Reading the Booker Prize winners (4): In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul

Title: In a Free State

Author: V.S. Naipaul

Genre: Fiction

Year: 1971

A nameless traveller who faces human cruelty on his way to Egypt; an Indian immigrant searching for freedom in Washington; a West Indian man sacrificing everything for his little brother; and two English people travelling through an unnamed African country on the cusp of revolution.

In a Free State is a cynic exploration of the meaning of freedom, belonging, alienation, and the prize of colonialism.

Continue reading Reading the Booker Prize winners (4): In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul

The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

Title: The Liar’s Key

Series: The Red Queen’s War #2

Author: Mark Lawrence

Genre: Fantasy

Year: 2015

Prince Jalan Kendeth has spent the winter in the north, hiding from the cold – and from the husbands of his conquests, until the day comes when he is forced to leave and embarks in a new journey with Snorri, this time heading south – music to Jalan’s ears, already dreaming of home and all its comforts.

But comfort is the last thing on Snorri’s mind. Now in possession of Loki’s key, he only needs one more thing before he can bring back his wife and children: to find death’s door, and open it.
But their enemies have eyes on the key, and they won’t make his search easy.

Continue reading The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Title: The Year of the Witching

Series: Bethel #1

Author: Alexis Henderson

Genre: Fantasy

Year: 2020

Blood. Blight. Darkness. Slaughter.

Immanuelle Moore only wants to be a normal young woman in Bethel’s society and follow Protocol and the Prophet’s word just like anyone else, but she has always been frowned upon for being the result of a union between her mother and an outsider.
When a mishap lures her into the dark forest that surrounds Bethel, she encounters the spirits of four witches that were slain on those grounds by the first Prophet, and they bestow a gift on her: her own mother’s diary.
Immanuelle sets to reading her mother’s words, but what begins as the diary of a young woman in love soon turns to something darker and worrisome. Immanuelle doesn’t understand everything, but one thing is clear: if she wants to save Bethel, she needs to get to the bottom of what happened before she was born.

Continue reading The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

End of the Year Survey and Stats – 2020 edition

2020 is somehow over, and here I am trying to wrap up what I read during this very strange year. The questions were inspired by the annual survey over at The Perpetual Page-Turner, but I didn’t answer all of them, so please go check her out if you’re curious about the rest.

SURVEY

Favourite book of the year?
Oh, we start with the hardest one already. I have read a few new favourites, but to reduce it to only one title? I guess I’ll have to start cheating right from the beginning…
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins; The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling; The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky; A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H.G. Parry, just to name a few.

A book you thought you were going to love but didn’t?
Once again, too many answers for just one question. To name just a few, I would say The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson; Gods of Jade and Shadows by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart; The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton.

Most surprising (in a good way) book you read?
Troubles by J.G. Farrell, because I was expecting a pretty heavy historical fiction novel, but I got a story full of interesting characters and humor; Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman, because it was much quieter than I expected but also so much more wholesome; The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas because I didn’t think a YA retelling could grip me that much; and Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, because some of the ideas were truly mind-blowing.

Best series you started, best sequel and best series ender?
So, in an attempt not to repeat myself too much, I’d say the best series starter was Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir; the best sequel was Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch; and the best series ender was without a doubt The Crippled God by Steven Erikson.

Favourite new to me author?
Basically all of the authors who wrote my favourite books of the year? Can’t really narrow it down more than that.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read or was out of your comfort zone?
I would say Beach Read by Emily Henry. Not only it was a cute romance – which is NOT my genre at all – but it also had some deeper topics and I actually teared up around the end.

Most action packed/thrilling/un-put downable book of the year?
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is a book I read in one sitting, so I’d say it totally counts. I’m sure there were others I couldn’t put down, but nothing comes to mind right now.

Most memorable character you read this year?
Oh, I’m torn on this one as well! How is that even possible? I would say Gideon, from Gideon the Ninth, with her sometimes grating personality but also humor; Murderbot without a doubt, the most relatable non-human I ever read about; and it might sound ridiculous, but David from The Library at Mount Char did make quite an impression on me. Not entirely a positive one, but memorable? Absolutely.

Most beautifully written book?
Is it too cliché to answer with a poetry book? I read Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong and it was really good. But also The Future Is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente, which is one of my favourite authors of all time. Even though I still have to read a lot of her works, she just has a way with words.

Most thought provoking/life changing book?
The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I really enjoyed both books and they sparked reflections afterwards. As well as a desire to read more by the author.

