Challenges

Reflections on the A-Z Challenge 2022 Edition

Another April has gone by and it’s been another successful A-Z Challenge here on ElenaSquareEyes.

This was the ninth year in a row I’ve taken part in and completed this challenge and I think this was the year I was closest to failing. I refused to fail because I don’t like failing anything and while I had the best intentions and had over half of the posts written and scheduled before April came around, the latter half of the month got away from me. It feels somewhat apt that I’m only just putting together my reflections post, days after the so called deadline, because the last few weeks have definitely blurred into one another for me.

I do enjoy writing film reviews but I seem to always forget how long they take and watching and reviewing 26 films in a relatively short space of time does take a while. I watched some films I’d been putting off for ages so this challenge was a success plus I watched some that I liked for more than I expected to like Letters from Iwo Jima and Rope. Rope especially is a film I can see myself revisiting often.

The most popular posts/reviews were of House of Flying Daggers, Space Cowboys, and Blue Steel which is an interesting mix of genres. Funnily enough the most popular film review of the month was XXY which was featured in 2020’s April A-Z Challenge. That was the last time I did film reviews for the challenge and after two years of it I’m not sure if I’ll manage a third.

I didn’t visit and comment on as many blogs as I hopped to but I did enjoy reading the ones I did visit and I really appreciate all the comments I received. I think next year I will aim to get all my posts written and scheduled before April actually begins, that way I’ll have far more time to visit all the other blogs taking part. I don’t know what my theme will be for my tenth year doing this challenge. I’ve done film reviews, favourite characters, favourite songs, favourite anything, and I have a whole year to figure it out. I say this and watch me panic about it in March 2023 so if you have any suggestions for a theme please do share!

I hope all of you who took part in the challenge had fun and a successful A-Z in April. Thanks to those who stopped by my blog and liked or commented – it always means a lot. For more information on the A-Z in April Challenge visit the website.

Asian Readathon 2022 TBR

In May in the United States, it is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and in honour of that Cindy from WithCindy on YouTube created a readathon where the main aim is to read books by Asian authors. Her announcement video explains it all really well and she also has a Google Doc with extra info and resources and there’s a Twitter account for the readathon too.

This year’s challenge is loosely themed around the film Everything Everywhere All At Once (which I can’t wait to see) and is meant to be easy, accessible, and open to interpretation. The reading challenges are:

– Read a book written by an Asian author.
– Read a book featuring an Asian character who is a woman and/or older.
– Read a book by an Asian author that has a universe you would want to experience or a universe that is totally different from yours.
– Read a book by an Asian author that has a cover worthy of googly eyes (aka a gorgeous cover).
– Read a book by an Asian author that has a high rating OR was highly recommended.

These challenges can be combined if you want to make it even easier! There is a twist though. You can combine challenges and read in any order; however, each book you read should feature a character or author of a different Asian ethnicity. This is to encourage cultural diversity. I’ve made a note of each authors nationality/identity as is available online.

Read a book written by an Asian author (though any of these books meet that challenge)

QuixotiQ by Ali Al Saeed (Bahraini)
This is a book I’ve already started once but struggled a bit with but as it’s less than 200 pages I know I can get through it if I just knuckle down and focus on it.

Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian, translated by Peter Balakian (Armenian)
A memoir about Grigoris Balakian’s eyewitness account of the Armenian Genocide which happened from 1915-1918.

Written in Black by K.H. Lim (Bruneian)
A coming-of-age novel offering a snapshot of a few days in the life of ten-year-old Jonathan Lee, attending the funeral of his grandfather, and still reeling from the drama of his mother leaving for Australia and his brother getting kicked out of the house and joining a rock band. I got the ebook of this for cheap recently so it’d be good to read it this month.

Read a book featuring an Asian character who is a woman and/or older (most of these books have female leads though)

Mama Hissa’s Mice by Saud Alsanousi, translated by Sawad Hussain (Kuwaiti)
Three friends who share neither ethnic origin nor religious denomination, get involved in a protest group and one of their grandmothers, Mama Hissa, warns them against it. This is another ebook.

