Thoughts on my August 2021 reading

It was the plan to write something witty and thoughtful for this intro to what I read last month. However, I’m exhausted from staying up long past my bedtime last night to keep up with weather updates as the remnants of Ida blew through the metro NYC area. Discussing the causes, issues, and impact of this type of weather event is something for me to write about on another day.

I’ll try a different format for this month. It is counter to most of the best practices for web content, but it’s how my brain is functioning today. I read 13 books last month. Here are some thoughts about a few of them.

Reread of a Fantasy Mega-Series

Last month I couldn’t stop reading a post-catastrophe series that’s quite the doorstop, The Secret World Chronicles, by Mercedes Lackey as well as Dennis Lee, Steve Martin, Cody Martin, and Veronica Giguere. All 2,688 pages of this braided novel mega-series. I listened to some of this as a podcast long ago, and it turns out I didn’t finish the story back then. There is a character in the last two books I’m convinced I would remember. I found it an interesting read for three reasons: first of what I remembered from listening over a decade ago to what I was reading. Second for the world building and the type of fantasy — the layering of the magic/metas over what I’d consider a very close reality of the Earth I know. Finally, for yet another apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic story set in and around Atlanta. Is that because as a transit hub many authors spent a lot of time thinking about the general area? I’m thinking specifically of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.

Two novellas

Two other books I read (and adored) are Psalm for The Wild-Built by Becky Chambers and Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells. Hmm. I spy a trend in character traits! Both are quick reads and enjoyable for different reasons beyond their featuring of non-human characters. Murderbot is back in Wells new novella and it’s a cozy mystery tech thriller, with spaceships. If you’ve not read other stories in this universe, it can stand alone. It’s set temporally between the first four novellas and the novel, Network Effect. Apparently, I’ve not written anything about my love of this series. I’ll have to reread it and work on fixing that. I relate strongly to Murderbot. Psalm for the Wild-Built is the first in a new series and there is much to unpack in this short work; first please take a moment to rest and think with a cup of tea.

Review of A Master of Djinn

I wrote one review last month, for the remarkable A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark. It is a novel that really does have it all: alternative history, urban fantasy, mystery/police procedure, and steam punk. In advance of my writing the review I reread Haunting of Tram Car 015 and “A Dead Djinn in Cairo“. If you haven’t yet read any of Clark’s work, I highly recommend all of it. I’m finally reading Ring Shout and it’s been hard to focus on writing this post, I’m only three chapters in and want to read more.

Another title worth reading

Last month I also read Animal, Vegetable, Junk by Mark Bittmann and while I recommend it, I don’t have much brain left today to coherently explain why. My longer-term plan is to tie together recent readings on nutrition, public health, climate change, and policy, but today is not that day.

September’s reading plan

As I can’t see the future with certainty, I’m not sure what I’ll read in September. There are several reviews I’d like to complete–Never Say You Can’t Survive, Invisible Sun, and a new edition of We top that list. I have many bookmarks scattered about and we’ll see what ultimately holds my attention.

July 2021 Reading

I thought I would read differently last month. I expected Shadow’s recovery to be more sedate and I’d curl up with him and read. Yes, he slept more, but his medications meant that he wanted lots of active snuggling. They warned me this would be a side effect! I enjoyed it, even if it did make reading more challenging than I expected.

This made eBooks easier to read that my paperback Valdemar series, though I did manage to finish rereading Arrows of the Queen. Don’t worry, I can cuddle my cat and read, I finished sixteen other eBooks last month. I no longer list every title but share a few of my recommendations here.

October Daye Series

After finishing A Killing Frost last month, I’m now caught up on The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire. This urban fantasy is mostly set in a San Francisco we’d recognize and has an uneasy neighbor in Fairie. Even if one side isn’t aware of the other. It comes with all joys and challenges that happens when coexisting in close proximity. October struggles throughout the books — she’s a changeling not a full blooded fae, she was transformed against her will and lost years, she has an uneasy relationship with her mother, and she struggles to find her place in society, there’s more. When she discovers she’d be lied to about her heritage, her life improves in some ways and of course new challenges arise. She’s a misfit who doesn’t intend to cause massive societal change everywhere she goes, it just happens. I love McGuire’s storytelling, her characters, and how she blends fantasy and realism into one I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up to find was reality. If you’re interested, begin with Rosemary and Rue and plan to give up sleep, housekeeping, cooking, everything until you’re caught up on all the books. They’re worth it.

