SciFiMonth 2020: wrap-up

A big thanks to Imyril from One More and Lisa from Dear Geek Place for organizing SciFiMonth! I wrote four posts in celebration of science fiction:
SciFiMonth 2020 TBR
Mixed up: Science Fantasy
Four Sci-Fi short stories and novellas I love
Intergalactic book tag

On other blogs I also found a couple of interesting posts. Arina on The Bookwyrm’s Guide to the Galaxy made a list of Sci-Fi’s Greatests Subgenres. Joanna from Melfka wrote about books with aliens that are truly different from human species. I also loved the recommendations from Amanda on Classy x Book Reviews in her post #SciFiMonth: If You Like This, Then Read That.

Of course I’m also going to talk about books! Next to Want and Ruse, I also wanted to read Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. But I wasn’t able to borrow the book on time at my library. Instead I decided to reread another book. Here are my thoughts about the three books I read this month.

Want (Want, #1) by Cindy Ponreread
I loved this amazing book just as much as the last time I read it! The story is fast-paced, with an exciting plot and a fascinating world. It’s set in a future Taiwan where the sky is brown instead of blue and people get sick from the polluted air. The rich have the money to buy special suits, poor people just die early. The international Jin corporation manufactures these suits, but may also be responsible for making the pollution even worse. Jason and his friends are prepared to do everything to destroy Jin Corp. At the moment wearing a face mask is normal in our own world because of the pandemic. That makes it even easier to imagine a future when people wear face masks or suits to protect themselves.

Ruse (Want, #2) by Cindy Pon4 stars
No spoilers for Want, trigger warning for murder

This was a good and satisfying conclusion to the duology. A big part of the story is still narrated by Jason, but there are also some chapters told through the eyes of Lingyi and Daiyu.  It gave me the chance to get to know these characters even better. Especially Daiyu’s chapters were interesting, since she is the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. I enjoyed the multiple perspectives and wished there were even more chapters narrated by Lingyi and Daiyu. This sequel has a strong plot, but it wasn’t as thrilling as the first part. This is probably because the theme of the book is different. In Want there’s a strong environmental theme, in Ruse the focus lies rather on friendship and trust. When considering the things that happened at the end of Want, I do think this is what the story needed. Yet, I feel the stakes weren’t as high as in the first part.

Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century, #1) by Cherie Priestreread
I bought this book seven years ago in London because I liked the cover. The story was okay, but not that great. This month I decided to reread this book. I hoped to like it more since my English is better now. Yet I would still give Boneshaker only three stars. The title refers to a machine that unearthed a dangerous gas which changes people into the living dead. The part of the city that contained the gas is now walled. The narrators are Briar and her son Ezekiel. He secretly goes into the walled part of the city. Now his mother has to bring him out alive. My problem with the book is that there is too much description. Despite all the action, this slowed down the story. I also missed some character development. Briar and Ezekiel are likable characters, but I didn’t really care about them.

Intergalactic Book Tag

I was looking for a book tag for SciFiMonth and this one seemed just perfect. I came across the Intergalactic Book Tag on Zezee with Books. It was originally created by Life of a Female Bibliophile to promote the book Starflight by Melissa Landers. Officially there aren’t any rules. But because it’s SciFiMonth I only answered with science fiction books.

Space: name a book that is out of this world – that takes place in a world different from our own.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is set in multiple alternate worlds. The characters are able to jump to other universes with an invention called the Firebird. It’s the start of a great trilogy.

Black hole: name a book that completely sucked you in.

I couldn’t stop reading Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Even when I reread the book, it totally captivated me!

Lightspeed: name a book you are anticipating so much that you wish you could travel at lightspeed to get to it.

At the moment I’m not really keeping up with books that are coming out…

Nebula: name a book with a beautiful cover.

I am currently reading Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. This is a book I bought because of the beautiful cover. Sadly, the story itself was a bit disappointing.

Multiverse: name a companion set or spin-off series you love.

I actually haven’t read any spin-off series. I am quite curious about The Book of Dust, the spin-off series to His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

Gravity: name your favorite romantic pairing that seems to have gravitational pull to each other.

Kady and Ezra from The Illuminae Files are an interesting couple. At the start of the story, they just broke up. A big part of the book they are separated, but it’s pretty clear that they still like each other.

The big bang: name the book that got you started on reading.

I really don’t know, I love to read books as long as I can remember.

Asteroid: name a short story or novella that you love.

In my last post I named a few. Another good science fiction story I recently found is The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer. I heard this beautiful and sad story on Clarkesworld and you can also read it there. It’s set in a future where the environment is in an even worse condition than it is now.

