Reviews

REAL NEAT BLOG AWARD

While I love tag posts, particularly those that help me know my fellow bloggers better, my record in fulfilling them once I am tagged is far from stellar. I hoped to be able to fit this one into my Wyrd and Wonder 2020 schedule, but as usual I’m traveling on the path of good intentions – and we all know where that leads…

Anyway, with many thanks to Lashaan at Bookidote for calling me to task 😉 , here are the answers to the questions he posed:

 

1. IF YOU COULD DO SOMETHING BETTER THAN YOU’RE ALREADY DOING RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

That’s a tough one for a first question, when I still need to warm up… 😀

Jokes aside, I would like to be able to be more productive in my blogging activities, so that I could prepare some non-review posts in advance and participate in more book-related memes as many of my fellow bloggers do. For now, I will keep on enjoying theirs…

 

2. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THIS NEW DECADE (2020-2029) TO BRING TO YOUR LIFE?

Some traveling to new places – which right now sounds more like a fanciful wish than anything else: there are a few destinations that I’ve been thinking about along with my friends, like touring Australia (and New Zealand as well, why not? The Tolkien fan in me would like to see the place that became Middle Earth in our collective imagination). Hopefully one of these dream holidays might turn into reality.    

 

3. IS THERE A SEQUEL TO SOMETHING THAT YOU LOOK FORWARD TO?

**Looking meaningfully in the direction of Mister George R. R. Martin**

Enough said…

 

4. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE STORIES IN ANY MEDIUM (COMICS, BOOKS, SHOWS, MOVIES, VIDEO GAMES, ETC.)?

This might call for a long list, so I will try to keep it down to a maximum of three in any category – except for comics, which I don’t read, and video games, that are well beyond any ability of mine. And of course I will stay within the confines of SFF, otherwise this would turn into a *massive* list…

SF Books: The Expanse, The Vorkosigan Saga, Dune

Fantasy Books: The Lord of the Rings (of course… 😉 ), The First Law trilogy, anything by John Gwynne

Tv Shows: Babylon 5 (which I love to quote at the drop of a hat), Farscape, Firefly

Movies (the ones I always rewatch when the opportunity arises): Alien(s), the LOTR Trilogy, Galaxy Quest.

 

5. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR LEAST FAVOURITES STORIES IN ANY MEDIUM (COMICS, BOOKS, SHOWS, MOVIES, VIDEO GAMES, ETC.)?

Well, let’s say that I don’t enjoy reading or watching stories where characters are cardboard cutouts, plots cliché and predictable and where the readers’ or watchers’ intelligence is insulted.

 

6. WHAT DOES BLOGGING BRING TO YOUR LIFE?

The opportunity of sharing thoughts and recommendations with like-minded people, to see unexplored angles in the stories I’ve read – either those I loved and those I didn’t, because a widely different point of view can be as illuminating as one which agrees with mine. Oh, and of course an ever-growing, totally unmanageable TBR – but who’s complaining?

 

7. IF THERE’S SOMETHING YOU COULD CHANGE OF THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I would like to do away with the extreme polarization that seems to affect every field of social interaction nowadays, and to poison any kind of discussion, no matter the subject at hand.

 

8. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD EAT RIGHT NOW?

Mango-flavored ice cream.

 

9. IF THERE WAS ONE MYTHOLOGICAL CREATURE THAT COULD EVER EXIST IN THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I’ve always been fascinated by the fabled inhabitant of Loch Ness…

 

10. DO YOU THINK THERE’S A CURE FOR STUPIDITY?

Sadly, while I enjoy speculative fiction, I know there are limits to what I’m able believe… 😉

 

 

Ok, that was fun! If you enjoyed this tag, please feel free to join in – the more the merrier!

Reviews

GET TO KNOW THE FANTASY READER TAG – Wyrd & Wonder 2020

Image by Tanantachai Sirival @ 123RF.com

 

Always in search of ideas to share my love of all things fantasy, I encountered this tag on the  blog of JESSTICULATES and immediately saw that it was very intriguing, so I borrowed it: thank you so much Jess!

I made some small changes from the original set of questions, to adapt it to my own personality, but I hope to have kept close enough to the overall spirit of the tag.

