January Reading Update

Since I set my reading goals pretty high for 2023, I thought it might be interesting to check in at the end of each month to see how I did. For January, I had hoped to read these 9 books (which was also a completely unrealistic goal for me):

So – how did I do? I finished reading and reviewed 4 of these:

As for the others, I have literally 49 minutes left in the audiobook for The Lady of the Lake, the final book in The Witcher Saga, so I should finish that one today. I’m really curious but also anxious and a little scared to see how the series ends because of lines like this:

Because a story where the decent ones die and the scoundrels live and carry on doing what they want is full of shit.

– Geralt of Rivia

I have also started volume 2 of The Sandman graphic novel by Neil Gaiman. I had expected this to be a faster read, but the second installment is significantly longer than the first one.

I also started The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan, but I don’t expect to have time to finish that one until at least next week. I have to say that it was nice to jump back into The Wheel of Time and refresh my mind about where the story left off with all the characters.

I did not have time to start Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales or the audiobook of Season of Storms (a Witcher series prequel), but those will be my next reads as I start off February.

What else is on my list for Februrary? Nine more books!

I’m planning to get back to reading all of the Dune series written by Frank Herbert with God Emperor of Dune. I have two books on my list for book clubs: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (an author new to me).

Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee is a new release that I obtained courtesy of NetGalley, while The Middling Affliction by Alex Shvartsman is a novel that I helped support via Kickstarter, written by a local author friend of mine. I have previously reviewed his earlier novel, Eridani’s Crown (review here).

I enjoyed the first book in Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series (A Deadly Education) so much that I need to finish that series with The Last Graduate and The Golden Enclaves. And lastly, I’m planning to read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo in audiobook format because I need to expand my knowledge of the Grishaverse.

Otherwise, my computer is limping along but takes about 10 minutes to start up. I should probably start shopping for a new system. And… I have just started a fitness challenge (week 1) and I have a fencing competition in Manhattan this weekend so I’m staying busy!

How are your reading goals going for 2023 so far? Have you read anything really good yet? Let me know in the comments (above).

Graphic Novel Review – Demon in the Wood

I received Demon in the Wood for Christmas and decided it would be a nice short read before I jumped into the next Wheel of Time book. This story is set in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse that is the setting for her Shadow and Bone series that I reviewed here: (book 1, book 2, book 3). The graphic novel is illustrated by Dani Pendergast.

Haven’t read any of the Grishaverse yet? Looks like you can pick up the first 5 chapters of Shadow and Bone for free on Kindle here.

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Here is the blurb:

Before he led Ravka’s Second Army, before he created the Fold, and long before he became the Darkling, he was just a lonely boy burdened by an extraordinary power.

Eryk and his mother, Lena, have spent their lives on the run. But they will never find a safe haven. They are not only Grisha—they are the deadliest and rarest of their kind. Feared by those who wish to destroy them and hunted by those who would exploit their gifts, they must hide their true abilities wherever they go. But sometimes deadly secrets have a way of revealing themselves…


This is a prequel and origin story for the Darkling – the antagonist in the Shadow and Bone series – so I don’t think it would be a good place for someone new to this world to jump in. The grisha (magic-users) feature in this tale and very little explanation of their powers are given.

Going by the name of Eryk during this story, we find him traveling with his mother as they arrive at a grisha village. Their unique power and its secrets has forced them into a nomadic existence which has never allowed Eryk to have more than brief friendships. He tries to fit in with the other grisha teenagers while a village of non-grisha exists nearby.

I didn’t expect the turn that this tale took, and it showed how harsh the life of the grisha must be. Eryk garners sympathy, but I was also able to loosely see how the trauma he went through in this story led to later events in his life.

The art throughout this graphic novel created a beautiful depiction of Leigh Bardugo’s world. I liked how there was relatively more artwork than words, and the illustrations clearly displayed the story.

My only negative comment about this book was that it was too short, really no more than a short story. I would have liked to see what happened after the events in this book. While I can see how this affected the Darkling to some extent, surely there’s more that happened to lead him down his isolated path.

Are you a fan of the Grishaverse? Which book is your favorite? Did you watch the television adaptation? Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Fire and Blood

I had heard mixed reviews about George R. R. Martin’s latest book, Fire and Blood after it came out, so I approached this one with some apprehension. Sitting at 719 pages, this was going to be a long read.

Fire and Blood is the first half of the history of the Targaryens after fleeing old Valyria and arriving in Westeros. The book is written as a history rather than in a direct narrative style, which may make it a difficult read for some.

I enjoyed the book once I got into it far enough. Despite the way the author has chosen to tell this story, it is still *quite* a story. The Targaryens are all unique characters, and you get to spend enough time with each of them in this book to become invested in many of the outcomes.

Much like reading The Silmarillion, many names are similar within the Targaryen families, so it is helpful to reference the family tree at the back. I wish that the book had also offered a chart of which Targaryens had claimed which dragons, as this became confusing to me in the later half of the book.

Toward the end of this book, we learn about what happened in the Dance of Dragons, the Targaryen civil war. This tragic tale is supposedly the basis of HBO’s current Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon. If HBO will allow enough of a special effects budget, I think this will be a fantastic story to watch.

