Reading Challenges: April Progress Update

April is finished, along with plenty of books for the reading challenges I’ve undertaken. Read on to see what I’ve ticked off my challenge TBR this month!

Current progress on the badge board – just seven left to get now!

Tackling the Spells and Spaceships challenge first as usual, I earned the non-human main character or protagonist badge for reading The Difficult Loves of Maria Makiling, the new novella from Wayne Santos. Featuring a goddess as its lead, as well as an anime loving demon horse – a Tikbalang, to be precise – it definitely qualifies. I was impressed with just how much story there was to this novella, not to mention the richly detailed world, the humour and the action. You can read my review here.

Having roundly failed to earn the big battle badge last month, I was determined to read something that met the requirement this time, so opted for one that’s been sat on my TBR for months. Spear of the Emperor by Aaron Dembski-Bowden features more than a few bloody and brutal fights, whether it’s a planetary assault or the charnel slaughter of a void set boarding action. On top of all of this, it features his expected fantastic writing and characters whose morality encompasses every shade of grey. Told from the point of view of Anuradha, a servant to one of the superhuman Space Marines, it features a chapter of Marines being assessed after being cut off from the rest of the Imperium for a century; this is essential reading for any 40K fans out there, though newcomers might struggle to keep up with some of the references to the wider universe. I loved its gothic atmosphere and desperate struggles, and can’t wait for the sequel.

Next, I earned the monster badge for reading Christina Henry’s Near the Bone. With a nicely secluded setting – a cabin on a snow-covered mountain, surrounded by woodland – I settled in for a creepy time with this one. I didn’t expect the abusive husband storyline to be quite as prevalent as it was, and I wasn’t sure if it all meshed together as well as it could have done, but found myself entertained enough. You can read my review here.

Onto the Hodderscape 2021 Reading Challenge now, which – judging from some of the books being added on the Storygraph by other readers – some people haven’t realised is an SFF challenge. Unless I have hugely misunderstood what Red, White and Royal Blue is about of course. I don’t know, maybe aliens show up in the middle of the romancing or something. Anyway.

I ticked off the prompt for a book with great LGBTQIA+ rep for reading The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, at long last. This book has been sat on my shelf since I picked it up when I was working in London a year and a half ago – a friend choosing it as our book club read was the perfect chance to finally get to it. I enjoyed this even more than Circe, and loved the way that the different characters of Greek myth were portrayed in it. Odysseus getting to display his legendary cunning was one of many highlights for me in this beautifully told, emotionally wrenching epic.

Meeting the prompt for a book with an epic journey, Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection was just what I was in the mood for. When Ed’s brother Verne gets sucked into a portal, he and Verne’s wife Alice decide to hop through another one in search of him, setting off a – handily for me – epic journey to rescue him. Meanwhile, or rather four hundred years in the future, a mysterious enemy is menacing humanity, and Trader Captain Kat Abdulov desperately seeks answers to help us fight it. I had a great time with The Recollection, which is out now in a tenth anniversary version published by Solaris. You can read my review here.

It looked like April was going to be a pretty slow reading month for me, but some time spent house sitting really let me get caught up. I’ve made some good progress on both challenges, and recently got approved for a bunch of books on NetGalley which I am not only desperate to read but should also help me earn yet more badges and complete more prompts. Look out for reviews for them soon!

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