Orilium Readathon: Wrap-up, aka being an accidental overachiever…
At the start of April I shared my TBR for the Magical Readathon in which I mentioned my goal of completing 12 books to fit the prompts for my selected career path as an Alchemist/Druid. I of course, forgot to take into consideration that there would be ARCs that needed reviewing and library books to be read before return-date, that I hadn’t included in that TBR. As such I ended up with a fairly ridiculous TBR, two of which I retroactively worked into the remaining prompts for the Magical Readathon, making it so I completed them all. By the end of the month, I completed 16 books. In this post I will talk briefly about all of them, discuss my rating and link to additional reviews where I’ve written them.
Magical Readathon Reads:
The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell Prompt: Alchemy: a book with metal in the title Verdict: 3/5 stars An entertaining locked room mystery set at the fictional equivalent of The Great British Bake-off. I was entertained throughout, although the one-dimensional characters and predictable plotpoints kept it from being a standout in the genre. Full review here.
Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad Prompt: Animal Studies: a non-fiction book No rating Suleika Jaouad’s memoir on her life before, during and after her cancer diagnosis. This was one of the hardest books for me to read, let alone review, due to the subject matter hitting so close to home. I’ve decided not to rate it, but I have written down some thoughts in my Goodreads review. Overall: I highly recommend this book, but be aware that it might be a tough read, as it was for me.
Emily Wildes Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett Prompt: Artificary: start a book with a snack Verdict: 3.5/5 stars A cozy, cottage-core fantasy about a scholarly young woman traveling to a remote Nordic village to research a species of faeries. I actually really enjoyed this book, which says a lot coming from me. I’m basically the fae-grinch: I’m só over that trope that I will actively avoid any book that even mentioned it in the synopsis. I trusted Heather Fawcett to put her own spin on it, and I’m glad I did. Full review here.
Sea Bean by Sally Huband Prompt: Astronomy: a book with 2 E’s in the title Verdict: 2.5/5 stars Not my lowest rating of the month, but my biggest disappointment nonetheless. This was a book I’ve talked about multiple times as one of my most anticipated releases, for its story that promised to interweave a narrative of disability and chronic illness with a sort of “travel-journal” of the author exploring various northern European beaches. I haven’t quite figured out what happened here, but I felt completely void throughout the entire book, even though on all accounts I should’ve been able to relate an engage with all of the subjectmatter. I will try to update or write a full review, if I figure out what happened here, but for now it’s an inexplicable fluke for me.
Ascension by Nicholas Binge Prompt: Demonology: a book compared to one of your favourites Verdict: 3/5 stars A proper review is currently in the making, because I had a lot of conflicting thoughts about this one. In short: yes, the comparison to Annihilation is valid, as is the one to Thin Air. The problem is exactly that: this book has an identity crisis. It’s a strange mixture of amazing and quite smart speculative concepts, and some of the worst dialogue and cheesy, cliché reveals possible. The dissonance is so great that at times I felt like I was reading two completely different books.
Beneath the Earth, A Sea by Chris Beckett Prompt: Illusion: match your outfit to the cover of your book (photographic evidence below) Verdict: 3.5/5 stars Another book that could’ve easily fitted the previous prompt of being compared to Annihilation. Again: valid comparison, and I liked this book a bit more than Ascension. It knows what it wants to do (going full in on the high-brow, metaphorical side of speculative), but loses subtlety along the way. Bonus points for having some of the best and strangest nature descriptions I’ve encountered recently though.
Where Darkness Blooms by Andrea Hannah Prompt: Elemental control: flowers on the cover Verdict: 1/5 stars The worst read of the month by a stretch. The less said about this one, the better, but if you want I have a full Good-Bad-and-Ugly style review here.
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger Prompt: Inscription: a book from your highest shelf Verdict: 5/5 stars We can keep this one short for a completely different reason; Elatsoe was a reread that 100% stood up to scrutiny. It was a favourite before, and remains a favourite still. Full review can be found here.
A Fire Endless by Rebecca Ross Prompt: Lore: a book with a map Verdict: 4/5 stars A Fire Endless was the satisfying conclusion to the Elements of Cadance duology, starting with A River Enchanted. It has strong “YA-fantasy-vibes” which isn’t my personal favourite, yet I still found myself deeply attached to these characters and rooting for their happy ending. Full review on both novels in the duology here.
The Rattled Bones by S.M. Parker Prompt: Spells and Incantations: a book with between 389 and 410 pages Verdict: 4.5/5 stars This was a great take on the classical maritime/coastal ghost-story with an important message of learning from the past, or risk it haunting you forever. A bit of a slow burner, but a beautiful atmospheric tale underneath.
The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson Prompt: Restoration: pick a book from your TBR with your eyes closed Verdict: 4.5/5 stars This intense Eldrich horror novel got under my skin more than I expected it too. With influences of The Haunting of Hill House, H.P. Lovecraft and the film Hereditary and beautiful prose that rises well above the average horror-novel, there was a lot to love here. Especially during the first 50% or so, I was ready to give this book 5-stars, but unfortunately it didn't stick its landing the way I hoped it would. I guess it shows again that, when it comes to the Lovecraftian, less is more and "showing too much" can actually lessen the impact of the terror you've set up. Full review will be coming, after I've let it sink a bit, and decided on a final rating.
Wolfwood by Marianna Baer Prompt: Shapeshifting: Wolf on cover, title or author name Verdict: 5/5 stars One of the most criminally underhyped Young Adult releases of the year, about a 16-year old girl uncovering her mums past through the lush artistic worlds of her paintings. Although it’s marketed as fantasy, it feels more like contemporary with some magical realism elements, with great attention to detail in the characters personal lives and their interactions. Full review here, please check this book out if it sounds even remotely interesting to you.
Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward Prompt: Psionics and Divination: clouds on the cover. Verdict: 5/5 stars I was a fan of Catriona Ward before, and I’m an even bigger fan now. Looking Glass Sound is her latest, and my favourite novel by her. Elements of the classic Stephen-King-esque novel, combined with existential and metaphysical dread and exploration of childhood trauma make for an absolute masterpiece of horror. Full review here.
Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka Prompt: Conjuration: a book recommended by a friend Verdict: 4/5 stars This magical realism/political satire about a Sri-Lankan man making his way through the first 7 days of the afterlife after his murder has been discussed by many reviewers with much more knowledge about it, so I don’t feel like there’s much I can add. The short and sweet is that I completely agree. This book is smart, funny, dark and despite the very specific mythology and political/societal commentary on Sri-Lankan life, still manages to be accessible to an outsider like me.
Additional Reads (outside readathon-prompts):
Shy by Max Porter Verdict: 2/5 stars Oh Max Porter, why must you disappoint me this bad…? Full review here.
Brother and Sister Enter the Forest by Richard Mirabella Verdict: 4.5/5 stars I was unsure what to expect of this literary novel about the volatile bond between a troubled pair of siblings when I was sent it for review, but it was such a positive surprise. Full review here.
That concludes my April wrap-up, and my semi-structured reading for a while to come. I’m not planning on a set TBR for the month of May, although I do have a few books I’d like to get to, including Demon Copperhead, The Graveyard of Lost Children and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. If you participated in the Magical Readathon this year, let me know if you managed to complete all the challenges you’ve set for yourself, as well as what was your favourite read. Happy reading, and until next time.