SciFiMonth 2022 wrap-up

Thank you Imyril @ One More and Lisa @ Dear Geek Place for organizing SciFiMonth! I had to read a lot of study-related things, but I also made time to read two good science fiction books. One of them became a new favourite! In this post are my mini-reviews of the books, some podcast recommendations and more good stuff I want to share.

Books I Read

Everfair by Nisi Shawl3 stars
In four words: multi-layered, steampunk, alternate history
What I liked: I wanted to read this book for the fascinating premise. It explores what would have happened if the native population of the Congo had adopted steam technology during the colonization. This complex and multi-layered story definitively does justice to the real history. I appreciated how the author tackled themes like racism and nationalism.
What I disliked: The book has many perspectives, but there isn’t enough opportunity to really get to know and empathize with all the characters. I missed a more emotional connection to the story. Everfair is a story of the land rather than the characters. For me this didn’t work as well as I hoped. I still think the book is worth reading, because it definitively was as interesting as I expected.
Trigger warnings for violence, death and war

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta5 stars
In four words: post-apocalyptic, poetic, hopeful, tea
What I liked: The book is set in a world after climate change when parts of the Earth are flooded and drink water is scarce. This realistic future is grim, but the beautiful writing style gives the story a gentle atmosphere. While reading I felt a bit melancholic and hopeful at the same time. The book is told from the perspective of a tea master apprentice. The way she thinks about water and tea made me appreciate it even more.
What I disliked: I can’t think of any demerits. Of course I was hoping for a good story when buying this book. But I didn’t expect it to be so touching!
Trigger warning for death of a loved one

Podcasts I Liked
  • The podcast Noble Blood isn’t science fiction-themed, but I highly recommend the episode The Red Paint on Leopold II if you are interested in Everfair or have read the book. This episode is about how the terrible Belgian king Leopold II colonized the Congo. In his name around 10 million people died! I could name all kind of trigger warnings for this episode like murder, slavery, torture and mutilation. But I think most shocking of all is that the atrocities in the Congo aren’t more well-known.
  • Nisi Shawl, P. Djeli Clark and Zen Cho are guests in the episode Postcolonial Worlds on the podcast Imaginary Worlds. They talk about how speculative fiction can be a useful tool to reimagine the legacy of colonialism and imperialism.
  • The episode Superpowers on the BBC Earth Podcast is about real-life superpowers in the animal world and how they inspire writers.
More Good Stuff in November
  • The Show Your Bujo Theme post by Annemieke @ A Dance with Books inspired me to make my own steampunk-themed bujo page!
  • I want to thank Imyril and Lisa again for the books I won with the giveaway!

Home Sweet Home: 3x Comfy Science Fiction

One of the reasons why I love to read books is that they form an escape from daily problems and worries. Books can be a comfortable hiding place. So for today’s SciFiMonth I listed the most comfy sci fi books I read.

The long way to a small, angry planet by Becky Chambers
Not only this first part, but the whole Wayfarers series could be described as “feel good science fiction.” The book does have a nice plot, but it isn’t very important. It’s all about the characters.  And the best thing is that these characters just accept each other for who they are.

Soulless by Gail Carriger
This steampunk book constantly made me smile or even laugh out loud. It has a witty writing style that fits the story perfectly. The main character is also amazing.

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
This book is set in the Netherlands, where I live. Therefore it’s a familiar setting. What makes the book unique is the narrator: Denise is a biracial girl who has autism (just like the writer). This was an interesting point of view I don’t see often in books.

SciFiMonth: Top Three Turn Back Time

Today’s SciFiMonth prompt is ‘Turn Back Time’. Time travel is fascinating. I like how each time travel story has its own rules and its own approach to time. This makes time travel books usually creative with interesting and complex plots. I haven’t read a lot in this subgenre, but I definitively want to explore it more. These are my favourites so far:

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

This novella is made up of letters between two time travelling agents on different sides of a war. They call themselves Red and Blue. Their poetic letters slowly grow into something romantic that could change everything. The story is beautifully written!

