January #MountTBR Progress

This is my first progress post for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. I’m aiming for the Mount Blanc level: reading 24 of my owned TBR books during 2017. That means reading two books every month, and I would prefer at least one of them to be from my physical TBR shelf. All of them have to be bought before 2017.

In January I managed to read 6 owned TBR books, out of which 1 was a physical book! I acquired 3 books during the month, so I’m still ahead. Go, me!! Here is what I finished.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
154 pages / ebook

I had started this book last year, but since I read the last 50% in 2017, it still qualifies. This is a collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories, and while I did find it to be a weaker volume than the previous one, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I enjoyed being introduced to Mycroft, and of course, The Final Problem is a very good and dramatic story.

3 out of 5 stars


The Lost Child of Lychford
The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell
144 pages / ebook

The second novella in the Lychford series, this continues the story of three witches in the small town of Lychford. An apparition of a small boy appears in Lizzie’s church, and the witches have to figure out what this means. Is it a ghost? A vision of the past or an omen of the future?

This one was a lot creepier than the first novella, The Witches of Lychford. I enjoyed the creepiness, but I thought that the plot was a bit more confusing and less coherently written than the first one. There was also less Judith than I would’ve liked.

3.5 out of 5 stars


Forest of Memory
Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal
92 pages / ebook

In a future where everyone stores their memories as video files, antique dealer Katya is kidnapped and goes off the grid. Weird stuff happens, but since she is not recording, there is no proof. Katya can’t even trust her own memories, since she can’t visit them in vivid detail on video like she’s used to.

This is a high concept science fiction novella about memory that never really clicked with me. I really enjoyed the future memory tech, but didn’t connect with the story.

3 out of 5 stars


Borderline
Borderline by Mishell Baker
400 pages / ebook

A fast-paced and highly readable urban fantasy book with fey! Millie has borderline personality disorder and is paraplegic after a suicide attempt that got her kicked out of film school. She gets recruited to an organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and Fairyland.

The book is Own Voices as far as the Borderline personality disorder goes, and I felt like this was well handled in the book. Millie tends to lash out at people, while being incredibly vulnerable herself, and I liked that it makes her a complex, not-perfect character. Also I love unpredictable fey in books, so…. that’s a pretty big plus.

4 out of 5 stars


Queers Destroy Fantasy!
Queers Destroy Fantasy! Anthology
272 pages / ebook

An anthology of fantasy short stories and non-fiction entirely written and edited by queer creators. This one I’d also started reading in 2016, but had 50% left for 2017.

Like most anthologies, some stories I enjoyed more and some less, but the quality was pretty high. My favourite original short story was Catherynne M. Valente’s The Lily and the Horn, which was about the preparations for an irregular, poisonous feast, written in gorgeous prose. My fave reprint was Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Sea Troll’s Daughter, a story about a hero killing a troll that didn’t follow the expected, familiar, well-worn paths of revenge stories.

4 out of 5 stars


The Blue Sword
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
249 pages / paperback

Harry Crewe gets kidnapped by the Hillfolk King for reasons mysterious even to the King himself. She learns the ways of the Hillfolk, as well as about her own magic and heritage.

I probably would’ve inhaled this book as a kid, but found it very hard to get into as an adult. I have never read anything from McKinley before, and found her writing style pretty dry and an effort to read. It took about a 100 pages of a little more than 200 page book for things to start happening and for me to become a little interested. There was also some pretty bad POV skipping in between paragraphs, which always confuses me. This book might need some nostalgia behind it.

2 out of 5 stars

Those were all the books from January that qualified for the challenge. I also read two novels and two comic trades from the library, so all in all I had a pretty good reading month. How are your 2017 challenges going? Are you taking part in the Mount TBR Challenge as well? Let me know!

2016 Wrap-Up and 2017 Goals #MountTBR

In 2016 I failed at most of the goals that I had set for myself, so I will only go with two goals for 2017!

