Created by Ashley (Bubbly Book Nerd, who also made the graphic above) this is a reading challenge/bingo that lasts all of November and December, where there are multiple prompts filling a bingo board (see her pinned tweet for details.) I, naturally, am being ambitious, so will attempt to do all the prompts. After all, I have two months, right?
Prompt: Set in Winter
Given the title of this book, it seems reasonable to expect that THE WINTER GARDEN, by Alexandra Bell, is set at least in part in winter. I do try (often not all that successfully, it has to be said) to get as many wintry-esque posts up on my blog in December.
It features a magical contest for magic in a secretive garden set in Victorian England. A friend read it and said it was good but darker than they had thought, given the marketing and description, so I’m interesting to see what exactly that means!
Prompt: Magical or Fantasy elements
This is the first of several books that I’m not entirely sure if I will actually get to read this year, because I might have gone back to my parents before they come in to my local shop. And, DREAMS LIE BENEATH, by Rebecca Ross, is a US-published book that has a UK publication date a few weeks later to allow for shipping – but that doesn’t always mean the books arrive in the UK by then!
I know almost nothing about this book, but it’s written by Rebecca Ross, who’s written some brilliant YA (THE QUEEN’S RISING duology, for example) and her adult debut early next year looks stunning. Thus, this book is on my TBR simply because of the author!
Prompt: An Adventure or Coming of Age story
Like the above, THE EXCALIBUR CURSE, by Kiersten White, this is a US book without a UK publisher, so we’ll see if I get it this year! When I read this, it will probably be a buddy read, as that’s how I’ve read the others in this trilogy.
It’s the finale to the Camelot Trilogy, a retelling of Arthurian myth centred around Guinevere, who isn’t actually Guinevere, but someone sent in the dead girl’s place to protect Arthur. Or is she? There’s been a lot of uncertainty arising around her true identity (which is hidden) in THE GUINEVERE DECEPTION and THE CAMELOT BETRAYAL, so I’m very interested to see how all the questions are answered in this finale.
Prompt: a gifted or borrowed book
OK, I might be stretching the intention of “gifted or borrowed” here, but BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY, by Ken MacLeod is a review copy – so I was technically gifted it by the publisher? I rarely get given books. My family know that trying to guess what I’ve read or not is not a challenge to undertake, and for the few people who do know me and my reading habits well enough to give me books, I try to read as soon as possible, because I know I can trust them.
It’s a sci-fi about a scientist developing faster-than-light travel. It sounds very much like a book with a firm science grounding (albeit it still contentious theoretical science but written in such a way that it feels plausible because everything around it has a very rigorous scientific treatment. That’s the sort of sci-fi I love, and getting a copy pushed this book very rapidly up my TBR.
Prompt: A book under 300 pages
The first non-fantasy on the list coming right after I said the list was pretty much all fantasy is good irony. A KIND OF SPARK, by Elle McNicholl, is a contemporary (I think. The second book by the author is sci-fi, but I think this is void of speculative elements.)
This MG is very short – less than 200 pages – and won the latest Waterstones Book Prize for Children. It’s by an autistic author about an autistic character, and as someone who’s recently has the initial diagnosis of Autism, I want to read more about characters with autism who aren’t the horrible, lazy stereotypes.
Prompt: a romance or books with an HEA/HFN
I don’t read romance, and I usually do my best to avoid romantic fantasy. I just don’t enjoy romance-heavy books as I don’t get it! So for this, we’re going for a book that has a romance plot line, and as it’s the trilogy finale, I’m guessing will end with them together?
GIRLS OF FATE AND FURY, by Natasha Ngan, is the last book in the series that started with GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE, about sexual assault and surviving – and also tearing down a caste system and its oppression. As it is about finding strength in love despite assault from others, I feel that the chances of the girls being together is high. Just probably loads of others are dead and the two girls will have been through a lot!
Prompt: a mystery or a book with a twist
The second non-fantasy of this book is also a MG and also from the same publishing company as the previous (this publisher is a UK independent set up to tackle the lack of diversity in MG at the moment)
HIGH RISE MYSTERY, by Sharna Jackson, is a mystery book about two Black kids in London who stumble across a dead body in the tallest residential block and end up investigating the death. It’s the first in a series – the second book came out earlier this year, so I’m hoping I fall in love and then immediately go and pick up the next book.
Prompt: a random number generator pick
OK, so this is a “randomly picked book from the books I want to try and read in these next few months that didn’t fit another prompt.” THE PASSENGER, by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, is a book translated from German. It was written in the late 30s by a German Jew about persecution and fleeing the Nazis.
