Somehow, I have repeated my January feat of 10 books for this month as well, taking me up to 20 total for the year so far! I’m not really fussed about reaching a high target at all, but I think my desire to plow through the TBR and clear my shelves for new things has translated into a lot of reading. It helps I’ve also started listening to audiobooks a lot more which means I get to “read” even during times I can’t necessarily hold a book – work commute, house chores, eating lunch… I’m really enjoying it! I’ve also been reading more teen and children’s books because I kept buying/requesting them and had an accumulation of titles – I’m actually having a mini teen phase right now because every book I’ve picked up in that category has been great so far!
All of these, except for Savage Her Reply, are part of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlist for 2022 and I have to say it’s a particularly strong selection this year – I have yet to dislike one and in fact three of these are some of my best reads of the year so far (The Last Bear is good but sadly can’t claim that position).
Children of the Quicksand by Efua Traoré is a story full of Nigerian folklore and has such a pull from the very first page. Simi, the main character, has always lived in Lagos, but when her mother has no other choice she sends her to her grandmother’s remote village, where she uncovers a secret that is dividing the community, and only she might be able to fix it and heal the past. It is fun, playful, and magical but it’s also rooted and full of insight.
Savage Her Reply by Deirdre Sullivan was one I listened to on audiobook and the narrator, Aoife McMahon, was truly excellent. It’s a dark, feminist retelling of the Irish myth of The Children of Lir, which I was only vaguely aware of. It’s told from the point of view of Aife who, in the most well known versions, is the villain of the story – and, to be fair, she does curse her sister’s three children and turn them into swans after promising to love and protect them, but there is more to her story than that. The prose was stunning, and despite the slow nature of the events the book still had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Highly recommend, especially as audio.
Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth is a coming of age story set in modern Ireland, where the main character Aideen finds herself in the role of school ‘fixer’ after she comes across Meabh -overachiever and daughter of the principal- having a meltdown over her workload and agrees to push her down the stairs to give her a respite from some of her responsibilities. Aideen finds this easier than dealing with her own home problems, but she might not be able to ignore them for long. This book had me laughing out loud, and tearing up the next page, and had my heart soaring with the sapphic romance and the friendships that develop. Overall just a wholesome story with some very relevant themes explored too.
The Last Bear by Hannah Gold is a story of adventure and love of nature, but it is also a warning and a call for everyone to do their part in this dying world of ours. When April and her father move to the remote Bear Island so her father can study the effects of climate change on the icy north, she is hopeful this means actual time together as a family, but when she finds herself ignored as usual she starts exploring, only to stumble upon a polar bear. The bear is injured and starved, and as April helps him a beautiful friendship starts.
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley is a genre-defying novel with such beautiful prose, strong dialogue, and such a compelling plot. I loved this one so much I gave it a full review!
This month’s NetGalley selections were sadly not very enjoyable for me, despite some of my most anticipated books being among them – I even decided to DNF two of them, which you can read about in my recent DNF Reviews post.
The Thousand Eyes by A.K. Larkwood was one I couldn’t wait to get into after loving the first book, The Unspoken Name, but it sadly didn’t live up to expectation. I may revisit it at some point in the future…
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh was more to my liking, and I really enjoyed the fact that this was a quick, breezy read that still had some meat on the bones but allowed me to switch off a little bit. I recommend it if you enjoy whimsy and folklore retellings that expand on the original mythology.
In part thanks to my audiobooks, I’m actually finishing more non-fiction titles than I’m used to – usually I start a book and at some point it gets abandoned as I gravitate more towards more exciting fiction stories. But there’s so much to learn in this world and my non-fiction bookcase is getting dangerously full so I’m slowly chipping away at it and loving it!
Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel is a thin book, written almost in the style of a blog post or essay that addresses the way antisemitism is very frequently ignored in favour of “more important” issues of racism. Baddiel clearly has a lot of righteous anger as he pens it, and it’s full of wry humour, but he is also patient with his reader and takes the time to back up all his arguments with examples and explanations. I think it’s a worthwhile read for anyone who believes in the importance of equality.
A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough is part memoir and part plan for the future – reading about the natural world, especially in relation to climate change and the decline of the planet, always brings me both joy and sorrow. I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Attenborough himself, and it gave me hope that, if more and more people see the world like he does, we might have a chance. This is another easy read (and easy listen) that I highly recommend.
The last of my reads for February is The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, and my choice for this month’s Adult SFF Backlist Challenge created by Bookish Valhalla. February’s theme was ‘Time’ and I think this is quite an obvious choice. I bought this about two and a half years ago now, so I was happy to have an excuse to pick it up and it was a pleasant read. I wouldn’t call it anything extraordinary but it was good fun – a murder mystery with time travel thrown into the mix, an all female ensemble, and some funky science make for a good combination. Not sure it’s a reread or a standout but I’m glad I read it!
I think I DNF’d the most books in one month in Feb! As well as The Justice of Kings and Stars and Bones I decided to abandon The Gilded Ones by Naming Forna and Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft. Now The Gilded Ones is a Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlisted book, and I know I said I had yet to read one I didn’t like, but I forgot about this temporarily. But also, I’m not sure I do dislike it because I fully intend to pick it up again. I think the opening, with its overly familiar trope of not-like-the-others main character and a day of ritual disrupted because of them was just not what I wanted right now. But it’s been on my shelf for a year now so it can stay there a little longer until I’m in the mood for it. And in the case of Senlin Ascends it wasn’t a dislike that made me choose to DNF but rather the fact that I didn’t feel like that kind of story in that moment, but I enjoyed what I read and look forward to picking it up when the time is right!
Currently Reading & March Plans
I am almost at the end of the audiobook for The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and I’m really enjoying it. I think it definitely has the feel of a debut but so much potential in terms of world building, characters, and writing style. Obviously, I know she progresses a lot since I’m always going on about The Priory of the Orange Tree! I’ve already got the audio for the second book lined up as soon as I finish this one!
The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton was sent to me a while ago by the author – thank you Jamie!! – when I showed some interest in her upcoming fantasy YA. She asked if I wanted to read this in the meantime and it seemed really sweet, so I decided to give it a go! I technically finished this today, March 1st, and really enjoyed it. I’ll probably write up a full review soon!
I’m not sure what I’ll pick up next but on Sunday morning I will be leaving for a two week holiday to South Africa. I’m really looking forward to it, though it still doesn’t feel quite real. This is the first time in my travels that I will be using my iPad for 90% of my reading, and I managed to limit myself to packing only one physical book knowing I can access many more with a few clicks. It’s not quite the same but it makes sense for weight and space… anyway, that one book is Bloodsworn by Tej Turner which I am looking forward to reading! I am now in possession of book two as well, and since I want to buddy read that with the one and only Bookforager I better get a move on!
Also in the plans are some exciting Wyrd & Wonder announcements! Not sure if you caught it but at the start of Feb I got to share the fact that I am a co-host for this year’s fantasy extravaganza event! I am beyond excited about this and many more things are to come, so keep an eye out. The number 5 may be important here… In the meaning, have you seen our new instagram page for the event? We’re sharing some ‘shelfies’ every few days to get to know the hosts and there will be more to come soon!