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

On the night of an important concert, Etta is thrown hundreds of years back in time. With her new-found time travel abilities Etta gets involved in the hunt for a powerful object. I liked how time travel is executed in this book. The world building made me want to travel to the places and times myself. Passenger also has a sequel I still want to read.

Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman

This book is set somewhere in the future at the Centre for Neo-Historical Studies where Joss studies time travel. For the first time an alien becomes a student at this university. He chooses Joss as study partner. This fun and enjoyable book is really underrated. I especially love that, for a change, friendship is central to the story instead of romance.

Still on my TBR:

SciFiMonth 2022 TBR

Today is the start of SciFiMonth, a month full of everyhting science fiction organzied by Imyril from One More and Lisa from Dear Geek Place. Just like last year there’s a list of prompts and a give-away. My TBR-list isn’t a long one this year. I hope to read these two books:

  • Everfair by Nisi Shawl: This is a steampunk alternative history of Congo. It’s on my TBR-list for a while, because it will be a great read for my SFF Countries Project. I recently bought a second-hand edition of the book, so I can finally read it.
  • Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta: This story is set in a post-climate change world where only tea masters know the location of hidden water sources. It sounds fascinating!

October 2022 wrap-up

It was again a busy month. I didn’t make a lot of time to write blog posts. But next month I hope to be more present here. November is SciFiMonth, and I always love to read and write about it! For now, here are the mini-reviews of the books I read in October.

Books I Read

The Last Graduate (The Scholomance #2) by Naomi Novik4 stars
In four words: entertaining, exciting, cliffhanger ending
What I liked: This book was entertaining and exciting. In the Scholomance monsters can litterally hide behind every corner. Good alliances are crucial if you want to survive, especially during graduation day. In The Last Graduate Galadriel is no longer an outsider. I liked reading more about the other students. The dynamics between the students are interesting and realistic. And that ending! I didn’t expect it and the cliffhanger made me eager to read the third part.
What I disliked: The middle of the book was a bit repetitive. I think the story could have been shorter.

Het Werkstuk – of hoe ik verdween in de jungle by Simon van der Geest 4 stars
I work as teaching assistent at an elemetary school. All the children from my group have to read this Dutch book. So I also wanted to read it myself. I really enjoyed it! The story is about Eva who has to write a paper. She can choose every topic as long as it has something to do with biology. Eva only has a mother, so she chooses ‘biological fathers’ as topic. While writing, she discovers more and more about her father.

Podcasts I Liked

  • I really enjoyed the episode How to Be More Loving with Danielle LaPorte on The Marie Forleo podcast. I liked that talk about why positive thinking isn’t always the solution. Pushing away negative thoughts can make you feel worse. It’s sometimes far more helpful to just accept that you feel sad or angry or irritated.
  • The episode with Dr. Marisa G. Franco about How to Make Adult Friends (and Why They Matter) on the Good Life Project was so interesting. They talk about why making friends as an adult is so much harder than as child. And after this episode I realized that I don’t value my friends as much as I should.

September 2022 wrap-up

In monthly wrap-ups I often write that I didn’t read a lot or hoped to read more. This time I think I read enough. Just the amount of books I needed. I love reading, and I can’t do without books. But other things are important too. Time spend with my boyfriend or family is just as essential. And sometime I just want to watch television. This month I started a masters in Educational Needs and I needed time to study. So I want to remind myself, and everyone reading this. Books are patient. They won’t mind if you don’t pay attention to them for days or weeks. Don’t worry, you will come back for them. They will still be there when you need them.

