SciFiMonth 2021: wrap-up

It’s unbelievable that November already ended. I wanted to read so many more science fiction books! But I really enjoyed participating in SciFiMonth again. So thanks to Imyril from One More and Lisa from Dear Geek Place for organizing it!

During the month I made three science fiction themed posts:

I ended up reading three of the four books from my TBR. Here are the mini-reviews of those books:

The galaxy, and the ground within (Wayfarers, #4) by Becky Chambers4 stars
In four words: wonderful, character-driven, tranquil story
What I liked: This is a quiet feel-good story. Plotwise little happens, but the book is full of beautiful conversations and meaningful moments between the characters. Just like the other parts in the Wayfarers series, the plot of this book is actually not important. It’s all about the four protagonists. These strangers are stuck together on the planet Gora due to a technical error. None of them are human, they are all from a different alien species. I really enjoyed reading how the characters try to help and understand each other, even though they are completely different.
What I disliked: It was sometimes hard to imagine how the characters look like. I solved this problem by looking up fan art of the characters on internet.

Heart of Brass (The Antipodean Queen, #1) by Felicity Banks3,5 stars
In four words: enjoyable, light-hearted Australian steampunk
What I liked: This was an enjoyable and adventurous book. I loved that a part of the story is based on real colonial Australian history. The steampunk elements naturally fit in. Especially the steam-powered heart of Emmeline is central in the book. It’s a secret that’s hard to hide, since the heart regularly needs maintenance and sometimes malfunctions. I found it an intriguing idea! Emmeline starts out as a well-bred English lady who is ready to marry. She is easy to like, resourceful and at times humorous. It was interesting to see her character develop throughout the book.
What I disliked: The storyline felt sometimes overhasty and a bit illogical too me. That’s why I didn’t feel totally emerged in the book. I really enjoyed this story, but I think the writer didn’t get the most out of it. For example, in the world of the book each metal has its own personality and even some kind of magical ability. It’s a pity that this unique idea isn’t really developed.

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan4 stars
In four words: engaging, unexpected, heart-warming, heart-breaking
What I liked: This book was unexpectedly good. Our main characters, Carys and Max, are floating through space. They only have ninety minutes of air left. This situation is engaging on itself. Yet there is more. In this future young people aren’t supposed to settle. Only when they are older, they are allowed to have long-term relationships. This curious world is seen in flashbacks. Meanwhile Carys and Max are trying to save themselves, but the minutes tick away. Their love story was surprisingly realistic. It was beautiful, messy, heart-warming and heart-breaking. The ending was definitively remarkable too.
What I disliked: In the flashbacks we get sneak peaks of a future version of the Earth. It was interesting to read about, but for me this future didn’t really come alive. It felt like a far away place I didn’t really get to know. On the other hand, the parts set in space felt very real. I could easily imagine being there with Carys and Max.
Trigger warning for death of a loved one

More good stuff in November
  • I discovered the podcast Flash Forward. This is a show about possible (and not so possible) future scenarios. It’s the perfect podcast for SciFiMonth! The bad news is that the podcast stops for a while, but the good news is that there are many episodes for me to catch up with. So far my favourites are Bot for Teacher and Wast Not Want Not.
  • My boyfriend and I started watching Locke & Key season 2. It’s so good!
  • I loved the latest episode Cli-fi and catastrophe on the podcast Breaking the Glass Slipper. This is partly a discussion and partly an interview with writing duo Calder Szewczak about climate fiction.
  • I always like lists with science fiction or fantasy authors from around the world. So I enjoyed reading the post Five (non-American) Authors I Want to Read on Alligators and Aneurisms. I also found a list with 25 YA Books Featuring A Non-European Influenced Fantasy World on Epic Reads.

SciFi-books (still) On My TBR-list

This year I didn’t read a lot of science fiction. I mostly read fantasy and historical fiction. That means the number of sci-fi books on my To Be Read-list isn’t getting any lower. It even keeps growing! So I took a look at my list to see which books I still want to read. For every book I decided if I want to read it or delete it. Then I am going to explain this in one sentence. Here are all of them:

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Want To Read It / Delete It
This is said to be the first science fiction book written by a black woman.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
Want To Read It / Delete It
The premise still sounds amazing: can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity?

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
Want To Read It / Delete It
I am going to read this book set in a post-climate change world for my SFF Countries project, because it’s written by a Finnish author.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Want To Read It / Delete It
A girl alone in space doesn’t sound that interesting anymore.

