12 Challenge

REVIEW: Red Seas, Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Audiobook narrated by Michael Page.

This is the second book in the Gentlemen’s Bastard series, the first being The Lies of Locke Lamora, so there may be vague spoilers for the first book.

After barely making it out of Camorr alive, Lock Lamora and Jean Tannen arrive in the city state of Tal Varrar where they are soon planning to take on the legendary gaming house The Sinspire. No-one has ever taken even a single coin from the Sinspire that wasn’t won on the tables or in the other games of chance on offer there but Locke and Jean plan to change that. The course of crime rarely runs smooth and soon Locke and Jean find themselves entangled in the politics of the city and are coerced into setting sail in order to find some pirates

Red Seas, Under Red Skies is almost a book of two halves and I very much enjoyed both of them. The first follows Locke and Jean about two years after the events of The Lies of Locke Lamora as they are putting the final touches to the long con they’ve been pulling. In that half there’s also flashback chapters to see what happened to them in the first few months after they left Camorr. I’m always impressed by the flashbacks in this series. They never bore me and do a good job of actually adding to the characters and their newly changed dynamic as Locke and Jean have been affected by what happened to them in the first book. The second half is the seafaring adventure as they’re forced to learn how to be passable sailors and go searching for pirates to bring back to the city. It’s like the first half is a city book and while the setting is different to where they grew up, Locke, Jean and you as the reader know what they’re up against and how to rig the system. When it becomes a sea/pirate adventure book, that’s when Locke, Jean and the reader are on uncertain ground as no matter how much charisma and smarts they have, there’s things out to sea that you can’t talk your way out of.

It was fun seeing Locke and Jean out of their element when they’re out to see, but really through the flashbacks you see that they haven’t really been 100% themselves since they left Camorr. They relationship has shifted a but and while they still definitely trust and care about each other (don’t think I’ve read about such ride or die best friends like them for a long time) they aren’t always quite on the same wavelength anymore. Locke especially is unsettled and doesn’t always believe in himself and his schemes and it’s interesting to see him doubt himself and work to overcome that.

There’s a lot going on in Red Seas, Under Red Skies with various outside forces having their own schemes that attempt to ensnare Locke and Jean, but I never felt lost or confused when reading it. There are schemes within schemes and it’s fun to see how things unfold and while there’s certainly surprises, when you think back, the groundwork for them was there and pretty much everything was meretriciously planned.

I love the blend of magic and science in this series. You get to see more of Locke’s bag of tricks and how a pack of playing cards can be more than what they seem. Alchemy is the main sort of “magic” but there’s a few instances where mind control and telepathy may come to play, and when they’re out to see there’s clearly some large, deadly and fantastical creatures in the water.

I love the characters, the world, and the whole vibe of Red Seas, Under Red Skies and this series as a whole. It’s a series I want to take my time with as there’s only three books released but even though it’s been a couple of years since I read the first book, I soon found myself immersed in this world again. Locke and Jean’s character development was so good and interesting and the new characters, especially the new lady pirates, were great too. 5/5.

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.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Spring 2022 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I love doing these seasonal TBR posts even though I hardly ever read more than three of the books featured in the post before the next seasonal TBR come around. In May I’ve booked myself a short holiday in a cottage where all I plan to do is relax and read so some of these books will definitely be part of my reading plans then.

Watch Us Rise by Ellen Hagan and Renee Watson
One of my favourite subgenres of contemporary YA is the teen feminist YA. It makes me feel good and they’re often very quick reads for me. I especially like them as I just like the thought of teen girls (and boys) reading these books and getting inspired and exposed to ideas that I very rarely read about myself when I was that age.

Dangerous Remedy and Monstrous Design by Kat Dunn
Recently I learnt the third and final book of this trilogy is being released in June so I thought I should probably read these two for the first time. I’m so bad at reading series nowadays that I only tend to start them when all books are out or the final books is set to be released imminently. My copies are two very pretty Illumicrate editions so I hope I like the actual story.

The Desert and the Drum by Mbarek Ould Beyrouk
My read for Mauritania for my Read the World Project. This is another book where I think I read the first chapter but wasn’t in the right mindset to continue. I did like the writing style and think it’ll be the kind of book that’s very readable.

QuixotiQ by Ali Al Saeed
This is for Bahrain for my Read the World Project and I started reading it last year and found it a bit of a weird story as the way it was written made me unsure if what characters were experiencing was real or almost some sort of simulation. It’s not a particularly long book so if I just knuckled down, I could probably get my head around it and read it quickly.

The Fury and Cries of Women by Angèle Rawiri
My read for Gabon. 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. I have a fair few ebooks for my Read the World Project that I just haven’t been reading as they’re almost easy to forget about as I don’t have a physical copy. This year I’ve been using my kindle a lot more so I hope to get to this one soon.

City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai by Paul French
This is one of my books for the 12 books recommended by 12 friends thing I’m doing this year – I’m pleasantly surprised by how well I’m doing with that challenge as I’ve already read three of them. This is a true crime book about 1930s Shanghai and the two men who built their own criminal empire there before it came tumbling down.

Jade City by Fonda Lee
As I said, I’m not good with series but now all the books are out and I have the option to binge read the series if I do love it. I think I’m finally ready to give this much-loved series a try. I went to Waterstones on World Book Day and finally picked up a copy, there was a double points offer on so it’d be rude not to.

Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo
This is the first novel from Madagascar to ever be translated into English and it’s set in the nineteenth century and it’s about the relationship between a slave and his master’s daughter. It’s another ebook that I hope to read soon.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
I’ve heard nothing bit great things about Legendborn and as the sequel is out later this year, now feels like a great time to finally read it. Plus, the TV show Merlin was one of my favourite things when I was a teenager so I’m always down for an Arthurian retelling/twist.

What books are you hoping to get to soon?

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.