning is a whole lot of fun.

To a bookish 2021

2020 really sucked. One of the only good things that happened was starting the Buddyread group and the resulting book blog. So let’s just leave the rest behind and have a look at all the great books waiting for us this year.

Our Buddyreads chosen by Otherland (the best bookshop here in Germany) will, of course, continue. They have been a delight last year and I would bet my favourite pair of socks (there are ducks on them) that they will continue to pick fantastic, thought-provoking books.

There are a ton of books I already look forward to. Let’s start with some new releases of 2021. Maybe we will open my ever-growing TBR shelf in a later post.

The first book I really look forward to is Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire, the 6th release of the Wayward Children Series. These novellas are so beautiful and will resonate with those who ever felt lost on this world. Publishing date is 12th January, so I won’t have to wait long.

Next up is The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers. I love the Wayfarers series, and even ordered a signed HC for me and the Marquess. I am still angry that there is no German audiobook, because I keep talking to my love how awesome these books are – and audiobooks are what works for him. The release is on 16th February. Maybe I can get a whole year filled with a new release each month in this article?

March will end with the release of Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo, second in the King of Scars Duology. If you have not read anything in the Grishaverse yet, maybe do it soon, the Netflix adaption is on the horizon.

Whatever else happens in April, it will be overshadowed by the release of the next Murderbot installment, Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells on 27th. Everyone loves Murderbot.

There will be a lot of releases in May, but I’m particularly intrigued by Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa, released on 11th. The blurb sounds fantastic, so I really can’t wait to get my hands on it.

My to-buy list of new books is already overflowing, and June will only pile more on top. The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri, published on June 10th, is one of the books I will definitely get on release day. It is the start of a new fantasy trilogy inspired by the history and epics of India, and features morally grey characters.

July has another Becky Chambers coming up: A Psalm for the Wild-Built, released on July 13th. A new series of novellas, and I hope Becky Chambers will continue her unique hopepunk style in a new setting.

On August 24th The Thousand Eyes, book 2 in The Serpent Gates series by A.K. Larkwood, will be released. I haven’t read book 1 yet (it’s staring at me from my shelf), but I will. Soon.

September has the heavily anticipated release of Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff on the 7th. He seems to be really proud of this novel, and while I was not a total fan of his last books, I will pick this one up with an open mindset.

As of right now the announced releases are looking scarce for the year’s later months, but I bet they will be filled with a whole ton of awesome books. Last year, I did not manage to keep up with the new releases at all, but maybe this year will be different?

It’s that time of the year…

… when I’m trying not to make New Year’s Resolutions that I won’t keep.

One of my resolutions last year was to read 250 books. I managed to do that. The Covid-19 situation is not to be blamed for it, I’ve been reading a lot every year since I had to stop working. Further I wanted to read 24 physical copies off my shelves. I haven’t kept a record, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet that goal. Apropos meeting goals, I had planned not to buy more than two new books each month. That resolution went out the window within the first few days of 2020.

What are my resolutions for 2021 – the bookish ones that is?

  • I want to try to flatten the curve of my MountTBR, it’s ginormous. The number of ebooks, audiobooks, and physical copies unread has four figures and the first one is higher than there are fingers on one of my hands. I will have to live forever, it seems.
  • I’d like to tame my review copies shelves, which means, I have to read through the small mountain of ebooks and will have to stop requesting too many new review copies.
  • As every year, I promise myself to read 24 physical copies already lingering on my shelves – I’ll keep you updated on how spectacularly I’m failing.
  • Last but not least, I’m trying to stick to a tighter book buying budget. I’m going to keep a record of pages read. Each page will be worth one Cent. Audiobooks and ebooks are entered by checking the number of pages of the physical copy editions, or are estimated. I can only spend as much as I have earned by reading books. Means, I have to read a few books before some of my pre-orders make it to my shelves.

Pre-orders? Yes, of course, a reader has to be prepared for the worst case scenario: empty shelves. — I just burst out laughing. As if that could ever happen. If I believed in the concept of Heaven and Hell, I’d say Hell freezing over’s more likely to happen than me running out of reading material; just see above mentioned MountTBR.