Unearthed (Unearthed, #1) by Amie Kaufman & Meagon Spooner
Want To Read It / Delete It
Amie Kaufman is one of my favourite writers and the book was pitched somewhere as “Indiana Jones in space.”

The Falconer (The Falconer, #1) by Elizabeth May
Want To Read It / Delete It
The plot doesn’t seem very original and I’m just not really looking forward to reading this book.

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Want To Read It / Delete It
This appears to be quite a controversial book and I’m afraid I am not going to like it.

The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
Want To Read It / Delete It
I read somewhere that this book “mainly takes place on a creepy Lost-esque island.”

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
Want To Read It / Delete It
Although I am not entirely sure if I’m ready to start a new series, this seems a really good book.

The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss, #1) by London Shah
Want To Read It / Delete It
This book is set in London at the twenty-first century when our world is underwater.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Want To Read It / Delete It
I want to read this book for my SFF Countries Project, because it’s a steampunk alternative history of Congo.

Pacifica by Kristen Simmons
Want To Read It / Delete It
A dystopia about climate change and pirates.

Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie
Want To Read It / Delete It
Diverse fantasy with an enemies-to-best-friends female friendship.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland
Want To Read It / Delete It
The premise still sounds really interesting: magic once existed, but stopped working due to the scientific revolution.

The Swimmers by Marian Womack
Want To Read It / Delete It
This is an eco-dystopia set in Spain I want to read for my SFF Countries Project.

I only deleted three books, but it was nice to review my TBR-list. Have you read any of these books? And what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

SciFiMonth: Science Fiction From Around the World

I love to see the world through my books! So much, that I have the ambitious goal to read a fantasy or science fiction book for every country in the world. Ideally, these books are written by authors from the same country as the setting of the book. This challenge is named the SFF Countries Project. The idea originally came from Annemieke @ A Dance With Books. Read more about it on this page on my blog.

Today I made a list with sci-fi books I read for The SFF Countries Project, and some books that are still on my TBR. Let’s start our futuristic journey!

The Netherlands: On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
Our first destination is the country where I live. This book starts a few days before a comet is scheduled to hit the earth. Denise, her mother and sister Iris have to go to a temporary shelter. But Denise’s drug-addicted mother isn’t in any hurry and they don’t know where Iris is. In this way they won’t reach the shelter in time. This is an exciting and realistic story with a diverse set of characters. Denise herself is a biracial girl who has autism (just like the writer).

Taiwan: Want by Cindy Pon
Next we travel to Asia. In this story the air is highly polluted. The rich are able to buy special suits that protect them from getting ill. Everyone else just has a big chance to die. Jason Zhou and his friends are determined to change things. This book has a great setting and plot. It’s about a future that actually is quite likely to happen…

Australia: Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks
Our short trip ends in Australia. I am currently reading this steampunk book about a girl with a metal heart. So far the story is enjoyable and the main character is easy to like.

The list of books I read is still short. It’s not easy to find science fiction books set outside the United States and the United Kingdom. On my TBR-list are:
– Spain: The Swimmers by Marian Womack (dystopia)
– Finland: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta (post apocalyptic)

If you have book recommendations for the SFF Countries Project, let me know in the comments!

SciFiMonth 2021: TBR

November is SciFiMonth on my blog, a month in which we celebrate everything that is science fiction. Just like the previous years, Imyril from One More and Lisa from Dear Geek Place will be hosting this event. I have already planned some posts you can read during the month. I used the prompts from the SciFiMonth Challenge as inspiration. Of course I will also read science fiction books! While making pictures of the books, one of my cats decided to join me. And that made the picture actually infinitively better!

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (Wayfarers #4) by Becky Chambers
I adore the Wayfarers series! The books are well-written and always have great characters. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, the first part, is one of my all-time favourite books. So I am really looking forward to reading the last part of the series. I wanted to buy this book, but I found it by accident at my library.

Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks
This is a steampunk book set in colonial Australia. I really want to read more steampunk and seems a good one. Steampunk is usually associated with England, so it will also be interesting to have a very different setting.

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan
While looking for science fiction books I want to read, this book caught my eye. I never heard of it before, but the premise sounds quite fascinating: Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. It’s said to be an epic love story in space.

The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Astronaut by Tim Collins
A very different book than I usually read: it’s middle-grade fiction. I work at an elementary school and for that reason I like to read more children’s book. This one seems a fun book.

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 Pon4,5 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.

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.

SciFiMonth 2019 wrap-up & The Literary Grand Tour of the World November update

In this post I am going to do a couple of things. Of course I will talk about SciFiMonth. I am going to share what happened in the blogosphere and which books I read. Next to that, I will give an update of The Literary Grand Tour of the World.