Read a book by an Asian author that has a universe you would want to experience or a universe that is totally different from yours (a few of these books can fit this challenge)

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao (Chinese-Canadian)
While the societal aspects of Iron Widow don’t sound great, the world of giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall sounds very cool. Plus, it’s been a wile since I’ve read a sci-fi novel.

Read a book by an Asian author that has a cover worthy of googly eyes

The Cabinet by Un Su Kim, translated by Sean Lin Halbert (South Korean)
This is one of the books from the 12 Books Recommended by 12 Friends Challenge and I have the audiobook. It sounds like a bit of a weird story and I love the cover.

The Beast Player and The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano (Japanese)
These two are some of the most gorgeous books I own. This is a YA duology about a girl who discovers she can talk to the huge, magical beasts of her world and becomes entangled in politics and war as she tries to keep herself and the beasts safe.

Read a book by an Asian author that has a high rating OR was highly recommended

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (Chinese-American) and She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (Chinese-Australian)
I’ve heard nothing but good things about both of these books. They’re both fantasy books that are inspired by Chinese history and it’s been a while since I’ve read an historical fantasy epic.

Are you taking part in the Asian Readathon? Or do you have any books by Asian authors on your TBR in general? I would love to hear about them.

Magical Readathon: Spring Equinox TBR

The Magical Readathon is the brainchild of Gi at BookRoast on YouTube and now we’ve completed the Novice Path, we are in our first year of exams. Previously the Magical Readathon was based on Harry Potter and its exams but Gi has now created her own magical world and university and it’s truly impressive. Like the previous iteration of the Magical Readathon, the aim is to read books that fill the prompts for the subjects you need to pass in order to be able to do the magical career of your choice. Gi’s announcement video explains it all and she has a variety of documents that can guide you. This round of the Magical Readathon, the Spring Equinox exams, is a month-long readathon through the entirety of April. The Autumn Equinox exams/readathon will take place in August.

The career I want to work towards is Moon Warden (though it was so hard to choose) which means in this round of the Magical Readathon I need to read 5 books for the prompts Art of Illusion, Astronomy, Elemental Studies, Restoration and Spells & Incantations. As usual though, I’ve had a look at my TBR and tried to find a book for each of the 14 prompts so I can read as much as possible and then give me more choice when it comes to my magical career path.

TomeTopple hosted by Sam at Thoughts on Tomes is happening in April as well (from 15th-29th and the aim is to read books over 500 pages) so that will be some extra inspiration for at least one of the prompts.

As usual with readathons I try to have a mixture of genres and include as many books for my Read the World Project as possible. One of the only rules with the Magical Readathon is that you can’t double up on prompts so one book = one prompt. However, as you’ll see below, I sometimes have multiple suggestions for a prompt and some books can fit more than one prompt but I promise I won’t use a book for more than one prompt.

Art of Illusion – book with a trope you like
The Ivory Key by Ashaya Raman or The Fortunes of Wangrin by Amadou Hampâté Bâ
The Ivory Key is the first book in a fantasy duology and a book I got in a subscription box. The fact that in the author’s note it said she was a fan of the film National Treasure and was inspired by that is what made me most interested in this book. I love that film and adventure/puzzle stories. On the blurb of The Fortunes of Wangrin it describes the titular character as a “rogue and an operator, hustling both the colonial French and his own people” and I do love a morally grey character.

Astronomy – top of your TBR
Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo
I’m using my latest Top Ten Tuesday post as inspiration for this prompt, so really any of the books there could be what I end up reading. Beyond the Rice Fields is set in the nineteenth century and it’s about the relationship between a slave and his master’s daughter.

Elemental Studies – Book under 100 pages
The Desert and the Drum by Mbarek Ould Beyrouk
OK I am cheating slightly here as the kindle edition I have is 111 page long but I can not find a book on my TBR that has less than 100 pages. Gi’s always saying it’s fine to tweak prompts to fit (and it’s not like she’d know) so that’s what I’m doing here.

