The 2021 Reading List: May

A bit late posting this one. To be honest, I thought I already had.

Since one of my writing goals was to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

Back in 2020 I decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. I started putting an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand and limited the stack to five books, which seemed doable for the month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I typically tried to get through the pile in the order I stacked them. I also used this strategy to try and diversify my reading. The goal was for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally.

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood: The first Phryne Fisher mystery novel. I loved the show, and the book was a lot of fun too. I’m sure I’ll read more of the series. Normally I’m not a big fan of elaborate clothing descriptions, but as I’d already watched the show, I actually had a visual impression of what Phryne’s style was, and that really helped, and kept me from skimming over that kind of detail. I still hear Essie Davis’ voice while I’m reading the character, which I’m fine with.

The House of Night and Chain by David Annandale: A Warhammer Horror novel. I really wanted to see Maeson Strock see some happiness, but I knew that was a tall order because a) this is a Warhammer novel, and b) this is a David Annandale novel. Annandale does horror so well, especially when he’s playing in a haunted house. The creeping dread he imbues in his text is palpable. Terrible, terrible, fun.

Stumptown Vol. 3: The Case of the King of Clubs by Greg Rucka and Justin Greenwood: Still really digging this series. Still hoping there will be more beyond Volume Four, which I anticipate reading shortly. I missed Matthew Southworth’s art, but Justin Greenwood did a great job of capturing Dex and the cast too.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone: A book that literally won all of the awards. Loved it! Every single word of this story was gorgeous.

Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn: The second volume in this superhero themed urban fantasy series. I really enjoyed volume one. This one features Aveda Jupiter as the POV character instead of Evie from book one. I think I prefer Evie as a narrator, but this was still a very fun read, and I’m looking forward to reading more in the series.

The Immortal Hulk Vol 1: Or Is He Both? by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett:

The Immortal Hulk Vol 2: The Green Door by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, and Lee Garbett:

Hulk as horror story. A really fresh take, which I’m really enjoying. Alas, poor Sasquatch.

Stumptown Vol. 4: The Case of the Cup of Joe by Greg Rucka and Justin Greenwood: Justin Greenwood’s art worked a lot better for me in this volume. Either the artist hitting their stride with the characters or me getting used to the change. A fun arc and a one shot story to finish off the collection. I still really hope that Rucka decides to tell more Stumptown stories.

Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood: The second Phryne Fisher novel. A lot of fun. I absolutely plan to keep reading the series.

The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken: A fantastic space opera/heist mashup. Full of big ideas and fantastic characters. Highly recommend it. I can’t wait to read more of his work.

The Immortal Hulk Vol 3 Hulk in Hell by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett:

The Immortal Hulk Vol 4 Abomination by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett:

The Immortal Hulk Vol 5 Breaker of Worlds by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett:

This might be my favourite run of Hulk stories since Peter David’s epic run. Ewing is playing with a lot of classic Hulk toys and some other personal favourites of mine (Doc Samson and Alpha Flight characters). Can’t wait to read more.

The Violet Fox by Clare C. Marshall: Another friend’s book that has sat on my shelves for far too long. I don’t read a lot of YA, but I really enjoyed this. The Violet Fox is a fun Zorro type character helping her people, and I loved the worldbuilding and how Clare managed to surprise me with where some of the plot went. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

The Rain Barrel Baby by Alison Preston: This is only the second book I’ve read Preston, and it follows a similar structure: a mystery that unfolds over two time periods and comes together in the end. So many content warnings for this one (rape, kidnapping, dead children) which makes for a dark read. Not a bad book, just not particularly my cup of tea.

Black Magick Vol. 3 by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott: It’s been too long since I read this series. I loved the first two volumes, and now, reading the third, I want to go back and reread what came before. Lots of layers to Rucka’s writing, and Scott’s art is absolutely gorgeous.

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown: The non-fiction selection from my latest stack. I loved Song of the Vikings, Brown’s biography of Snorri Sturluson. This was a fascinating read. I learned a lot and there’s definitely some inspiration for some future Thunder Road stories in what I read.

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore: A reread of an old favourite. It didn’t hold up quite as well as I’d hoped, but I still enjoyed it, and will likely reread at least once more somewhere do9wn the line.

Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire: The latest InCryptid novel with Sarah Zelleby as narrator. The last book left on a hell of a cliffhanger. This one feels like it wraps up Sarah’s arc as the POV, at least for a while. I’m curious to see where the series goes next, and who will be the voice in the next book.

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland: This is a super fun series with a great protagonist voice. It took me a while to get into this third volume, because it’s been quite a while since I read books 1 and 2. Looking forward to reading more of the series.

