Holiday Gift Guide for 2022 ft. Clio’s Boardgames

Hello readers!

for this year’s joint post, Clio and I have joined forces again and be writing a gift guide! If you don’t know Clio’s Boardgames, you’ll be in for a treat: board games, history, engaging writing, fantastic research and just generally a good egg all around, Clio’s blog is a gem in the boardgaming community, which I have been lightly dabbling on in the past few years and I am sure some of my readers enjoy as well. In case you didn’t know, this is not the first time we collaborate, with me guest-posting sometimes (like If you liked this board game, try this book! by @natysbookshelf) and Clio blessing my blog with some high-quality content (like Non-Fiction Recommendations by @cliosboardgames). Every year we come up with something to write together or on each other’s blogs because our interests intersect a lot, and because it’s always such fun to work together.

For today’s post Clio will be recommending three board games which will appeal also to non-hardcore gamers, the kind of games that are easy to get to and start playing immediately, with interesting themes and lots of fun! 

From my part, I will be giving three book recommendations for different kinds of readers – I kept my recommendations to 2022 releases so that the chances are higher that the person you’re gifting hasn’t read any of these books yet, but maybe heard the buzz around them. I’ve also tried to keep them on the short side, so as to keep them not very intimidating to more casual readers.

Clio: Ever gifted someone a board game? Great idea. And then this person excitedly opened it and wanted to play it there and then? Still a great idea – in principle. But then somebody had to punch out all the four hundred cardboard bits and make sense of the 20-page rulebook for an hour while everybody else’s attention slowly drifted back to the snacks and drinks? Yeah, that wasn’t that great an idea.

So here are three games that you can gift and start playing right away – including (with) people who don’t play board games very often. They’re accessible, they’re fun, and they leave you wanting more.

Pro tip: When you gift one of them, it might still be a good idea to watch a short YouTube video before on how they’re played.

Lovecraft Letter (Seiji Kanai, Alderac): 2-6 players, 5-15 minutes

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My Winter To-Read List

Hello readers!

It’s still mid-November but honestly Winter always feels to me like it starts mid-to-end November and lasts until basically end of April (I’m a bit dramatique about being cold). So it seems appropriate for me to publish a Winter TBR at this point – I’m using my cat as a shawl as we speak (difficult to type). I love this time of the year to pick up thicker books, epic fantasies, classics, stuff like that.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Oh god, this is definitely my priority 1 book! I started this ages ago, but then other books took priority over it and I really want to pick it up now because I loved what I read so far! I adore reading a good mystery during the colder months, so this will be perfect.

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Review: Babel by R. F. Kuang (very mild spoilers)

Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: an Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang


Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1812. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?


I have such mixed feelings about this book. The premise is absolutely incredible, the cover blew me away, and R. F. Kuang had my heart after The Poppy War, so I had really high expectations for it. I buddy-read this with my husband, and since we both speak multiple languages and are constantly translating our thoughts plus I’m from a colonialized country, we had very interesting discussions about it and honestly, I enjoyed our discussions far more than the book itself.

To me, there are two ways that you can look at this book: first, how it works as an instrument of education on anticolonialism, racism, xenophobia and misogyny in academia, and as the title so nicely puts it, the necessity of violence. Secondly, as a story. The first is where this book truly shines – I had so much to think about, so much to discuss, and so many points where I wanted to learn more and pick up more literature on. This book is so rich in research and R. F. Kuang’s passion for the topics she discusses truly shines through!

As a story, though, this didn’t really work for me. The characters were so straightforward, written in a way that felt so predictable and lacking nuance, the plot itself was so predictable I was legitimately bored most of the time. It picks up at around 75% through, but by then you’ve read more than 400 pages and I just don’t have the patience to wait that long.

I read this during a very long train trip with a broken phone, so there was nothing else to entertain me but this book – it was such a strange experience, because I was at times fascinated and at others, just so bored by the plot and characters, by the strange pacing and weird interactions and dialogue. I get that all the characters are insufferable academics, and I can respect the need to geek about the things you love, but if you’re planning a life-or-death situation with huge stakes, maaaybe you don’t need to add witty remarks about the origin of a particular word every single page. It was a cute quirk in the beginning but by the end I wanted to skip entire paragraphs and just get to the point.