Spells & Incantations – a collection of short stories/essays or an individual short story/essay
From Timor-Leste to Australia: Seven families, Three Generations Tell Their Stories edited by Jan Trezise
I have this on my kindle which is a collection of stories and poems from East Timorese families living in Melbourne whose experiences belong to that long history of human tragedy created where violent conflict of power, land and resources takes place, inevitably visiting on ordinary people, disruption and loss.

Restoration – book featuring healers
Angel Mage by Garth Nix or A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
I wasn’t sure if any of the books on my shelves featured healers but thanks to recommendations on the Magical Readathon Twitter I discovered I had a couple on my shelves. Out of the two I’m more likely to read Angel Mage as it’s a standalone and I’ve previously read and enjoyed a lot of Garth Nix’s other work.

Alchemy – read a book featuring romance
Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales or Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
I don’t tend to read a lot of romance books but I have a few on my shelves, and to be honest, a lot of books feature some form of romance so this isn’t too hard a prompt to fill.

Animal Studies – a quick read
Chaka by Thomas Mofolo (and probably any of the books for the Alchemy prompt)
Chaka is less than 170 pages so that definitely has the potential of being a quick read. Plus, I tend to find YA contemporary stories pretty quick to get through so they’d work for this prompt too.

Artificery – Earth setting
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas or The Fury and Cries of Women by Angèle Rawiri
This is one that’s pretty easy to fill as the vast majority of my Read the World books are set on Earth. Concrete Rose is the prequel to The Hate U Give which I loved and I’ve been wanting to read it for ages. I believe The Fury and Cries of Women follows Emilienne’s life through her university studies, marriage, children, work, and how she tries to search for what feminism means to her while dealing with cultural expectations and the taboos of sex and motherhood.

Conjuration – source of light on the cover
QuixotiQ by Ali Al Saeed
This is a book I’ve already started once but struggled a bit with but as it’s less than 200 pages long it’s the perfect time to give it another go for a readathon, and as you can see, it has the sun on the cover.

Demonology – word “shadow” in the book/series title
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
A Gathering of Shadows is the only book I have on my TBR that has “shadow” in the title but it has been six(!) years since I read the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, so I’d need to reread that in order to carry on with the series. I’m not sure if A Darker Shade of Magic fits into any of these prompts so I may just have to scrap Demonology as a subject/prompt and any careers that need it.

Inscription – an intimidating read
The Golden Horse by Juan David Morgan or Armenian Golgotha: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-198 by Grigoris Balakian
I find both these books intimidating as they are rather chunky and, in the case of Armenian Golgotha, I think it’s going to be a tough read.

Lore – mythology-inspired book
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
This is an Arthurian retelling and as the sequel is out later this year, this is the perfect time to read a it – and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

Psionics & Divination – book set in the future
This is the one prompt I do not have any books that can fill it. I don’t have any sci-fi books on my shelves, which are usually the most obvious books set in the future, and nothing else I’ve read the blurb of makes it seem it’s set in the future. Looks like any careers that needs Psionics & Divination won’t be in my future.

Shapeshifting – creature with claws on the cover
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan or She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Both books have a dragon on the front cover which definitely has claws and A Natural History of Dragons would be an audiobook read.

And that’s my Spring Equinox TBR! Are you taking part in the Magical Readathon? If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear what you think of them. As for Tome Topple, of the books mentioned here, Angel Mage, Legendborn and Armenian Golgotha are over 500 pages so I may try and read them when Tome Topple is happening. Also I do have the A-Z in April Challenge next month too. I already have over half the posts scheduled so hopefully that won’t take up too much of my reading time.

The Blogging from A-Z Challenge – 2022 Edition

It’s fast approaching that time of year again! For me and this blog April has meant the A-Z in April Blogging Challenge for the past eight years and this year is no different. The challenge is to post on your blog every day in April except Sundays. Not including Sundays, there are twenty-six days in April which matches with the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. That means on 1st April you write something beginning with the letter A, on the 2nd something beginning with the letter B and so on and so forth.

Part of me can’t quite believe this will be the ninth year I’ve attempted this challenge and like the previous eight I hope to succeed at it.

