Reading update 04/10/2020

Updates

Recently Finished: SOURDOUGH by Robin Sloan
This was such a delightful book. It’s basically just the story of a computer programmer who finds happiness in baking bread when her favourite soup and sandwich takeout closes and the owners gift her their (possibly sentient?) sourdough starter. It was recommended to me by eriophora (@BasiliskBooks) on Twitter when I asked for some nice gentle reads with little stress (I’m really feeling the need for those types of stories right now) and this really hit that spot. The highest the stakes get is wondering whether or not Lois will get a spot at the local farmers market. I loved it and if you want something nice and wholesome about someone just learning to be happy then I would definitely recommend Sourdough.

Currently Reading: THE AFFAIR OF THE MYSTERIOUS LETTER by Alexis Hall
I’m a few chapters in to this one and already I absolutely adore it. It’s a sort of Lovecraftian lesbian Sherlock Holmes reimagining where ‘Holmes’ is a drug-addled sorceror tasked to investigate the attempted blackmail of her former lover. Told from the perspective of ‘Watson’ (Captain John Wyndham) the duo are beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, harassed by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark. It’s a joyous, bizarre and unapologetically fun story and again, a perfect fit for the kinds of stories I feel like reading at the mo.

Next Read: WHEN THE TIGER CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN by Nghi Vo
Tor Books sent me this ARC and I can’t tell you how excited I am to read it. It’s Nghi Vo’s follow up to her majestic The Empress of Salt and Fortune, which was a story whose words flowed through my mind like silk over soft skin. Set in the same world and part of The Singing Hills Cycle, it’s nevertheless a standalone that reunites us with the cleric Chih, who finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover – a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty – and discover how truth can survive becoming history.


Let me know in the comments what you’re reading at the mo, I love to chat about the books we’re all reading. And hey, if you enjoyed this update why not follow the blog for more reviews and bookish chat.

State Of The Blog

Updates

Happy Sunday bookwyrms, hope you’re all having a lovely book-filled weekend. And hey, thanks so much for all the blogiversary well wishes, I was overwhelmed by all you fine folks getting in touch, you’re the best.

And on that note, having taken a week off to recover from the madness of the blog’s birthday week, I’m happy to say I’ve been busy preparing a new and improved schedule for Parsecs & Parchment! Long term followers probably know I’m not the most organised of bloggers haha. I have a very haphazard approach to what I post and when – a review here, an update there and no consistent days or schedule to set your watch by. But that’s all about to change!

So what can you look forward to from P&P in the future?

First off, the bread and butter of the blog isn’t changing; the backbone of the blog is still gonna be the much-beloved stalwart of the blogging community, the hardy book review, all meat and potatoes like. Only difference is I’ll be posting them on a regular schedule (get me, right?). So you can look forward to at least one review a week, posted every Thursday, and should I start building up a glut of backlogged reviews there may even be some super special bonus posts from time to time if you just can’t get enough review goodness.

Second (and I’ve been thinking about this for a while) I’ll be starting a Comic Club that I’ll be hosting at least once a month on a Tuesday, where I try and work my way through the significant pile of graphic novels and trade paperback comic collections that make up a significant chunk of my TBR. One post a month is a minimum so if I get really into something for a while there could well be some bonus posts here too.

Third, author interviews! In my head I wanted this to be a feature from the blog’s inception, but I just wasn’t organised enough to make it a regular thing. You can still check out my interview with the wonderful Gareth L. Powell, author of the superb Embers of War books, that I did back in September 2019. I’ve already got an interview lined up with Deck Matthews, author of The Riven Realm series, and lots of ideas for other authors I’d like to collar for a chat, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