A book you can’t believe you waited until this year to read?
Probably Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. The Lies of Locke Lamora is one of my favourite books of all time, so I can’t believe I waited almost four years before picking up the sequel. Hopefully I don’t leave the third one for as long.

The book that shocked you the most?
Home After Dark by Riley Sager, even though not exactly in a positive way. While the twists were really surprising, the last one was… less than credible, to say the least. I’m still not over the absurdity.

Favourite book you read from an author you’ve read previously?
Probably Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. It took me a couple of years before I finally picked up another of his books after the First Law Trilogy and I wasn’t disappointed. His characters are masterfully realised.

Best book you read in 2020 that you read solely on a recommendation from somebody else?
Driftwood by Marie Brennan. Super-interesting worldbuilding and structure, and I only read it because I saw a random review on Goodreads that talked about it. I was really surprised by how much I liked it.

Best 2020 debut?
Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. Simply beautiful.

Best worldbuildind/most vivid setting?
I think the Malazan series wins this one hands down for best (or most extensive) world-building. But if we are talking about vivid setting, then I would say both volumes in The Singing Hills Cycle by Nghi Vo.

A book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read?
Without a doubt, Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. The banter between the two main characters is absolutely perfect, and the protagonist’s inner monologue is a lot of fun as well.

A book that made you cry (or nearly cry) in 2020?
Well, at this point it’s a bit hard not to start repeating myself. I cried when reading Beach Read, but I also had tears in my eyes (and goosebumps) for the last 200 or so pages of The Crippled God by Steven Erikson. But I think The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu had me tearing up at some point as well…

Hidden gem of the year?
A book that I haven’t heard many people talk about, and that’s The Seventh Perfection by Daniel Polansky. Beautiful writing, vivid setting, and written in a very peculiar style.

Book that crushed your soul?
Wildfire by Carrie Mac, hands down. I was so upset when I finished the book that I kept thinking about it for days after. It messed up my sleep!

Book that made you the most mad (not necessarily something you didn’t like)?
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I though I was going to love this book, but it just made me angry instead. Lots of potential, terrible execution.

STATS

Let’s talk about numbers now!

In 2020 I read 148 books and abandoned 5.
37 of those were 2020 releases, and 112 were backlist titles (of which 9 were re-reads), so all in all about a fourth of my total were new releases and I’m pretty happy about that. There are still a lot I didn’t get to, though.

80 of the books i read were from new-to-me authors, the rest from authors i had already read in the past. Somehow, only 14 of the books I read where debut novels – even though they didn’t necessarily come out this year.
Also, about 59% were by female authors, and I’m not mad about it.

I read in total around 55,5k pages, which translates to an average of 150 pages a day. It’s a lot more than I usually read, and that’s probably because 2020 forced all of us to spend a lot of time locked inside.
The shortest book I read was Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences by Mark Twain at 29 pages, while the longest was Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson, at 1294.
The average length of the books I read is around 370 pages.

As for the ratings, my average rating for this year is 3,59, which is a little less than last year.
I had 19 five star books (15% of the total), 39 four stars (31%), 39 three stars (31%), 8 two stars (6%) a couple of one star and a few ratings in-between.

Of the 148 books I read, 12 were audiobooks, 10 were physical books and 126 were ebooks, so give or take 85% of what I read was on my kindle.

Let’s now have a look at the genres, shall we?

My most read is fantasy, with a whopping 74 novels (49%); horror, mystery and nonfiction follow with 11 books each (7%), then Scifi with 10, historical fiction with 7, and the rest have only a handful of entries each (paranormal, contemporary, poetry, romance, classics and anthologies).

Since most of the books I read are fantasy, there are bound to be series in the mix. So let’s have a look at what I started, finished, or simply made progress with.

If I didn’t miss anything while jotting down my notes, I started (but not completed) exactly 20 new series this year. As if I didn’t already had about a million “in progress”. Some of them I’ll be continuing on, while for some others one book was more than enough for me.
A few of the books I read are supposed to be the first in a series, but since there are no news about the sequel’s release, I’m not going to count them as series for now.

I have completed 9 series. Some of them I had been reading for some time already, a few I started and completed this year. Not too bad, all things considered.

And I also made some progress on 5 other series I’m in the middle of, but without reaching the end.

So that’s it for this year in reading, and if you’re still here after all of those numbers, well, thanks for not falling asleep halfway through I guess. Personally, I can’t wait to do this again next year and see how they compare!
Is there something I forgot to talk about, or anything you think I should add to this list? How was your reading year?

