A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

Graphic Audio edition. I listened to 85% of this large audiobook on active transit: buses and planes. Oh boy. I still have the same issues. I think the writing can be too much and too cringey. Characters are sometimes written questionably or unrealistically. For a fantasy with mind readers, characters have a hard time with communication skills. To focus on the good parts I think the world building is nice. I like how many baths are included in this series not because I like baths personally but the author gives room to breathe in the world. The characters are mostly likeable. I end up liking Freyre by the end of each of these books even if I am indifferent or wary about her for most of the book. I continue to really like the Graphic Audio audiobooks. I hope I can start the Crescent series with it too. I will keep going on the wild SJM journey slowly. The fantasy is fun for the most part.

Setting: High Fantasy other world.

1.25x audiobook. November 28, 2023 – January 2, 2024.

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

I started and listened to about one third of this on audiobook. I even read along with it in one of my favourite parks in Sydney for a little bit. I finished it on ebook because it was more convenient in the end. The audiobook is good because of Meryl Streep. The middle was a bit slow but the last few chapters were as good as usual from Patchett. The novel is sentimental almost maudlin but I like the slow yet consistent character development and story. Great relationships. I revisited a couple of the last chapters with Streep’s narration.

Setting: Michigan, USA.

Read on ebook on kindle. 1.5x audiobook. January 9-15, 2024.

A Court of Frost and Startlight by Sarah J. Maas

Graphic Audio edition. This was shorter and cozier. Not much happened but I liked it. I actually love the cozy world building moments in this series. I think I preferred the non Freyre and Rhys scenes a bit more. I do think Freyre’s story truly ends here in this novel but without getting into spoilers, I do think the couple is a bit stupid and annoying by the end of it. After reading so many books and chapters about Volaris, I almost want to go there.

Setting: High fantasy universe.

1.25-5x audiobook. January 6-19, 2024.

My overall reading goal for 2024 is 60 books and 18,000 pages up from 52 and 15,000 pages from last year. I will always try to keep my reading goal achievable. It puts less pressure on me and allows more flexibility for other things in my life.

Top reading challenges for 2024

  1. Read 60 Books
  2. Reading Glasses 2024 Challenge: A couple of activities are more difficult than last year but achievable.
  3. The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge 2024: I entered this one because it had books which I tend to already read or plan to read.
  4. Read more from my physical TBR: Read at least 25 books from my physical TBR shelves so I can free up space. In 2023, 23% of the books I read were from the TBR. Ideally I’d like to increase this to one third or at least one quarter by the end of 2024.

The rest of these are more guidelines and ongoing challenges:

  • Read 3 books from the Boxall 1001 list: Continuing this life long challenge.
  • Read more from previously started series: I should try to read more from series that I started and wanted to continue.
  • Track the settings: This was an idea from the Reading Glasses podcast. I’ll track it with my book reviews and hopefully a map.
  • Read 1 poetry book: I would be glad to read a couple of poetry books per year. It is hard to discover poetry that I love. There have been a lot of misses but I should keep trying.
  • Read 1 Shakespeare play: Lots of Shakespeare in my physical TBR so I should read at least one of them.
  • Read at least 1 French book: Succeeded this in 2023 and hope to do better with some Tintin in French too.

Ebooks, audiobooks, and E-reader upgrade

Starting in the last half of 2023, I began to whittle down my library check-out’s. I would usually have 15-20 items from the library at any time. This ballooned during the lockdowns to sometimes 40-50. Even 15 is a lot. I switched to audiobooks (especially audiobooks of those in my already owned TBR) and ebook hoarding. The library can be addictive so part of my goal here is to only have less than ten or five physical library books at any time.

I still have too many physical books so I will continue to read them or listen to them in audiobook or even ebook when travelling. I have a collecting and hoarding tendency for my hobbies and past-times. Moving to a digital collection and consumption is a wee bit better at least.

I will continue to use my library’s Libby and CloudLibrary collections. I have the opportunity of accessing another smaller library system’s digital content as well.