On top of that I’ll still be posting my reading updates whenever I’ve got new stuff to talk about, as well as a periodic non-fiction edition that readers responded to very positively when I did this as a one-off a few months back. I’ll also be creating an archive page where you can easily access past reviews, as well as commissioning a custom logo for the site now I’ve proven I’m in it for the long haul. I’ve also been toying with the idea of a total cosmetic overhaul, though I’m still not sure about that. I actually like the minimalist aesthetic I’ve got going at the mo, but it does bug me that the homepage doesn’t have a layout that displays a bunch of recent posts in tidy little boxes for easy browsing. And finally, I quite like the idea of committed followers getting to know me a bit better. I do think my personality shines through in my writing somewhat but I think once a month I’m gonna start doing a round up of the month gone by, what I’ve read and reviewed, but also just a little bit about what’s been going on with me for those who might be interested. I know a few other bloggers who do this and I personally like it a lot, makes the community we’re part of feel that much more friendly and accessible, you know 🙂

That’s about it for now. There are a couple other things that I’d quite like to do, but at the risk of taking on too much at once I’m gonna hold back on them for now. In the meantime I hope you enjoy all the juicy goodness you can look forward to squeezing out of Parsecs & Parchment in the near future. Happy reading bookwyrms!


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1st Birthday Celebrations!!!

Updates

Cut the cake and pop the champagne, it’s Parsecs & Parchment’s first blogiversary! I feel like I’m stuck in some kind of time warp cos, despite 2020 lasting for seven years already, it only feels like yesterday I posted my first review. The world might be a trash fire right now but I’m glad to say amidst it all I’ve found a great community of like-minded book lovers to escape from it all from time to time.



I was actually on holiday in Nice, France around this time last year when I decided I wanted to start a blog (holidays, remember them?). I’d started listening to Calvin Park’s Under A Pile of Books podcast and binged through all the episodes while sitting on the balcony of my Airbnb sipping Carrefour rosé cider in the warm dusk of the Côte d’Azur. I’d also started following some of the folks from The Fantasy Inn on Twitter, noteably Sara and Jenia, who happened to be organising a readathon around the same time. I enjoyed getting involved in that and found this little community so welcoming I just wanted to be more involved. I don’t think they know it, but right at the start it was these three folks that did the most to make me feel welcome and encouraged me to be part of the online book community. So a special thanks to them, I raise my glass to you.

Obviously since then I’ve made new pals who share my love of all things speculative and found a bunch of other really quite wonderful blogs to follow. The recommendations I’ve got from you all have improved my reading life immeasurably.

I was a big SFF nerd beforehand obviously, but in hindsight the range of books I was exposed to was quite homogenous and I wasn’t adventurous at all, despite what protestations past me might have had if you told him that. Not to say none of those books were any good (I still think A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read, despite how unfashionable that might be now) but over the past year my horizons have expanded beyond recognition and some of my now favourite authors are writers who I would likely never have heard of without the book community.

Jade City and Jade War by Fonda Lee are hands down some of the best fiction I’ve ever read; everything P. Djèlí Clark has ever written blows me away; Snow Over Utopia by Rudolfo A. Serna and Coil by Ren Warom, both published by small press Apex Publications; and most recently I’ve finally started getting into some of the fantastic self-published fiction that graces the shelves of the SFF world these days, with books like The First of Shadows by Deck Matthews and The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang. These are just a small selection of the amazing books I’ve encountered over the last year that otherwise I simply would not know about.

So I owe a big debt of gratitude to all you guys, for your recommendations and insightful reviews, as well as for your kindness and warmth in welcoming a new member into your flock. Here’s to you all and long may our little community flourish. Cheers!


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BOOKISH SHANGRI-LA by Maddalena from Space and Sorcery

Updates

Fellow book blogger JonBob is celebrating the first anniversary of his blog – by the way, Happy Blog-versary! 🎂 – and he was so kind to ask me for some help with the festivities by writing a guest post, which is both a delight and a privilege for me. And what better way to get into the spirit of things if not by talking about what makes this community one of the best and most welcoming in the whole Web?

The Internet is an amazing place for finding information and meeting with people who share our same interests, bridging vast distances and canceling borders, but it can be also a battle ground for conflicting points of view, the heat of those battles made even fiercer by the anonymity afforded by a remote connection and the possibility of letting the worst humanity has to offer out in the open, unchecked and unrestrained.