2016 Wrap-Up

In 2016 I read 117 books, thus smashing my original Goodreads reading goal of 66 books!

Of those 117:

  • 59 were books, 38 graphic works, 18 pieces of short fiction, and 2 audiobooks
  • 64 were books by women, 37 by men, and 16 by male/female teams
  • I rated 13 books five stars.

I only managed to read three books out of the 8 SFF books and classics that I had set for myself in the 2016 Reading Goals & Challenges post. Those were:

  • The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner (5 stars)
  • The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker (4 stars)
  • A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (4.5 stars)

I also only finished one more book, Lord Edgware Dies, in my quest to read Agatha Christie’s Poirot books in order – but I’ll blame the library, who had lost their only English language copy of Murder on the Orient Express, which would’ve been next on the list. I also failed in the TBR Triple Dog Dare, since all of my library reservations came in at the same time, and I focused on those instead of reading mostly my own books like the Dare specified.

2017 Goals

2017 GR Challenge
My first goal is to read 55 books for the Goodreads reading challenge in 2017. Since I’m on the job hunt and also want to draw more, I’m not aiming for more than that.

Mount TBR Challenge
I want to read two of my own books per month – preferably from my physical TBR shelf, but Kindle books will also do in a pinch (All the Unread Books I Own). This way I’ll read my own books, but can still use the library.

To achieve this, I’m taking part in the Mount TBR Reading Challenge run by My Reader’s Block. I chose the Mount Blanc challenge level, which is to read 24 books from my TBR pile. If I do well, I might consider upping it to Mt. Vancouver, reading 36 books. I will keep a list of the books I finish right here. Physical books will be marked in bold, the rest are ebooks. I want to read at least one physical book every month.

Mount Blanc

  1. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (50% in 2017)
  2. The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell
  3. Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal
  4. Borderline by Mishell Baker
  5. Queers Destroy Fantasy! Anthology (50% in 2017)
  6. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  7. Broom with A View by Gayla Twist & Ted Naifeh
  8. The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 4: Rising Action by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
  9. Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler
  10. Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter

I hope your 2017 is off to a good start, and happy reading!

2015 SFF Challenge Wrap Up

Ooops! I had completely forgotten to post the wrap up for last year’s reading challenge! It’s been sitting in my drafts all this time. Here it finally is in all it’s glory.

I had set myself 10 SFF books to read for the year 2015. I only managed to read six, but I really enjoyed all of them. The covers take you to my reviews.

The books I read (click the covers for reviews)

Ancillary Justice The Mad Ship The Goblin Emperor The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Swordspoint A Stranger in Olondria

The books I didn’t get to

City of Stairs The Magicians The Mirror Empire Feed

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot Readthrough
I also made good headway in my project of reading all of Christie’s Poirot books in order. I read:

The Big Four – 2 stars
Poirot’s Early Cases – 3 stars
The Mystery of the Blue Train – 3 stars
Black Coffee – 2 stars
Peril at End House – 4 stars

Bout of Books 16

It’s been a year since my last Bout of Books Read-A-Thon, so I decided to take part in Bout of Books 16. I will also be posting on Twitter @maijareads.

My goals: Read a 100 pages a day.
Pages read so far: 507 | Books finished: 2

Wrap Up: Read 72,5 pages a day, finished The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, and Batgirl Vol.2: Family Business.

Reading Progress

BoB16_Sunday

BoB16_Saturday
It was Eurovision Song Contest Finals day, so I didn’t spend a lot of time reading…

BoB16_Friday

BoB16_Thursday
I caught up a bit in my reading my finishing a Batgirl comic trade.

BoB16_Wednesday
So my Bout of Books reading and updating has not really gone to plan. Instead I’ve been watching movies and TV shows during the last days of a streaming service trial, and watching the Eurovision song contest. My reading has been about trying out the first chapters of different books.

