For 2020, I want to introduce a new monthly feature on this blog, highlighting some of the books released in this particular calendar month that I am particularly excited about. These can be ones I’ve already reviewed, ones I still need to review, or have pre-ordered, or simply books that I really want to read because they have an interesting premise.
My number one for January 2020 is, as anyone who knows me might have guessed, Anna-Marie McLemore’s Dark and Deepest Red. They write the most wonderful, magical queer stories, and I have loved every single one of their books, and this one is based on the late medieval dancing plague in Strasbourg. So, basically catnip for me. I’ve been craving this book since I first saw it being announced and then even more once the cover was out. I’m still slightly upset that I didn’t manage to get an ARC, as it is a US only release, but I do have two pre-orders coming (don’t ask) and am planning on reading this in one sitting the day I get my greedy little fingers on it. It’ll also be very relevant for my dissertation, so I can even claim it as research. WIN! Pre-order it yourself on BookDepository or from your retailer of choice.
A second book I’m very intrigued by is Blood Countess by Lana Popović. Another story inspired by late medieval/early modern history, this novel is based on the infamous Elizabeth Bathory, who allegedly bathed in the blood of maidens to keep herself looking young and fresh. I’ve always been fascinated by the Countess Bathory, especially given that none of the allegations against her have ever been proven and she has become such a figure of mystery and legend over the centuries. I fell in love with Lana’s writing in her fairy-tale inspired first duology set in Montenegro (starting with Wicked like a Wildfire, I highly recommend you check it out), so I’m very curious to see what she did with the story. The book apparently also features a queer storyline, which is always a plus and might also be relevant for my dissertation, so I’ll definitely be getting myself a copy and checking it out! If you are intrigued as well, BookDepository link is here, and otherwise you know your favourite way to pre-order!
The third book I’d like to hype for January is The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson. This is the third in her Truly Devious trilogy of YA contemporary mysteries, so a bit off the beaten track from what I usually talk about on this blog. I received the first in the series, Truly Devious in a book box back when it first came out a couple of years ago, and really enjoyed it. It is great YA, and back when I myself was in the target range for YA, I think this series would have topped any favourite books list for me. I was in love with mystery novels and clever girls (looking back it’s a wonder it took me so long to figure out my sexuality!) and reading these books makes me lose myself in nostalgia for the time I first moved out from home to study forensic science and spent my late summer afternoons down at the lake reading crime novels. Anyway, I completely recommend you pick up these wonderful novels, especially now that the trilogy is complete – pre-order The Hand on the Wall from BookDepository or your local indie!
What do you think of this new feature? Does it help you pick your way through the jungle of new releases? Do you have any books you think should have been included or any suggestions for the February issue of the Libri Draconis Hype Post?
For years, friends have been raving at me about how great Brandon Sanderson’s books are, and I’ve been resisting for far too long. I’ve always had too many books on my TBR to get into another author who writes epic fantasy, and to be honest, when I read Skyward last year, I liked it, but not as much as I was expecting to, given how beloved an author he seemed to be in my network. As it seemed to be a fairly new genre for him, I was still very keen to continue the series with Starsight. So I jumped at the chance to review this wonderful book for Gollancz – any opinions are entirely my own, and I am very grateful to Gollancz and Stevie Finegan especially for providing me with a review copy!
RELEASE DATE: 26/11/2019
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. The rumours of his cowardice are true – he deserted his flight during battle against the Krell. Worse, though, he turned against his team and attacked them.
Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars – and it was terrifying. What she learned turned her world upside down. Everything Spensa’s been taught is a lie.
But Spensa also learned a few things about herself – and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.
OPINIONS: While Skyward still had to do a lot of the set up of a new sci-fi universe, and a second world planet with its associated human society, Starsight was able to reap all the benefits from its prequel and dive right into the action. I do feel like the two books very much have a prequel – sequel relationship than necessarily a more traditional series structure: Starsight could very well be read apart from Skyward, as it mainly takes place in a mission setting, with a new cast of characters. So if you accidentally picked up Starsight only to realise it’s book two, don’t worry, read it anyway, you can always catch up later! These books are rather fast paced and very thrilling reads, so they do basically read themselves.
As book two mainly takes place on an interspecies space station, Starsight, it includes far more diversity. We encounter a variety of different species, from the enemies known from Skyward, the Krell, to the Dione, a species that reproduces by literally combining the parents for months to ‘try out’ a potential child, to the Kitsen, a tiny furry people, reminiscent of very intelligent Ewoks, that just recently moved from monarchy to democracy, to just name a couple. As this also leads to a lot of species-based bias, the topic of intelligence and development is a big one, as is aggression.
The Krell and the Dione seem to be the leaders of this galactic alliance, and claim a peaceful nature for themselves, while attributing aggression to humans. But what makes a species peaceful or aggressive? And what behaviours are acceptable to protect one’s goals? These and many more questions like them are at the centre of this novel and make the reader think, and link back science fiction to current events and world politics.