I have been lucky enough in my journeys as I pursued my “infatuations”, and never truly encountered mean-spirited people whose sole goal was to seed discord: for example, at the time I was following a few discussion groups on Usenet (ancient history, I know…), there were the so-called trolls, who liked to foment virtual skirmishes, or flame wars, by simply dropping a controversial opinion and then watching the ensuing mayhem from the sidelines. We learned quickly enough that as long as we ignored them, they would soon vanish.

Now the debate, when it occurs, is much more heated: people appear to enjoy taking sides – no matter the topic – in a vicious way that is the sad reflection of the “us vs. them” mentality that seems to have taken hold of the world in a form of collective madness. Those trolls of old have evolved, and probably it’s because some mad scientists altered their DNA to make them more aggressive…

But there are a few islands of peace in the Web, and the book blogging community is one of them – what’s more, my experience with it showed me that it’s one of the most welcoming, easy-going and above all relaxing you could find in cyberspace.  Much depends, I believe, on the way book lovers are structured, the way our passion for reading shapes us: our favorite pastime is to sit comfortably with a book in our hands, and through those books (particularly if we enjoy speculative fiction) we visit and envision new worlds, new cultures, new ways of facing issues. It would not be an exaggeration to say that those stories broaden our minds, opening them to infinite possibilities: the end result is that we are more ready to accept a different view, or at the very least to take it into consideration without judgement or scorn.

And that’s the beauty of this community: the respect we have for the stories we read translates into the respect we hold for our fellows’ points of view, even when they differ from ours. Each time a controversial book is discussed, or an unpopular opinion voiced, there is no danger of… armed conflict: the worst that can happen is that we can agree to disagree, and move on. It’s a rare and precious gift, because we can approach this community with the certainty that it will offer us a pleasant, relaxed experience – and in these times you can’t certainly take that for granted.

So, as we celebrate the first anniversary for JonBob’s blog, I wish for it to be only the first of many more in this amazing and inspiring world of books.


You can follow Maddalena on Twitter @Maddalena_T55 and on her blog Space and Sorcery, where she enjoys losing herself in the imaginary worlds of SFF.

Readers’ Glee; or a Reader of Older Books Reflects by Mayri aka bookforager

Updates

Hi! I’m bookforager and JonBob has very kindly given me leave to take over this little portion of his blog today as part of his first blogiversary celebrations. Thank you so much for having me over!  Now, before I start blathering please join me in raising a glass to JonBob and wishing him a very HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY and many more to come. Woo!

My husband and I love junk shops. And second-hand bookstores, and charity shops. In a world seemingly obsessed with the new, the bright and the shiny, we must have some kind of jumble-sale gene because we both get far more of a kick out of rummaging through piles of old tat than visiting pristine stores in which goods are sorted by size, colour and category. And when it comes to books I could blather on forever about the beauty of preloved volumes, with their comfortably broken-in spines, thumb-softened pages and scumbled edges, but in a Herculean feat of self-control I am instead here to witter about some of the joys to be had from reading older titles; those books for whom, alas, the publicity train has now passed on, who find they must now fend for themselves in the cold shadows of their newer, more sparkly brethren.

Joy #1: Recommendations

One of the delights of belonging to the blogging community is that you can get recommendations for absolutely anything. Fancy reading something about space monkey pirates? Someone out there will know just the book for you. Maybe you’ve just read and loved the latest steampunk sensation, someone else will tell you about a book published twenty years ago that your book was riffing on. Recommendations can only ever deepen and broaden our reading. More importantly perhaps, they create connections between us, lines of communication, and they keep the conversation – between books, between eras and between readers – alive.

Joy #2: Anticipation

Sure, there’s an element of anticipation in all reading, but what I’m thinking of here is that very specific feeling of excitement and expectation that comes from having read your very first book by an author and knowing that there is a back catalogue to explore. I am currently reading my second Tim Powers book and am feeling this heady pleasure right now. The Anubis Gates bowled me over, but it could have been a fluke, his one great book in an otherwise mediocre oeuvre. Now, reading Hide Me Among the Graves I am practically bouncing up and down with glee because I’m loving it and at the same time anticipating how much fun I’m going to have reading the rest of his work. There should be a word for this feeling.