Galaxy: name a book with multiple POVs.

My next read is the book Speak by Louisa Hall. It’s told from the perspective of five different characters. It’s said to be a thoughtful novel that explores the creation of Artificial Intelligence.

Spaceship: name a book title that would be a great name for a spaceship.

In Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld the Leviathan is actually a living whale flying ship. I think it would also be a good name for a spaceship!

Four Sci-Fi short stories and novellas I love

I like big books, but novellas have their own advantages. There is no space for info-dumping and you can read them in one sitting. Next to reading, I also like to listen to short stories. I cycle to my work every day and on the way I love to listen to podcasts. Recently I discovered Levar Burton Reads. He is a talented reader and also uses sound effects to make the stories come alive. So far I heard a couple of amazing stories in various genres. A podcast that exclusively features science fiction and fantasy stories is Clarkesworld Magazine. For SciFiMonth I made a list with some of my favourite short stories I heard or read.

Memento (The Illuminae Files, #0,5) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (read)
The prequel to The Illuminae Files, one of my favourite science ficion series. I personally thought this novella wasn’t as great as the trilogy. I still loved to be back in the Illuminae world! I also really enjoyed reading more about AIDEN, the AI-system from the books.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (read)
This beautifully written story is about two time travelling agents on different sides of a war. It did took a couple of chapters to get used to, but I came to love the writing style as well as the characters! You can find my thoughts about the book here.

The Simplest Equation by Nicky Drayden (heard on Levar Burton Reads)
This story is about a Math student who gets a new classmate from another planet. I actually don’t like math, but this story made me understand a little why some people do love math.

Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer (heard on Clarkesworld Magazine)
I love cats, so this title immediately caught my attention. It’s about a self-conscious AI that adores cat pictures. It’s a funny story that really made me laugh, but has a kind of deeper layer too.

Mixed up: Science fantasy

Today’s prompt for SciFiMonth is ‘Celebrate a subgenre.’ While thinking about an idea for a blog post, I thought about those books that are hard to categorize. They could be seen as science fiction, but they have just as many fantasy or historical elements. Since my absolute favourite genre is fantasy, I decided to make a list of stories that mix fantasy and science fiction. This could be seen as a kind of subgenre and is sometimes called ‘science fantasy.’

Soulless by Gail Carriger
This book really has the best of both genres! It’s set in an alternate version of the Victorian era, which makes it steampunk (read more about this subgenre). But the story is also populated by vampires and werewolves; clearly fantasy elements. I loved the fact that those paranormal figures are regular citizens in this book.

Angelfall by Susan Ee
This exciting story starts just after the apocalypse that was caused by angels who still threaten the world. It may not be the most original idea, but it’s definitively an interesting mix!

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Because this is a retelling of a fairy tale with some fantasy elements I tend to see this book as fantasy. Yet, The Lunar Chronicles actually has many science fiction elements: it’s set in the future, Cinder herself is a cyborg (she has a mechanic hand and foot), parts of the story are set in space and people live on the Moon.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
I read this book last year for SciFiMonth. The story is set in post-apocalyptic Africa, but it also includes magic. Although it has features of both genres, I consider this book rather fantasy than science fiction. Magic plays a very important role in the plot. There is some mention of technology and an apocalypse, but the setting didn’t really feel like the future.

October 2020 wrap-up

It’s unbelievable that’s it’s almost November! I really hoped COVID-19 would be gone by now. Sadly the situation got worse in my country, and drastic (but necessary) measures were taken. Despite everything, I’m doing okay. Since I work fulltime at an elementary school, it’s harder to find reading time. But I still managed to read three good books!

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde3 stars
Trigger warning for loss of a child
This book is about many things, but the bees form the red thread through the book. There are three story lines set in different times. Especially the part set in the near future was interesting to read. Because bees have disappeared, the narrator and many others have to pollinate fruit trees themselves. A second point of view in our own time is about a beekeeper who hopes his son will succeed him. Sadly his son doesn’t care about bees. Although I pitied this beekeeper, he isn’t a very likable character. The third part of the story is about a melancholic biologist in the 1800s. I didn’t really like his chapters, because of the grim atmosphere. I also found it hard to connect with him. In the end, I think the story was interesting, but the characters in it could have been more engaging.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone4 stars
Multiple people on the internet, among others Problems of a Book Nerd on Youtube, recommended this book. Although it took a while to get used to the way this story is written, I came to love the writing style! It’s poetic and dreamlike, but you really need to take the time to fully appreciate it. At the start it’s not clear where the story is set or who the narrators are. Slowly the reader learns more about Red and Blue, two time travelling agents on different sides of a war. They leave heartfelt letters for each other at their own risk. I enjoyed reading this beautiful story. Yet I did feel that I didn’t fully comprehend it. There are many worlds and feelings packed in just 200 pages. I would love to reread this book  at some point. Now I know the plot I’d like to see if I can get even more out of this story.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseinireread
It was great to read this beautiful book again! I couldn’t recall the story, but parts of it felt familiar. Each chapter from this book is told from another perspective. The chapters are actually small stories themselves, but they are all connected. The story starts in Afghanistan, and then takes its reader all over the world with characters from different ages and origins. Although the book has many characters they felt all very real to me. Khaled Hosseini really has a talent for using just enough words and exactly the right ones to make his characters come alive.