I had been looking at this for a bit, as it seemed really interesting and outside my usual comfort zone, and I sometimes feel like pushing out the boat. So I leapt at the chance when it was the Waterstones book of the month (because it was on special and got me a hot chocolate too – and it was not a warm morning!)
Prompt: cosy vibes, a fave author, or a re-read
I promise there are a lot of fantasy books on this list! It’s just this section of prompts seems not to be conducive to that!
YOU’LL BE THE DEATH OF ME, by Karen M. McManus, is her latest book, another YA thriller. Three school friends bunk off for a day, and wander into a crime scene. Of course, they all have secrets to hide and the murder will test their ability to keep them.
Karen M. McManus’ books are all so addictive to read, so I fully anticipate downing this latest offering in one go.
Prompt: at the top of your TBR
THE UNTOLD STORY, by Genevieve Cogman, is the latest (and I think last?) entry in THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY series. I was given the first book for my birthday this year, then devoured all the other seven books in about a week. This is why, on the rare occasions I do get books, I read them quickly.
This is a series about Librarians saving books of the many world in the multi-verse that’s caught between the order of the dragons and the chaos of the fae. The series is just so much bonkers fun, and the books are quite short for adult, so it’s really easy to get through the series in a short time (so don’t be alarmed by the length of 9 books!)
Prompt: a historical setting
If you’re thinking “hmmm, the cover for YEAR OF THE REAPER, by Makiia Lucier, looks really similar in style to another cover on this list,” yes, they are the UK covers for these US books, both published here by the same publisher.
It’s a historical book about a plague. I don’t know if it’s technically historical fantasy or not, so I guess we’ll see when I read it? I’ve only read one of Makiia Lucier’s books, ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE, but I loved it, so finding out this book would get a UK publication (and thus would be MUCH easier to find than her previous books) was so nice. I am very excited for this one!
Prompt: white or snow on the cover
MIDNIGHT IN EVERWOOD, by M. A. Kuzniar, is her adult debut (as Mia she writes THE SHIP OF SHADOWS MG series, which I really like!) This is another book that seems perfect for winter, a Nutcracker inspired book (maybe a retelling?) I honestly don’t know much about it, but that it’s supposedly very lushly written and I liked her MG so was going to support her adult debut.
Also I’m really curious to get my hands on this book as the cover is a squarer than typical for UK books. The height-to-width ratio here is larger than in the US, so I want to see if this really is such a non-standard size as this cover suggests!
Prompt: on your TBR forever
I am finally going to get around to A SKY BEYOND THE STORM, by Sabaa Tahir, I promise! It’s been sitting on my shelves almost a year now, and I’d been anticipating it for about a year. That’s the thing about timings this year – impossible to predict. I didn’t get a chance to read it when it came out, and then time has just made me hesitant.
It’s a thick-ish book. It’s a big series to re-read. And it’s a series that delights in putting characters (and readers) through misery. But this is getting a bit ridiculous, so time to finally pick it up and finish the AN EMBER IN THE ASHES quartet.
Prompt: a new-to-you-author
THE UPPER WORLD, by Femi Fadugba, is a debut, so the author will be new to everyone reading it! I’m going to have to wait until after I read it to decide if it’s more sci-fi or more thriller, as the blurb feels like it could go both ways (hoping for sci-fi!)
It’s a dual POV set across two timelines, and set in Peckham, which is why I bought a copy. I grew up very close to Peckham, and it’s so rare to see UK-set contemporary YA SFF by British Authors – let alone by authors of colour – so I’m very excited about this one.
Prompt: a MG or YA book
THE VERY MERRY MURDER CLUB is an anthology of Christmas-themed mysteries by a stunning line up of children’s writers. I am so excited to dive into this eARC ahead of Christmas. I love a good murder mystery, particularly in children’s where it’s not treated to be as grim and shocking and depressing, more about the process of solving than the psychology behind it.
Also, I’m hoping that there will various murders involving classic Christmas objects (tingle garrotte?) Maybe that’s a bit weird, but I feel like if you’re writing a seasonal murder mystery there’s so much potential to just have fun with whacky ideas. Also footprints in the snow and (hopefully) a grand house with a log-burning fire.
Prompt: a book set in another country
OUR VIOLENT ENDS, by Chloe Gong, is the finale to her THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS duology that reimagines Romeo and Juliet as set in 1920s Shanghai, with a gang war and monsters.
Of all the Shakespeare plays, Romeo and Juliet is one of my least favourites (probably because it’s a very overdone romantic tragedy, without enough comedy for me to come back again and again.) However, I really liked this retelling (we’ve only had the first hald of the play so far.)