Books I Read

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk3,5 stars
In four words: Estonian, dark, historical fantasy
What I liked: This story is a mix of fairy tale and historical fiction. It’s set at an interesting moment in time: during the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. In history lessons we always learn about the many advantages of agriculture. This book gives a new, fascinating perspective; it’s about the ancient traditions that got lost during that transition. In this story all people could use the languange of snakes to speak with animals. But this knowledge got lost. Our main character Leemet is the last man who speaks snakish. He isn’t particularly likable, but he is a strong and interesting character. I liked reading how Leemet keeps holding on to his own beliefs, despite all the people who try to persuade him.
What I disliked: Some of the side characters felt a bit shallow. It especially bothered me that an important female side character went through quite a big and unrealistic change in personality. I also felt somewhat conflicted about the ending, but I think it does fit the story.
Trigger warnings for violence, death of loved ones, murder and gore

Mansfield Park by Jane AustenDNF
After reading Pride and Prejudice I wanted to read more books by Jane Austen. I hoped I would enjoy Mansfield Park just as much. But I had a few problems with this book. First of all, the characters talk a lot about irrelevant stuff that didn’t interest me. There are many characters, and I didn’t really care about them. The slow pacing didn’t help either. More and more I started to lose my attention while reading. So after 100 pages I decided to quit this book. It’s a pity, but this story didn’t seem the right one for me (at least for now).

My Summer 2022 in Books

My summer was amazing! As you may have read in my last post, I went on a road trip through Norway. Of course I also made some time to read books. This is a wrap-up of the books I read in July and August. As always, I hoped to read more. But I’m satisfied with the book I did read. There were two five-star read, some nice feel-good stories for a change and a fascinating non-fiction book.

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville5 stars
In four words: realistic, well-written, hopeful, considerate
What I liked: This book is inspired by a real woman from history: Elizabeth Macarthur (1766 – 1850). I never heard about her before, but I came to love Elizabeth. She’s an English woman who tries to make the best of the circumstances she is in. Her marriage turns out to be a mistake. But even when she is forced to travel with her husband to Australia, she stays hopeful. What is known about the real Elizabeth Macarthur mainly comes from the letters she wrote. Kate Grenville wondered why there’s a contrast between the quite positive letters and what is known about her infamous husband. This book gives a possible answer to this question. I love that this book tells a story that in reality never could have been told, but may be true. The writing style has a nice flow that made the story enjoyable to read.
What I disliked: The only demerit I can think is that the book is too short. I would have liked to read more about Elizabeth!

The Summer Seaside Kitchen (Mure, #1) by Jenny Colgan3 stars
In four words: feel-good, romantic, summer vibes
What I liked: This is a nice summer read with a beautiful setting. The main character, Flora, lives in London and works for a lawyer’s office. At first she isn’t exactly happy when she has to go back to the Scottish island where she was born. But maybe it’s just what she needs. I liked to read how Flora reconnects with her family and with herself.
What I disliked: The romance part of the story wasn’t how I liked it. From the start Flora is in love with her arrogant boss Joel, who doesn’t even knows she exists. I really didn’t get why she likes him.
In the US this book is published as The Cafe by the Sea

Footprints in the Sand by Sarah Challis4 stars
In four words: mysterious, adventurous, travel story
What I liked: This was the perfect story to read on vacation! It’s about an adventurous journey to a beautiful location. The reason for this trip is the death of Great Aunt Mary. Her will is that her cousins Emily and Clemmie scatter her ashes in the dessert in Mali. Nobody seems to know what Mary’s connection is to this far-away place. Emily and Clemmie are two well-written characters with different personalities. I liked the two perspectives (and never switched them up), because it was interesting to read their distinct views on the journey.
What I disliked: There’s also a third perspective: Beryl Timmis, an old friend of Mary. Her story was interesting, but not really necessary. I wouldn’t have missed it if the writer hadn’t included her perspective.