I’m really looking forward to the second book in the King of Scars Duology by Leigh Bardugo: Rule of Wolves. This will be my birthday treat to myself. Okay, you got me. It’s part of my treat; I’m intending to let the staff of Otherland curate a surprise box of books for me again. Must read the four books from 2020 before then, though.

In order to get myself to catch up on some recommended reading – not the scholarly kind of RR – I’ve pre-ordered Becky Chamber’s fourth book of the Wayfarer series, The Galaxy, and the Ground within; and I’m contemplating pre-ordering the next book of the Murderbot series by Martha Wells, Fugitive Telemetry.

Five books that I’ve put on the tentative TBR list for 2021 are:

  • Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library – which I have wanted to read ever since the news about the book came out.
  • Victoria Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – s.a.
  • N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became – I’m going to read this in January for the #AuthorAMonth book club over on Litsy.
  • Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes series – don’t gasp, I’ve already told you I am behind on the recommended reading.
  • Jay Kristoff’s Empire of the Vampire – can’t wait to review this one.

Why only five? Well, I could have added so many more. Actually, there are more than 400 books on my “Want to read” list on Goodreads. Though that doesn’t mean that I have to want to read them all within the next few months. I’m trying to put less pressure on myself not more.

Last but not least, a tiny recap of December 2020. I did manage to make a small book tree. I wrapped 42 books for it. I could have added more, but I was done cutting the pad of my thumb on the tape dispenser. As far as reading went, I finished the Forward Collection, a collection of six sci-fi short stories curated by Blake Crouch; read the first novella in the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells; wrote a long review after finishing Naomi Novik’s Deadly Education; and there were also a few ARCs and romance novels.

What are your resolutions for 2021? Any bookish challenges you’re taking part in? One of my non-bookish resolutions is drinking more water. Since I’ve emptied my tall glass now, I’m off to refill it and then settle down with one of my ‘left-overs’ from last year, The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart.

Fantasy reading list – Just in time for Christmas

We were not able to discuss the most recent “best-fantasy”-lists over a cup of tea, due to social distancing, but did discuss the concept and agree that we don’t like lists of “best whatever”. We do like lists in general, though. So instead of a “best fantasy books of all-time/2020/whatever”, we offer you a long list of fantasy books or series that touched us, shaped us, or were just damn awesome. And because a simple “Title – Author” list is not enough, we share some thoughts with you WHY we think those books are worth reading.

We know that a lot of you are of a similar mind and don’t care for lists where the first 10 entries are LotR, ASOIAF and Harry Potter. So we decided our list should be ordered by the number of ratings on Goodreads, going up. The least known books (at least in the GR bubble) are first, so give them a try. Just in time for Christmas, wish for them, gift them, or just buy yourself a copy, because you deserve some new books!

The Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: This is the first book in Haig’s Christmas series. Yes, this book is for children, but it will warm your heart, too. It’s an inventive tale about how Father Christmas came to be Father Christmas and how the whole North Pole and Christmas Elves story started. The book is great, the audiobook, read by Stephen Fry, is even better.

Castle in the Stars (GN) by Alex Alice

TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle: In an alternate past, in 1869, the race for space is under full force. In this series of steampunk Graphic Novels Aether is the mystical substance that makes spaceships fly. First to space, then the moon, and even Mars is a possible destination. The mix of aquarell paintings and comic style is very appealing and is what makes this story epic to me.

Seven Kennings by Kevin Hearne

TheLadyDuckOfDoom: Multiple stories woven into one main storyline. The exceptional thing is that there are actual normal persons in these stories! Like, a mother. Or a merchants daughter. People, not an overly powerful farm boy turned chosen one or something.

Once & Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Everyone of us loved this book. TheRightHonorablyHarpyEagle wrote a review here, and since it was also a buddyread book, TheMarquessMagpie and TheLadyDuckOfDoom also share their opinions below hers.

Hell’s Library by A.J. Hackwith

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: The world-building is fabulous. Just the idea of a library in Hell, where all the unwritten books stay, need to be repaired over time, become restless, their characters becoming corporeal and wandering the aisles of shelves. Perfect. Add the different realms, based on different religions/pantheons.
Full review here.

