The Best of 2021 in Books and Comics

Oh, 2021… it was, in many ways, quite similar to 2020, actually. We did a general summary of the year here, and now the time comes to sum up our reading/watching experiences. This year, we decided to combine our best and worst title is one place, one reason being it’s already mid-January…

Piotrek: and another, at least in my case, that I mostly made really good choices and there’s really not that much bad stuff to write about.

Ola: Oh, for me this reading year was more of a mixed bag, with some truly flabbergasting titles from NetGalley – and some truly amazing, too. It was generally a pretty good year, reading-wise. Lots of solid titles, not too many re-reads… I will also remember this year as my introduction to the marvellous metaverse of manga – and that journey will continue!

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Re-Enchanted 2021

Last year around this time we’ve been hoping for a better next year – well, with this crazy year almost at its end it’s kind of nice that at least this one thing hasn’t changed, and once again we are hopeful that 2022 will be better than 2021… 😉 With pandemic getting its second, third and fourth breath, four-month-long lockdown in Auckland and various restrictions in different places around the world, and large swathes of live inevitably altered, 2021 had certainly been an interesting year.

But at least in terms of blogging and reading, 2021 had turned out to be quite all right. While we haven’t experienced another huge jump in terms of visits, we also haven’t experienced a slump – in short, 2021 was more or less equal to 2021 in the number of views (roughly 15k) and surpassed last year in the number of visits (nearly 8k vs 7k last year). We’ve had similar number of comments, 2,5k, while the number of likes grew to over 3k – yay! There was a noticeable downward trend for things other than reviews on the blog, alas, as with Piotrek making some momentous life decisions and Ola branching out to painting and Youtube, tags and some such became a luxury ;). And yet, we still managed to churn out a few more posts than last year – we are very proud of ourselves 🙂

We are incredibly grateful for our lasting blogging friendships around the world and for finding new friends in all the corners of Earth. In those times of growing divisions, anxiety and anger it’s wonderful to find like-minded people. So big thank you to all of you!!!

Our most popular post in terms of views was Ola’s review of Mexican Gothic (on the podium for the second year in a row, with over 270 views), followed closely by a very civil yet still rather scathing review of E.J. Beaton’s The Councillor, and glowing reviews of two Neal Asher’s books: The Technician, with over 215 views, and The Line of Polity (knocked down from the first place to the fourth) with nearly 200 views. Piotrek’s love letter to Honor Harrington is still going strong, fifth this year, and a surprising sixth place with 175 views went to our The Worst of 2020 😉

Our most liked post this year was Ola’s post about her Etsy shop, nearing 70 likes, and two reviews with 60 likes each: a critical take on Alix E. Harrow’s popular The Ten Thousand Doors of January and, again, E.J. Beaton’s The Councillor. Among the most popular posts was also, unsurprisingly this year, a review of Dune. The most commented post, which broke the 100 comments barrier, was our birthday reveal: Birthdays, spicy reveals and even a tag, oh my! – again, thanks to all of you who visited and commented!

While we abstained from the majority of the big bloggish events this year, we did take part in Witch Week organized by Chris and Lizzie. This year’s theme was Treason and Plot, and we were very happy to be able to contribute with a post about one of our favourite authors, Roger Zelazny.

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Mini reviews of short books

So, with Ola out on an extended Christmas break it falls to me to make sure there’s something going on on the blog 😉 There will be a “Re-Enchanted 2021” post soon, prepared by both of us some time before, but today I want to talk about two short pieces I read recently, a novella and a small short stories collection. I acquired a nice Christmas tree yesterday, packaged all the presents already, so I’m getting into the seasonal mood – I’ve chosen stuff I really like for today, I don’t want to spoil it 😉

I tried to catch the size of the thing… it’s huge, taking up a third of our living room. Wife wanted a large one, so I hope she’ll be happy when she sees it tomorrow. Although, perhaps, I overdid it a bit… anyway, I tried to carry it home on my shoulders, from a place that’s normally just a 15-minute walk away, but I had to call for help. A friend came and we tried to fit it into his car, we were not able to close the trunk 😉

Anyway, the books…

Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone This Is How You Lose the Time War

209-page 2019 novella, read on Kindle

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Karel Čapek, War with the Newts (1936)

Sometimes I buy a book just because it’s pretty. It can be something I already read and might never re-read, sometimes it’s a new one for me, often it waits years for its turn. Karel Čapek’s War with the Newts I read almost immediately, and I’m quite certain I’ll be revisiting. If not for a full re-read, then at least to browse the illustrations, as this is one of the best-illustrated books I own, not only because the pictures look pretty, but also because they are fully integrated within the story.

I was additionally motivated when I noticed Jeroen from A Sky of Books and Movies started reviewing Čapek, first R.U.R. and then War with the Newts itself. His review is highly recommended as it puts the book in the context of its times and similar genre fiction. I’ll try to add a bit to that, but I’ll concentrate on my edition, one that is sadly only available to Polish and German-reading audiences.


Author: Karel Čapek

Illustrator: Hans Ticha

Title: War with the Newts / Válka s Mloky in the original Czech, also translated as Salamander Wars, but the Polish title of this edition is Inwazja jaszczurów which literally means Invasion of the Lizards

Format: hardcover

Pages: 368

Series: Świeżym okiem (With a fresh eye…) – yay, there will be more of these beautiful editions, next one – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber: Subtle Architecture of Treason

This is our post for Witch Week 2021: Treason and Plot, organized by the inestimable Chris of Calmgrove and Lizzie of Lizzie Ross. Witch Week is a yearly event happening in the last week of October, in tribute to Diana Wynne Jones’s third Chrestomanci book focusing on all things fantastical. This year, however, instead of concentrating on Halloween and thereabouts, we’re taking a closer look at the history of the Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot, the British tradition of Bonfire Night, and various treasonous activities causing rot in states, real and imagined.

We chose Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber as our topic for this year’s Witch Week for two reasons: first, Zelazny’s untimely death in 1996 caused a curious silence around his works, so that he’s no longer a well-known author and his novels have been slowly sliding into oblivion in recent years. He remains an author’s author, mentioned here and there by the new generations as a source of inspiration, but in our opinion he deserves wider recognition. Secondly, The Chronicles of Amber, a series of ten books that can safely be classified as fantasy, though discussions can be had whether it’s epic or urban, or something else altogether, is a wondrously complex latticework of betrayal, double dealing, plots within plots, lethal mysteries and hard-bitten protagonists somewhere between noir detectives and medieval knights.

Ola: Well, there’s a third reason. Both Piotrek and I love Amber, and needed little excuse to return to this fantastic world ;). Zelazny’s a great author in general, though uneven at times. But his best works are among the best the genre has to offer, and even his mediocre ones boast of unique imagination, propensity for audacious literary experimentation, and sensitivity to language that’s at once precious and highly uncommon. Incidentally, a novel perfect for a Halloween reading, and also containing a lot of treason, backstabbing, and plots to conquer the world, is his A Night in the Lonesome October.

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