Stay safe, and happy reading!

The Seep by Chana Porter

Title: The Seep

Author: Chana Porter

Genre: Science Fiction

Year: 2020

It’s been twenty years since the alien entity called the Seep infiltrated human society. In the Seep everyone and everything is connected: no more capitalism, wars, diseases, even death. The Seep allows everyone to be who and what they want to be: it just wants humanity to be happy and content.

Trina was happy as well, until the day her wife Deeba started dreaming of being a baby again, and finally decided to move on to this new existence without her. Heartbroken, Trina embarks in an unexpected quest, a desperate attempt to overcome her grief and find a new purpose in life.

Continue reading The Seep by Chana Porter

December 2020 wrap-up

How is it already the end of the month again?

I have read a little less than usual this month, mostly because I started a new job and that took away a lot of time and energy. I still managed to finish seven books, so all in all I’m happy with that. I read a YA historical fiction, a fantasy novella, a sci-fi novella, a mystery novel, a Booker Prize winner and two non-fiction books. So let’s just get to them, shall we?

Continue reading December 2020 wrap-up

The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

Title: The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan

Author: Sherry Thomas

Genre: Historical Fiction

Year: 2019

Hua Mulan has spent all of her life training for one purpose: to defeat in duel the heir of the Peng family and reunite two priceless swords, as well as avenging his father who was paralysed in the previous duel between the two families.

But a messenger from the emperor comes calling for recruits, and with no one in her family able to answer the call, Mulan dresses as a man and journeys to the front with a group of fresh recruits. Thanks to her martial arts training, she is soon chosen to be part of an elite group under the command of the princeling. They will travel beyond the great wall of China to uncover the Rouran clans’ plans of conquest, while unmasking a dangerous conspiracy in the capital and uncovering secrets that will shake Mulan’s understanding of her past.

Continue reading The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Title: The Devil and the Dark Water

Author: Stuart Turton

Genre: Mystery

Year: 2020

‘Know that my master sails aboard the Saardam. He is the lord of hidden things; all desperate and dark things. He offers this warning in accordance with the old laws. The Saardam‘s cargo is sin and all who board her will be brought to merciless ruin. She will not reach Amsterdam.’

Samuel Pipps, the most famous detective of his age, is being taken to Amsterdam to be executed for a mysterious crime he might, or might not, have committed. With him is his friend and bodyguard Arent Hayes, determined to prove his innocence.

But before the ship sets sail, a leper places a curse on the ship and its voyage and then bursts into flames, and soon after the departure mysterious things start to take place on the ship. Rumours of a devil stalking in the darkness start circulating among the crew, and with Pipps locked up in a cell, it falls to Arent to find out what’s really going on and solve a mystery that seems to tie all of the passengers in one way or another.

Continue reading The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

When the Tiger Came down the Mountain by Nghi Vo

Title: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

Series: The Singing Hills Cycle #2

Author: Nghi Vo

Genre: Fantasy

Year: 2020

Chih, a cleric from the Singing Hills, is on the road again, collecting knowledge to bring back to their order. This time they’re hiring a scout to guide them through a mountain pass, but along the way they are chased and trapped by a small group of hungry tigers. The only way to survive is to gain time until the arrival of mammoths, and so Chih starts telling them the tale of the tiger Ho Thi Thao and her lover, the scolar Dieu.

Continue reading When the Tiger Came down the Mountain by Nghi Vo

Reading the Booker Prize Winners (3): Troubles by J.G. Farrell

Title: Troubles

Author: J.G. Farrell

Genre: Historical Fiction

Year: 1970

“How incredibly Irish it all is!” thought the Major wonderingly. “The family seems to be completely mad.”

Major Brendan Archer has survived the Great War and he believes it’s now time to meet Angela Spencer again, the young woman who wrote him letters every single week and signed herself as his “loving fiancee” in every one of them. Determined to understand the truth of the situation, he finds himself in front of the Majestic Hotel in Kilnalough, a once-grand building that is now slowly collapsing on itself. The Major soon realises that Angela is not the person he remembers, but he gets entangled in the hotel’s life nonetheless: the guests obsessed with gossip and games of cards, the herds of cats who have taken over the upper floors, the wild plants that threaten to take complete control of whole rooms, inside and out. At the same time, he starts falling for the beautiful and bitter Sarah Devlin, while outside unrest threatens the rule of the British Empire: Ireland is ready for independence, and the troubles are brewing.

Continue reading Reading the Booker Prize Winners (3): Troubles by J.G. Farrell