Joy #3: Discovery

Is this not every bookwyrm’s dream? To discover that unknown, unheard of slice of awesomeness in a bookstore, drawn to it as if by an invisible force or perhaps by its truly terrible cover, and have it become your favourite book of all time? To guard the secret of it, maybe, and only share your knowledge of it with those you deem worthy?
No?
OK. Just me then.

Joy #4: The Great Winnowing

Surely we all do this to some extent: letting the world do some of the work for us when it comes to choosing what to read? Yes, I’m seeing all those new releases and drooling over them along with everyone else, but due to money, time and attention span I couldn’t possibly read them all, even if I only read brand spanking new books all the time. So I wait. I buy a few, I make tbr wish-lists that run on for pages, and I keep an eye on what my bloggy friends are saying about the rest. And I see what survives. I’ll go back to those wish-lists twelve months later, or twenty-four, and see which books are still getting mentioned in lists and tags and suchlike, which books have won awards or sparked the most discussion. (I also like to see which books make it onto my lists multiple times because I’ve forgotten that I listed it previously … these are nearly always guaranteed purchases: why did I keep forgetting this title? Was it aliens? Am I the unwitting victim of a mind-control experiment? I should probably read it and find out what They don’t want me to know!)

Joy #5: Serendipity

And sometimes I believe a book does just show up at the right time. This might sound like wishy-washy nonsense to you, but I came across many of my most important, favourite reads not when they were new and shiny, but when I needed them. The Hobbit and I crossed paths when I was about nine years old, bullied mercilessly and hating school, and unsure of how I was supposed to fit in. I picked it up because it had a dragon on the cover and reading it was like being given a doorway to a magical elsewhere. It was respite in paperback. The books that cross my path, no matter their age or condition, so often come at just the right time, when I’m most open to the story they have to tell me. It’s a pretty great feeling, even if it is all in my head.



Joy #6: Rereading

Last, but not least, there is the delight and comfort of rereading. I know this isn’t a popular choice. I know there are so many books out there that rereading can be seen as time wasted, but, for me at least, rereading offers the unmitigated pleasure of returning to an enchanted place (and armchair travel is not to be sniffed at in this world of pandemic and political horror), reacquainting myself with beloved characters, and often seeing things I didn’t see before.

What about you, dear reader? Do you read older works, or are you all about the new? Do you think books are in conversation with each other and with the world, or do you think they each stand alone? And (I dread to ask) … do you reread?


You can find Mayri on Twitter @bkfrgr and on her blog, bookforager, where she writes wonderful book reviews and is always super friendly, despite claiming to always be late to the SFF party.

Review: GOLDILOCKS by Laura Lam

Book Reviews

The Earth is in environmental collapse. The future of humanity hangs in the balance. But a team of women are preparing to save it. Even if they’ll need to steal a spaceship to do it. The elevator pitch for this book perked me up instantly. Imminent climate catastrophe, a crack team of all female astronauts and grand theft auto on an interstellar scale? I’m in. Sadly, this story just didn’t end up pulling me in. Usually if I don’t enjoy a book it’s because I think the writing is bad or the characters are two dimensional, some craft reason I can point to and say here’s is why I this book isn’t good. With Goldilocks though, I don’t even think it’s a bad book; it just didn’t work for me. Let me try and pick apart why.



