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


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


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

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

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

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

Swordspoint Review (2015 SFF Reading Challenge 5/10)


(The World of Riverside #1)
By: Ellen Kushner
First published in 1987
Book 5/10 of my 2015 SFF Reading Challenge

This classic melodrama of manners, filled with remarkable plot twists and unexpected humor, takes fantasy to an unprecedented level of elegant writing and scintillating wit.

On the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless – until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe.

Swordspoint was exactly my cup of tea: interesting, complex characters, with a lot of plotting nobles! It had political intrigue and swordfights, as well as a focus on character relationships.

Swordspoint is a fantasy of manners book, or as it says in the beginning, a melodrama of manners. It’s focused on the character relationships, the customs, and the classes of the people inside this one unnamed city. There’s the upper city, called the Hill, where the nobles live, and the other side, Riverside, where the pickpockets, swordsmen, and people who don’t fit in with the society live.

The main character, Richard St. Vier,  is a swordsman. In this city the nobles solve their quarrels with hired swordsmen: the insulted party will hire a swordsman to challenge the other noble, who in turn will have his own swordsman take up the challenge in his stead. Richard is the best swordsman in Riverside, and the plot focuses on him, his boyfriend, Alec, and a group of nobles that plot against each other in the upper city.

I really liked the characters in this book, although they might not be that likable in general terms. They are very complex characters and they have their own morals. They are not clear-cut heroes and villains; instead all of them are flawed in their own way.

My favourite character in the book was Richard’s boyfriend Alec, who is a very mysterious character. He’s not from Riverside originally, and no one really knows where he comes from. He dresses like a scholar from the University, but he talks like someone who is from an upper class. He has dark bouts where he turns suicidal, or at least very self-loathing, and he likes to stir up trouble. He goes around insulting people, even though he doesn’t know how to defend himself. Instead he incites quarrells and watches Richard fight them on his behalf, and he sort of gets off on that. All the time in the book I was wondering what his deal is.

Another thing that I liked about this book is that no one commented on Richard’s and Alec’s relationship. While there are gay characters in other fantasy books, they are often ostracized, and the same prejudices that are in our world are portrayed in the fantasy world. It was refreshing to see something different in this book, and I would like to read more fantasy like this. There are women from Richard’s past mentioned in the book as well, and the nobles in the upper city seem to also have their love affairs with both sexes. I’ve heard later that Kushner has said that all her characters in this world are bisexual. Like I said, it was very refreshing.

The majority of the book consists of the nobles’ schemes, which I found quite interesting to follow, even though they might not have been that complex. There was especially this one noble who was not the sharpest pencil in the box, and he sort of fumbled along with his plans. I knew nothing good could come out of them, but it was enjoyable to follow.

My reading experience was only bothered by some point of view changes. In one paragraph one character might be thinking something, and then the very next paragraph might be from another character’s point of view. At times I was confused since I’d missed that the POV character had changed in between. I learned to watch out for it, even though it mixed me up sometimes later on in the book as well. So the narrator is omniscient and tells all of the characters’ thoughts at one go, which was sometimes hard for me to follow.

I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in plotting nobles and characters with grey morals, as well as fantasy taking place in quite a small sphere, since the book takes place all in one city, with no travelling or quests or other epic fantasy staples. I really recommend Swordspoint and I’ll be reading more of Ellen Kushner’s work.

4.5 out of 5 stars

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Review (2015 SFF Reading Challenge 4/10)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

(Inheritance #1)
By: N.K. Jemisin
First published in 2010
Book 4/10 of my 2015 SFF Reading Challenge

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is an entertaining read that caught my interest from page one.

Yeine Darr’s mother belonged to the Arameri, the ruling family, but left them for love. After her mother’s death, Yeine is summoned to the palace by her grandfather. There she is unexpectedly made one of the possible heirs to the throne alongside her two cousins, who have lived in the court their entire life. To top it all off, the ruling family has control over four enslaved gods, who dwell in the palace, and Yeine quickly gets caught up in their plots, as well.

N.K. Jemisin has the fantastic idea of enslaved gods as weapons of mass destruction. The Arameri family rules the world, because they literally have the power of gods at their beck and call. They backed the right god during the war of the gods, and in return he gave the losing gods to the Arameri. So they can send, for example, the Nightlord Nahadoth, god of the night and chaos, to wipe their enemies out. Talk about unfair and overpowered!

What I really enjoyed about the book were the characters. Alongside Yeine, the gods were my favourites. I found their mythology so interesting! Another draw for me was the fact that this took place in a court setting. I have a weakness for court intrigue fantasy. More of that my way, please!

Now, there is a romance storyline in this book. Usually I don’t like a romance storyline to feature heavily in a book, but in this one it didn’t bother me. I’ve heard that it divides readers, though – some like the romance, some find it offputting. I liked following the characters too much to mind it. Actually, I found it quite interesting.

I was surprised to learn that this was Jemisin’s debut novel. I didn’t like her later series, the Dreamblood, nearly as much as this book. The first Dreamblood book was good, but I was much more quickly caught up in the story and the characters of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. It is part of a series, but functions full well as a standalone book, which is refreshing. I will continue with the series later, since I had so much fun.

4.5 out of 5 stars

The Goblin Emperor Review (2015 SFF Reading Challenge 3/10)

The Goblin Emperor
The Goblin Emperor

By: Katherine Addison
First published in 2014
Book 3/10 of my 2015 SFF Reading Challenge

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an accident, he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

The Goblin Emperor is a court-intrigue fantasy book with a very appealing main character.

Half-goblin Maia has lived all his life sequestered in a distant mansion, when the death of his elven father and all the other heirs to the throne in an airship accident makes him the Emperor. He has no knowledge of court politics, and the only person he knows is the volatile cousin whose bitter mood swings he has had to live with in his exile.

Maia is a marvelously likable character, and to me he was the main selling point of the book. I loved him! He feels so alienated: he has been raised by an abusive man, he doesn’t know anyone in the court, and he is the only goblin there among the tall, pale elves, if you don’t count the servants. Maia is very easy to sympathize with, and he feels like a real person, his inner voice is so genuine. You can’t help but root for him as he tries to learn how to rule and to get used to the fact that he can’t be bossed around like when he was little. All this while feeling like he can’t trust anyone. Other characters that I enjoyed include Maia’s bodyguards, and his marvelously competent secretary, Csevet.

Katherine Addison has created a complete fantasy court with new titles, etiquette, politics, and customs. The huge amount of names and titles could be overwhelming, but I actually liked it, since Maia was quite overwhelmed by the court, too. I would like to just start from the beginning and read this again, since I know more of the customs and remember all the characters better now. There’s a glossary at the back, but when a person can be referred to as title + surname or first name + surname, it will get confusing at times. Especially when there might be a female title + surname, and a male title + surname from the same family, and you have to remember which was which.

I recommend this to people who like character-focused, slower fantasy books, and don’t mind being bombarded with a lot of fantasy names. While the court intrigue scheming might not be very intricate, the main point is the character’s journey, and I felt with Maia every step of the way.

5 out of 5 stars