2021 Progress Report

2021 took the previous year’s weirdness and ran with it, I felt. It was also one of the most unfortunate years (IRL) I’ve encountered as we and our friends and family suffered ridiculously long runs of bad luck and calamity. I don’t know one person who isn’t glad to see the back of that year.

Which meant that reading was even more important than usual, an escape and a comfort that got me through the last twelve months. That, along with blogging and chatting with you all has been the consistent bright spot in the deceptively deep pit that was 2021. Thank you. You’re all more appreciated than you know!

 

So, here’s my reading/blogging year’s highlights:

 

Achievey MacChieverson

I only attempted two challenges this year, knowing how flaky I can be, and out of those two I only succeeded in completing one (by the skin of my teeth). Nevertheless, may I present to you my complete and completely completed Bad SF Fan Backlist Bingo card:

My completed Bad SF Fan Backlist Bingo card
Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL?!

Here’s the breakdown of what I read:

Published in the 70s: Kindred by Octavia E Butler (1979)

Published in the 80s: Redwall by Brian Jacques (1986) [Not at all what I intended to read, but by the time I got to December backlist children’s books were all I was good for].

Published in the 90s: The Silent Strength of Stones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (1995)

Published in the 00s: Spirits That Walk in Shadow by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (2006)

Hugo Winner: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert E Heinlein (won the Hugo in 1962)

Locus Winner: Passage by Connie Willis (won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2002)

Sidewise Winner: ‘Seventy-Two Letters’ by Ted Chiang (won the Sidewise Short Form Award in 2000) [Are short stories cheating? I reeaaalllly wanted to complete my bingo card!]

Nebula Winner: Neuromancer by William Gibson (won Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1985)

SciFi: The House of Styx by Derek Künsken [I was counting The Crystal World by J G Ballard, but I changed my mind when I read The House of Styx, which trumps Ballard by being set on a whole other planet].

Fantasy: The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

Horror: Thin Air by Michelle Paver [This is about as close to horror as I can get without running away screaming].

Novella: The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard

Not written by a bloke: The Man with Six Senses by Muriel Jaeger

Author outside the UK/US: You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce

Written by an author of colour: The Upper World by Femi Fadugba

Not written in English: Astra: Lost in Space by Kenta Shinohara

 

Unfortunately, I did less well with Calmgrove’s 21 TBR for 2021 Challenge. Despite a strong start, things slowed up in the second half of the year and I finished the year with three books still to go. Annoyingly, of the two challenges, I thought this would be the more achievable one for me, so my head is thoroughly hung in shame.

 

I also had a blast buddy-reading again this year (all links are to first parts of discussions):

Maryam and I read Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, Octavia E Butler’s Kindred (which we’ve still to post) and A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar.

Lynn and I read Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab and Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself. And imyril and I read Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in November for SciFi Month. I’ve said it before, I know, but I get a real kick out of reading with a friend (I get a kick out of having friends ha!) and I look forward to many more buddy-reads to come *looks significantly in Maryam, Lynn and imyril’s direction*.

 

Favourite books read in 2021

As always, it’s hard to narrow this one down to a handful, but if I have to:

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And 2021 was the year I finally got acquainted with Aliette de Bodard’s writing, and became a Fan from a standing start. More more more!

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I also did an inordinate amount of non-genre reading this year (mostly for work) and particularly enjoyed:

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Interestingly, in the second half of the year I stopped giving five stars to anything. It’s like I lost some of my enthusiasm without really noticing it at the time. I have been amending my little scribbled star ratings in my notebook because, looking back, I really enjoyed a lot of the books that I barely seemed to register at the time. This leads me to think I must have had a bigger blip in mood than I realised. You don’t need to know or worry about any of this. I’m just yakking here.

 

Best cover art of the year

There were two covers that most pleased my eyes this year. The first was the piece that Daniel dos Santos did for Spirits that Walk in Shadow by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, which is just such a mood.

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The second, and absolutely my favourite if I had to choose between them, is Ronan Le Fur’s incredible artwork for Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee. This right here is how to make me pick up a book:

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FYI, Rebellion Publishing featured an interesting interview with Ronan Le Fur (aka DoFresh) and with designer Dominic Forbes about working on Phoenix Extravagant, which you can find here.

 

Book(s) I DNF’d this year

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To have DNF’d Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam is mortifying because Sir P is normally my go-to guy for comfort reading when I’m not feeling it. I think I must have just picked up the wrong thing. I bet Granny Weatherwax and company would have been a better call.

I’m pretty sure there were a couple of other DNFs this year, but I can’t remember what they were. Which kind of suggests it was a good call not to carry on reading them.

 

Places I was most delighted to visit in 2021

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I am completely in love with Künsken’s Venus in The House of Styx and am really looking forward to getting back there soon. There’s just something about making a life in impossibly hostile environments that switches a light on for me – care to recommend anything of that kind?

 

My favourite non-fiction reads

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Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikzenmihalyi and Silent Witnesses: A History of Forensic Science by Nigel McCrery were both fascinating and Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink was a delight (I’ll never get tired of reading about other people’s reading journeys. Not ever). Of the three, Dear Reader made the biggest impression on me because of its descriptions of life as a Waterstones bookseller. Having been thinking about moving jobs this year it definitely helped me clarify what I do and do not want to be doing in my future working life. It also made me want to spam-tweet questions at those people I know who work as booksellers, but I nobly refrained. Because I’d like to keep my friends.