First off I just didn’t get the narrative structure right off the bat. The book opens far after the events of the main plot line of the book have taken place, with the main character, Naomi Lovelace, in the throes of old age, finally relenting to tell the full story of her life to her daughter, who is ostensibly the narrator. I’m not against that in principle, but it felt so out of place here given that the rest of the story is just told in close third person from Naomi’s perspective and there’s no more reference to this narrative device until the final chapter, when whoops, we’re reminded again that this was Naomi’s daughter telling the story all along. I just found it incredibly jarring and pointless. On top of that, just before we dive into the main story, there’s the old “We’ll start at the beginning” line, except it’s really not the beginning at all because the story proceeds to jump back in time again to many years prior. Look, I love a good non-linear story as much as the next guy and think it would still have worked well here, if it wasn’t for the first chapter that just made everything afterwards feel weird to me.

Another unfortunate aspect of the story being told via an intermediary and far removed in time from the events of the story was that I just didn’t feel connected to what was happening from the get go. There are other books that have done this well (Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune does it masterfully) but for me Laura Lam just didn’t quite manage it. I actually think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if I hadn’t immediately been thrown off in the first few chapters.

That being said, the content of the plot and the detail of the world building was super interesting. From massive sea walls off the coast of California to slow the rising sea levels to state-mandated mask-wearing (ahem) to protect against air pollution and from vat-grown babies to an operational Alcubierre drive to achieve FTL travel, there’s a lot going on in the background of this story. Some of it is done well and I appreciated the detail, but parts also felt a bit too hasty and left me feeling a bit unsatisfied with what could have been explored. But hey, Laura for sure knew what story she wanted to tell and it’s not objectively bad that she devoted more time to exploring the parts she wanted to explore. The one thing I felt really did deserve more attention was just how the women managed to steal a fucking spaceship without anyone noticing or being able to stop them in time. Launching a shuttle isn’t like hotwiring a car, that shit’s gotta take time and set off all kinds of instruments and technological gadgets that’s gonna alert someone. It’s kind of waved away as AI took care of all the stuff required for launch which, ok fine, it’s a plot device and there’d be no story if these guys got busted before getting the shuttle off the ground. I just felt, given how much detail was put into other aspects of the story, this part felt a bit too rushed and hand-wavy.

I think an inevitable repercussion of having a wobbly start with a book is that it makes you less forgiving of other minor things you may have otherwise been more forgiving of. Psychologically it means that once you’re a bit down on it from the start, it’s much harder for the story to dig itself back out of the hole and get you back on track. I’m consciously aware of that, which is why I would still recommend this book to certain people despite not really enjoying it myself. Comps for this book have described it as The Handmaids Tale meets The Martian and that sounds pretty darn accurate and, while I personally just didn’t manage to gel with it, I think if you’re looking for a bit of a dark, feminist, near-future science fiction story there’s definitely a lot to like in here for you.


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Birthday Build Up

Updates

Hi folks, just a very quick update for you all to let you know that this coming Sunday is going to be Parsecs & Parchments’ very first birthday! And to celebrate I’m gonna be posting every day this week with a glut of reviews and guest posts from some of my fave bloggers and bookish folks from the community.

On top of that, Rin from The Thirteenth Shelf is also hosting a giveaway of some beautiful SFF art! Her post highlighting some of her favourite artists is already up. Go check it out and enter the giveaway here.

So I hope you’ll join me in the festivities this week and raise a glass in honour of a whole year of P&P. Here’s to many more.



Why not follow the blog for more reviews, book chat and SFF goodness?

SFF prints and ART GIVEAWAY by Rin from The 13th Shelf

Updates

Happy birthday to Parsecs & Parchment! Throughout my time in the SFF book blogosphere, Jon’s blog has been a must-read for me, as his stamp of approval is rare and hard-earned. He’s introduced me to some fantastic authors that really made my year, and my TBR is littered with his top recommendations. I’m honored that he has asked me to write a guest post to help him celebrate his blog’s anniversary.

My own blog, The 13th Shelf, is not just about sci-fi and fantasy books. I think one of the best things about SF&F is that it’s a genre that has affected all sorts of media and art forms. I love how the limitless potential of speculative fiction finds its way out of book covers and into our lives in beautiful and inspiring ways.

Today I’d like to share some SFF art prints to decorate the walls of your reading spaces, and in celebration of Parsecs & Parchment’s birthday, I’d like to host a giveaway for one of the prints featured here. Read the rules and requirements at the end of this post!


