#ArmedWithABingo 2020 Reads

I’m taking part in Ariel and Kriti’s #ArmedWithABingo. I thought I’d share with you as there’s still time to take part yourself. And of course a preliminary look at the books I’ll be reading to fill my bingo squares this year! I could have probably read one of the books in the time it’s taken me to deliberate over my choices and put the post together! Recommendations and any comments welcome. Enjoy!

Since the bingo is aimed towards any bookish folks, the categories are pretty generic, meaning most of them can be filled with books from my fantasy and science fiction TBRs! I will though be taken out of my comfort zone and forced to expand my horizons, which is fine by me. I’m hoping I also introduce some non SFF readers to some brilliant books in the meantime. Onto the categories:

A book published in 2020.

The Unspoken Name – A. K. Larkwood

Publisher: Tor Books

For quite a while I’ve had this in my sights. Months ago only the cover image was revealed and those lucky few ARC reviewers had raved about this nameless beauty. Pretty apt title then right? Now I actually know the name of it, it went straight to my Goodreads ‘Want to read’ and I think is the only book being published this year that I am currently planning to buy, other than The Wolf Of Oren Yaro by K S Villoso.

An anthology or poetry collection.

Heroes Wanted: A Fantasy Anthology

Independently Published

This has earned a recent Stabby award on reddit’s R/Fantasy here and looks fun! It immediately sprung to mind when looking at this bingo square.

A book in the middle of a series.

Knight of the Silver Circle – Duncan M Hamilton

Publisher: Tor Books

I’m currently just over 100 pages into Dragonslayer, the first book in the trilogy (with book 3, Servant of the Crown) released in March of this year. I’ll be aiming to get both Dragonslayer and Knight of the Silver Circle read in time for the release of book 3!

A book with multiple POVs.

Shadowless – Randall McNally

Independently Published

I like to support self published authors when I can and am always open to finding a diamond in the rough. Not that most self published are necessarily ‘rough.’ There are some fantastic stories in self published fantasy and sci fi and this particular book really intrigued me. Aside from the amazing cover art, from what I’ve read in the reviews, the multiple POVs work almost as a collection of short stories, building a wider picture and culminating in a finale the sum of its parts. I really like the sound of this and it feels a good choice for the multiple POV square.

A book from the last decade.

Binti – Nnedi Okorafor

Publisher: Tor Books

Binti was published in 2015 and won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novella and the 2016 Nebula Award for the same category. It is the start of a trilogy of novellas and I want to make a start on them this year. It’s part of my diversity reads in February and March where I’m making a conscious effort to read books from diverse and differing demographics and be more representative and supportive of all communities on my blog.

A book that a friend recommends

A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine

Publisher: Tor Books

I don’t have anyone in my friendship group or at work who reads, let alone reads SFF, so I’m relying on the opinions of the people I respect in the community on twitter and A Memory Called Empire has been recommended so many times. I ordered the hardcover version of this book because A. I really like the cover and B. It feels like the perfect book to curl up with on your lap with a nice cup of tea in an evening!

A book that has a number in its title.

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City – K. J. Parker

Publisher: Orbit

This book was published last year and looks really interesting. This book is about, as the title may suggest, the siege of a city (and the man tasked with defending it). This isn’t therefore your typical fantasy adventure novel. Having a history background, this certainly appeals to me. It may be grim but I’m hoping we see up close the brutal reality of living under siege and whether this is reflected in the morale of the defenders.

A young adult novel.

Scythe – Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Walker Books

Admittedly I’ve never really been keen on YA. I’ve read a few books that were labelled as YA and on the whole I’ve enjoyed them (but felt like some of them were probably misclassified).

I know I need to get out of my mindset that YA is for those who prefer a more simple story and for those that can’t handle the themes of adult SFF. To some extent, I do genuinely feel like YA can be a little dishonest in that the world is usually far more innocent than it could possibly be. The other part of me says, “It’s fantasy, surely that world can be more forgiving and that’s ok. Everyone needs to just enjoy the escape of a story sometimes without the grim realities of what that world would probably be like.” I don’t get on at all with a book of only teenage perspectives; yes I’ve been a teenager but my teenage self was an absolute idiot! I cringe when I think back to the way I thought then, the same way I cringe at teenage protagonists and yearn for something a little more grown up now. Equally though, teenage characters who beat everyone and know everything are equally frustrating. It’s just something I usually try and steer away from for these reasons. If done well, I’m sure I could enjoy a YA novel – it just needs to be for the right reasons. I feel if any YA book looks good enough to question my perceptions, it’s Scythe.