Wednesday’s challenge: 5 Favorites
Here are my 5 favorite book to movie/tv adaptations:

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Movie directed by Edgar Wright, comic by Bryan Lee O’Malley
2. Interview with the Vampire
Movie directed by Neil Jordan, book by Anne Rice.
3. A Room with a View
Movie directed by James Ivory, book by E.M. Forster
4. Game of Thrones, Season 1 (and only Season 1)
Produced by HBO, book by George R.R. Martin
5. Pride and Prejudice (BBC)
Produced by BBC, book by Jane Austen

BoB16_Tuesday
Tuesday’s challenge: Show Off Your Shelves Photo Challenge
Here is my TBR shelf:
My TBR Shelf

BoB16_Monday
Monday’s challenge: Introduce yourself, using exactly six words.

Finnish fantasy reader, Lord Golden trash.
I could have also gone with Regency fantasy trash, but my love for Lord Golden triumphed.

What is Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 9th and runs through Sunday, May 15th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 16 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.
– From the Bout of Books team

Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small Angry PlanetThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
By: Becky Chambers
Genre: Science Fiction
First published in 2014

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The patched-up ship that’s seen better days offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.


Before I started reading this book, I knew so many people who absolutely loved it. Sadly I have to say that while I liked it, I didn’t fall in love. This is going to be a long review, so bear with me while I try to gather all my thoughts.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is pretty much about what the title says it is. It’s a character-focused book about a group of wormhole builders who get a big gig. They have to fly their tunneling ship a long way to a politically unstable planet, in order to punch a wormhole back to the more lively parts where they traveled from, basically creating a highway for other ships to use.

What I loved about the book was definitely the worldbuilding. Chambers has done a huge and thorough job with creating all the different alien races, their planets, and customs. It felt almost like when playing Mass Effect – and by that I don’t mean that the worlds are similar, but that all the aliens and their customs are clearly fleshed out and very varied (even more than in ME, I’d say). The world felt real, and it felt big, and all the aliens were clearly distinguishable from each other.

Instead of a big plot, this book has a lot different stories, or snapshots of the characters’ life. I’ve often said that I prefer characters over plot, and since I knew that this book was character-focused, I thought it would be exactly my cup of tea. Sadly, there were things that just didn’t quite work for me. The stories felt too compartmentalized, almost episodic. It felt like going through a list of characters: Now you get a story, and now you get a story, and now it’s your turn!

Funnily enough, I almost craved for more character-focused scenes, or at least differently focused scenes. I wanted more scenes (there were some) where many members of the crew would be gathered together, talking to each other while doing some everyday spaceship stuff, instead of spending time one-on-one with one character explaining their story or the customs of their species to another one, the dialogue acting as a not-that-organically embedded infodump. For example in the scene where Sissix is explaining about Aandrix family customs to Rosemary, some of that information could be given in the sort of Wikipedia-like entries that were used elsewhere in the book, giving Sissix the chance to speak about more personal matters.

The book focused a lot on the characters’ inner life, and sometimes the writing was a bit too heavy-handed. By that I mean that the characters spoke out their feelings to the point that it felt like the book was telling us what they felt, instead of showing us. The worst offender was the bolt-sorting scene, where Jenks makes a long speech about his feelings, even though the scene spoke for itself in my opinion. It spelled those emotions out loud by actions, without the speech being at all necessary.

Now this review might seem a bit harsh, but I actually liked reading the book for the most part! I really liked especially Dr. Chef and Sissix (while Kizzy mostly just got on my nerves). I loved the world and learning about all the different alien races. I just had too many little gripes about the book for me to give it more than three stars.

This was Becky Chambers’ debut novel, and I trust that she will iron out the more clunky parts as time goes by. She has what it takes, evident in the creation of this amazing world, and it is this huge potential in the world that leaves me craving to read her second novel, which is set in the same universe.

3 out of 5 stars

2016 Reading Goals & Challenges

During the past two years, I’ve set myself a list of 10 books that I definitely want to read during the coming year, and every time I’ve managed to read about six of them. So this time I’m hoping to fool myself into reading more by making two separate shorter lists.