Last Studio – Travel Middle Earth Print Set, $40 USD for eight 5.5″ x 7″ prints

Rather than the somber greens and grays of a Peter Jackson movie, these depictions of classic Tolkien locations pull inspiration from American mid-century animation styles to show Middle Earth as a bright and vividly detailed world that would not be out of place in a 1950s Disney movie. Framed together near your favorite reading nook, they bring a refreshing pop of color to SFF shelves that are often rife with book covers dominated by blacks, blues and washed out pastels.


Prints by Ulla Thynell (pictured above: Blooming Forest, $28 USD for 18” x 13.” Pictured below: Dragon Hills, $28 USD for 19” x 11”)

Thynell’s whimsical watercolors evoke all the nostalgia of vintage picture books, with faraway castles, dragons and unicorns set amid dreamy, ethereal forests—perfect for anyone whose love of fantasy blossomed in the illustrations of hand-me-down children’s books.



Pop Chart specializes in…well, charts. Big charts, with an insane amount of detail. They have an interesting collection of book-themed posters (including scratch-off prints for those wanting to read 100 classics), but for the SFF set, the Harry Potter posted is a fun choice. (If adult fantasy is more your thing, check out their Game of Thrones print, which illustrates everything from the armor, weapons and crowns of all the houses to their castles and horses.)


Stephan Martiniere’s archival prints, $30 USD for 13” x 19” (pictured left: Elantris, pictured right: Dark Forest)

Stephan Martiniere is one of my favorite concept artists—and perhaps he’s yours too, and you just don’t know it. There’s a good chance you own his work, and it’s sitting somewhere on your SFF book shelf. His fantastically detailed art graces many of the most well-known speculative fiction books of the past 10 years, and it’s not hard to see why. He offers high-quality prints of all his book covers, allowing you to decorate your wall with the scenes and landscapes of some of the best contemporary SFF.


PARSECS & PARCHMENT’S BIRTHDAY SFF PRINT GIVEAWAY

PRIZE: ONE of the following:
Last Studio: one Travel Middle Earth Print Set, (8 prints total, 5.5″ x 7″ each)
Ulla Thynell: one (size small) unframed print of your choosing (see options)
Popchart: one Magical Objects of the Wizarding World (print only) OR one The World of Ice and Fire (print only)
Stephan Martiniere: one 13″ x 19″ unframed print of your choosing (see options)

TO ENTER: Hop on over to JonBob’s Twitter account and follow, like & retweet the pinned giveaway post. That’s it 🙂 If you know which print you’d like if you win, comment underneath. Oh, and there’s a bonus entry if you also follow the blog. The winner will be announced on Sunday 20th September. Good luck!

REQUIREMENTS: US only (sorry non-US folks)


You can find Rin on Twitter @13thShelf or over at her blog The Thirteenth Shelf, where she writes succinct reviews of books and book-ish things for the busy reader. She loves tea, mathematics, cats, French & Japanese cuisine, paranormal podcasts, journaling, enamel pins and abstract art.

Reading Update 09/09/2020

Book Reviews

Recently Finished: MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I pre-ordered Mexican Gothic months ago, was so excited the day it came out and predictably, in true book blogger fashion, only just got round to it this weekend gone. Mortified I waited so long though cos it’s so good! Creepy and atmospheric and weeeird, it’s only the second book I can claim to have read in the gothic genre after being wonderfully horrified and disturbed by Jeanette Ng’s Under The Pendulum Sun, so I can’t claim to be well-versed or steeped in the genre, but this felt like an inspired take. I’m really keen on reading some of the inspirational material, like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, to get a real appreciation of gothic storytelling and its modern iterations. The slow, atmospheric building of dread in these stories is something I’ve realised I really love.

