Mona is a 14 year old girl, working in her aunt’s bakery. She has a minor gift, imbuing baked goods with magic. Her sourdough starter Bob is a delightful menace.
One morning she finds a dead body in the bakery and is framed for the murder. Things go sideways from there and morph into a story of court intrigue, treason and armed conflict. It‘s nothing deep and not everything makes total sense, but it is an entertaining, fluffy read.
Delightful, I laughed quite a lot. A cozy read ending on a slightly darker note, aimed at middle grade (I guess). My first T. Kingfisher, but not my last. 🍞🍞🍞🍞
Fourteen-year-old Mona isn’t like the wizards charged with defending the city. She can’t control lightning or speak to water. Her familiar is a sourdough starter and her magic only works on bread. She has a comfortable life in her aunt’s bakery making gingerbread men dance.
But Mona’s life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the bakery floor. An assassin is stalking the streets of Mona’s city, preying on magic folk, and it appears that Mona is his next target. And in an embattled city suddenly bereft of wizards, the assassin may be the least of Mona’s worries…
I don‘t DNF a lot of books. I used to be one of those people that did not DNF books at all. I HAD to read them to the end, even if it took me months. Eventually I came to my senses and started to occasionally DNF a book, if I did not enjoy it after 50-100 pages (depending on allover length) or it took me more than a few days to get that far. I still never DNFd more than perhaps one book per month or less. And these days I tend to rather skim heavily rather than DNF, because I often want to know how it ends. I just read about the rather tempting idea of “…will DNF a book if it takes me more than 2 days to read 50 pages.” That would mean that I would have DNFd my current eye read days ago. I finally made it halfway and there are some fascinating ideas in the book, but it is still not a gripping read.
So, what books did I DNF last year, because not even heavy skimming could take me to the end? Well, there were some comics.
I bounced off hard of Sin City by Frank Miller. Some classics probably only work for men. I disliked the art. The story was too offensive to finish it. I can only take a certain amount of sexism, before it really puts me off.
Copra by Michel Fiffe was a big disappointment. I have read some superhero comics, mostly Marvel, but it‘s not my favourite genre. Here I had ti deal with Unlikeable superheroes to boot. I am not a big fan of characters that are just mean for no obvious reason and don‘t seem to have any redeeming features. If I don‘t like the characters or they don‘t interest me in another way, why bother?
They’re Not Like Us, Vol. 1: Black Holes for the Young was another disappointment. Essentially another superhero comic, with teenager developing psychic powers. Didn‘t like the artwork. The story didn‘t do anything for me, could not be bothered to continue for long or pick it up again after putting it down. It took too long to get interesting.
I started to re-read the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice with some reading buddies last year. I liked my re-read of Interview with the Vampire. However, by the time I got to book #4, The Tale of the Body Thief, I was throughly fed-up with it. There were some scenes I remembered fondly, namely the part in the Gobi desert—which I had attributed to another part of the series. But overall, it felt dated and lacked tension. Knowing the plot wasn‘t helping, obviously. Too much detail, repetitive bla-bla and over exposition of almost everything. I skimmed quite a bit to get to the body swapping part, but was willing to plod on. Then the rape happened—I had no recollection of that scene from previous reads. Or maybe I didn‘t understand and didn’t consider it rape before—it had been several decades since I read this last. That scene pretty much killed the book for me. The callousness really bothered me. Maybe this was done intentionally by Rice, but I couldn’t get past it. Don‘t get me wrong, I get that this is fiction and authors explore all kind of things—I just re-watched four seasons of Dexter, who is a sociopathic serial killer and I love the series and Dexter. But I couldn’t deal with Lestat raping that waitress. Killing her and drinking her blood, no problem…. I get how nuts that it.
How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper… *sigh*. UF leaning towards PNR. A decade ago I barely read anything but UF. I was oversaturated. So I stopped, with very rare exceptions. PNR was always a gamble. The heroines tend to be TSTL. I can‘t tolerate that. Why do female authors write these stupid cliches of their own gender? Anyway, back to this particular book. The love interest is a dragonshifter and the town’s sherif. The couple has zero chemistry, there is no decent world building. Nothing of consequence happened in the first 40% and I was to disinterested too listen to more of the audiobook.