If you find this interesting, dive in and enjoy! I will be thrilled to read your answers. 🙂

 

1. What is the first fantasy novel you read?

Unsurprisingly, it was J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and despite the long time elapsed since then (I read it in the late ‘70s) I still remember vividly how engrossing it was, how it opened my mind to the perception of this amazing world and its various peoples.  Since then I have re-read it several times, finding new details and new shades of meaning as the years passed, but still every time I renew my acquaintance with the story I feel as if I’m going back to a familiar place and well-loved friends.

 

2. If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

I guess I’m a bit too… seasoned to imagine myself as the heroine of a story, but if I had to choose, I would ask  G.R.R. Martin to depict me as an enigmatic character whose actions leave everyone puzzled about her plans and goals. Maybe with a touch of darkness… 😉

 

 

3. What is a fantasy you’ve read this year, that turned into a huge revelation?

Joe Abercrombie’s FIRST LAW TRILOGY: I started it a long time after its appearance, but it totally won me over, especially because of its amazing characterization and the perfect blend of drama and humor that keeps the story engaging despite its connotation of ‘grimdark fantasy’.

 

4. What is your favourite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?

This question compelled me to look online and see how many fantasy sub-genres are listed, and I was amazed at what I found, including some sub-genres I did not even know existed, some of them quite outlandish, like Bangsian Fantasy. One of the realms I have been wanting to explore for some time is that of Arthurian Fantasy, and one of these days I will start on that particular quest…

 

 

5. Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

That’s an interesting question, because until a short time ago I would have said George Martin: his Song of Ice and Fire caught my attention in 2002 and marked my return to the genre after a long period in which I read only SF, but the long dry years between books have eroded both my patience and my enthusiasm and I moved to greener – and more dependable – pastures. There is not a single author whose books I acquire as soon as they come out, but having to choose only one I must mention my most recent discovery, John Gwynne: his epic fantasy series won me over from the first book I read.

 

6. How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram..)

None of the above: my best… pushers  😀  are my fellow bloggers. Just by blog-hopping and reading their reviews I immediately see which books might work for me and pile on top of my already unmanageable TBR.

 

 

7. What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?

That’s an easy one: Melissa Caruso’s THE OBSIDIAN TOWER. Her Swords and Fire trilogy was an instant hit and it became a favorite from the very first book.  This new start to a different trilogy is set in the same world, but with different characters, and I look forward to learning more about this universe and its peculiar brand of magic.

 

8. What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

That fantasy readers (and speculative fiction readers at large) are people with no connections to the world, that their minds dwell in a different reality and are therefore unable to deal with everyday issues. These detractors don’t seem to understand that our minds can dwell on both sides of the ‘fence’, that we might escape for a few hours into these imagined realms, but we are still firmly rooted in the ‘here and now’ and that the possibility of being elsewhere for a short while is a healthy exercise for our minds and souls.

 

 

9. If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

Oh, I would recommend Dreamer’s Pool, by Juliet Marillier; Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan, and Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames. They are very different from each other, in concept and mood and might offer a good starting point to understand what kind of fantasy one might enjoy – a classical story, one with a peculiar brand of magic, and one where humor plays an important part.

 

10. What’s the site that you like to visit for reviews, author interviews and all things fantasy?

My latest discovery was The Fantasy Hive: a site where you can find, besides information on books and authors, interesting short stories you can read online. I can certainly recommend a visit…

 

What about you?  Let us know what kind of fantasy reader you are!

Reviews

My 2019 in books

 

Happy New Year!!!

 

As a new year begins, it’s customary to look at the one that just ended and see how it went, book-wise. While 2019 went reasonably well, at least according to my usual reading range, this time I did not manage to read as many books as in previous years, and I believe the “culprits” are both the usual lack of time and the number of DNFs that did not even make it to the point where I felt comfortable enough to express an opinion – even a negative one. There have been a few false starts of this kind which meant some lost time between books, but who’s counting?  😉

Anyway here is the list of the 48 books I read in 2019:

 

 

The titles were fairly distributed among my favorite genres, with 19 for Fantasy, 16 for Science Fiction, 7 for Urban Fantasy, 4 for Horror and 2 Thrillers. All in all a good overall sample.  As for ratings, the lion’s share goes to the ones who gathered from 4 to 5 stars, which means that I mostly enjoyed what I read and reviewed, and only one book received a 2,5 rating. Not bad.

