This is what I’m doing instead of drafting a review for The Girl in the Tower. I am visiting Jack Edwards on a whim after neglecting him for at least a year and immediately getting sucked into the idea of a GBBO book tag and never looking back, nope not once, because this is a brilliant idea that combines two of the greatest loves of my life. (My life is very small. But I’m fine with that.) I do thank As Told by Zaheerah for creating this tag, which I never knew I needed but absolutely cannot live without now that I know about it.

As a side note: I live in the U.S., where the show is called “The Great British Baking Show” because Pillsbury owns the trademark to “Bake-Off,” which is fucking stupid. I’ve never accepted that title, but I’ve chosen to use the U.S. title card as my header image because at the end of the day I am an American and this is the language Netflix uses with me. And, yes, I mildly and irrationally resent it, mostly because it’s confusing and I just want to call the show “Bake Off.”

Did I get so GBBO rabbit-holed that I started a Very Serious GBBO Series Watch (starting with the three seasons I’ve actually watched and moving on to the ones I haven’t watched) on the same day I started this tag? No one will ever know, or they wouldn’t if I hadn’t just exposed myself. I’m currently on Bread Week 2022. So close to catching up for the 2024 season.

Original tag by As Told by Zaheerah. Text taken from Zezee with Books.

Amateur Baker: A book that is self-published.

I was going to say I don’t know much about self-published books but then I remembered that The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True (Sean Gibson) exists, so there ya go. I now have two copies of this book, because Sean came out with a hardcover edition and fucked if I wasn’t lining up to buy that.

Soggy Bottom: A book that had a great start but a disappointing ending.

I have learned the hard way that anything written by Christina Henry is going to have a shitty ending, or at least The Girl in Red and the Chronicles of Alice did. The ending of The Girl in Red was particularly grating, because Red was such a phenomenal character and the story was so absorbing and then it gave me the stupidest, laziest fucking ending, from which I concluded that Henry had absolutely no idea what caused the conflict in her own goddamn book. The Chronicles of Alice were disappointing because Alice was never the powerful magician the back covers claimed she was, and the endings were so anticlimactic they almost seemed like a parody of themselves. Long story short, I have given up on Christina Henry, and I am not interested in anything else she writes.

#BinGate: A book you got frustrated with and had to DNF.

The Widow Queen (Elżbieta Cherezińska) sounded promising on paper – I’ll never say no to a forgotten queen – but failed in the execution. The writing was awful, and Cherezińska had an irritating habit of throwing around 10th century names like I’d just magically follow the actual history she was talking about. I also had to DNF Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell out of sheer boredom. I tried. I really did. I really really really wanted to read Strange & Norrell in advance of R.F. Kuang’s Babel, but I couldn’t do it. The book was too long, the characters were too unpleasant, and it was just so boring. As an additional insult, I couldn’t even sell my copy of Strange & Norrell at McKay’s.

Junior Bake Off: A children’s book.

Odder (Katherine Applegate) is one of the cutest books I’ve ever read in my life. It’s strange to think that such cuteness came from the same writer who created Animorphs.

A Hollywood Handshake: A book that impressed you.

So many. But if I’d had Katherine Arden right in front of me when I finished The Bear and the Nightingale, I would’ve stuck out my hand and given her a handshake, because that book is seriously amazing. Vasya is one of my favorite characters of all time, and I cannot believe how long it took me to finally get around to reading her story. Unfortunately, my feelings on the rest of the series are more mixed, but that doesn’t negate the beauty and wonder of the first book.

Signature Challenge: A book that you would recommend to your friends and family.

Again, SO MANY. T_T I suspect Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman), The Curse of Chalion (Lois McMaster Bujold), and The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller) are among the books I have recommended most frequently, to the widest audience. To be clear, I recommend every book on my deserted island list to anyone who might be interested, but some are more niche than others.

Technical Challenge: Books that you read without knowing much beforehand. Rank them from worst to best.

  1. Impostor Syndrome – Kathy Wang
  2. Build Your House Around My Body – Violet Kupersmith
  3. The Fox Wife – Yangsze Choo

That “worst to best” thing is misleading, because none of these books is bad. I love them all. They are all so amazing, and for such different reasons. (Also realized just now that I managed to pick three different books by three different Asian authors, lol. I will admit to a bias.) Impostor Syndrome and Build Your House Around My Body were picked up on a total whim at the library. I think I’d heard of Impostor Syndrome – I might’ve gone to the library specifically to find it – but I’d never heard of Build Your House until I saw it on a library display. In any case, I read both and immediately had to buy my own copies after I’d finished them.

As for The Fox Wife, I already knew and loved Yangsze Choo, but I knew exactly fuck all about her third book, except that it had a fox in it. But Choo specializes in beautiful, atmospheric books and she’s been on my auto-buy list for some time, and she’s going to stay there because I swear she just keeps getting better and better. I did not have the problems with The Fox Wife that I did with The Ghost Bride and The Night Tiger; it is her finest book to date. I do so hope Choo is planning to write more books. I will read absolutely everything she publishes.

Showstopper Challenge: A book/series that is your all-time favorite.

Sorry, I couldn’t pick just one. ;_; I’m gonna throw Cat + Gamer in there as well as an unofficial addition, even though I’m technically not counting mangas. In no particular order:

  1. Redwall – Brian Jacques
  2. Shady Hollow – Juneau Black
  3. The Locked Tomb – Tamsyn Muir

I mean, I’ve spent the last year solidly outing myself as a Redwall nut, so that one was a no-brainer; likewise Shady Hollow, which is a new favorite. And, of course, I had to include the Locked Tomb, which is the best sci-fi I’ve ever read. Still waiting for Alecto the Ninth, but I have every confidence it will be another smash hit.

The Finalists: A favorite trilogy.

Ugh I kinda hate this answer in view of how much I hated the second book, but I’m going to have to give it to the Winternight trilogy for lack of any better options. This is not a reflection on the overall quality of the series because I did love the first and final books, it’s just the middle one I really had issues with. Even so, this is the best trilogy I’ve read in recent years. Vasya is my ideal heroine, though the rest of the world spends too much time beating the stuffing out of her, and if I were living in that time and that place I would be kicking down her door and moving in with her. I want to be the witch who lives on the lake and cares for horses who turn into birds. I want it. I don’t care if constant magic use makes me lose my mind, never had that much of it to begin with.

The only other contender was Félix Palma’s Victorian trilogy, but I had to give the edge to Winternight because the writing is better and the books aren’t as labyrinthine. Now that I think about it, I haven’t actually read that many trilogies, or none that I’ve loved the way I have loved longer series. I think we’re all very aware of how I felt about the Drowning Empire trilogy, and I found the Poppy War trilogy frustrating as well, though for different reasons. I came thisclose to unhauling the Poppy War books back in March, but I really want to give them a fair review (or at least document the reasons for my frustration so I don’t go crazy and buy them again after unhauling them, which honestly I wouldn’t put past me). Barring those, the only other trilogy I could think of offhand was The Lord of the Rings, which I struggled through in 2018 and did not particularly enjoy. I have no memory of those books.

An Extra Slice: A favorite companion book.

Tales of the Celestial Kingdom (Sue Lynn Tan) is the only companion book I’ve read this year and possibly one of the only companion books I’ve ever read in my life (to the best of my knowledge), unless you count A God in Ruins (Kate Atkinson), which I don’t. I didn’t love Tales as much as I loved the other two Celestial Kingdom books, but it was sweet and funny, and I like having answers. Tan is also on my auto-buy list, or at least the Celestial Kingdom books are. I am now waiting for book 3.