The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee

TheMarquessMagpie: It reads like The Godfather in an Asian inspired fantasy setting. It’s badass, magical and full of political intrigue. What else do you need?
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: What the Marquess said. This was in one of the very first book-subscriptions I had a while back, and it did not disappoint. It is really unique.

Irin Chronicles by Elizabeth Hunter

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: This UF series probably falls into the category of paranormal romance. I liked it based on the world-building. There is a war between the fallen angels. Some want to destroy God’s creation, others want to protect it at all cost. Ava has been hearing voices in her head as long as she can remember, they speak in unknown to her languages, but enable her to see people’s intentions. Malachi is an Irin Scribe, one of the fallen angels who want to protect humanity by using magic inscribed to their skin. He has to protect Ava from the Grigory, the other faction of fallen angels. Through their budding relationship Ava finds some answers to her lifelong questions. More questions are answered in the other books of the trilogy.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang

TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle: This story is about the orphaned boy Weylyn Grey, who is special in a very special way. It’s about his live with a pack of wolves, with Mary, with a horned pig named Merlin, and all the people whose lives Weylyn touched and changed. The epistolary style of this book helped tell the story from the POV of the people who met Weylyn. Every narrator added their unique voice to the story that is Weylyn’s life.

Felix Castor Series by Mike Carey

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: Another UF series set in London. Felix Castor is an exorcist. He’s friends to a zombie and a succubus. And his tool of trade is a tin whistle. He takes on a seemingly easy job at a museum, and finds himself the target of a manhunt.

Piranesi by Susanne Clarke

This was one of our magical Buddyreads, which all of us enjoyed very much. Read our full review here.

S./ Ship of Theseus by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams

TheMarquessMagpie: This is not just a book, it is a multilayered masterpiece. Ship of Theseus is actually the book-within-the-book and it is read and analyzed by two university students sharing their thoughts in the margins. Like, actually in the margins. And on postcards, napkins and other little tidbits scattered as physical objects throughout the book. It is a very unique experience. If you want to dive deeper, there are even some unsolved mysteries in the book that you could solve yourself.

The Founders Series by Robert Jackson Bennet

TheLadyDuckOfDoom: Heists, A fantastic magic system and a sentient object combined by with superb storytelling. Need I say more? Maybe not, but theses books are so damn good, I’ll just write some more words so it has more space on the page.

The Great Library Series by Rachel Caine

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: A world in which printed books are so rare they are smuggled and sold on the black market. The son of England’s most infamous book smuggler doesn’t want to join the family business, instead he wants to join the Great Library of Alexandria. The Library that didn’t burn down. The Library that holds all the knowledge of the world and by that controls it. A YA series made up of a mix of dystopian SFF, alternate history and UF.

The Band Series by Nicholas Eames

TheMarquessMagpie: Such a fun romp! It’s like you are reading a book about the wildest roleplaying campaign you and the whackiest of your friends can imagine.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: Let’s reunite an old, famous rock band — uhm, band of mercenaries in a fantasy world. Send them on a mission even though their best years are long past. It was wild, funny, and plays with fantasy roleplaying clichés. So let’s get the Band back together!

Watchmaker of Filigree Street series by Natasha Pulley

TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is set in Victorian England and Japan of the late 19th century. This story has vibes of Sherlock Holmes without being a detective story. Young telegraph clerk Thaniel Steepleton has synesthesia. When the pocket watch that he found in his rooms six months ago saves his life, he goes in search of the watchmaker. He finds Keita Mori, a lonely immigrant from Japan with a Lincolnshire accent. Mori is a clairvoyant, which explains the time travel aspects of some parts of the story. Add the sceptic physicist Grace Carrow, who unwittingly interferes in some of Mori and Thaniel’s attempts at changing future events.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street was followed by The Bedlam Stacks, a book set in a time before the Watchmaker and loosely connected to it, we see a young Keita Mori. Book three of the series is The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, which is about Mori and Thaniel’s adventures in Japan, set a few years after the Watchmaker takes place. The fourth book in the series The Kingdoms will be out in May 2021.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: I had some trouble with the ending of this book, but otherwise a good read. I really liked the last instalment of this series, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, much better.