The monster and the setting really help to make it less of your bog-standard enemies to lovers mooning about and making rash decisions type of retelling. It’s really clever in how it takes events and flips them about. Interested how the double death scene will happen and end…
GILDED, by Marissa Meyer, marks her return to the world of retelling fairy tales. She hasn’t done that since her highly popular debut series, the Lunar Chronicles. That series retold them in a sci-fi setting, weaving four sets of stories together.
This is not set in that world, and is a fantasy instead. It retells Rumpelstiltskin. I loved her debut series (her superhero series less so, and I have yet to finish that!) so I’m excited to go back to her roots. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it so much it will invigorate me to finish the RENEGADES trilogy.
Prompt: a steamy romance or holiday book
I don’t read romances, nor do I read holiday books (I think I’ve read one? THE MIRACLE ON EBENEZER STREET, in my life? THE VERY MERRY MURDER CLUB will make two, I think.) They’re just not my bread and butter, so instead we’re going to insert a wintry book.
RISE OF THE WORLD EATER, by Jamie Littler, is the finale to his FROSTHEART trilogy. It’s about a boy with the ability to sing magic in a snow-bound world where ships skate across the ice and huge monsters lurk beneath, hunting for a snack (they’re able to jump through the ice.) Littler is an author-illustrator, so it’s cool to see his own art bringing the characters to life as he sees them.
Prompt: found family/close friendship(s)
Depending on how my reading is going, I might actually get around to this one before November (but the review is timetabled for a November slot, so I’m going to count it!)
INTO THE DYING LIGHT, by Katy Rose Pool, is the finale to The Age of Darkness trilogy. This series is the closest modern book I’ve found to classic fantasy. It has a lot of the feel and tropes and concepts (QUEST!) of the classics I grew up with. I want more books like this! Make me feel like the older books did, just minus all the problematic stuff!
Prompt: A 5 star prediction
HOLLOW EMPIRE, by Sam Hawke, is the sequel to CITY OF LIES, which I loved last year (this year? what is time), so I’m hoping to love the sequel just as much. The previous book was about poison tasters in a city under siege.
The siege is now over, and the poison-tasting siblings are trying to rebuild. But the siege had a lot of personal costs on them, and there’s a new threat to worry about. That’s about all I know, but I’m expecting another CHONKY book to get my teeth into over the Christmas holidays.
Prompt: part of a series
JADE LEGACY, by Fonda Lee, is the finale to her Green Bone Saga. It did take me quite a while to get into the first book, JADE CITY, because of how the book introduced POVs and then handled their stories. I latch onto the first POV because I assume they’re the main, and then don’t care about characters who don’t link to them. But the first character wasn’t the main, so I had to find a different character to latch onto. And then the book was brutal to them and I was left trying a new character!
However, I really got into the second book, JADE WAR, because I knew the cast by then. These are thick books and the author does not pull her punches, so time to brace before reading is probably a good idea!
Naughty or Nice
Prompt: about a villain or hero
Adding to the list of series I’ve yet to finish, I at least have a good excuse for not reading THE BURNING GOD, by R. F. Kuang – it’s not out in paperback until November, and I had paperbacks of the other entries!
Inspired by 20th century Chinese history, THE POPPY WAR trilogy is a brutal look at the cost of war on a country and the individuals. There’s drug-fuelled shamanism to make the costs of the lead’s actions even greater. And yes, I am a bit nervous about how tense this book will make me when I read it if it’s anything like the others!
Prompt: ghosts or time switches/travel
THE MONSTERS OF ROOKHAVEN, by Pádraig Kenny, is a Gothic with “monsters” in the title, so that’ll do for ghosts! This is a middle grade, another Waterstones’ Book of the month purchase because it’s a good way to be introduced to MG books I might not otherwise notice!
Mirabelle lives in a house protected from the world, but when the charms falls and an orphaned brother and sister arrive, they must fix the damage before the world is put in danger
Prompt: a standalone
PIRANESI, by Susanna Clarke, recently won the Women’s Prize for fiction. I read and loved her debut JONATHON STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL years ago, so was excited for another book from her. The fact it was entered into that prize makes me suspect this is a lot more literary leaning than I remember her historical fantasy being. It’s also very thin, so I suspect I will get through it pretty fast!
I don’t really know what it’s about – architecture and mythology? Either way, I rarely read big prize winners, so this should be interesting (and maybe counts as reading outside my comfort zone if you squint hard enough!)
What are you reading for the next two months?