Polaris Rising by Jesse Mihalik was another book in the same direction. I had that trilogy on my TBR shelf for a while and quite a few of my buddies love Mihalik. Yep. So not my cup of tea. Brain Candy in space with a romance sub-plot. Insta-love, too many blond people, thin world building, a Mary Sue, two people great at hiding that keep getting captured and then proceed to repeatedly free each other. Sounds all pretty daft, right? It was.
Gallant by Victoria Schwab was more unexpected. A haunted house, relatives with a mysterious past and a hostile cousin, a vaguely creepy and gothic atmosphere. No romance elements. I didn‘t find the story as such terribly suspenseful, although it is definitely well written. It was too straight forward for me and too predictable. I liked the story, but started to drift off around the middle—there was just not enough tension or interest for me to keep going.
There was another comic, two Clarkesworld magazines and a Great Courses Lecture series that I broke off. Oh yes, and an autobiography by a German TV presenter who loves camping. I mostly got that one for my mum. It was ok, just not my kind of thing.
How about you, what was your most disappointing DNF of 2022?
Ravi trains to become an engineer and officer on a generation ship that is ruled by an officer elite looking down on the likes of him. One day he sees a girl without space suit floating outside of the ship, impossibly alive… pursuing this mystery might mean that he looses his chance of climbing the social ladder of the ship and could have even more dire consequences.
Believable characters, mostly light reading for a YA audience, but with some darker notes about society, prejudices and how badly people can treat others, when they think they are entitled. There might be dragons. And chocolate.
Meet the author: Adam Oyebanji on debut novel Braking Day — “Ravi has friends and a team. There are times in the book he is at a bit of a loss and other people step up. In many ways, it is all of them together moving through the conflict. Ravi is not a towering figure of physical prowess and mental genius who can move galaxies, he’s just a guy, but he has a moral compass.”
DNF at 41 pages. Didn‘t like the artwork. The story didn‘t do anything for me, could not be bothered to continue for long or pick it up again after putting it down. It took too long to get interesting. Teens with psychic powers?
We all have advantages over one another, but what if you were capable of things most of us can only imagine? What would you do – and who would you be? A doctor? An athlete? A soldier? A hero? Everyone has to make a choice about how to use the abilities they’re born with… but they’re not like us.
Ham Helsing comes from a long line of unsuccessful vampire hunters, killing themselves with crazy inventions. Apparently stupid runs in the family. Ham seems to be the odd one out…. Maybe? Anyway…
Written for young readers (8-12 years), this charmed me right away and made me laugh. It‘s all about not being bogged down by assumptions, being a good and sometimes selfless person, working as a team… There is humour, sarcasm, adventure, scary spiders, an evil chicken and other funny characters. It‘s a very simple story, but it is very well done.
Olivia lives at an orphanage. She doesn‘t speak, sees ghouls and is isolated from the other girls. One day there is a letter from an uncle, calling her home to his house, which is called Gallant. A haunted house, relatives with a mysterious past and a hostile cousin, a vaguely creepy and gothic atmosphere. No romance elements.
Very good audiobook narration, likable characters, some nice story elements, slow plot development. I emphasized with Olivia. I didn‘t find the story as such terribly suspenseful, although it is definitely well written. It was too straight forward for me and too predictable. I liked the story, but started to drift off around the middle—there was just not enough tension or interest for me to keep going.
I might have missed out on some of the charm of this book by not getting an illustrated print version. Maybe I will revisit that one of these days and actually finish the story properly.
Despite the DNF at 51% I am giving this three stars, because it was ok and well done, I just didn‘t feel it. 51% is a pretty relative figure as well—I snoozed through some later parts of this, which is on me, not the book…
Will I read further books by the author? Yes, it‘s likely, but I would aim for the adult/mature ones. I have to say though that Schwab is not high on my list. The other book I read by her also ended as a three-star read, although the world building was quite interesting.
Kudos to the audiobook narrator, actor Julian Rhind-Tutt, I will keep my eyes peeled for further offerings narrated by him.
Here is my February 2022. My page count is a bit lower this month, due to some distracting family issues. I couldn‘t concentrate on new stories and reverted to comfort re-reading quite a lot of older fanfiction early in the month, which I don‘t really track.