SF Short Stories

Women Destroy Science Fiction! by Lightspeed Magazine, edited by Christie Yant

Not able to tackle a full-length novel? The thought of reading an entire series too much? This collection of short science fiction work is an enjoyable anthology, published by Lightspeed in 2014. It’s also available as an audiobook, which is how I enjoyed these stories. (Overdrive library link)

As with any anthology, some entries were more compelling for me than others. Overall, the entire collection was an enjoyable read/listen.

Climate Change

Diet for a Small Planet 20th Anniversary Edition by Frances Moore Lappé

This is another ecology/nature/climate change book that I’m surprised no one put into my hand 30 years ago. Perhaps it’s the unfortunate title, it’s a remarkable book. I would have devoured it back then. I’m now fascinated by Lappé’s work and even more so how I missed it until hearing the title mentioned on an episode of The Food Programme earlier this year. This 20th edition is still a readable and information book, even though the recipes are dated and I skipped them! I’m curious and hope to read the 50th edition when it comes out next month (It will include updated recipes! Visit for more information).

Myths beyond Europe

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse takes the dated assumption that Western culture makes a fantasy novel, tosses it out, and replaces it with a variety of myths that result in a deep and engaging epic.

I found it to be a book I want to savor and linger over while reading. My first reading experience of it was unfortunately fragmented due to the nature of library eBook holds and borrows. After many starts and stops over the past year, last month was I finally able to read it in one delightful marathon reading session.

 I hope to reread this novel again before I attempt to write more about it other than suggesting you read it too. Can’t wait and want to learn more? This recent review at strange horizons will help you out.

More candy reads

I hadn’t intended to let these books stack up, but I was happy I did. They are the perfect sort of easy reading my brain needed last month. Perhaps you watch reality TV, I read these novels. In one delightful weekend, I inhaled the three most recent in Death books by J.D. Robb: Golden in Death, Shadows in Death, and Faithless in Death. They’re full of everything you’d expect from Eve, Roarke, Peabody, et al. These are fun reads and I enjoyed them while E watched some classic Law and Order re-reruns (aka reruns of episodes we’ve watched recently). A small warning about Shadows in Death … someone ends up dead (no not that someone) and the timing of it along with the title left me (and Eve) incredibly pissed off and wanting justice.

NetGalley review

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor, May 2021)

This novel has it all: alternative history, urban fantasy, mystery/police procedure, and steam punk. A Master of Djinn is set in the alternative 1900’s Egypt that Clark introduced in previously published short works.

In anticipation of writing this review I reread both of Clark’s shorter works set in this world, though this works as a stand-alone full-length debut novel. Now I want to reread this book again. What higher compliment can I give a book than I want to reread it?

Please enjoy my entire review at NetGalley.

I received this title through NetGalley, the FTC wants you to know.

Next reads

As for what I’m reading next, I don’t have set plans. It’s plausible I’ll reread Valdemar, but I may get caught up in eBooks from the library. I’m trying to clear out my TBR lists.

As you can see, Shadow is still keen on snuggles. He had his first chemo treatment on Monday and so far, is doing very well. 

Black cat, still recovering from surgery on July 1, sitting on his person's lap and sharing it with a laptop.
typos brought to you by Shadow’s tail

June 2021 Reading

If I thought May was a challenging month, it had nothing on June. I put my nose in a book whenever I could. Life is stressful and I escape by reading fantasy. Therefore, I managed to make good progress in both the October Daye and InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire. I also finished a few other books bringing the total for the month to twenty-two books. I’ve read 123 titles so far this year!

NetGalley Reviews

There is only one NetGalley review this month. I’m working on the others.

Cover for Knit Hats by Woolly Wormhead. Shows 6 designs in collage.