This year my theme is the same as it was in 2020 – a film review for each letter of the alphabet and FYI “the” and “a” at the beginning of the film title doesn’t count. I still have over 60 unwatched DVDs/Blu-Rays sitting on my shelves so those films are likely to make up a big chunk of those featured in the challenge. Any letters I don’t own unwatched films of, I will go to the various streaming platforms I have and see what’s on my watchlist. In those instances, I will make an effort to find, watch and review a film that’s directed by a woman. That way it’ll help me hit my goal of (at least) 52 films by women directors watched this year plus I’ll finally watch something that I’ve probably been meaning to for ages.

I doubt there will be non-A to Z in April film reviews next month but there should still be book reviews on Thursdays. I’m going to try and get as many films watched, reviewed and scheduled before April starts as having the posts scheduled really does make life easier – especially as I’ve got a friend’s wedding in the first week of April that I have to travel to so I won’t be online much then. I currently have 10 posts written and scheduled (unfortunately they aren’t for the first 10 letters of the alphabet) with another 11 days left in March so I should get some more films watched, reviewed, and posts scheduled before April comes around.

There’s still time to sign up for the A to Z in April Challenge. I do recommend it; it definitely makes you stretch yourself to think of something for every letter and it encourages you to be organised – something I’m always trying to be better at when it comes to my blog.

My Reading in 2021 and my Bookish Goals for 2022

It’s the second week of January so it’s about time I took a look back at what I read in 2021, if I met my reading goals (spoiler alert I did not) and what my bookish plans for 2022 are. Like I said when it came to my film watching last year, I think 2021 is when things started to take a bit of a toll and I was very slumpy when it came to my reading especially. I know I didn’t make the time for reading like I have done previously and instead would scroll through social media or watch TV shows.

My 2021 reading goal was to read 52 books but I missed that by a fair bit and ended up reading 42 books of which four were rereads. 42 books isn’t terrible but for me it’s the least amount of books I’ve read in a year since when I was at university where reading for fun took a back seat. I reviewed 36 of them which is more than half so I am happy about that. Side note: on Goodreads and The StoryGraph (which I’m still learning to use and am happy to friend/follow people on there) it says I read 41 books as Why the Sky Moved Away from the Earth by Christine Gnimagnon Adjahi isn’t in their database and I’ve been having some trouble adding it so that’s why my numbers don’t tally up there. As I haven’t really read a lot and not a lot really stuck out to me I haven’t actually done a top ten books of the year but I’ve got a full list of what I’ve read with links to all my reviews if you’d like to see my thoughts on them.

I didn’t have any challenges or big goals in 2021 besides my Read the World Project and trying to get my TBR down. At the start of 2022 I had 41 countries left for my Read the World Project meaning I read 29 books/countries in 2021 and that made up more than half of my reading last year. I ended 2021 with 88 books on my physical/digital TBR which is the exact number I started 2021 with! I didn’t know that until I was looking at last year’s goals and was very surprise by that stat. So while I’ve read books, acquired books, and donated a whole lot of books when I came to terms with the fact I was never going to read them, my actual TBR number hasn’t changed. Quite impressive really.

I like to read an equal amount of books from male and female writers with the presumption that if it’s going to skew one way it’d be towards women and that’s what happened in 2021. I didn’t have a target in mind for how many authors of colour I wanted to read but it ended up being an exact 50/50 split between white authors and authors of colour. Honestly, I probably couldn’t have done that if I’d have tried. The only authors I read multiple books from were Garth Nix and Leigh Bardugo so if we’re going with authors in general, not by their books, I read more different authors of colour in 2021 than different white authors. I hope that makes sense.

Now for my 2022 reading goals.

The main thing is finishing my Read the World Project. I’ve already said I’m extending my deadline until I turn 31 which is at the end of September so that’s pretty much nine months to read 40 (I’ve already read one book this year) books before then. Honestly, I do think it’s doable. I just need to put time aside for reading. A lot of the books I’ve got for this project are on the shorter side at 300 pages or less so I know if I didn’t get distracted, I could probably read a couple of them a week. There are 14 countries I still need to find a book for but I think that’s doable and, in the meantime, I have 26 books/countries to keep me busy.