– Empire of Wild ★★★★☆, ebook, TBR, slow burning horror, indigenous folklore about a Rogarou. – Iterum ★★★★☆, Stargate Atlantis fanfic, McShep, re-read / comfort reading — and a ton of other Spirk and McShep fanfiction! – Bots of The Lost Ark in Clarkesworld Magazine #177, June 2021 ★★★★☆, online novelette, bots run amok, aliens threaten, ship and humans need to be saved, little bot to the rescue. – Interview with the Vampire ★★★★☆, ebook, re-read after 30 years or so. Slow start, but re-discovered so many details that I had forgotten. Ultimately rewarding. – Shadecraft #1 ★★★★★, eComic, online for free at Image Comics, YA, Zadie is being chased by shadows… good artwork. – Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System ★★★★☆, audio, non-fiction, entertaining tour through our solar system and a fascinating look at volcanoes. – Saga #56 ★★★★★, eComic – Wikihistory ★★★★☆, short story, online, amusing piss-take on time travel and Wikipedia. – The Legacy by R.A. Salvatore ★★★¾☆ ebook, TBR / StoryGraphReading Randomizer February #1, dark elves and dwarves battling it out in a lot of deep tunnels. – An Easy Job ★★★★☆, short story, online, prequel to Sinew and Steel and What They Told
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six (ongoing): – SCAR TISSUE by Tobias S. Buckell – human MC fosters a robot. Is the mind just bolted into its carriage or the sum of a whole? And what does it mean to be raised and to learn from experience? Sweet story, I got pretty emotional. ★★★★★ – EYES OF THE FOREST by Ray Nayler – scouts in an alien and dangerous forest, very cool concepts. ★★★★½ – SINEW AND STEEL AND WHAT THEY TOLD by Carrie Vaughn – Graff faked his medical records and something really awkward is going to come out. ★★★★¾
StoryGraph Reading Randomizer / backlog: – The Solitaire Mystery, paper, TBR / February StoryGraph #2, have to see when I can fit this in…
Specfic Movies & TV watched: – For All Mankind, S1, Eps. 1-5 ★★★★☆
A new offering from Joe Henderson, the showrunner of the Netflix series Lucifer and writer of the excellent comic Skyward Vol. 1: My Low-G Life. Apparently Netflix has preemptively picked up Shadecraft as well.
16-year old Zadie is not afraid of the dark. That is quickly remedied when shadows start chasing her.
Good artwork, diverse cast of characters, amusing. Some teenage angst. Nice twist at the end, I liked it! I might pick up more issues at some point.
Welcome to the annual Locus Recommended Reading List!
Published in Locus magazine’s February 2022 issue, this list is assembled by Locus editors, columnists, outside reviewers, and other professionals and well-known critics of genre fiction and non-fiction. This year we considered over 900 titles between short fiction and long fiction. The final recommendations, combined and trimmed to a somewhat reasonable-length list, are our best recommendations for your consideration. We know there will be titles you loved that do not appear here; it happens every year. Any one of our recommending group would have put forward a different exact list, but this is the combined sum of opinions, assessed with great affection and care for the field.
A dystopian world. Climate change, melting ice caps, floods, torrential rains, no electrical power left, no running water, polluted rivers and lakes, collapse of society, the whole nine yards. And that is just what happens before the beginning of the book. Most people have lost the ability to dream.
“The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world.“
French has lost his family, but finds a new one. They flee the cities and treck north through the woods, hoping to find a safe place.
That‘s pretty much it for the first half of the book. Running, hunting, minimal plot. Plus a little backstory in the shape a few origin stories of some of the members of the group. More backstory would have been nice. Slow build-up and glacial pace after the initial intro to the story and world.
This had—at least in parts—the feel of magical realism, without the magic, if that makes sense. The grimness of the schools and the marrow thieves was mostly in the off, hinted at and not really explored. This was more about the relationships of those that survived and their decisions how to live and where to go from there. If the characters and their budding relationship are the point of the story though, more character development would have been nice.
So, whilst the idea of this story was a good one, it wasn‘t really my cup of tea.
Content warning: several fairly foggy mentions of rape, one not so foggy one. Murder, genocide, medical experimentation and more.