SciFiMonth 2020: TBR

It’s almost time for SciFiMonth! Just like last year Imyril from One More and Lisa from Dear Geek Place will organize this celebration of science fiction. During November I will make SF-themed posts, inspired by this prompt list. I am also going to read science fiction books. I know November will be a busy month for me, so decided to keep my to-be-read-list small. Here are the three books I want to read:

Want & Ruse by Cindy Pon
I will reread Want before I am finally going to read Ruse. I read Want last September and loved it (read my thougths about the book here)! It took a while before I was able to buy the sequel. Now I have it at home, SciFiMonth seems the perfect month to read it.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
This book is also known as the first science fiction novel written by a black woman. The story actually combines historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy. It starts with an African-American woman in 1976 who travels back in time to the 1800s. There she saves a white boy from drowning, then she travels back to her own time to save her own life.

Eight books I read because someone recommended them to me

This post was inspired by Top Ten Tuesday, the weekly meme managed by That Artsy Reader Girl. I quite often add books to my TBR-list after people recommend them to me. They can be book bloggers, family or friends. It also happens that I spot a book on multiple blogs and then plan to read it. This was for example the case with Children of Blood and Bone, basically every one recommended this book. So it can be hard to track down who actually recommended a book to me. For this blog posts I went for books I read because one particular person (or in one case, a group of people) convinced me.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old by Hendrik Groen – Recommended by my mother
I’m not sure if I would have read this book if my mother didn’t recommended it to me. In this diary Hendrik records his daily life in the retirement home in Amsterdam where he lives. To be honest, that does sound a bit boring. Yet, I really enjoyed reading this story. It’s well-written and it made me laugh at some points, while it made me feel sad at other points.

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel – Recommended by my mother
My mother and I regularly read the same books. When I borrow a good book from the library, I often give it to her after I read it. She does the same. My mother bought and read all the books from the Earth’s Children series years ago. So I decided to finally pick them up. The books indeed have a good story with interesting characters. They do have a slow pacing and are quite big, so I like to take my time to read them.

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley – Recommended by a friend
This book series is very popular in the Netherlands and I often see the books at bookshops. So it was already on my radar, but not on my TBR-list. Until a friend recommended the books to me. I’m glad I listened to her! It’s not often that I read a book series of which I love every part.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – Recommended by my boyfriend’s mother
My mother’s boyfriend lend me this book, because she knew I like to read historical fiction. She was quite enthusiastic about the book. After reading I partly agreed with her. It’s an interesting and good story, but I think the book could have been better written.

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews – Recommended by Cait from Paperfury
Of course Cait is biased as the author of the book. However, her amazing blog was certainly the reason I bought the book. I like her writing style on the blog and I enjoy her humour. So I was quite sure that I would also love the book. And I was right!

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton – Recommended by Carol from the Reading Ladies
I found this book on a list with highly rated WWI and WWII reads. There are many interesting books in the post, but this book especially sparked my interest. It’s based on a real life Dutch woman. I never heard about her, even though I am Dutch myself! So I really wanted to read this book. I expected that a Dutch edition of the book could be found at the library if I waited. A few months later I indeed was able to borrow the book there. I agree with the Reading Ladies that this is an amazing story about a true heroine living during the Second World War.

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors – Recommended by the panel of Boeken FM (a Dutch podcast)
In this podcast three people talk about a book they read. Usually it’s a book that was just published. They discuss different themes in the story, tell about their favourite parts and quotes and give their opinion. The whole panel was quite enthusiastic about this book. So I decided to borrow it at my library. It turned out that I disagree with the podcast. The book disappointed me, because it wasn’t very exciting and I didn’t like the main character.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez – Recommended by Isabel Allende
This book was a source of inspiration for one of my favourite writers. So I expected to like this book. However, I struggled to finish it. I did like parts of it. But the many unlikable characters (who are all named Jose or Aureliano) made it hard for me to really care about this story.