In the past, I would primarily use my e-book reader while I was travelling. I love my Kindle 3 Keyboard. It is now almost 14 years old. A lot of those years had light usage which is why the battery and condition of my e-reader is excellent for its age. I would even buy another model if I had the chance. I am planning to replace the battery.

I’ve been wanting a new e-reader for awhile and plan on getting a Kobo with the next upgrade. As much as I love my Kindle Keyboard, I sideload most of my ebooks so sticking with Amazon and Kindle is not necessary. Secondly, the Kindle Oasis model was the one I was most interested in but it has not been updated since 2019. I really like physical page turning and want a slightly bigger screen. It is looking unlikely that Kindle will make an update so I will go with the Canada based Kobo which also has Overdrive integration.

I will continue to blog about almost every book I read here.

As this was my best reading year yet, I had lots to choose from. This list does not include some rereads but I did include one in audiobooks. This was difficult especially the other fiction. All because it’s not here does not mean they weren’t the great. It’s been such a fantastic reading year.

Children and Middle Grade

  • The Tea Dragon trilogy by K. O’Neill
  • Garlic and the Witch series by Bree Paulson
  • The Only Child by Guojing
  • Marshmallow Clouds by Connie Wanet and Ted Kooser

Graphic novels

  • Ducks by Kate Beaton
  • Seance Tea Party by Reimena Yee
  • Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman
  • Monstress series by Marjorie Liu
  • The Night Eaters series by Marjorie Liu

Fantasy and Sci-Fi

  • Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
  • Heart of the sun warrior by Sue Lynn Tan
  • A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

Other Fiction and Literary Fiction

  • Yellowface by R. F. Kuang
  • The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman

Nonfiction

  • Say Goodnight to Insomnia by Gregg D. Jacobs
  • Chinatown Pretty by Valerie Liu and Andria Lo
  • All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell

Audiobooks

I consumed 18 audiobooks which is the most I’ve ever done. I hope this continues for the next few years especially for nonfiction.

  • Better Living Through Birding by Christian Cooper, narrated by the author
  • These Precious Days by Ann Patchett, narrated by the author
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl, narrated by Kate Winslet – technically a reread but I needed to highlighted the narration
  • Graphic Audio’s A Court of Mist and Fury, narrated by a full cast

2023 was my biggest reading year ever. I read 125 books out of the 52 book original goal. A lot of these were shorter books like graphic novels, children, middle grade, and audiobooks. I have been able to increase my reading in a few ways this year and continue to prioritize it as my main hobby. My mental health was not the best for most of 2023. I believe reading especially lighter things helped me.

This is a long post reflecting on books and my reading this past year.

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I’ve cut down on my TV watching significantly in favour of books and knitting, but this fall had a few favourites returning,

“Only Murders in the Building” Season 3 – I think this was my favourite season of the show yet. It was definitely better than S2 because of the themes and the casting. The show continues to be funny and have impeccable set design and wardrobe. I am really glad it’s getting another season.

“Loki” S2 – The first season was entertaining largely because of Loki and Mobius. I would say I was so-so until the last couple episodes. Loki, Mobius and Ke Huy Quan’s OB has really lightened things up this season. However, like a lot of MCU shows, there was weak character writing especially for the female and villain characters. The ending with Loki was really bittersweet and I did feel sad. It’s a testament to Hiddleston’s acting and journey as the character after 14 years.

“Rick and Morty” S7 – I like the new voice actors. Probably one of the best seasons of the show ever, but I got into this show later than most. I really like the show for its character work and ideas.

“Taskmaster” Series 16- I skipped out on Series 15. Series 14 was one of my favourites. I watched half this season and need to go back. I’ve discovered so many good comedians especially female ones on this show.

”Frasier 2023” – The original show is my favourite sitcom. This revival was okay. I miss the original cast but there are some gems in this one. It needs time to take find its footing but I will keep watching.

”Masterchef: The Professionals” UK – My favourite food completion is back. We watched most of it on the trip but I’ll need to finish it at home.