A separate groups of books includes the seventeen novels in the Vorkosigan Revisitation I started in November for Sci-Fi Month – always an amazing and delightful experience – and ended on the last day of the year: I did not actually re-read these (lack of time, what a surprise…) but simply re-acquainted myself with them, also thanks to a re-read I had managed a few years back, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I still remembered. But well-loved stories do indeed tend to stay with you… 🙂

 

 

My projects for the new year? Well, since no reading plan survives contact with the enemy  😀  I always try not to make any, but at the very least I’m set on finally reading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, because his new novel A Little Hatred finally led me to dust off those books which had been long languishing on my TBR, and also read the stand-alone books in this series. And to balance out the Fantasy with some Science Fiction (I’m a Libra, I love balance!) I would like to finally sample Neal Asher’s Polity series, since all of my fellow bloggers who mention it, do it with great enthusiasm.

And I guess that’s enough. What about you? How did your 2019 fare, book-wise? And what are your 2020 projects?

 

Reviews

The Finished Book Tag

Thanks to Bookforager for tagging me for this interesting meme: much as I love these “get to know us better” tags, I rarely manage to fulfill my role due to a chronical lack of time. These days, however, I am enjoying a brief holiday respite, so what better occasion than to finally get around to enjoy a book tag?  And here we go…

 

Do you keep a list of the books you have read?

Oh, indeed! Being cursed with a sieve-like memory, I need to keep track of what I’ve read so I don’t overtax my struggling memory banks. For some time I kept the list of my yearly readings on GoodReads, but for the past year of so, due to something annoying that happened there, I moved to Library Thing, which looks a bit more efficient, at least from my point of view.

 

 

If you record stats, what stats do you record?

Stats are not something that I take active interest in: the only exception might be at the end of each year, when I list the books I read to see how they are divided between genres and to get an overall score of my ratings, but that’s all.

 

 

Do you give star ratings for books and if so, what do you score books out of and how do you come about this score?

Star ratings are indeed a way to show how much we liked (or disliked) a book, but I’ve always thought that being a graphic representation of a complex set of parameters they are not as flexible as I would like. I’ve been thinking for some time about adding a sort of… recap of my evaluation to the star ratings I place at the bottom of reviews, and will try it out soon to see how that works.

 

 

Do you review books?

Indeed!  😀

 

 

Where do you put your finished books?

Interesting question! I’m glad you asked… 😉
Since I choose to read only ebooks (for a lot of practical reasons), I have also transformed my… well, shelving habits: there is a folder on my computer where I store the current books (my TBR, so to speak) waiting to be downloaded to my e-reader, and there is a dedicated USB drive where I back them up regularly and where, in a separate folder, I place the read books. All in their own folders with the author’s name. Neat, isn’t it?
Granted, if I want to take a peek at a much-loved book, it’s not as easy as taking it out of the book-case, but it’s not all that difficult either, and I also have far less problems with accumulating dust!

 

 

How do you pick your next book?

Mmmm… Much depends on my current mood and/or the level of concentration I can put in a story, so I pick the less demanding ones when I feel tired or I know I will be distracted by other things. Of course any plan can be subverted by the appearance of a much-awaited book on the horizon. In that case I’m totally unable to resist but… who would?

 

 

Do you have any other rituals for when you have finished a book?

Most of my reading happens during the long commute to and from work, so the most likely scenario is that I move from one finished book to the next in line, much as a chain-smoker lights a cigarette with the stub of the old one. With the difference that chain-reading is NOT harmful to our health!

 

And since I firmly believe in… sharing the wonders, I’m tagging a few more fellow bloggers – no pressure, no obligation, but if you can participate I hope you have as much fun as I did with this tag. The lucky winners are (in alphabetical order):

 

the folks at Bilbliosanctum

Tammy at Books, Bones and Buffy

Bookstoge

Sarah at Brainfluff

the Tattoed Book Geek

 

 

Reviews

GRR Martin’s ASOIAF: A Gentle Nudge from New Zealand…

It’s no news that readers of GRR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire have been dealing with the author’s long gestating times between books with varying degrees of patience – or lack thereof, and the not-quite-satisfactory way in which the overall story was wrapped up by the TV series Game of Thrones did little to assuage the readers’ curiosity and their need to see the story and the characters’ journeys developed with the depth they expect from the books published until now.

Over the years some voices have been raised in a less than civilized way, literally demanding the next book in line as if it were their unalienable right, and lately I heard that a silly rumor was being circulated that Martin had actually finished the saga but was keeping the books under wraps as a favor to the TV show, which sounds totally foolish but still needed a public rebuttal by the author.  Which proves that rumors spread faster than a pandemic, and are just as dangerous.