I will set my Goodreads goal at 52 yet again (maybe this time I’ll hit it) and will aim to review half of all I read. As I review all my Read the World books that should definitely be done. I’ll again suggest getting my TBR down to 75 but we’ll see how that goes. Last year I started getting the book-only Illumicrate subscription from about February I think and to be honest I’ve skipped one month and only read one of the books I’ve been sent. So, in the 10 books I’ve acquired through that, I’ve still got 9 on my TBR. While it’s nice to get a brand-new hardback book that often has a fair bit of hype around it I don’t see the point of me continuing to pay for the subscription if I don’t read the books promptly, especially when they are not my priority at the minute. So this is a sort of note to myself to not have my subscription automatically renewed in a few months and to maybe try and read at least a couple of the books I’ve received via Illumicrate before 2022 is over.

The final challenge I’ve got is the 12 Challenge that was on Instagram/Twitter – 12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends. These are the books that was recommended to me for this challenge:
A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
Slade House by David Mitchell
Himself by Jess Kidd
Nina is Not Okay by Shapi Khorsandi
John Dies at the End by David Wong
The Cabinent by Un Su Kim
They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera
Darius the Great is Not OK by Adib Khorram
City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai by Paul French
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
Seven of them are available via my library and two of them I already own so I may have to buy copies of three of them in the year at some point.

Those are my reading goals for 2022. Generally, they’re pretty simple ones and it’s the 12 Challenge that will be pushing me out of my comfort zone a bit. I want to focus up on my reading and try and spend at least 30 minutes a day reading – something that is pretty easy to do if I just put my phone down. Do you have any reading goals for 2022? I’d love to hear them.

Thoughts on… my Read the World Project

Way back in January 2017 I was inspired to try and read a book from every country in the world before I was 30. I turned 30 at the end of September this year and unfortunately, I didn’t hit that goal – I had 48 countries still to go. I’m still carrying on with this challenge though and I’m tweaking my deadline. I will now attempt to finish my Read the World Project while I’m still 30. So, it’ll kind of be in line with what I originally planned.

I’ve enjoyed reading books from places and authors I’d never normally pick up. I’ve read poetry, plays, novels, non-fiction, and short stories. I’ve learnt a lot about different places and cultures and have just generally read a lot of interesting and entertaining stories.

I had a pretty bad reading year in general which didn’t help me with my Read the World Project and as it stands, I have 42 countries left to read before I’m 31. I should read at least more book this year (I hope). I already own 25 books that fit 25 countries. They’re a mixture of hardbacks, paperbacks or ebooks. That means I have 17 more books/countries to acquire in the next nine months.

It is getting harder to find books, poetry etc from the remaining countries. Many of the countries I don’t have works for yet are smaller ones and therefore the chance of having works in English and readily available is smaller too. So, if you happen to know of any writers who are from any of these countries, please let me know: Brunei, Central African Republic, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Mayotte, Monaco, Nauru, Niger, Panama, San Marina, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste (East Timor), Tuvalu, Vanatu.

42 books in a year is normally doable for me and I’m going to make reading a priority in 2022. Wish me luck that I’ll finally complete my Read the World Project.

Welcome to blogmas 2021

So probably to my detriment, I’ve decided to attempt blogmas again this year. I last did it in 2019 and it seems as if I somewhat unintentionally rotate doing blogtober and blogmas each year so now it’s time for blogmas.

I have not been posting as regularly as I usually do this year, in part because I’m not watching as many films or reading as many books, so I thought it might be a good idea to push myself and hopefully give my yearly blogging stats a boost while I’m at it.

While blogmas is supposed to be super Christmas themed, I’ll just be hoping that I post something every day between now and Christmas. There will probably be book and film reviews (including a few extra ones from Cambridge Film Festival), some tags as they’re always good to take up a couple of days and the weekends will be for Christmas movie reviews.

Including this one, I have ten posts already written and scheduled, a couple half written and plans for the rest so I’m not going into this completely unprepared. It would’ve been nice to have had more scheduled but I only really decided to attempt blogmas last week so really the fact I’ve got the next week’s posts already scheduled is an achievement and gives me some breathing room.