I have been waiting to read this novel for awhile now. Once I heard this bestselling novel of 2023 had dragons, I knew I had to read it. The hype for it and the sequel were high. At a local community event before I left for my trip, I put a silent bid on the hardcover of Iron Flame and won it while I was on my trip. With that in mind, I knew I would wait until I got home to read the sequel even though I got both ebooks for this trip. I also wanted to make sure I had at least a couple of days to read this anticipating from the hype and a friend that I needed time and energy for it.

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The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman

This was a good historical action adventure romance. The author cited Georgette Heyer in the Acknowledgments which made me like her more. The characters were rootable and likeable. It was three cases rather than one and there was a good setup for the next novel. I liked the romance decently as well. The novel had more dark elements of regency life such a mentions of slavery and trafficking unlike a typical regency romance. It could have been slightly anachrosistic if not for the catharsis of the characters winning. It was good fun and I hope the book becomes more popular.

4.25/5 stars. Dec 16-18, 2023. Kindle.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

For many years, I thought or felt I had read this novella. Like most people, I grew up with adapations of it. My personal favourite is The Muppet Christmas Carol. I think I did listen to most of Patrick Stewart narrated audiobook version over a decade ago but I did not track it anywhere. In any case, this really is a perfect novella. Great character development. Well written with gripping elements. It set the tone for Christmas. I can see myself rereading this one in the future.

4.25/5 stars. Dec 24-27, 2023. Kindle. StandardEbooks version.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This was cute. While TJR’s writing and characters don’t always knock my socks off, I really appreciated how she weaved characters and plots in a slightly different way. Her endings have not been sickly sweet even if they are happy. While there wasn’t a love triangle per se, the two love interests in this book are believable and equally good. I really appreciated that.

3.75/5 stars. Dec 10-11, 2023. Kindle.

Dubliners by James Joyce

Like all short story collections, there were some stories better than the others. First off, Joyce was a really good writer. Joyce had a way of describing people and feelings very well. He was a wordsmith. This was more of a language book. I didn’t like most of the characters. A lot of them are feckless alcoholics or creeps. Some of the female characters were fine but they were sad due to the theme of stagnation that Joyce carried through most of the stories. I found it slow to read. I do think the last novella story ended on a good note and pushed my rating back up. I think I will read Ulysses one day, but not Finnegan’s Wake ever. I am not in a rush to read Joyce again soon.

3.5/5 stars. Dec 11-13, 2023. Kindle.

Shady Hollow by Juneau Clay

I needed to go back to something cozier and more whimsical after the Dubliners. This was a sweet low stakes cozy fantasy mystery novel where all the cast are woodland creatues. It was like a gentle balm and I look forward to reading more from the series.

3.75/5 stars. Dec 13-15, 2023. Kindle.

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

“Diaspora meant something different to all of them.” This book is a heist art thrilller novel on the surface but it’s really a look at the experiences of being Chinese Americans. It took me a week to read the first 60% of the book because it was the first week of my trip. We were busy and I was very jet lagged. I think the plot and art heist part of the book was alright but it took a bit too long to develop. What the book does well is showcasing the five characters and their feelings and identities being Chinese in America. The author captured the sometimes mixed third world feelings of it. It’s very Chinese. I could see how other migrants or children of migrants can share the feelings. China looms large because of its power, its history, and its often rigid cultural identity. I related to Alex the most in this novel but I could see myself in most of the other characters. I liked a novel where all the main characters were more like me. This was a good debut novel which is being adapted.

4/5 stars. Read on Kindle Nov 28-Dec 5, 2023.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

This book has been hyped all of 2023. I’ve been seeing it everywhere and based on the premise, I knew I had to read it. It’s a dark story. The narrator main character also experiences panic attacks, anxiety, and PTSD. I did find the panic and anxiety scenes affecting for me. This book is Lolita but for writing and cultural appropriation. The pacing was great and so was all the social commentary. It’s been awhile since I read a book where all the characters are abhorrent but it was well done. I wanted to give this novel a higher rating but I did find the ending a tad anticlimactic. I also think it could have been a bit shorter, but maybe that’s because I like shorter books these days. The novel is great in parts and deserves the attention it has gotten.