Top 5 SFF books to read in 2016

The Privilege of the Sword Broken Kingdoms Red Seas Under Red Skies The Golem and the Jinni A Natural History of Dragons
1. The Privilege of the Sword (The World of Riverside #2) by Ellen Kushner
2. The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance #2) by N.K. Jemisin
3. Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard #2) by Scott Lynch
4. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
5. A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan

These are either authors whose works I enjoyed in 2015, or completely new authors to me whose books just feel like something I would love.

Top 3 Classics to read in 2016

Brideshead Revisited Hangsaman Dracula
1. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
2. Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
3. Dracula by Bram Stoker

I think I read two classics last year, and both of those were modern SFF classics. So, in an effort to finally get to the classics I’ve been planning to read for a long time, I chose three classics from my shelves. I have actually read Dracula many years ago, but I plan to read my gorgeous illustrated edition while listening to the Audible full cast production of it.

TBR Triple Dog Dare

TBR Triple Dog Dare
I was searching for different TBR challenges, and found this dare by James Reads Books.

During the first three months of 2016, you can only read the TBR books you had as of midnight December 31, 2015. It is allowed to include books you had already placed on reserve at the library before this date, and I intend to do so. There are also other exceptions that you’re allowed to make, but I’m only going to use the library one. So, from January 1st to April 1st, I’m only going to be reading books already on my TBR shelf. Which is good, since no more books would fit on it, anyway.

Hercule Poirot in Order

Agatha Christie Logo
I’ll also continue to read Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot books in order throughout the year. I’m up to book number nine, Lord Edgware Dies.

These are all my goals for the year 2016. I think they are possible to accomplish, although the TBR Triple Dog Dare might prove to be quite tricky!

A Stranger in Olondria Review (2015 SFF Reading Challenge 6/10)

A Stranger in Olondria
A Stranger in Olondria

By: Sofia Samatar
First published in 2012
Book 6/10 of my 2015 SFF Reading Challenge

Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home—but which his mother calls the Ghost Country. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. Just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.


A Stranger in Olondria is a beautifully written book that manages to evoke the feeling of traveling abroad and of suddenly seeing something gorgeous when you turn a corner. It also has a deep love for books, stories, and the wonder of literacy. I’m not surprised it won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2014 – the prose is so beautiful that it’s difficult to believe this is Samatar’s debut novel.

The main character, Jevick of Tyom, has lived all his life on his father’s pepper farm. His Olondrian tutor taught him to read and write, since there is no written language in his mother tongue, and Jevick grew up reading about the wonders of Olondria. After his father’s death he finally has the chance to visit the city of Bain on the yearly spice spelling trip.

Jevick’s reactions to visiting Olondria and seeing the beautiful city of Bain reminded me of my visit to Rome, or seeing the Place Masséna in Nice. That wonder of turning a corner and being presented with a beautiful sight that takes your breath away was captured perfectly. Jevick also visits more barren countrysides, which were also described well, conveying the feel of large space and long stretches of land and stars spreading around you.

In addition to the descriptions and the awe of the main character when he travels, the world of the book is built by stories. A lot of the characters tell stories: either their life stories, or a myth of their people. This abundance of stories makes the world seem old and deep, like there is so much history behind it, more stories than this book will be able to tell.

This book is best read in long doses, because it always takes a little bit of time to sink into the writing style, the atmosphere and the long descriptions. I was planning to give the book five stars, but I fell out of the enchantment right at the very end. I assume this was because of the flu I had, which hurt the attention span needed to fully enjoy the story and sink into the writing style.

The plot itself was very unexpected, not going where I was thinking it would go, at all. To be fair, I hadn’t read the back cover description. The plot, for me, was the least important aspect of the book. I was drawn in by the weight of history and by the descriptions. If you are a plot-centered reader, I’d be interested in your reactions to the book.

4 out of 5 stars