Fire and Blood is only the first half of the 300-year history prior to A Game of Thrones and I’m looking forward to the next part. Use my Amazon link to pick up your copy here. Or if you’ve never read any of the books, start with A Game of Thrones here.

Read more of my reviews here.

My Most Anticipated Books of 2020

I’m pretty happy with how much I read in 2019, but now it’s time to look ahead at my reading for 2020. I think I’m going to stick with some of the same goals: read at least two non-fiction books, two classics, and continue trying to finish or keep up on series that I enjoy.

My goal in terms of numbers is to see if I can read 50 books this year. I managed 43 books in 2019, so while 50 is a stretch, I don’t think it’s impossible. I’m trying to keep myself organized by creating a shelf on Goodreads for my planned reading, but it already contains 100 books. We’ll see which ones I get to!

Here are a few of the books that I’m most excited to read in 2020.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

I’m a long-time fan of The Dresden Files series, so I’ve been waiting for this latest release. Peace Talks is book #16 and will be out July 2020. Start this series about a wizard private investigator in Chicago with Storm Front.

The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett

This is actually a series, rather than a single book. I read the first one, The Warded Man, a few years ago and I’ve been meaning to go back to read the entire series. I didn’t get to this one in 2019 so it’s going to the top of my list for 2020.

Circe by Madeline Miller

This book is about the Greek goddess Circe and is a reimagining of her story, told from her perspective. I’ve picked it for my book club for February, so I’ll be getting to this one soon.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

This is the first book in the series on which The Expanse television show is based. I’ve been a fan of the show but I’ve never read the books. Hoping to change that this year.

The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch

This is the latest book in the Gentleman Bastards series and is due out sometime in 2020. I caught up on this series in 2019, and I need to know what happens next. Read my review of the first book here.

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

I really enjoyed All the Birds in the Sky by this author last year (read my review). This book is more science fiction that her earlier novel and takes place on a planet that is tidally locked and I’m curious to see how that is handled.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

I’ve read reviews of this one and it sounds like something I might like: magical school, secret societies, and murder! It’s also a stand-alone novel, so I’ll avoid getting into another series.

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

I started to read The Witcher books in 2019 with The Last Wish and I’m two thirds of the way through Netflix’s show. Sword of Destiny is the second book and, like the first, is a series of short stories.

Fireborne by Rosaria Munda

I picked this book up at New York Comic-Con and it has dragonriders. I also loved how excited the author was about the story, but I think it could be the start of another series.

Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

I think that Peter Hamilton is one of my favorite science fiction authors, writing very long and complicated stories with some unique characters. This is the first book in his newest series.

A Blight of Blackwings by Kevin Hearne

I ended up reading the first book in this series, A Plague of Giants, after picking it up at New York Comic-Con also and loved the way this story was told (my review). I received this second volume from Net Galley and I’m looking forward to where the story goes next. Pre-order now for a February 4 release date.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

This book is a portal fantasy and I read some reviews of it that made it sound like something I’d like. Then it was on sale so I picked up a copy. I really like the cover, also.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

A new Hunger Games book! This will be out in May 2020 and while I didn’t love the original series as much as some people, it was a quick and solid read.

That’s hardly all of the books that I’m excited about for 2020. I was tempted to put The Winds of Winter or Doors of Stone on this list, but until I see a definite release date on those, I’m not going to get too excited about them. If you’d like to purchase any of these other books through my Amazon affiliate links it will help support this blog.

See all of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Fortress of Gold

Fortress of Gold is the second book in the Magicians Gold series by David Harten Watson. I had read the first book, Magic Teacher’s Son, when it came out, and you can find my review of it here.

The story opens with our protagonist, Pran, leading an expedition from the land of Eldor to the legendary kingdom of Earth. Magicians on Eldor have been fighting a desperate battle against an invading army from Marakna, where death-fueled sorcery is commonplace. When the enemy steals all of the gold that is vital to powering their white magic, the Eldoreans are defenseless.

Pran travels with a group of friends: Jelal, an experienced spy who looks to be 12 years old as a result of a spell accident, Samir, a friend and cousin, and Vitina, an enchantress whom Pran has fallen suddenly in love with. This journey was foretold in a prophecy in Book 1, and I was excited to see how it would unfold.

The plot was interesting enough and there is some definite appeal in watching the characters fumble through the culture shock of earth. It takes a while to get going as the heroes get oriented, but then the action was entertaining and enjoyable.

A few new secondary characters arrive to help Pran’s group, and I liked getting to know them. The main goal of the story turns this book into a heist tale, which was also fun. While magic can often be used to overcome any obstacle, the rules that the author has put in place in his story allows the heist to still be a significant challenge while imbuing creativity into the escapade.

One downside to this book was that the romance aspect between the characters didn’t feel real enough to me. Pran has fallen in love with Vitina, and this sudden infatuation could be blamed on the aftereffects of a healing spell she cast on him in the previous book. However, when a love triangle develops, it doesn’t feel like something that has grown organically from their interactions.

I know there’s supposed to be a third book, but I don’t know when it will be released. I’m curious to see how this wraps up, so I’ll be looking for it in the future.

Find more of my book reviews here.

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