This is really your warning that there will be more stuff from me on your feed and perhaps make you panic about how close to the end of another year we are – I certainly felt like that when I saw it was the 1st this morning!

Magical Readathon: Orilium – The Novice Path

The Magical Readathon is the brainchild of Gi at BookRoast on YouTube and this edition of the month-long readathon will take place in September. Previously it was a readathon based on the exams in the Harry Potter universe but now Gi has truly outdone herself and created a whole new world with its own history, magic, university, and people. Her video announcing the prompts for this readathon and how this world works is fantastic and that along with all the documents she’s made to support this world will answer any questions you may have.

As this is a whole new world, this readathon is like an introduction to it all. Instead of being thrown straight into the university exams, this readathon is based on the journey to the Orilium Academy. There are seven prompts on that journey but you only have to complete two of them in order to successfully reach the Academy but naturally you can try and complete them all. As the Magical Readathon has a no doubling up rule that means you have to read two books to “pass” this readathon.

There are also prompts to help build your character who will be attending the Academy next year when the next Magical Readathon happens in April. You don’t have to complete the character prompts in September, they can be used to build another TBR later this year, as long as you’ve completed the character prompts by April 2021.

So, onto my TBR. As usual I’ve found books that match up for each of the prompts and the character prompts so either I have a lot of choice or I can push myself and try and read ten books in September. Not sure how likely that is when I’m lucky to read four books in a month at the minute.

The Novice Path Entrance: Read a book with a map
Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn
This has a map on the end pages so that totally counts in my mind. Plus this is the first book in a series and if I read this book, the sequel can fit another prompt.

Ashtorn Tree: A book that keeps tempting you or is at the top of your TBR
Beka Lamb by Zee Edgell
This is one of my most recent purchases and it’s a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old Belizean girl. Like with past Magical Readathon TBR’s, I’m trying to have a mix of Read the World Project books and YA/fantasy that’ll give me a varied TBR.

The Mist of Solitude: Read a standalone
The Purple Violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas
All I know about this book is that it’s about a woman, who was an unhappy wife, and after her husband dies, she’s expected to weep and not talk ill of the dead but she refuses. Thus, making her a pariah in her village.

Ruin of the Skye: Read a book that features ghosts, a haunted house or supernatural elements
It’s Behind You by Kathryn Foxfield
This is the only book that even has a mention of ghosts in the blurb. I’m not sure if the ghost is actually real as the premise is a spooky reality TV show.

Obsidian Falls: Read a thriller or mystery
Dr Mabuse by Norbert Jacques
I’m pretty sure this falls under the mystery umbrella as the titular character is a criminal and maybe even a super-villain – it’s listed as a mystery on Goodreads anyway. I’m not really sure but it was first published in 1921 and the character was apparently the embodiment of the rising Nazi Party.

Tower of Rumination: Read a 5-star prediction
Hawkeye: Freefall by Matthew Rosenberg and Otto Schmidt
It’s always a good idea to have a comic on a readathon TBR and as Clint Barton is one of my favourite characters ever, there’s a very good chance I’ll end up loving this comic.

Orilium Academy Arc: Read a book with a school setting
Weeding the Flowerbeds by Sarah Mkhonza
This is a memoir about Mkhonza’s childhood at a boarding school where growing up is takes place under strict hostel rules in the seventies.

Character prompts

Background – Wilding: Read a book that’s largely set in a forest/outside
An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie
This has been on my TBR loads of times so maybe this’ll finally be the time I read it. The title pretty much explains it and I think a lot of this book will be set outside as it follows Kpomassie’s journey to Greenland and his experiences there.

Province – Kerador: Read a book in an ongoing series
Monstrous Design by Kat Dunn
And here’s that sequel I mentioned. I don’t really read series and often when I do, they’re finished so these are the only books I have for a series where there’s books still to be published. Not sure if it’s going to be a trilogy or more.