The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic, #0.2) by Alice Hoffman5 stars
In four words: magical, romantic, bittersweet fantasy
What I liked: This is the bittersweet story of the Owens siblings: Franny, Jet and Vincent. They are not like other people. They just seem to stand out and each of them has a magical gift. The feeling that you are different is familiar to me. I liked to read how each of the siblings dealt with it. At first they just want to be “normal”. Slowly they learn to accept themselves for who they are. But there’s an old curse that causes the death of the man they fall in love with, and you can’t escape love. I also really enjoyed the fluent way in which the story is told. I haven’t read other books by Alice Hoffman, but after reading this book, I would love to read Practical Magic.
What I disliked: I can’t think of anything negative I can say about this book.
Trigger warning for death of loved ones

The Little Shop of Happy Ever After (Scottish Bookshop, #1) by Jenny Colgan3,5 stars
In four words: bookish, romantic feel-good story
What I liked: Since this book is about books, I knew I was going to enjoy it. The main character is Nina, a librarian who spent most of her life reading. As a fellow bookworm it was easy for me to identify with Nina. I immediately loved her! When her library closes, Nina decides to follow a wild fantasy: she buys an old van and turns it into a mobile bookshop. I loved to read how her dream comes true!
What I disliked: Near the end of the story the books started to play a minor role. Instead the romance became more prominent. Me and the writer seem to have a very different idea about a good love story. Just like the other book I read by Jenny Colgan, I didn’t like the romance. In this story there are two love interests. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, and I think that neither of them were a good match for Nina.
In the US this book is published as The Bookshop on the Corner

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo4 stars
Usually I don’t write a lot about non-fiction books on my blog. However, I didn’t want to leave out this one. Papyrus was an interesting book that taught me about the library of Alexandria, the first booksellers, the first writer we know the name of (it was a woman!) and many other bookish topics. However, this book is more than just a history of books. It’s also of love letter to books. Irene Vallejo herself is clearly a huge book worm. She included personal stories and many anecdotes about books. This makes the writing sometimes a bit rambling. Yet I liked that this book isn’t only made up of facts. Papyrus is a fascinating and enjoyable story about books. After reading it I realized that we as humans would be nothing without them.
This book is originally published in Spanish and I read it in Dutch. The English translation will be published in October 2022.

My Top Five Favourite Things From Norway

My boyfriend and I went to Norway with our camper van. It was amazing! Here are some of my favourite things from our trip:

1. The Beautiful Landscape

During our vacation we spent a lot of time on the road. This was actually the best part of our journey, because I really enjoyed watching the landscape. Norway has stunning mountains, magnificient fjords and everywhere are colourful houses.

2. Runde: Bird Island

Runde is famous for the many birds that inhabit the cliffs. Especially well-known are the puffins that breed here. Visiting this island was even better than I expected. I hoped to see some birds. But I actually saw dozens of puffins, and some of them very close! I loved seeing them dancing in the air.

3. Trollstigen: The Troll’s Road

Trollstigen is a famous road through high mountains. Myths say that trolls live here, but we haven’t seen them… The road is very steep and has many hairpin bends. It’s an exciting road to drive on and it has breathtaking views. On the top there’s a view point. It’s very touristy, but worth the stop. Not only because of the view; there’s also a nice walking trail that very few people take.

4. Bergen

We visited multiple cities, but Bergen was my favourite. It’s a beautiful old city with many interesting museums. I especially liked the Gamle Bergen Museum, an outdoor historic city museum where you can visit old houses and meet their inhabitants. They say it always rains in Bergen, but while we were there, we actually had really nice weather. And a nice bookish detail: some old phone boxes are turned into little street libraries!

5. The Kind People

All Norwegian people we encountered during our trip were so nice and helpful!

June 2022 wrap-up: delightful and disappointing fantasy

June was a busy month at work, but I did some fun things in my free time. My boyfriend and I went to the movie Jurassic World: Dominion, we made some boat trips and we swam a few times in a lake near our house. I didn’t read a lot of books, but I did find a new favourite this month.

