Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Category: Adventurer’s Guide Page 1 of 2

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.

It’s that time of the year/month

Open the sparkling water, the first half of the year 2020 is over! We haven’t run out of toilet paper, we have mastered the art of wearing a face mask and looking stylish in it, and we’ve managed to get through some books during quarantine – though not as many as I had hoped for, because: homeschooling. It’s time to look back at what I have managed to read so far and take a look at the challenges that I’ve pledged to participate in, it’s also time to come up with the very tentative TBR for July.

My Goodreads Challenge says I’ve read 131 books out of the 200 I want to read this year. Not bad! Actually, it’s probably a few more that I just forgot to add because they were textbooks or non-fiction. Do I remember what all of them were about? I’d like to shout “Yes, of course!” Honestly though?! I remember the outstandingly good ones, I remember some really bad ones, and I know I read a lot of stuff in between. If you asked me what the best read of the past six months was, I’d probably say my re-read of the Veronica Speedwell series culminating in the most recent fifth book of this series A Murderous Relation – comfort read more than anything else. I knew what I was in for and I liked every letter of it. But, I might also point you to Gideon the Ninth, or The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, or Why We Sleep, and even the most recent ones Goldilocks and If It Bleeds stick out of the pile of read books.

At the beginning of the year I signed up for several bookish challenges, like read one book set in each of the 51 European countries, or read as many books by a certain author for a month, or following a set of prompts for the seasons of the year, or a prompt for each month, and so on. A few weeks back I decided that I don’t want to do any prompted challenges at the moment. The only goal I still want to stick to is read 200 books, which I think is an achievable goal for me. I even deleted all my records of the books I had already entered for the other challenges with prompts. It felt liberating, like that time I decided to pull the bookmarks out of books that had been hibernating on the shelves for too long. Not having to find books and read them because the fit a certain prompt in a challenge felt too constricting right now. This way I can pick what I fancy, which is just what I like doing so much.

As always, the tentative TBR is made up of the mountain of ARCs that I requested (why so many, though?!) and was approved for (Yay! Thank you publishers!). Add the mountain of books that I have started and want to get through – Godsgrave is among them, also Dev1at3, These Broken Stars (I’m not a fangirl, it’s pure coincidence), Dreyer’s English, Alphabetical, Sorry I’m Late, … I know I won’t finish them all, but a girl may dream.

The only solidly planned read for the month is the Sceptre Buddyread: M. John Harrison’s The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again. Though, furthermore, there’s Glücklich die Glücklichen by Yasmina Reza (translation from the French) for my postal book club; and a possibly maybe read for the Terry Pratchett book club I’m hosting on Litsy (a very bookish app, the webversion can be found here: Litsy.com) is Johnny and the Bomb, which we’ll be discussing on July 7th, and from July 8th on we’ll be reading Pratchett’s Jingo. While we’re at it and since we’re nearly done with the Dev1at3 buddyread, TheLadyDuckOfDoom and I might follow that up with the just released final book in the trilogy, Truel1f3.

So much for a tentative TBR, this all sounds like a very well-planned adventure. Let’s see if I fancy sticking to it.

The Greek Mythology Fanfiction You Need

This is a public service announcement for anyone who – like me – has listened to Stephen Fry’s Greek Mythology books Mythos and Heroes multiple times and needs more while waiting for the release of Troy.

Some weeks ago I fell down a Goodreads rabbit hole and discovered Lore Olympus, a WEBTOON comic by Rachel Smythe. I’m usually not a big fan of romance stories, but you have probably never seen anyone tear through more than one hundred episodes as fast as I did.

It is a fun way to scratch that Greek mythology itch, although it does not strictly follow the original lore. I enjoyed the different take on Persephone and Hades’ story that manages without abduction and Stockholm syndrome. There are still some triggers, but there are always warnings in place if you prefer to skip those scenes. In the later episodes, trauma and grief are handled in a very delicate way.

While life on Earth takes place in the time of Ancient Greece, everything on Olympus is very modern – think smartphones, night clubs and Gods driving sparkling sports cars. It makes for a very entertaining contrast. I could go on and on about how I love to see all those mythological personalities portrayed in a very human way. Persephone and Hades have such a sweet dynamic, Hermes is the buddy we all need and a certain someone will forever be Asspollo in my mind. No, that’s not a typo.