Heritage – Elf: Moon or stars on the cover or in the title or, Human: Read a contemporary or non-fiction book
Cadence of the Moon by Oscar Núñez Olivas OR Milena & Other Social Reforms by Olja Knežević
As I don’t know if I fancy being an elf or a human, I’ve got a couple of books to choose from. Cadence of the Moon is about a serial killer in Costa Rica (this could also fit Obsidian Falls prompt if I change my mind) while Milena & Other Social Reforms (which I have as an ebook) is about a young woman who lands the job of being the president’s interpreter.

Are your taking part in the Magical Readathon next month? I hope to be sharing my progress on Twitter as an extra motivational tool.

Women in Translation Month 2021 TBR

August is Women in Translation Month, which was started by blogger Meytal Radzinski, and a readathon that I like to take part in. As well as dedicating the whole month to reading books by women in translation there’s also a specific readathon hosted by Jennifer from Insert Literary Pun Here, Matthew Sciarappa and Kendra Winchester over on YouTube.

The Women in Translation readathon is a weeklong from Saturday 14th – Friday 20th August (midnight-midnight in your time zone) and there’s two prompts and a group read. The group read is Minor Detail by Adania Shibli (translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette) and the prompts are:

  • Read something that’s not a novel – poetry, an essay, manga, short stories, non-fiction, whatever as long as it’s not a novel
  • Read something that was in a language that is new to you – if you do tend to read translated works then think of a language you haven’t read from for a number of years or just have read very few works from that language.

I’d already picked out the books on my TBR that were from women in translation before the prompts were announced, so while all these books are novels, I could maybe complete the “new to you language” prompt as I very rarely read works from Japan and I believe A Spare Life is translated from Macedonian and I don’t think I’ve yet to read anything that was originally in that language.

All these books aren’t just for the weeklong readathon but are instead what I plan to hopefully read during the whole month of August. I’m slowly getting out of my year-long slump and hopefully this gives me a little extra push.

The Beast Player and The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano
These two were cover buys a couple of months ago and how could I not when they are so gorgeous! This is a YA duology about a girl who discovers she can talk to the huge, majestical beasts of her world and becomes entangled in politics and war as she tries to keep herself and the beasts safe.

The Madwoman of Serrano by Dina Salústio, translated by Jethro Soutar
This is one of the books where it seems difficult to summarise in a couple of sentences. The titular character lives in an isolated village where she appears to babble nonsense but maybe she tells the future especially when the life of a man from the village and the businesswoman who he raised when she was a little girl become connected to the fate of their home.

The Madwoman of Serrano was both the first novel by a female author to be published in Cape Verde and the first to be translated into English.

A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska, translated by Christina E. Kramer
Starting in 1984 in communist Yugoslavia, A Spare Life is the story of twins Zlata and Srebra who are conjoined at their heads from their childhood to young adults as they try to decide whether to go through with the dangerous surgery to separate them.

On Friday Night by Luz Argentina Chiriboga, translated by Paulette A. Ramsay and Anne-Maria Bankay
Honestly, I don’t know what this book is about as the back cover is all about the two translators and doesn’t have a blurb. Internet searches tell me that Luz Argentina Chiriboga is known for writing about women and the challenges they face as well as Afro-Hispanic cultural identity so I expect those themes may be in this book.

The Fury and Cries of Women by Angèle Rawiri, translated by Sara Hanaburgh
I have the ebook of this and I believe The Fury and Cries of Women follows Emilienne’s life through her university studies, marriage, children, work, and how she tries to search for what feminism means to her while dealing with cultural expectations and the taboos of sex and motherhood.Angèle Rawiri is Gabon’s first female novelist.

That’s six books written by women in translation that I’d ideally like to read next month. While I do appear to be coming out of my reading slump if I can read at least three of these I’ll be happy. Plus, four of these books are for my Read the World Project which is always helpful.

Are you going to try and read any books from women in translation in August? If you’d like any recommendations then be sure to check out @WITreadathon and @Read_WIT on Twitter.