Knit Hats: Styles for the Whole Family by Woolly Wormhead

Showcasing Woolly’s unique style, this book has a hat for every member of the family. Pre-order your copy today.

You can read my complete review at little acorn creations.

Read in series and parallel

I don’t yet have coherent thoughts about either the InCryptid or October Daye series. I am enjoying both very much. I’m reading The Winter Long today and feel very much seen in/by/as Toby. Earlier this week I finished Calculated Risks, now that I’m caught up on the InCryptid series and I’ll write up my thoughts.

Cover: The Ministry for the Future. A tunnel/silo showing a blue sky, silhouette of a person, a blimp.

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

I started this book last summer and finished it mid-month before the record-breaking heat wave hit the Pacific Northwest.

This needs to be required reading to understand the big picture and how everything we do impacts the climate.

I highly recommend it with the caveat that the storytelling format, switching between characters, was sometimes distracting.

cover: My Remarkable Journey. An early to mid-career Johnson shown with a paper collage in the background, some showing graphs and formulas.

My Remarkable Journey: A Memoir by Katherine Johnson with Joylette Hylick and Katherine G. Moore

I thankful to read these histories before they are lost to time. This is a beautiful memoir and I’m thankful her daughters helped complete the manuscript. Yes, I most wish for a time machine so I could have read it as someone who loved math in high school (but didn’t know what one could do with it other than teach, and I’d planned to teach music) or as a very young computer science major in college.

Cover: Beyond The Founding of Valdemar. A man with a blue badge and a white winged horse is prominent.

Beyond (Founding of Valdemar) by Mercedes Lackey

Wow. Yes. You must read this book. I’d forgotten this book was arriving. I’d recommended it to the library long ago and the automatic fulfillment of my hold on a copy was a pleasant surprise.

Some longtime readers of this world are apparently thrown by the first chapter. I loved it for telling it true (or as true as can be in a fantasy world). Lackey is writing the story as it needs to be written. This establishes how the Founding of Valdemar came to be. I also believe this is a book written in reflection of a world that is not as gentle as it wanted to seem was years ago. In addition to graphic detail, there are f-bombs. If you know me in real life, my language is incredibly salty. I may have shouted “Yes!” more than once while reading as I encountered them.

I loved this new book of Valdemar and am already impatiently awaiting the next one.

July Reading Plans

Shadow finally had surgery this morning to remove his sarcoma after delaying for additional tests. It went well and now we begin his path to recovery. Once he’s home (he’s in kitty ICU tonight), he’ll need to keep quiet for two weeks (not too hard for a 12-year-old lap cat). It should be no surprise that I plan to sit and reread the entire Valdemar series with him.

Last week he and Dot shared some of the packing paper. It made for a good napping spot.

Black cat with one front leg shaved and a tuxedo cat both laying and napping on packing paper in a living room that has other cat-friendly boxes and packing paper.
packing paper is the best

May 2021 Reading

May was a challenging month for reasons not related at all to my reading. There were, however, two exciting reading related events. First, I set foot inside my local library branch for the first time since March 2020! It was delightful to browse the shelves and check out books. The second was shopping at two library book sales and finding some interesting new-to-me titles.

Even with all these distractions, I managed to finish reading eighteen books.

Read in series, not parallel

The Psy/Changeling Trinity Series is a subtle shift to share more of the Psy/Changeling world by Nalini Singh. It explores new areas and meeting new characters. I enjoyed Silver Silence, perhaps the most out of any of the books in this world.

I also read the Peter Grant/River of London series by Ben Aaronvitch. Adrienne Martini introduced me to the existence of these books in her newsletter. As an Anglophile myself it was a good way to pretend travel to London. I will not confirm or deny watching reruns of Endeavor during my devouring of these books. It’s impossible at this time to state a favourite book, I’m hoping the library licenses What Abigail Did That Summer soon, she is a fascinating character and I’d like to get to know her better. While Aaronvitch claims he’s not comfortable with the form, I found Tales from the Folly to be a remarkable short story collection and wish I hadn’t read it all in one evening!