Illustrated book covers with animals for World Animal Day

A few weeks ago I published a post about my favourite illustrated covers. In the comments AJ @ Read All The Things mentioned that she loves illustrated covers with plants or animals on them. I especially agreed about covers with animals and thought it deserved its own blog post. World Animal Day seemed the perfect opportunity for this theme! Because today we celebrate the lives of all animals. So here are five beautiful covers with animals on them:

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
This beautiful cover perfectly matches the book. The story about Vasilisa is inspired by Russian fairytales. So designer David Grogan used the style of traditional Russion folk art for the cover with many elements from the story. I found this small article about the design process of the cover.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
I love how the illustrator hide the wolf in the drawing. I don’t have the book at hand, and sadly I wasn’t able to find the name of the illustrator on the internet.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
This book has multiple editions, but I have a strong preference for this one. I love the color combination of blue and gold and the moth is beautifully illustrated by Jantine Zandbergen.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
This cover design is actually quite simple, but I really like it. It’s illustrated by Shuai Liu. The story is told from the perspective of the black cat on the cover. At the start of each chapter there are also beautiful black-and-white illustrations from cats by Yoco Nagamiya.

Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicles, #3) by Jay Kristoff
Since cats are my favourite animals, I had to include multipe books with cats on the cover. I like how the body of this cat is made up of other things. The illustration is made by Kerby Rosanes and I love her illustration style. I haven’t read Darkdawn yet, but it’s high on my TBR-list. I want to know how the trilogy ends!

September 2020 wrap-up

September was a busy month for me. I only read three books. But reading isn’t about the numbers, more important is the fact that I really liked all of them!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram4 stars
Trigger warnings for depression and bullying
This beautiful story has so many themes that it makes it hard to summarize my thoughts. Among other things this book is about dealing with depression, bullying and body shaming, but also about Persian traditions, family and friendship.  And Darius is such a nice and realistic main character! I enjoyed the fact that he is a big fan of Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. I didn’t get all the Star Trek references, but I still appreciated them. It was interesting that Darius has an American father and an Iranian mother, but has never been to Iran himself and doesn’t speak Farsi.  When he visits his family in Iran for the first, Darius struggles with his identity and is often uncertain where he truly belongs. Many people on the world have parents from different countries, but I seldom see these characters in the books I read. So I’m happy that I got to read this book.

Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox, #2)4 stars
Trigger warnings for graphic violence and murder
The start of this second book was a bit slow, but the ending was absolutely sensational! I flew through the last 100 pages. The book ends with a cliff-hanger and the stakes are high. So I’m happy that I already have the final part of the trilogy. I still love the characters, especially Yumeko. She isn’t physically strong or a good fighter, yet she is intelligent and cunning. It was also nice to see Yumeko using more of her kitsune magic. The other characters also go through some interesting developments.

Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox, #3)4 stars
Trigger warnings for graphic violence and murder
A solid final to a good trilogy. Some parts of the plot were totally unexpected! A lot happens in this third book. At some points there was too much fighting for my tastes, but all the action did make it a very exciting book. The ending was fitting and quite emotional; I almost cried.

Top six illustrated book covers

Because I was busy starting with my new full-time job as elementary school teaching assistent, I missed the Top Ten Tuesday of last week. This Tuesday the topic of the weekly meme managed by That Artsy Reader Girl is a cover freebie. Just like most readers, I love a good-looking cover. I especially like illustrated covers. So here are my favourites!

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
I love how elaborated this beautiful cover is. While reading the book I constantly discovered more details on the cover that play a role in the story. The cover and the map inside are illustrated by the writer herself.

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero
On this cover is also so a lot to see: the doll is prominent, but we also see a part of Krakow and the dollmaker. Due to the tanks and the barbed wire it’s clear that this book is about war. I love the illustration style of Lisa Perrin. She also made the cover for The Muse by Jessie Burton, a book I haven’t read yet, but the cover catched my eye in the library.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The illustration style of this book cover immediately made me think of Mexico and the Mayas. I also love the colors and how they go together! The cover is designed and illustrated by Daniel Pelavin.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
I am actually not a big fan of covers with faces on them, yet I do like illustrated faces. This one is especially powerful because of the look in her eyes. The cover illustration is made by Rich Deas.

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews
I like that this cover has a simple design with just a few colours, but still shows the most important aspects of the story. The cover design is by Thy Bui.

Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor
This is a companion novel to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I actually read the book twice as e-book. When I heard there would come a physical copy, I still wanted one. Not only the cover is beautifully illustrated, there are also illustrations inside made by Jim Di Bartolo (the husband of Laini Taylor).