Divine Cities Series by Robert Jackson Bennet

TheMarquessMagpie: No need to look further, if you are in need of stellar world building and captivating characters. This series focuses on a different main character and takes place in a unique city with every book. Really just cleverly done, I need to read more books written by him.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: TheMarquessMagpie and I read the books in another buddyread, and they are just incredibly done. It catches you with the unique worldbuilding, but captivates with the characters.

Clockwork Century by Cherie Priest

TheLadyDuckOfDoom: There are not many novels out there who focus on a mother and her child – diving in a unique steampunk world deep into their relationship.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

TheMarquessMagpie: This book is so messed up. But, you know, in the good way. At least if you like dark, twisty and bloody madness.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: This was a mad ride I was not ready for when I read it. I think it was a Buddyread on the Litsy social network. Looking back, I certainly enjoyed it, but at first, I had serious doubts.

The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan

TheMarquessMagpie: The Powder Mage books have a really unique magic system based on – you may have guessed it – gunpowder. Which comes in really handy if you overthrow a king and face a war, while gods start walking the earth.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: Gunpowder fantasy is a rare genre, but this one works and I could not put it down when I started it. There are so many things happening! I still have to read the last book of the Trilogy, though.

Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire

TheMarquessMagpie: Ever felt like you where in the wrong place? Well, who hasn’t? And what if there was a door to a place that is just right for you? Who wouldn’t gladly walk through it? These books are about what happens to those who where found by their doors and entered them, and what happens after they leave again. Heartwarming every time.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: These novellas are heartbreaking, heartwarming, and a joy to read.

Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: Did you know that the Metropolitan Police London has a special branch? Magician police officers? Well, Peter Grant didn’t know either, until one day he becomes the new head magician’s apprentice. And it’s nothing like Harry Potter.
TheMarquessMagpie: These books are just so much fun. I don’t often read urban fantasy, but enjoyed this series immensely. There’s some catching up to do on the latest titles.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: I have a panicking fear of drugs, and the books feature a heroin addicted family member – I can’t. I’d have to throw up if I tried, so I only read book 1. That one wasn’t bad, though.

Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger

TheLadyDuckOfDoom: Steampunk Urban Fantasy Romance with lots of banter. The banter is fantastic, and the characters are actually adults. If you want a little bit of fantasy romance, read this.
TheMarquessMapie: I’m slowly making my way through the series, and they are fun to pick up from time to time even if you are not much of a romance reader.

Dragonlance Chronicles by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: The Dragonlance Chronicles were my first conscious dip into the fantasy genre. I loved the stories and I might secretly compare every fantasy novel I read to those stories. The Dragonlance is based on Dungeons&Dragons and due to that was also my first intro into RPGs. It’s still worth a read, trust me.

The Hollows by Kim Harrison

TheLadyDuckOfDoom: When I was 12, everyone at school was reading Twilight. So I read it, my mum read it, we didn’t like it, but mum got into urban fantasy. She discovered this and it soon found the way into my hands. Funny, full of action, friendship and just a tiny bit of sex. In my opinion, a lot less than the cover indicates.

Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: Bartimaeus is the most sarcastic demon sidekick I’ve ever met; or was Nathanael the sidekick to Bartimaeus? I really enjoyed the trilogy and have successfully infected my son with the sarcasm bug.
TheMarquessMagpie: One of my childhood favourites. It taught me that fantasy can be enjoyably funny and that a good sidekick might just make a story at least 75% better.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: Bartimaeus will always be my childhood hero and one of the books I read countless times. I usually manage to read a book for a second time only after 10 years, when my memory has holes as large enough that I forgot most of the story.

Nicholas Flamel Series by Michael Scott

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: You might remember Nicholas Flamel, the famous alchemist who managed to make the Philosopher’s Stone, mentioned in the first Harry Potter book.Well, although this is an Urban Fantasy story about Flamel, it is much more a YA fantasy story about twins helping Flamel, finding their fate, saving the world in between. You know, the usual stuff and then somehow reinvented in an interesting way. An excellent start to a series that includes a lot of historical figures, e.g. Joan of Arc, Billy the Kid, Machiavelli.

Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: The trilogy was recommended to me by my lovely co-Sceptres, TheMarquessMagpie and TheLadyDuckOfDoom. The world-building is excellent. And although I see the brilliance in the series, I wasn’t entirely sold on it. See my review.
TheMarquessMagpie: The whole trilogy is extremely impressive. I tried recommending it to friends often enough, but always just ended up squealing “it is just SO CLEVER AND BRILLIANT”. That’s really all I can say. Go read it.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: There is a reason N. K. Jemisin has won so many awards for this trilogy, and the reason is the sheer imagination, depth and brilliantness that these books have.

Shades of Magic Series by V.E. Schwab

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: This series -and let it be noted that I pre-ordered the first book, but I don’t remember where I heard about it- I’ve read several times already; recommended it to friends; introduced my kids to. Different versions of my favourite city? A coat with more than two sides and lots of secret pockets – inspired by the Marquis de Carabas’s coat from Gaiman’s Neverwhere? Dark/blood magic? A strong female character who’s no damsel-in-distress? I was sold! The only thing that is still missing from my shelves is the collector’s edition. ETA: Nope, not even the Collector’s Edition is missing now.
TheMarquessMagpie: Yes to more than one magical London, yes to complex characters, yes to a badass female lead character. I reread this series during the madness that is the year 2020, and it was extremely comforting.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: I really liked the books, but perhaps not as much as the two birds above. BUT I absolutely recommend them, I have gifted them multiple times, and now that I am thinking about it – its definitely time for a reread!

Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

TheMarquessMagpie: There are so many animals you tie your heart to, that I would almost consider it emotional manipulation. Just kidding. Robin Hobb has a really detailed style of writing, and if that’s your jam you are rewarded with an epic and mostly character-driven delight of fantasy books.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: I had so much emotion reading this series. There is so much character development and I grew so attached to the characters I am afraid of reading the last trilogy. Also, YA writers should maybe study this series as a good example

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

TheMarquessMagpie: We all know the story of Achilles, but this book adds so much to it. It grabs your heart and doesn’t let go. You will enjoy the well-known parts of the story, but Miller’s new take on it is what you will love. Her second book Circe is equally great.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: I learned Latin and ancient Greek at school (and I liked it). We even read parts of the Odyssey in the original language. So, knowing a lot of the stories of the classical world, and it just doubled the fun I had when I read Song of Achilles.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

TheLadyDuckOfDoom: Harry Dresden has bad luck and is covered up to his nose in shit. For 17 books now. If you need fast paced action you devour within a day and have no problem with a main character who’s brain stops when he sees a women (I don’t mind. He sometimes is just an idiot), look no further.


Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: If there is the word “bone” in the title, I am nearly always sold. The blurb was talking about angels and demons, a girl trading teeth, walking through doors into different realms. Add the UK cover (a door, a handprint), the story being set (partly) in Prague, the heroine having an artistic streak and wearing blue hair. Yes, it’s also a romance, but it’s done well.

The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: All of Discworld, but Wyrd Sisters was my first Pratchett – read MacBeth parallel to it in school and kept remembering the funnier version all the time.
TheMarquessMagpie: Reading Discworld novels always calms me down. I started reading them in order of publishing, and while I basically love all of them, the City Watch books may be my favourites.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: Whenever I start my “just read the Discworld novels” monologue, which will be often considering the BCC Watch Trailer, I say start with Mort. I don’t know why, though. Might just be my inner goth… Who am I kidding, I wear black all day, everyday.

Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: A crew of outcasts. An impossible heist. A revenge plan that has been in the making for years. A fantasy world that is fleshed out nicely. Heroes to root for. Chapters that end in cliffhangers. Multiple POV narration. Only pet peeve: I still have trouble imagining them as teenagers, they feel 10 years older to me.
TheMarquessMagpie: I think TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle covered everything. Fast-paced fun with teenagers that seem a little too clever and experienced for their age, but you will enjoy their story so much that it doesn’t really matter.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: I love heist stories, and this is no exception. Bardugo’s Grisha Universe really begins to shine here. I was not a fan of the first trilogy, but Six of Crows is much better.

Cosmere Universe by Brandon Sanderson

TheLadyDuckOfDoom: I am a huge Sanderson fan – I love his worldbuilding and his twists of normal fantasy tropes. Mistborn starts many years after the world turned dark because one of the bad guys won. The magic system uses metal in a unique way.
Sandersons Cosmere Universe spans multiple book series, but Mistborn is a fantastic way to start. There are some hints at the bigger picture, but it does not hinder you from enjoying this particular story.