 

Best book mail

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Receiving an ARC of Skyward Inn by Aliyah Whitely (from Rebellion Publishing) and having Tej Turner send me a copy of his book Bloodsworn early in 2021 was extremely exciting. And receiving ARCs of Bluebird by Ciel Pierlot (from Angry Robot) and Saint Death’s Daughter by C S E Cooney (from Rebellion Publishing) towards the end of the year nearly clocked eleven on the squee-o-meter.

 

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And then for that seasonal gifting period I unexpectedly received A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers and lost my sh*t entirely.

It’s been a good year for books.

 

Best graphic novels

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I’ve been catching up on Monstress and Lady Mechanika this year, so didn’t find many new gems, but a friend lent me The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill and it was wonderful in all the ways I needed. I want so much more of O’Neill’s work in my life.

 

Series started…

The Diviners quadrilogy by Libba Bray – two down and two to go and I don’t want to rush to the end (I can’t quite believe it’s only this year I started these books – feels like longer).

The Drowning Empire trilogy by Andrea Stewart

The Tower Climber series by Jakob Tanner – there’s at least two more volumes out and ready to read, and in my local library

The Dominion of the Fallen series by Aliette de Bodard

The Avatars of Ruin series by Tej Turner

The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie – yes, I’ve finally, finally entered the world of the First Law with my fellow adventurer Lynn, and we’re all set to begin Before They Are Hanged (we decided to get December out of the way before starting).

The Terra Ignota quadrilogy by Ada Palmer – I don’t know how I feel about carrying on with this one right now, but imyril and I have started …

 

… And series finished

The Interdependency trilogy by John Scalzi (which I started and finished in the same year – Level Up!)

And Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s trio of Chapel Hollow novels, which are separate stories set in the same world, rather than a traditional trilogy.

Which all means I have to update my Great Series Read Project page and give myself a good talking to about not finishing things I start.

 

Post(s) I’m most proud of?

I wasn’t going to do this category this year because I almost forgot that I wrote these two posts. But I was very pleased with them and you might’ve missed them, so here is post one and post two about some of my favourite vintage scifi artists. I had plans to do more of this kind of thing in 2021, but *shrugs* I didn’t. Maybe in the future.

 

And finally…

I reached my five-year blogiversary this year. So that was nice.

 

And I’ve no plans on stopping. Choo choo!

 

29 comments

  1. Way to make it through the year!

    It is good to hear that buddy-reads helped you a lot.

    I’ve added Ada Palmer to my tbr so I figure I’ll get to her stuff sometime next year 😀 I can’t even remember who I got the recommendation from, so we’ll see what happens.

    And congrats on the 5year mark! That’s pretty significant in terms of longevity and stick-to-itiveness 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here’s for a happy real-life 2022! Reading-wise, let it be no worse than 2021, it seems we both have reasons to be happy about that…

    I have to admit I prefer the first of your two favourite covers, but, most of all, I love “Raising Steam”, can’t imagine DNF’ing that 😛 I know Pratchett got more and more political in this part of the Discworld, but it just happens I’m very political myself 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I usually LOVE the political commentary he provides! I honestly don’t know what came over me!

      Happy New Year Piotr to you and yours. I wish you many hours of happy reading ahead! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats on five years blogging! Looks like you had a really good year, despite the other awfulness that was 2021. One of these days I’m going to do a bingo card😁 Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on achieving what you did, given this complete crock of a year! And never worry about not completing the 21 TBR prompt, I only achieved that because, due to lockdowns or self-isolating, I had my accumulated piles of reading matter to fall back on in the early part of the year.

    As for books you mention, most inevitably aren’t ones I’ve either read let alone heard of, but I do like to browse possible future treats! I have Laura Shepherd Robinson’s first title to read–she attended our local literary festival in October and as the better half used to teach her piano when we all lived in Bristol we couldn’t not attend her talk on her follow-up novel and buy her first (which I hope to read soon).

    All the best for you 2022 progress, and I look forward to the report next December! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy New Year to you Chris! ❤
      I bought a secondhand copy of Shepherd-Robinson's book last month because I loved Daughters of Night so much. I hope you'll enjoy it – we'll have to compare notes at a later date. 🙂
      I hope 2022 is a wonderful year for you and yours. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy Blogiversary!!
    Congratulations for completing imyril’s bingo, I had a blast with this challenge in 2020! 😀
    And yay for buddyreads 😀 😀 And yes, I’m always here to babble about books with you hehe, I’m looking forward to reading Lud in the Mist 😉
    Oooh I didn’t read your discussion about Too Like the Lightning, I must have missed it in November; I have to play catch-up!
    All the best for you in 2022, let’s leave 2021 behind 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Maryam! ❤
      I'm really looking forward to reading Lud in the Mist with you too – I'll drop you a DM to arrange when.
      And I wish you all the very best in 2022 too. With hopefully lots of awesome buddy-reading! 😉

      Like

  6. 2021 took the previous year’s weirdness and ran with it – This!!!

    Achievey MacChieverson!!!! — I’m dying.

    in the second half of the year I stopped giving five stars to anything. — That IS interesting!!!

    Happy New Year! I hope you get a few streaks of good luck, this year!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I confess I’m not sad to see the back of 2021. It was not a good year for me although I still pressed on as much as possible. Thanks for your reading companionship. I’m looking forward to our next Abercrombie.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person


    • It’s a great book. The first half looks at a whole range of people and how they use creative thinking in their lives and work. Then the second half talks about how to encourage your own creativity. I was really inspired by it!

      Like

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