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2021

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to do this tag and to do a check in of my reading this year so far as I have been pretty much in a sixth month reading slump. But this tag is like a booktube/book blogger stapple so thought I’d check in and see just how my reading has been this year.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2020
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
I just loved this book a lot. The characters, their relationships, how everything comes together, it’s all so good. I would highly recommend the audiobook too, it was excellent.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
I liked Shadow and Bone well enough but then I loved Siege and Storm. Was everything I’d want in a sequel; adds new and great characters, gives old ones more development, more action and drama – it’s just so good!

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to
Monstrous Design by Kat Dunn
I did something which I have not done in a long, long time – bought the sequel even though I’ve yet to read the first book. Yes, I’ve not read Dangerous Remedy but I got that in a subscription box last year and then they were doing a special edition of the sequel so I ordered that so then hopefully when I finally read this series, they’ll match and both look pretty.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
Beka Lamb by Zee Edgell
I’m so bad at keeping up with new releases and technically this isn’t a new release as it was originally published in 1982 but there’s a new edition being released at the end of July that I already have on preorder. It will be my read for Belize in my Read the World Project.

5. Biggest disappointment
The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov
I haven’t really had any disappointing books so far this year (guess that’s the perks of not reading a lot) but I did find The Good Life Elsewhere very odd. Just it wasn’t what I expected based on how it was described and it was a very odd book with some really dark humour.

6. Biggest surprise
In Praise of Love and Children by Beryl Gilroy
Again, haven’t really read enough to be truly surprised by a book but I did enjoy In Praise of Love and Children more than I thought I would. It was a really engaging immigrant story and it was set in a time of UK history I had vague knowledge of so I found that interesting too.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)
Besides Leigh Bardugo (who I had read before this year) I haven’t read multiple books by the same author so far in 2021. I did like Uršuľa Kovalyk’s writing style in The Equestrienne and I was very impressed by how Svetlana Alexievich wrote non-fiction so I wouldn’t be opposed to checking out more of their work.

8. Newest fictional crush and 9. Newest favourite character.
Sturmhond aka Nikolai Lantsov – Grisha’verse by Leigh Bardugo
I’ve not yet read King of Scars and Rule of Wolves but from his first appearance as Sturmhond in Siege and Storm I absolutely loved Nikolai and he became my favourite character in the original trilogy. I don’t know if he is a fiction crush, as I don’t have them often, but he is a new favourite and he’s so charming and funny and a perfect scoundrel while also being a great tactician.

10. Book that made you cry.
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich
This didn’t make me proper cry or anything but I did feel myself get really say or get a sort of pain in my chest as I listened to the audiobook. It was just really vivid in its descriptions of the brutality and reality of war.

11. Book that made you happy.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
While Crooked Kingdom does have it’s sad or bittersweet moments, I just really enjoyed how everything came together and the final reveal of the con was exceptional. Having characters from the original Grisha trilogy was a huge bonus too.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)
The Beast Player and The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehasi
You’re getting two for this answer. I saw The Beast Warrior when browsing a Waterstone and immediately fell in love with the cover. After realising it was a sequel (book two in a duology I believe) I had to pick up the first book which was also stunning so I came home from Waterstones with these two beautiful books that I’ve yet to read.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
All of them? I’m pretty sure I say that every year I do this tag. I want to focus on my Read the World Project. There are a few books I’ve started but only read a few pages or maybe a chapter or two (told you in a big slump) so they’re probably going to be my priority. There’s  by Ali Al Saeed, How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone by Saša Stanišić and The Madwoman of Serrano by Dina Salústio to name a few.

Now for some reading stats. I want to read 52 books this year and I’m current at 20 so I’m 5 books behind schedule which isn’t terrible and I do think if I actually pick a book up instead of watching a load of TV shows, I’ll soon get back on track.

I think the pandemic reading slump is hitting me now rather than last year like it seemed to hit a lot of people. Maybe now things are starting to open up a bit that’s what’s occupying my brain whereas before when there was very little to do I could focus on reading. Who knows!

Thanks to the Grisha’verse books I’ve read this year my most read genre is fantasy followed by short story collections and historical fiction. I’ve read more books by women than men (just) which I’m happy with but feel that might become more equal as I think I have more books by men on my TBR than women – or at least more books on my Read the World Project TBR are by men.