Replying to such absurdity with humor is always the best choice, to the point that playful creations like this one go a long way toward keeping the tone light:

 

 

And that’s the reason I enjoyed immensely this video created by Air New Zealand, which encourages George Martin to find a place where his creativity would flow uninterrupted, inviting him to visit their country.  It’s a delightful way to express the readers’ eagerness to see the next book hit the stands, and it’s full of amusing tongue-in-cheek quips, my favorite being the one about “being nervous as a Stark with a wedding invite”.

Enjoy!  🙂

 

Reviews

WORLDS WITHOUT END: Reading Challenges

 

Many of you will know of Worlds Without End, a fantastic site dedicated to books in the speculative fiction genre that can be browsed by title, author or publisher. The site also contains a lively forum where members can discuss any kind of SFF-related topic – and not just limited to books, since it involves threads about movies and TV and other media.

One of the most interesting features of WWE is the section devoted to reading challenges: every year a list of these challenges is published, allowing the site’s members to pick the ones they feel most inspired by, or to propose one of their own.

This year – as in previous years – the list is rich and inspiring: just take a look HERE to see for yourselves…  I have been intrigued by two: the first a list of the books I plan to read in 2019, with no limitation concerning genre, the other is a sort of promise to myself, i.e. to move forward with some of the series that have piqued my interest with the first or even second book, but that I’ve been unable to see through the end of the cycle.

  

 

As you will see, there are several levels to each challenge, with the possibility of adjusting them upwards if we manage to exceed our expectations: I choose 50 books for the Books Read challenge, and 9 for the Read the Sequel challenge. Of course a few books in the first challenge will be eligible for the second one, which might improve my chances for an upgrade in goal. We’ll see…

No matter what, this is going to be fun, so I’m ready to start.  Anyone else interested?  🙂

Reviews

MY 2018 IN BOOKS

Once again it’s time for the “look back” post in which we consider how the past reading year has gone, and once again I can be satisfied by the number of books I managed to read, not to mention the short stories I enjoyed between books, a good number of which have made it into reviews.  And here is a visual summary:

 

 

The books I read are more or less equally divided between Fantasy and Science Fiction, even though there is a fair number of them that crosses between the genre dividing lines.  What’s comforting is that of the 60-odd titles under my proverbial belt, only two of them ended up in the DNF bin, while the overall rating for the books I read remains a steady 4,1 stars.  Which means I have been quite rewarded by my choices this year.

Here are the books that received the maximum rating of 5 stars: it’s interesting to note that they are all placed in the Fantasy genre, since I used to consider myself more science-fiction inclined. Clearly these past years, and the number of great fantasy novels I enjoyed, have changed my tastes or steered them in a different direction – and in 2018 there was no new Expanse book, or there would at least have been a 5-star rating in the SF field…

 

      

      

 

 

On a more personal level, I have said my farewell to GoodReads: the usual annoyances I had to deal with in the past concerning the quirks of the platform and its sometimes unreliable data update have recently been joined by a weird occurrence, which proved to be the infamous last straw.  After reviewing, on December 6th, the latest novel in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, I posted on December 8th a review for the novella Suffer a Sea Change that is included in the book: at the time in which I posted the review there was an independent listing for the novella, as there is for many other shorter works in this series.

A couple of weeks later, while compiling the list for this very post, I noticed that the review for the novella had disappeared, as had the novella itself from the GoodReads database, and only a further search brought me to find out that the novella review had been appended to the review for the book.  There is nothing truly wrong in this, granted, since there might be a valid reason for the removal of the listing, but what bothered me was the fact that the change had been operated unilaterally, and no one had thought of sending the barest of notices my way.

Taken by a sudden suspicion, I went to check on a similar case: at the back of a previous October Daye book, The Brightest Fell (one of my 2017 reviews), there was another novella, Of Things Unknown, which used to have the same separate listing from the parent book and that I reviewed as such. Well, that one was merged as well, still without notice: I have not checked other instances to avoid further irritation…

It’s not an end-of-the-world occurrence, true, but to me it spoke of a lack of consideration, a lack of good manners if you want: GoodReads sends a lot of notifications to me concerning friends’ updates or events, so why not for this change? From what I read, this is nothing new: other members have witnessed the actual eradication of their reviews, which seems to indicate a pattern, one that leaves an unpleasant taste in one’s mouth.

