Month in Review: July 2019

I missed a June in review post, so I’m back with July in review.  I read a lot of shorter books this month, but I also tackled Wanderers which was huge!

Books read: 9 for July, 58 for the year

Pages read: 2,831 out of 18,051

Hours listened to: 5.5

Average rating: 3.78

Female Authors: 4 out of 27 for the year

Favorite Read:

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Review here.  It was close between this and An Illusion of Thieves but this one was so much longer (800 pages total) and was a larger time investment so I’m going with Wanderers.

UPDATE: I finished Inland by Tea Obreht just under the wire for July and after writing this post.  I’ve counted it in my stats but because I haven’t reviewed it yet I’m not counting it here or in any of the categories below.  I don’t want to say I enjoyed Inland far more than Wanderers or An Illusion of Thieves, but of the three, I think Inland will stay with me much longer, and would rank it as the favorite.

AudioBooks Listened To:  

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Review here.  I enjoyed this much more than the last McCarthy I read.

Graphic Novels Read:

Stephen Kings N. by Marc Guggenheim

Review here.  Being that it’s a graphic novel, it only took a couple hours to read, but it’s worth it!

ARCs Read:

 

The Last Astronaut released on July 23.

The Dead Girls Club – I cheated and read this early.  Review is scheduled for sometime in November!

Other reads completed this month:

 

ARCs received:

 

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup – A Nordic Noir thriller that I’m super excited for.

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie – A Don Quixote retelling.  I’ve never read Don Quixote or Salman Rushdie so I’m curious how this one will turn out for me.

People of the Lake by Nick Scorza – An Edelweiss read now download that I was willing to take a chance on because I love the cover and the description sounds like something out of a King novel.

Imaginary Friend by Nick Scorza – I already mentioned this one in a Can’t Wait Wednesday post.  I’m hoping to clear out some of my other ARCs and dive into this one.

Giveaways Won:

 

Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade – I’m so excited to have won this!  It sounds right up my alley.  It’s not due out until November… I’m hoping Tor doesn’t wait months to send it.

Fortuna Sworn by KJ Sutton – The author actually approached me to review this, and it’s been awhile since I read a Fae novel, so I happily agreed.  (Also- I love that cover!)

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace – Thank you to Tammy @ Books, Bones and Buffy for hosting this giveaway!  It was a total surprise when it showed up in the mail but I’m hoping to start it very soon because it sounds perfect for what I’ve been in the mood to read lately.

Currently reading:

The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova – This was a Kindle steal a couple months back for 99 cents.  Currently buddy reading it with some friends on the SFF Book Club at GoodReads!

Planned reads for August:

 

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – An author I keep hearing about and finally have the occasion to read!

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa – A translated Japanese dystopian that I’m super excited for!

The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden – A YA dystopian about a society that punishes and condemns online trolling, bullying, etc.

How was July for you?

2019 Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

Well- I’m a little late to the party on this one.  I wasn’t tagged by anyone on this and don’t plan to tag anyone else but I wanted to do it anyway because it looks like fun.

But first some mid-year stats because I love stats of any sort.

Pages read: 16,149

Novels or Novellas read: 37
Graphic Novels read: 6
Short Stories (not as part of a larger collection): 6
Short Story collections: 3

Genre Breakdown:
20 Fantasy
16 Science Fiction
6 Science Fantasy
3 Thrillers
3 Classics
2 Historical Fiction
1 Western
1 Horror

25 “not men” (women and non-binary authors), 27 men (6 of these are Brian K. Vaughan from reading the Saga series, so I’m not doing too bad here).

12 featuring LGBT+ characters

9 authors of color

32 New-to-me authors (which is fantastic for me because I have a tendency to read the same authors over and over again)

Challenges:  I’m not really participating in any challenges this year.  But I’ve been randomly filling in a list of Pop Sugar prompts and I think I’ve been able to fill in about 28 prompts.

Best book I’ve read so far:

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky is the only book I can put here without an asterisk next to it.  A close second is:

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley.  The only thing holding this back from being a full 5 star read for me is the ending, which felt a little too abrupt for me.

Best sequel I’ve read so far:

Luna Moon Rising Ian McDonald

Moon Rising (Luna #3) by Ian McDonald.  Technically not a sequel.. but a next-in-series.  My other options were Saga Vol. 2, and Mahimata (Asiana #2) by Rati Mehrotra, which were both solid reads.

New release I haven’t read yet but want to:

Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:

All of them?  Does that count?

The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald (novella set in world of Luna)

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marhsall

The Institute by Stephen King

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

Biggest disappointment:

TheStand_SK

The Stand by Stephen King.  I’ve had several disappointments this year- but there really isn’t anything more disappointing than a favorite author’s well-loved book not living up to the hype for you personally.  It’s my own fault for expecting too much, because I know King is hit or miss, but I really wanted to love this and couldn’t.

Biggest surprise:

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney.  It was such a surprise I didn’t even know I wanted to read it until it was in my hands.

Favorite new author (debut or new to me):

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass.  I didn’t rate this 5 stars, but it’s probably at the top of my 4 star reads.  I would have put Headly (The Mere Wife) here, but I ended up DNF’ing her Queen of Kings, and I loved Brodsky’s The Wolf in the Whale but I am not overly interested in reading her others.  So I’m going with Cate Glass, because I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel to this one.

Newest fictional crush:

I don’t have one so far this year!