Season 1 is done and the next season starts on August 2. So if I got you interested, right now would be the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and start with episode 1.

Plunging headfirst into a snow drift

When I saw Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer at my library’s book flea market, I didn’t know anything about climbing, mountaineering or the sheer madness that is a Mount Everest attempt. My decision to pick it up was based only on the fact that I was headed for a skiing trip, the book cost only 1€ and had a mountain on the cover. Nonfiction was not something I gravitated toward. Once we got settled I picked it up, and spent the next couple of evenings alternating between reading it and weirding everyone out with details about Everest expeditions. From the comfort and warmth of my hotel bed, I was hooked. I knew I would never do something as extreme in my whole life, but I thoroughly enjoyed the danger seeping from every page. Give me all the carabiners, crampons and frostbitten details, thank you very much.

Although I may not get to them in the foreseeable future, I fell down the rabbit hole looking for books that may scratch the same itch. An obvious choice was Krakauer’s Eiger Dreams, a collection of essay about his own (ice) climbing trips and the mountaineering community at large.

These are some of the books I found:

  • The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev (Everest)
  • Left for Dead by Beck Weathers (Everest)
  • Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar (Ural Mountains)
  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (Peruvian Andes)
  • Buried in the Sky by Peter Zuckerman (K2)
  • Annapurna by Maurice Herzog

I’m especially interested in the first two books, as they recount the same ascent as Krakauer did with Into Thin Air, but from different or even opposing perspectives. Krakauer presents Boukreev as overly ambitous and egoistic, putting himself first instead of saving other people. This struck me as a highly subjective opinion, so I’m curious to read Boukreev’s perspective as well in The Climb.

In Into Thin Air Krakauer describes how Beck Weathers was left behind in a storm that killed five climbers that day. He was believed to be dying from hypothermia and therefore to be beyond rescue. Leaving him behind was a tough but rational decision. I vividly remember the description of Weathers stumbling back into camp against all odds, a man seemingly made of ice. Left for Dead will no doubt be a fascinating read, recounting Weather’s fight back to life in his own words.

May Buddy Read: If it Bleeds

If it Bleeds by Stephen King was the Sceptre May buddy read. Fetching the envelope with the yet secret book from the mailbox, I remember thinking, ‘Well, it can’t be a King, it’s too slim’. I laughed so hard when I opened the brown paper envelope a few minutes later.

Not having read a Stephen King book for ages, only partly Mr King’s fault (I wasn’t a big fan of The Dark Tower), I was a bit hesitant to start these novellas. Only a few pages into the first story I was hooked though. There was something about the writing, it felt like coming home to a favourite book. (Why did I put Mr King off for so long?) And the plots reminded me of The X-Files; a bit creepy, but nothing too scary.

There’s “Mr Hannigan’s Phone”, a story about a young boy who still gets messages from his former employer’s phone long after Mr Hannigan and his phone were buried. There’s “The Life of Chuck”, a story told in reverse chronology, from Chuck on his deathbed to Chuck’s childhood. Then the story about a writer with writer’s block who strikes a deal with the dev… “Rat” which allows him to finish his novel, but at what costs? And, of course, the title story, “If It Bleeds”. It’s basically a sequel to The Outsider starring Holly Gibney, who sees beyond some facial hair and smells a rat.

My favourite story? Can’t say exactly. I liked all of them for different reasons. “If It Bleeds” put Mr Mercedes and The Outsider on my reading list. “The Life of Chuck” was interesting because of the unusual timeline. “Mr Hannigan’s Phone” made me wonder who I might be able to reach with that ancient iPhone I keep in one of my drawers. “Rat” spoke to me, because I’ve had to battle writer’s block before, worst was staring at the blank page when I tried to write my MA thesis. Though that was not the main reason, it reminded me of one of my favourite childhood books, Jules Ratte. A story about a girl who finds a very intelligent, speaking rat and keeps it as a pet. She’s taking it to school too, so the rat can help her cheat on her tests.

Since I tend to read everything a book has to offer, yes truly everything from the copyright page to the acknowledgements, I must say that the best part of the book was the Author’s Note. That’s just be though, you might like a different part of the book best.

4/5 Goodreads stars

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