Currently Reading: GOLDILOCKS by Laura Lam
This is a book that has such a cool-sounding premise. A group of female astronauts steal a spaceship after the mission is taken from them by a Handmaids Tale-esque government and head to the first practically habitable exo-planet to establish a new society. Sadly I feel like it’s not living up to expectations so far. It’s not a bad book per se, it’s just not really grabbing me you know? I’m also having some major issues with the politics of the book, in that it so far it’s seemed to advocate the if only we had more female CEOs brand of feminism, which is just utter trash. It’s possible I’m misguided about that though, cos I’ve just reached a point where the direction of the story has taken a sharp turn and might actually be about to pull me in. Let’s see eh?

Next Read: THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING by Alexis Henderson
Aaaarghhh! I’m really in the mood for creepy horror stories right now and I’ve been itching to read The Year of the Witching for months. It’s got spooky dark woods, it’s got the legacy of four murdered witches and a puritanical Church with a dark history to unearth, bound up in a story about fighting patriarchy and corruption. I can’t wait!


Let me know what you’re reading and if you enjoyed this update follow the blog to never miss a post!

Weekly Reading Update 17/06/2020

Updates

Welcome to Wednesday bookwyrms. I didn’t have a weekly update last week cos I’d been moving house, so honestly just hadn’t got much reading done. I’m on a novella-reading binge at the moment though and can I just say how happy I am that the novella is is making a comeback. Especially in genre fiction, and fantasy specifically, that has long been associated with the ‘doorstopper’ novel. I Love a good thousand-pager as much as anyone, but there’s something beautiful and incredibly skilful about the craft of a good novella, where tonnes of character and world building can be packed into such a small package. Here’s a selection of the novellas I’ve got on my radar at the mo.



Recently Finished: THE HAUNTING OF TRAM CAR 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
I’m on a bit of a P. Djèlí Clark kick at the moment. After reading his short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo I thought I potentially had a new favourite author on my hands. So I quickly moved on to his Haitian sky pirate novella The Black God’s Drums and thought “Yep, this guy is incredible” and after THE HAUNTING OF TRAM CAR 015 I can confidently say P. Djèlí Clark is one of the smartest, most engaging authors out there right now and is undoubtedly a master of the novella. This story takes place in the same universe as A Dead Djinn in Cairo and follows Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr as he tries to solve the mystery of the haunting of a tram car, along the way encountering the Egyptian suffragette movement and becoming acquainted with a group of magic-wielding women deeply knowledgeable about the folklore of multicultural Cairo.

Currently Reading: ON A RED STATION, DRIFTING by Aliette De Bodard
I’ve missed science fiction. Even though Wyrd & Wonder ended a few weeks ago I’ve still been reading mostly fantasy and non-fiction, and my beloved sci-fi remains abandoned by the wayside. I technically haven’t started this yet as I’ve literally just closed the final pages of Tram Car 015 ten minutes ago, but thought it was about time I sated my science fiction craving. ON A RED STATION, DRIFTING is the first novella in Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya Universe, which also incldudes The Citadel of Weeping Pearls and The Tea Master and the Detective, the latter of which I’ve already read and loved. ON A RED STATION, DRIFTING is the story of Station Mistress Quyen and Honoured Ancestress, an AI born of a human womb, as they struggle to keep their loved ones safe amidst a brewing war in the Dai Vet Empire.

Next Read: RING SHOUT by P. Djèlí Clark
No surprise by now that I’ll be reading another P. Djèlí Clark novella next. RING SHOUT sounds incredible, and is particularly pertinent given the mass uprising against racist violence in the US right now. It sets up D. W. Griffith (a real life figure who directed a vile, racist film called The Birth of a Nation in 1915) as a sorceror whose film was a spell that drew from the darkest thoughts and wishes at the heart of American society. Luckily, Maryse Boudreaux has a magic sword. When she’s not running bootleg whiskey through Prohibition Georgia, she’s fighting monsters she calls “Ku Kluxes.” She’s damn good at it too, but to confront this ongoing evil she must journey between worlds to face nightmares made flesh – and her own demons. Together with a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter, Maryse sets out to save a world from the hate that would consume it. Sounds absolutely amazing.


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