A dystopian novel.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip. K. Dick

Publisher: Gateway

As Alex Turner questions in the last Arctic Monkeys album Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, “What do you mean you’ve never seen Blade Runner?”

I’ve never seen the film. The first one or the new one. I’ve never read the book that inspired it (which is sometimes even published as Blade Runner). Being such a big name in contemporary fiction, I think it may be time to read the book as the premise actually sounds like something I’ll really enjoy. I also shamefully haven’t read any of the SF Masterworks.

A non fiction book.

A Great and Terrible King, Edward I and the Forging of Britain – Marc Morris

Publisher: Windmill Books

I’ve got 9 or 10 non fiction books that I want to read in the near future and haven’t gotten round to, mostly history and science. Although I do like a well executed magic system, it’s the swords, political intrigue and battles that I really like, and you can get this to some extent from reading historical non fiction. I’d encourage readers to have a look at history books for different continents and time periods and the more well-read you become in history, the more you’ll start to notice parallels and influences in fantasy authors’ work. George R. R. Martin for example was heavily influenced by the War of The Roses in England for his A Song of Ice and Fire series. You’ll find a lot of fantasy authors have a passionate interest in history. This will lead me on to eventually read some historical fiction as there are a number of really interesting looking works out there, such as The Shardlake Series by C. J. Sansom.

I’ll be reading some more non-fiction this year that won’t be on my blog due to the genre such as The History of everyone who ever lived, Why do we sleep? The Norman Conquest and possibly The Ancestor’s Tale if I feel like I have the time and brain power to get through it.

A book written in a format other than third person.

Parasites – Matthew Samuels

Independently Published

So I did actually begin this book just before Christmas 2019 but with the busy period I hadn’t managed to read even half of it by the new year. I managed to get a fair bit of reading done after this and finished it on the 5th, meaning it is the first square to be filled in. My original plan was to make my first square the ‘Indie Book’ one, and despite this book being independently published, if fit this category better (and I’ve already started my book for that square!)

This is written in 2nd person, the first book from that perspective I’ve read since the role playing books I used to read when I was a kid. As such, I thought at first that it would throw me off and take me out of the immersion of the book. It actually had the opposite effect which surprised me. The immediacy of the 2nd person narrative made it feel more like an action movie, that everything was happening around you because it’s present tense. I didn’t even notice after the first pages and adapted quickly to this change of tense. My review is available to read here.

A memoir.

None chosen yet.

I’m really struggling with this category. For a start; does an autobiography count for the memoir square? Looking through Google there aren’t a great deal of memoirs that particularly interest me and I think I’m going to struggle with this category. Any ideas would be much appreciated!

A book of your choice.

Fate of the Fallen – Kel Kade

Publisher: Tor Books

I was lucky enough to win this book as part of a giveaway on twitter! I’ve been really lucky and have actually won 3 books on twitter including a proof of Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron. Fate of the Fallen I’d taken an interest in already and really wanted to

A book about friendship/family.

Blood of Heirs – Alicia Wanstall-Burke

Independently Published

Blood of Heirs is a 2019 SPFBO finalist and has been swirling around my mentions for a while. I’d already bought this book and consigned it to the ominous TBR pile, not having read enough reviews or information on the novel to put it in the immediate vicinity of my reading schedule. After undertaking #ArmedWithABingo, I have looked closer at the books I do own and Blood of Heirs looks really cool. The book follows two characters and from the synopsis it is clear that family plays an integral part to both of the stories, “Lidan Tolak is the fiercest of her father’s daughters; more than capable of one day leading her clan. But caught between her warring parents, Lidan’s world begins to unravel when another of her father’s wives falls pregnant. Before she has time to consider the threat of a brother, a bloody swathe is cut through the heart of the clan and Lidan must fight, not only to prove her worth, but simply to survive.

Ranoth Olseta wants nothing more than to be a worthy successor to his father’s throne. When his home is threatened by the aggressive Woaden Empire, Ran becomes his city’s saviour, but powers within him are revealed by the enemy and he is condemned to death. Confused and betrayed, Ran is forced to flee his homeland, vowing to reclaim what he has lost, even if it kills him.

A fantasy/science fiction.

The Fifth Season – N. K. Jemisin

Publisher: Orbit

Since I’m a Fantasy and Science Fiction blogger, this category won’t take me out of my comfort zone like it may do for some of those taking part in the challenge, who don’t read a lot of SFF. To try and put my own slant on it then, I looked for a book that blurs the lines between both fantasy and science fiction. The Fifth Season is the first novel in the Broken Earth trilogy and is described as Science Fantasy. The Fifth Season is a Hugo Award winning novel (as are the other 2 books in the trilogy).