NetGalley Reviews

There are two NetGalley reviews this week! Hopefully I’ll share more soon. I finished reading several titles and now have to write something more coherent than “I liked it”.

Paper & Blood (Ink & Sigil #2) by Kevin Hearne

Book cover of Paper & Blood

This second book of the Ink & Sigil series caused me to break my moratorium on requesting new ARCs before I finished a few more reviews. I love this new series set in the world the Iron Druid introduced ten years ago.

Is it a perfect book? It’s close. Is it remarkable that Hearne completed the manuscript during this global pandemic? Yes! Will we be reunited with beloved characters? SAUSAGE! (That’s a yes–Oberon and Starbuck are a key part of this story as are Al, Buck, Nadia, and yes Atticus).

Paper & Blood is wonderful read with Hearne’s signature wit and wordplay. You can read more thoughts in this NetGalley review. It’s available now for pre-order with a signed bookplate from The Poisoned Pen.

Adventure Cables by Meghan Jones

Book cover of Adventure Cables

This is a book I’ll write more about at little acorn creations tomorrow.

It is a pattern collection with extensive tips and tutorials. It’s geared toward intermediate knitters.

Pre-order today, it will be released in September.

June Reading Plans

I’m working through the October Dayne and InCryptid books by Seanan McGuire. It’s unclear to me why I’ve not completed these series yet. I think they’ll be good escapes this month.

There are more NetGalley reviews in the queue and I hope to make it to at least a 50% review ratio by the end of this month. If I stopped requesting new books faster than I can review them, it would be a much easier goal to reach!

piles of books

April 2021 Reading

My reading in April was predictable. If I was awake and not working, I pretty much had my nose in a book. I read Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changlings series quickly. This was aided by a library license to omnibus editions of several books so I could pretty much read continuously. I’d borrow 1-5 and place a hold for 6-10; the second volume became available as I finished the first, and I repeated this with the third. This also let me conserve the number of books I checked out at one time.

The first book, Slave to Sensation took me a while to get into. This series came highly recommended by a good friend — we enjoy many of the same series. I sent her a message, I’m not sure I’m going to like this. The reply was to keep reading. I did was rewarded with a rich story and world that I can’t stop thinking about. I’m now mid-way through the Psy-Changeling Trinity series and have lots of thoughts on the world and characters. I’m going to try to write something up when I finish the fourth book. These sorts of reviews are challenging for me to write, but I am going to try!

Over at little acorn creations I wrote about four knitting books I borrowed from the library. I didn’t intend to do such a deep dive into the concept of modular knitting, but it happened, and I’ve learned a lot. You can find the reviews at my post, Blanket Thoughts.

Review Reads

I’d set a personal rule that I couldn’t request more netgalley titles until my review ratio was a bit higher. It’s still below fifty percent. That flew out the window the moment Kevin Hearne’s next book was offered. I loved Ink and Sigil when I first read it last year (see also this mini review). I can now say that Paper and Blood is even better. I’m working on a proper review, we’ll start with this preview: I stayed up late to finish. I can’t think of an accolade higher than that. Ok, I stay up to finish just one more chapter of what I’m reading almost every night. In this case I stayed up with the intent to finish the book (I had 3 chapters left). It was worth it the next day grogginess. This second book features many returning characters and has a few surprises up its sleeve (or do books have two because of the front/back covers? Hmm.) If you haven’t yet read the Iron Druid Chronicles, you really should. It begins with Hounded, published ten years ago!

What I’m reading next

I have a large stack of paper books on my nightstand I really should read but I’ve said that for a year. I have a very long list of netgalley titles to review. But I’ve said that for a year as well. All of those may get ignored because in a few weeks, my local library branch is due to open for in person browsing. I’m excited. I can do a good deal with catalog searches, there is even a “shelf browser” feature. But nothing can compete with doing so in person.

Why? I received my second vaccine dose last Sunday and will be considered fully immunized by that time. Please, help protect your community and get vaccinated (both doses if applicable), continue to be thoughtful about wearing a mask properly (cover your nose), maintaining social distance, staying home if you’re unwell, and washing your hands.