Newest favorite character:

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

Omat & Brandr from The Wolf in the Whale.  I don’t know if either of them individually are new favorite characters but they are definitely a new favorite couple.

Book that (almost) made me cry:

blrw_mj

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. So if I’m being honest I think the only book that made me cry this year is once again The Wolf in the Whale.  But I really would hate to use that book for all of these prompts.  So the runner up, which almost made me cry, was Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

Book that made me happy laugh:

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky.  This book is really funny- and it needed to be because it’s also really dark.

Honorable mention to Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers, which I’ve only read a little of so far but has given me a few laugh out loud moments.

Favorite book to film adaptation I saw this year:

The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell

The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell.  I don’t know if this is cheating, since I actually read the book in 2017.  The Last Kingdom which is a Netflix show is one of my favorite shows.  I saw season three earlier in the year and enjoyed that (although I do think it deviated a lot from the books).

Favorite review I’ve written this year:

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley.  Mostly because it gave me so many fabulous quotes to include.

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

Honorable mention to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West because the review kept evolving after I had written it.  It started as a rant, and then when I went to edit the rant I had thought about the book some more and I had to add a whole slew of new stuff.  And later when I edited that, I had even more thoughts to add.

Most beautiful book I’ve bought so far this year (or received):

Inland by Tea Obreht

Inland by Tea Obreht.  I recently received an ARC of this in the mail and even though it’s an ARC there’s a cover with some promotional blurbs and behind that the front cover is just really pretty with all the colors.

Books I need to read by the end of the year:

SO MANY.  I feel so far behind right now.  But a few that I already own that I really want to get to are:

Micro by Michael Crichton

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell

And that’s it!  I’m a little disappointed I don’t have more titles to freak out over.  Hopefully the second half of 2019 will be a little better!

Book Review: An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass

Do you know I’ve read more fantasy this year than any other genre and I only have like three books I’d recommend from the 20 I’ve read?  My fantasy reading this year has kind of bummed me out.  Anyway, I am happy to have another book to add to that roster!

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass

Rating:  ★★★★

Blurb (from GoodReads): In Cantagna, being a sorcerer is a death sentence.

Romy escapes her hardscrabble upbringing when she becomes courtesan to the Shadow Lord, a revolutionary noble who brings laws and comforts once reserved for the wealthy to all. When her brother, Neri, is caught thieving with the aid of magic, Romy’s aristocratic influence is the only thing that can spare his life—and the price is her banishment.

Now back in Beggar’s Ring, she has just her wits and her own long-hidden sorcery to help her and Neri survive. But when a plot to overthrow the Shadow Lord and incite civil war is uncovered, only Romy knows how to stop it. To do so, she’ll have to rely on newfound allies—a swordmaster, a silversmith, and her own thieving brother. And they’ll need the very thing that could condemn them all: magic.

This sucked me in right away- not so much because of the plot, but I loved the characters and the world building/setting.  The setting is inspired by renaissance Italy.  Although we could detract points for it being a European setting, I do think Italy is one of the rarer European settings, and I also felt like Glass did an excellent job of it making it unique (this is a godless empire for starters, which was kind of refreshing).  Cantagna has seen it’s share of tyrant rulers and strife, so a decent portion of the population lives in poverty, keeping the setting dark and gritty.

Adding to that, Romy is a courtesan, and it was actually a relatively positive portrayal of a sex worker, so that was refreshing too.  I will say though: the Shadow Lord technically owns Romy, which we all know is wrong, but there is no violence, no rape, etc.  She is grateful and happy to be with him (her life before him sucked).  So it definitely delves into some muddy water there.  I’d compare the relationship to that of the one between Belle and Beast, just something I want to note because I can understand why this would be problematic for some readers.  I don’t want to say this is a small part of the book, because their relationship is integral to the plot, but it also manages to not be the focus.  As an aside, there are no sex scenes and very little romance.

Romy won me over right from the beginning as a character.  There’s a scene where the wife of the Shadow Lord is gloating about her being cast out, and Romy instead of responding in a catty or jealous way, offers to help his wife however she can should she ever need it.  In all their dealings with each other she always acted as the “bigger” person so to speak, and it was just nice that it never defaulted into the trope of two girls fighting over a man.

The main characters in this book are all sorcerers and I loved the variety of abilities they possessed among them (they only seem to have one ability each).  I also really loved the diverging arcs between Romy and her brother Neri.  Romy helps her brother grow a lot as a character, while at the same time, mourning the loss of her Shadow Lord and her old life, we see her enter a sort of downward spiral.  Again- it was a refreshing arc for a character to have.

It wasn’t quite a five star read for me for a couple of very minor reasons.  The first is that this is a slow burn sort of book where we don’t get to the heart of the plot until well after the halfway point.  Many of the things prior to that are all set up, and as a result the plot felt a little thin (the characters and setting were so great, I just didn’t care that much in this case).

My second issue is with a stylistic choice that was made, that makes perfect sense for the book and I can see why the author did it that way, but is one that I found really jarring and kind of took me out of the moment when I encountered it.  I can’t really say more than that without spoilers, but when it happened, it felt like I was reading an entirely different character.  It only happens in a couple of chapters so again, no big deal.

I am absolutely chomping at the bit to get my hands on the next book and highly recommend this to any fantasy reader.  An Illusion of Thieves can be found on GoodReads or purchased on Amazon.