Books I Read

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers5 stars
In four words: bookish, imaginative, funny, adventurous
What I liked: This book was amazing! It’s set in a city I yearn to visit if it was possible. In Bookholm everything is about books. It smells of ink and paper, books are everywhere and everyone’s life in this city revolves around books. With our main character (who is a dinosaur by the way) we get deeper and deeper in the city. He encounters strange creatures and even dangerous books. The writing style of this story was enjoyable: a bit poetic, humorous and imaginative. I also loved the illustrations.
What I disliked: The only demerit is the many info dumps. However, I didn’t mind them. I couldn’t get enough information about the fascinating City of Dreaming Books!

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin3 stars
In four words: classic, familiar, coming-of-age adventure
What I liked: I was looking forward to finally read something by Ursula K. Le Guin. I enjoyed the story and liked the familiarity. The book feels like a predecessor of Harry Potter. The main character, Ged, is easy to like and it was interesting to see his character develop throughout the story.
What I disliked: I hoped to like this book more, but it just didn’t “wow” me. Some elements felt like overused tropes. Of course I cannot really blame the book for this. At the time it was written, the ideas were original. But I usually love books about schools of magic. So it was disappointing that only two chapters are set in the school of wizardry. The irregular pacing also didn’t work for me.

DNF

The Shadowed Sun (Dream Blood, #2) by N.K. Jemisin
The books of the Dreamblood duologies are interesting, but complex. A lot happens and little is explained. This isn’t a bad thing. But I wasn’t in the mood for this kind of book. For now I left The Shadowed Sun unfinished. I do hope to try this book again at a later moment.

Podcasts I Liked
Blog hiatus

This summer my boyfriend and I are going to Norway with our camper van. I’m really looking forward to it! I won’t take my laptop with me. So don’t expect any posts during July. I will be back in August.

Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag 2022

Just like every year in June, it’s time for the Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag. It’s the moment to reflect on the books I read so far. In numbers, I have read 15 books; 7086 pages in total. At the end of the year I hope to have read 36 books, so I’m a little behind. But I’m sure I will catch up this summer holidays. Let’s get to the questions.

Best book(s) you read so far?

  • Black Water Sister: humorous and a somewhat creepy story about a lesbian girl who is haunted by her sassy, dead grandmother
  • The Embroidered Book: magical version of the lives of Marie Antoinette and her sister Charlotte that’s still very true to history
  • The City of Dreaming Books: imaginative story set in a city where everyone and everything is about books

Best sequel(s) you’ve read so far?

I haven’t read any new sequels yet. I did love my reread of The Illuminae Files.

New releases you haven’t read yet, but want to?

  • The Diamond Eye: historical fiction with a premise that sounds very intriguing: ‘”an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history’s deadliest female sniper.”
  • The Paris Bookseller: based on the life of Sylvia Beach who established Shakespeare and Company, a famous bookshop in Paris I visited last year.
  • She Who Became the Sun: not that new, but every one seems to have read this historical fantasy book except for me.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean: it’s about people for whom books are food and this sounds fascinating!

Biggest disappointment?

The Killing Moon was not a bad book, but I expected to like it more.

Biggest surprise?

I didn’t expect that the first book I read this year, Black Water Sister, would immediately become a new favourite.

Favourite new author? (debut or new to you)

After reading The Embroidered Book I would love to read more books by Kate Heartfield!

Newest favourite character?

I really came to like Marie Antoinette and Charlotte from The Embroidered Book. Charlotte is a confident and ambitious queen, while Antoinette tries her best to make everyone love her. They are well-written characters and felt like real people to me.

Book that made you cry?

I didn’t cry, but the last part of The Embroidered Book did make me feel really sad.

Book that made you happy?

The City of Dreaming Books made me smile a lot, because it’s a love letter to books and reading. The story is also funny and really enjoyable to read.

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)?

I again choose The City of Dreaming Books, because it has beautiful illustrations. I received this book for my birthday from my parents.

What book(s) do you need to read by the end of the year?