Another huge problem for me was that world-building. I will not go too much into detail because I think this might be spoiling some things that are relevant for the ending, but the magic in this world was so weird. I have no problem with the way the silver magic itself works, but I could not really buy into how this would work economically. I just don’t understand the limitation of knowledge to Babel when it looked to me like not much was stopping every other country in the world from using it, or why the silver-working team was so incredibly small. Like, you have the same people teaching silver magic, doing the silver work, doing maintenance everywhere in the country (mostly Oxford, but still), plus other stuff I won’t talk about in this review, and I just don’t see how that is a sustainable model in any way, shape or form. Who has the time for all this? It doesn’t make sense. Prioritize your time and resources, people. Get some technicians. And, while I’m complaining about practicalities – please get an accountant! Or at least a person who can do basic book-keeping. Really, I beg you.

I almost put “spoiler-free” on the title of this review because the plot is so predictable that anything I say could possibly be considered non-spoiler-y. But I am not sure what people would consider spoilers for this particular book, since the synopsis already gives most of it away anyway.

Generally, I just hoped for more. I know I just said this book was a drag and at nearly 600 pages it was quite painful to go through at times, but I think Babel would have worked better as a duology: giving it enough time for the characters to grow and develop their contradictory feelings about Oxford in a more organic way, showing a bit more of the revolution, maybe what’s going on overseas – I wanted to know so much more about that! I would have loved a second POV in which someone inside the resistance group was scheming or bringing the technology of silver work abroad.

Also – maybe that’s petty, but I didn’t like the footnotes, they annoyed me and brought me out of the story very often.

I think this story will resonate with people’s feelings on anticolonialism, xenophobia etc very strongly and a lot of readers will fall in love with this. Clearly Babel found its audience if I look at its rating on Goodreads, and I am really happy to see it! It was sadly not for me but I’m still happy for having read it and to see anti-colonial books get into the mainstream.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

ARCs from Netgalley I Still Have to Read

Hello readers!

This post is a self call-out so that maybe I’ll finally pick up some of the eARCs that have been collecting dust in my Netgalley account. Nine books is not a lot, but I’ve been requesting a lot less these past months and some of these have been on my shelves for a year already.

I wrote this post on October, so hopefully by the time this goes live, I’ve actually read one or two books?? One can dream.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Oh god this has been out for a while now, but I read Shuggie Bain not that long ago (okay, a year ago) and it broke my heart so much I’ve been hesitating to pick this one up. But I will! Soon! Probably.

Death on Gokumon Island by Seishi Yokomizo

I’ve had this one since April and it sounds amazing and I have NO excuse why I haven’t read it already. I’ve been prioritizing 2022 releases the past months so I can get some posts out by December with favorites/least favorites so that’s probably why. But I love this kind of closed-room mystery so I’ll probably read it soon!

This World Does Not Belong to Us by Natalia García Freire

This is a book translated from Spanish about a young man who returns to his home and finds everything changed. It’s supposed to be a lyrical, raw debut and I love this kind of story – I kind of planned to read this for WIT month but I read other books instead so I’m hoping to read this soon but don’t have any plans as to when exactly.

Ithaca by Claire North

Okay so I’m getting a little bit sick of Greek retellings and, considering my favorite authors in this niche are still coming out with books once in a wile, I had no interest in picking up another book, but it just happened. This is the story of Penelope of Ithaca, wife of Odysseus, and I’ve been saying since forever that someone should write her story, so I’m more than pleased this book has been getting good reviews and will probably read it soon!

Too Much of Life by Clarice Lispector

I have a love-hate relationship with Clarice Lispector’s writing. But at the end of the day, it’s Clarice, so of course I’ll read anything by her. I do love her chronicles / short stories though, so I’ll super excited for this book! But since it’s so huge, I’ve no idea when I’ll actually get to it.

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

Oh god I have no memory what this is about. Just quickly checked and seems to be a social commentary horror, which, yay! I have no actual plans to read this but I do love horror, so maybe soon?

Other Women by Emma Flint

I haven’t read Little Deaths but did hear great things about it – Emma Flint’s sophomore novel Other Women is based on a real life murder from a hundred years ago, so it sounds heartbreaking and also like it will talk about the situation of women and the justice system in those days, so I’m quite hyped for it! It comes out in February 2023 so maybe I’ll take a couple more months to pick this up, because the 2022 releases to-read list is LONG.

Nothing Can Hurt You Now by Simone Campos

SO excited for this one! Nothing Can Hurt You Now is a translation of the Brazilian horror/thriller by Simone Campos and I’m over the moon that I got a copy! It will also be published in English on February 2023 so I guess I’ll push it a couple months on my reading list but I’m very excited to read it.

The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran

I saw Kayla from Books and Lala read this and LOVE it. While she and I have very different tastes, I am easily influenced to read any new thrillers and horror, because I read so many throughout the year and often need new recommendations. So when I saw this on Netgalley, I knew I had to get it!