X-Men Volume 2 by Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Francis Yu, and Mahmud Asrar: I love how Hickman is playing with what seems to be literally all the toys in the X-Men toybox, but I’m still not sure this is the X-Men take I want. Well done, though. Still curious where it’s going to go, and the core book feels stronger than most of the spin offs to me.

Savage Worlds Adventure Edition Roleplaying Game by Pinnacle Entertainment Group: A game I’ve mean meaning to try for a while because I’ve heard great things about the table experience. I’m typically not a fan of generic rules systems but having recently joined for a game on my friend’s liveplay channel, I had a blast with the game (I’m in episode three). Savage Worlds absolutely plays better than it reads. I’d love to try running a game with this system someday, and would absolutely play it again.

Flight of Aquavit by Anthony Bidulka: The second volume in Bidulka’s Russell Quant mystery series. I enjoyed it, and am looking forward to reading more about the detective who “lives a big life in a small city on the prairies.”

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Also, check out the roundup of my 2020 reading here.

Guest Post: Clare C. Marshall On The Creation of Marlenia, The World of the Violet Fox

Welcome to the last stop on The Violet Fox Blog Tour! As I talk about mythology with some regularity around these parts, when I agreed to host a blog by YA author Clare C. Marshall, I asked her to talk about the mythological inspirations for her novel, and here’s what she had to say: 

The creation of Marlenia, the world of The Violet Fox, boils down to one element:


I’m particularly fond of names, especially unusual ones. My protagonist’s name is Kiera (alternate spelling: Ciara) and it’s an Irish name meaning “dark one.” Kiera isn’t particularly dark but she does have a temper. Her love interest’s name is Keegan, which is an Irish surname. I chose these names back when The Violet Fox was about twenty pages of loose leaf in a writing binder in elementary school.

When I revisited the manuscript and expanded the story, I realized that I really liked these names and there was no way I was going to change them. Meaning, I would grow the world and its mythology from the names. But because the land of Marlenia has four provinces, I wanted to give them each a distinct culture. The events in The Violet Fox are set in Western Marlenia, where Keegan and Kiera are from, and thus that province is Irish/Scottish/English inspired.

Not only did I grow the culture from the names, but also the religion. The people of Marlenia live under what I like to call a “lapsed theocracy.” Their main ruler is the Holy One, and he presides over all four provinces of Marlenia from his seat in Western Marlenia. “The Holy One” was another artifact from my elementary school manuscript. I didn’t write it with the intention of having a religious monarchy–it just sounded cool to my nine- or ten-year-old self and was different than “king” or “queen” or any of your other standard ruler monikers. But again, I realized that if I wanted to keep the Holy One as a title, I had to work it into the culture.

So, under the intense focus of many energy drinks, I drew up a document that contains a basic history of the religion and culture of Marlenia. Marlenians worship a man-god named Dashiell, who supposedly lived and ruled thousands of years ago, and affected the lives of everyone with his god-like powers. Once, religion was strong in the land of Marlenia, but over the past couple of generations, the Marlenians have become more distant from their faith. The Holy One supposedly speaks the will of Dashiell, but because the people of Marlenia don’t care as much about Dashiell anymore, this lessens the influence of the monarchy. This ties in with the unrest created by the Freetors (the people who are forced to live underground).

The Freetors, originally, didn’t have any religion, or idols. But as I completed the second draft of the manuscript, I realized that they needed something, someone to look up to, someone that inspires them to continue fighting for freedom on the surface. So, Alastar the Hero was born. Two hundred years before the events in The Violet Fox, a man with magical powers beyond human comprehension sparked a rebellion against the monarchy. The Holy One saw this as a threat to Dashiell and the religion created around him, and fought back.

It was actually a lot of fun to create Alastar the Hero. While the Freetors look up to him as a inspiration, he’s become a legend in the mythology of the world. Like most legends, he has some bizarre stories that may or may not be true. One of these such stories has become the basis for The Silver Spear, the sequel to The Violet Fox. It just goes to show that a story mechanic doesn’t have to be mechanical–it can bring new life to your manuscript in ways you never thought possible.

Drawing mythology and culture from names is not the normal way to do things: it’s just a challenge I put upon myself because I wanted to salvage what details I could from the original manuscript. When creating mythology or culture for your own world, you can draw it from all kinds of sources, from existing ancient mythology, to a story that resonates with you, to an event that happened just yesterday. You just have to go with what feels right.

If you’d liked to be entered in a draw to win a copy of The Violet Fox or other Faery Ink Press swag, click here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Clare Marshall grew up in rural Nova Scotia with very little television and dial up internet, and yet, she turned out okay. She has a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology from the University of King’s College, and is a graduate from Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program. She is a freelance editor, designer and website manager, and enjoys publishing books through her publishing imprint, Faery Ink Press. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing the fiddle and making silly noises at cats.

Here’s where you can find Clare online:

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