Neil Gaiman

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: Imagine yourself falling through the cracks of the big city and landing in a London Below that is familiar, and yet so much different. I recommend the BBC Audioplay with James McAvoy in the leading role.
TheMarquessMagpie: After reading this, who does not long to wander the Floating Market of London Below? It is extremely hard to pick a favourite Gaiman book, but I think in the end this one would win.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: I was late to the Gaiman-club. Really late. I think my first book was American Gods, which I read about 5 years ago. I have since read a lot more of Gaiman’s books, and I recommend them to everyone who seeks magical, sometimes twisted tales.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: We have Gaiman’s and Pratchett’s geniuses combined here; just like the two MCs, an angel and a demon working together to protect humanity from the Apocalypse, which will take place Saturday next. Add a whole cast of quirky secondary characters,… What are you waiting for?
TheMarquessMagpie: Read it, read it, read it. How could you say no to this cooperation?
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: We have Neil Gaiman, we have Terry Pratchett, and we will still recommend you Good Omens separately. That’s how good it is. If you haven’t, go read it. If you have, is it not time for a re-read?

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle: To write something about this book is not easy, it’s just so good. There are so many layers to this story, it will keep you captivated from start to finish. And at the end of book two, you’ll be begging for book three just like everyone else.
TheMarquessMagpie: There is just so much I like about it, I don’t even know where to start. What always impressend me the most, is that Rothfuss keeps you captivated throughout these doorstoppers without needing a lot of action. If someone can make you care for student debts that easily, it says something about the great writing style.
TheLadyDuckOfDoom: It has been some years since I read this, but the Name of the Wind has such beautiful prose. Just give Mr. Rothfuss a break, book 3 will take as long as it needs.


Alive and kicking

Well, it’s been a while. First of all, I have to thank my wonderful fellow Sceptres for keeping this blog alive. I feel like the 30-something child still living in your basement without paying rent. I have nothing to say in my defence except for this: life has been busy and some things have sadly taken a backseat.

To my astonishment, I somehow still managed to read nine books in August – seems like I was just too lazy to talk about them. I solemnly swear to change that. Just typing these few sentences makes me wonder what has kept me from doing so in the past couple of weeks.

One of my bookish highlights this month was a reread of two childhood favourites. They are the first two books of a trilogy which was recently updated by a fourth book – the reason for my reread. Originally published in German, their English translations are The Water Mirror and The Stone Light and they are quite a bit darker than I remember.

Let’s see what September has in store for us. Of course there will be a Sceptre buddyread and we already have our suspicions. Fingers crossed that we are once again correct. Other than that, I will finish And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. It’s one of those books that has been sitting on my shelf for ages. Once I picked it up, I quickly remembered why I liked Hosseini’s other books so much. His writing is a thing of beauty.

I will also have some days off, so I’m expecting a lot of reading time. Maybe I will even finally finish The Stand…. just kidding, let’s stay realistic. Knowing myself, I will probably pick up something lighter to stay in the reading flow.

TBR Recalibration

About a month ago I had big plans for my June reading. As it turns out, I can reuse most of them for this month as well. Hooray for the opportunity to give you an easy update, but a big eye-roll from my ever-growing stack of unread books.

I didn’t manage to make a lot of progress on The Stand or even start A Conjuring of Light. But to cut me some slack, I decided to look at them as more of a long term goal. So let’s just say I’m pretty sure I can finish them until Christmas.

My focus this month will be on our buddy read of The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again and also on Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. Yes, that’s another huge doorstopper in addition to The Stand. No, I don’t know what has gotten into me. I borrowed it from a colleague, so now I feel compelled to get through it rather quickly.

Another book I will definitely pick up this month is the highly anticapted third Adventure Zone graphic novel, Petals to the Metal. I just got the shipping confirmation and I am really excited. If you are not (yet) familiar with The Adventure Zone, it’s a wonderful actual play podcast that starts with an epic Dungeons and Dragons campaign called The Balance Arc. Every graphic novel so far is an adapation of a single Balance quest.

To avoid another TBR recalibration, I won’t make any other predications just to throw them overboard anyway.

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