Anyway, I’ve moved my book collection to Library Thing (where the import mechanism worked like a charm, for the record) and will post reviews on GoodReads only in the case of debut novels, since that’s an instance in which authors need the maximum exposure, but I will just write a few words and then link to the complete post to my blog.   It’s a small gesture, a tiny drop in the ocean, I know, but it’s my way of protesting against such rudeness. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.

 

Now, moving to a more positive topic: to all of you fellow book lovers…

Have a great 2019 filled with wonderful books!  Happy reading!

Reviews

MY 2017 IN BOOKS

This is the time of year when we take a look back at what we read, retracing our steps and revisiting some of the books we most enjoyed in our reading journeys. Thanks to the summary offered by GoodReads I can explore the past twelve months and amuse myself with some statistics.

Here is the visual overview of the books I read and reviewed in 2017:

 

65 titles sounds like an incredible amount, even taking into account that some of them are novellas, so they are shorter than an average book. Still, the overall page count gave me pause: 21.859 – I certainly spent a good amount of time with my nose in a book, and considering that most of my reading happens during the hour-long commute to and from work, I am deeply grateful to all those authors and their stories that distracted me from the daily drudgery of my subway travels.

As far as genres are concerned, they are more or less equally divided:

FANTASY                   26
SCIENCE FICTION 21
URBAN FANTASY  12
HORROR                    6

Once I tended to read more SF than other genres, but I have to admit that in recent years Fantasy and its close relative Urban Fantasy take up a much larger space on my virtual shelves, thanks to the discovery of authors whose books I buy sight unseen, knowing I will enjoy their stories no matter what they feature. Still, I hope to read more SF in the near future, if nothing else because I want to find a better balance in my reading choices.

On the subject of ratings, I have been fortunate enough, in 2017, to encounter very few books I did not enjoy, so that only 3 of them did get a rating that was less that 3 stars over 5 (not unlike last year): my average rating comes up to a little over 4, which means that I loved what I read. Speaking of which, I feel the need to stress how 2017 was an amazing year for debut novels and that it’s only proper to list them again here (in the order I read them):

KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames
SOUL OF THE WORLD by David Mealing
FIRST WATCH by Dale Lucas
AGE OF ASSASSINS by R.J. Barker
THE COURT OF BROKEN KNIVES by Anna Smith Spark
THE TETHERED MAGE by Melissa Caruso (forthcoming review)

If this has indeed been a great reading year, it’s also because of these wonderful stories and their creators, and I hope of seeing more of them soon.

A  Happy 2018  to all of you, and may it be filled with great stories!

Reviews

Vacationing Owl…

 

The suitcase is packed, the tickets bought, everything is ready for a well-deserved vacation, so this bookish owl is waving goodbye to everyone for the next two weeks.

I have scheduled a couple of posts, just to keep my blog’s muscles in tune (but do blogs have muscles?  that’s an interesting question…) but I might be unable to reply to your comments – or to comment to your always intriguing posts – during my absence, so I’m making my apologies now, and hope to be able to do it all once I’m back.

Keep reading great stories, keep having fun and… see you soon!

Reviews

My 2015 in Books

51 titles… It’s not much, not if compared with the stats of the majority of my fellow bloggers (by the way, I’m amazed at the number of books I see listed in the year’s-end posts that are cropping up these days. How do you manage so much?  Superhero-like reading speed? 48-hour days? Or both?  😀 ) but for me it’s a good number, taking into account my limited free time and the pressures from work: 11 books more than last year, and an average of one book per week, more or less.  Not bad at all…

Even better if I consider that, with a few exceptions, they were all greatly enjoyable books, with several new discoveries among them: authors I never read before, independent authors who submitted their work for review, allowing me to find new, unknown talents, and a couple of titles from genres I would not have suspected would fall into my preference range.

Apart from the pleasure of reading, something that I guess was born at the time when printed words ceased to be a mystery for me, this year has also been another year of “sharing the wonders” with other book bloggers and with the people who kindly commented my ramblings. This enhanced my enjoyment, people, because it was – and still is! – an amazing experience.  Thanks!

So here it is, my collection of read books’ covers for this year. The list of books I want to read, or have lined up next is even longer, but that’s a matter for 2016…

Good reading, everyone! And a Happy New Year 🙂

2015