4.25/5 stars. Read on Kindle. Dec 6-7, 2023.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Fairies by Heather Fawcett

I loved this. I read it during a heatwave and sometimes outside under the shade at above 30C. I liked the contrast of the book’s setting to my own. I’ve realized that I enjoy romance more in fantasy or mysteries. Particularly if both the characters are adults with realistic strengths and weaknesses. The fantasy element and stakes adds to their dynamic. The book is a fantasy adventure about a Cambridge academic who studies Fairies. With the Botanical Folk Tales and the SJM books, I’ve been encoutering more fairies lately. This book has some of the best world building because it is done in an academic way. The protagonist is curmudgeonly and socially awkward, but very intelligent and determined. She is wholly an adult. Her love interest is less relatable because he is not human but their romance is believable. I enjoyed their banter and all the action. So fun! I look forward to the next book in the series coming out next month. I’ll have to pre-order it when I get home and listen to the audiobook of this book as well.

4.5/5 stars. Kindle. Dec 7-9, 2023.

Narrated and adapted by a full cast. I have mixed feelings about this series but I will keep reading. This is a longer review than usual because I have thoughts. Also spoilers.

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Due to social activities and overall busyness before my holiday, I did not read as much this month. I intend to read a lot more on vacation especially in early December.

How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Michael Schur

Narrated mostly by the author with a cast. I listened to this because I really adored “The Good Place”. This was an amusing and sometimes funny overview of the philosophy from the show. It was a decent audiobook. I don’t know if I would have been as engaged if I read it in print. It was a nice way to wake up to for a week.

3.25/5 stars. 1.25x. October 31-November 10, 2023.

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

I saw this book recommended a lot last year and I was able to find a trade paperback copy at the spring rummage sale. I wanted to read this after finishing the other book called The Cartographer. I did not know what this book was about and it had a rather slow buildup for a thriller. I did see the villain a mile away but the other stuff including the magical realism was a nice surprise. This is more of a plot book. There is some good character development and there are a good amount of characters for such a tight plot. I liked it. I think I can recommend this to a couple of people who may even enjoy it more.

3.75/5 stars. November 4-11, 2023.

The Night Eaters, Vol. 2: Her Little Reapers by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda (Illustrator)

A great second volume to this new series by my favourite graphic novel team. This one is even more Chinese and themed around migration and intergenerational relations. It’s fun.

4.5/5 stars. November 13, 2023.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

Narrated by Mike Grady. I have had the hard cover copy from a little library for a couple of years now. I fully intended to read more of it in print. Instead, I only read a few pages from it because I was too busy to pick up the book. The content of this book is very interesting. I like trees a lot and they do almost seem magical in their size and their beauty. I did find it hard to pay attention to this book. It’s not the narrator’s fault. I do wonder if the information was so dense that you can only consume it slowly. I forgot a lot of the information once it was told as well because there was so much of it.

3.5/5 stats. 1.35x. Nov 11-23, 2023.

Cigars of the Pharaoh (Tintin #4)

This one is where it starts to feel more like the regular Tintin adventures. The pacing is still very fast as it is a comic book but it feels there is more breathing room. I still don’t think Tintin has much personality. Snowy has more but he can be a troll sometimes. I really do like the illustrations.

3.25/5 stars. October 7, 2023.

The Blue Lotus (Tintin #5)

I rewatched the animated cartoon version not too long ago so this story was fresh in my mind. I really enjoyed it because the pacing has gotten much less frenetic and Tintin developed more friendships and personality. I like Chang and the political tension of China, Japan, and other international powers in this time period.

3.5/5 stars. Nov 5, 2023.

The Broken Ear (Tintin #6)

The pacing to the plot is much better now. The art continues to be good too. I liked the mystery and the investigative nature of this one as well and the political commentary continues. It still had some issues. Tintin used blackface in this one.

3.25/5 stars. Nov 9, 2023.

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