A book by an indie author.

Kalanon’s Rising – Darian Smith

Independently Published

I’m currently reading Kalanon’s Rising on ebook. I tend to take a little longer reading ebooks than physical copies as I tend to read physical books when at home. I’m around 35% of the way in and I’m enjoying the story so far. It’s quite a refreshing and unique take on the fantasy genre. The setting seems quite typical for the genre, but there are no big battles or adventures here; it’s more of a murder mystery. Whilst this wouldn’t usually be my thing, in a fantasy setting it has worked well so far. This was originally going to be my first read on the bingo.

A book with a beautiful cover.

The Waking Fire – Anthony Ryan

Publisher: Orbit

This is one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen and is 100% what first attracted me to the book. I saw it on offer as an ebook and I couldn’t resist snapping it up but if I enjoy it I’ll be buying the physical copy too. Big props to the cover designer because it looks absolutely fantastic!

A book you saw someone else reading.

The Poppy War – R F Kuang

Publisher: Harper Voyager

I don’t know many people who read regularly, and even less I’d actually see reading. I don’t really frequent coffee shops or anywhere I’d tend to see other people reading. Obviously being a blogger and active on twitter and Goodreads I can see what books other users are reading and one that has came up countless times is The Poppy War. Its sequel, The Dragon Republic has been released over the last year and this is another series I’d really like to get on board with. Rebecca Kuang had this published when she was just 21 years old!

A book with a colour in its name.

The Grey Bastards – Jonathan French

Independently Published

I was weighing up which book to read for this square for quite a while. It’s only after much deliberation I even realised I could use The Grey Bastards, a book I’ve wanted to read for ages but never got round to! Who wouldn’t want to read about a warring band of human-orc hybrids likened to a motorcycle gang? My other options were The Black Hawks, The Crimson Queen, Blackmark and The Black Prism.

A bestseller book.

A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula Le Guin

Publisher: Gollancz

I’ve read that A Wizard of Earthsea is in a league with The Lord of the Rings for influential and bestselling fantasy, with a progressive story that has inspired many since. There’s also the fact that there is a beautiful Books of Earthsea illustrated edition that I really want to buy, but need to first make sure this book is something I enjoy before splashing out on the illustrated anthology!

A book which was a gift/borrowed.

Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb

I’ve chosen Assassin’s Apprentice because I am desperate to get started on this trilogy and further books in the Realm of the Elderlings. My sister wanted to get me a book for Christmas and asked what I’d like. I sent her a little shortlist with Assassin’s Apprentice as one of he books and asked her to choose based on what she liked the look of the most. Being the awesome sister that she is, she chose Assassin’s Apprentice but bought me the full Farseer Trilogy! This is probably the book I’m most excited about reading this year.

A book you meant to read last year.

Dangerous to Know – K. T. Davies

Independently Published

When I first got my kindle fire, I activated a free trial to Kindle Unlimited. I downloaded Dangerous to Know in the airport before a long haul flight and read the first couple of chapters, which I really enjoyed. I forgot my charger and it cut out mid flight. By the time I got home 3 weeks later my trial had expired and I didn’t end up using my device for a while with life just getting in the way. At this time I didn’t realise I could just download the Kindle app on my phone and read there. I didn’t read ebooks for a while, getting through the whole A Song of Ice and Fire series instead and subsequently (and to my shame) forgetting about Dangerous to Know. Last year I saw the cover and instantly recognised it, and decided to buy it aswell as the sequel, Tooth and Claw. This year has to be the one I start this book again and hopefully enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the couple of chapters I read 2 or 3 years ago.

A book over 500 pages in length (counts as two squares).

The City of Brass – S A Chakraborty

Harper Voyager

This was one of the first fantasy ebooks I bought, yet for one reason or another haven’t got round to it yet, despite intending to. I’m looking forward to reading a fantasy book that is set in eighteenth century Cairo and the exotic and unique perspective this will give, with scope for different settings and plot in comparison to the largely medieval Europe inspired bulk of the fantasy genre. It is 533 pages so is a good choice for this category.

A book with food in the title.

I’m struggling with this category! Any ideas?

Being more conscious of the books I read and review, I have assessed the diversity of my #ArmedWithABingo picks. In total, excluding the anthology collection which is a mix, the authors I’ve chosen are:

52% Female

29% POC

23% Independently Published

Thanks for reading and let me know any thoughts or what you make of any of my picks!

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