First I want to thank Imyril from One More and Lisa of Dear Geek for organizing SciFiMonth! It inspired me to write five science fiction-themed posts:
Top four most realistic dystopias
Venturing into space: Books set on spaceships
What can possibly go wrong: Top three disaster movies
Top four kickass heroines in SciFi books
Alternate history: Steampunk & Dieselpunk TBR-list

Other bloggers also wrote great posts. I loved to read the 9 Favourite Themes & Features in SF from Avery on RedRocketPanda. On her blog Exploring by Starlight Louise talked about SF Tropes and Themes she loves and hates. Jess from Jessticulates shared her Time Travel TBR. I also enjoyed reading her discussion post exploring the question ‘Is Frankenstein the first AI novel?‘ And Caitlin from Realms of My Mind wrote an interesting post about her Favourite AI in Books.

Books I read for SciFiMonth

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Wayfarers, #1)5 stars
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky ChambersThis book was so comforting to read! It regularly put a big smile on my face. The story is set in the Wayfarer, a spaceship used to make tunnels between different parts of the galaxy. The crew has five humans and four non-human characters. Especially the non-human characters were interesting. Becky Chambers often surprised me with the many details about other species. I truly admire how well she wrote the characters. All of them, even the side characters who are just in a few sentences, felt real. It was beautiful to read that, despite the many differences, the crew members accept each other for who they are. They put genuine effort in understanding each other. Although the book does have a good plot, it isn’t very important. It’s a character-driven story that emphasises love and friendship. This made it a true feel-good story!

A Closed and Common Orbit - Becky Chambers

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Wayfarers, #2) – 4 stars
This sequel is about two characters who played a minor role in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I won’t spoil which characters, but I can tell that the characters are just as well-written as in the first part! This book actually has two stories. One of them is set after the events in the first part and is told from the perspective of one of the characters. The other story line tells about the childhood of the other character. The story lines complement each other very well and I liked both. Because the focus is on the two main characters, I think there is a little less attention to world-building. A Closed and Common Orbit is still a really good book!

Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor3,5 stars
This book actually felt more like fantasy than science fiction. I knew it is set in post-apocalyptic Africa, but it didn’t really feel like the future. Furthermore, magic plays a big role. I enjoyed reading how Onyesonwu learned it. But the story also deals with heavier topics like rape, slavery and genocide. Years ago the Okeke village of Oyesonwu’s mother was attacked by Nurus. During this attack a Nuru raped her mother. In the story Onyesonwu has to come to terms with the fact that she is a child of rape. She grows up in a village far from the genocide against the oppressed Okeke. She and her friends still feel the need to go on a journey to stop the genocide. Because the heavy parts alternate with lighter parts, the book was not too difficult to read. I even think the subplots got a bit too much attention on some points. Most of the book was quite good, but I had a problem with the ending. It felt rushed, because it was resolved in just twenty pages. On top of that, the ending was confusing and just too easy. What Nnedi Okorafor attempted to do was interesting, but for me she succeeded only partly.

This Mortal Coil - Emily SuvadaThis Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada4 stars
This book is set in a future when people are able to recode their DNA and change their bodies. This idea was fascinating. It’s realistic and totally believable. It did make some parts of the book a bit technical. To be honest, I didn’t entirely understand how the technology worked. I’m not sure if the writer did this on purpose or it was just me. Fortunately the plot was strong enough that this didn’t bother me too much. The main character, Catarina, is the daughter of a legendary geneticist. He may be the last hope to defeat a terrible plague that causes people to literally explode in toxic clouds. The problem is that Cat’s father was kidnapped by a shadowy organization. Cat survived two years on her own hoping that he is still alive. Until a soldier brings the news that her father is dead… From there the story keeps going. It is fast paced and exciting. And those plot twists! One of them was totally unexpected and truly astonished me!

The Literary Grand Tour of the World – November update

Some books I read this month also count for The Literary Grand Tour of the World. Not all of them are set on Earth, though. But I do get some diversity points and two books get me points for setting:

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Setting: In space, mainly LGBT+cast (wlw-relationship, non-binary character & trans character) = 1 point

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Setting: Sudan = 5 points, non-white cast = 1 point

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
Setting: United States = 1 point

With these 8 points I now have a total of 28 points for The Literary Grand Tour of the World. December will be the last month of this reading challenge. I am looking forward to reading The Seven Sisters and Gods of Jade and Shadow.