2023 Book Bingo Retrospective


Here we go. Bingo: 2023 Book Bingo!

Bingo Card

2023 Book Bingo

The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

Hard Mode ✓

Title with a Title (Hard: Not a title of royalty)


by Scott Westerfield

Hard Mode ✓

Superheroes (Hard: Not DC or Marvel)


by Peter Watts

Hard Mode ✓

Bottom of the TBR (Hard: Always hard mode, this is hard enough)

The Cartographers

by Peng Shepherd

Hard Mode ✓

Magical Realism or Literary Fantasy (examples) (Hard: Not from the examples)

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

by T. Kingfisher

Hard Mode ✓

Young Adult (Hard: Published in the last 5 years)

Phoenix Extravagant

by Yoon Ha Lee

Hard Mode ✓

Mundane Jobs (Hard: Does not take place on Earth)

Throne of Jade

by Naomi Novik

Hard Mode ✓

Published in the 00s (Hard: Not top 30 on the Best of 2023 list)

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman

Hard Mode ✓

Angels and Demons (Hard: Angel or demon protagonist)

Stories of Your Life and Others

by Ted Chiang

Hard Mode ✓

Five SFF Shorts (Hard: An entire anthology)

Prodigal Son

by Dean Koontz

Hard Mode ✓

Horror (Hard: Not Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft)

The Book of Zog

by Alec Hutson

Hard Mode ✓

Self-Published / Indie Publisher (Hard: Fewer than 100 ratings or an AMA)

Girl, Serpent, Thorn

by Melissa Bashardoust

Hard Mode ✓

Set in the Middle East / Middle Eastern SFF (Hard: Author of Middle Eastern heritage)

The Scourge Between Stars

by Ness Brown

Hard Mode ✓

Published in 2023 (Hard: Debut)

The Space Between Worlds

by Micaiah Johnson

Hard Mode ✓

Multiverse and Alternate Realities (Hard: Travel is not through a literal door)


by Tade Thompson

Hard Mode ✓

POC Author (Hard: In a futuristic, sci-fi world)

House of Suns

by Alastair Reynolds

Hard Mode ✓

Book Club / Readalong (Hard: With participation)

Set in Space (Hard: Characters not originally from Earth)

Six-Gun Snow White

by Catherynne M. Valente

Hard Mode ✓

Novella (Hard: Not published by Tordotcom)

The Last Unicorn

by Peter S. Beagle

Hard Mode ✓

Mythical Beasts (Hard: No dragons or dragon-like creatures)

Shadow and Bone

by Leigh Bardugo

Hard Mode ✓

Elemental Magic (Hard: Not Shades of Magic or Codex Alera)

The Witch's Heart

by Genevieve Gornichec

Hard Mode ✓

Myths and Retellings (Hard: Not Greek or Roman)

Under the Whispering Door

by T.J. Klune

Hard Mode ✓

Queernorm Setting (Hard: Not futuristic)

Tress of the Emerald Sea

by Brandon Sanderson

Hard Mode ✓

Coastal or Island Setting (Hard: Features sea-faring)

Dreamer's Pool

by Juliet Marillier

Hard Mode ✓

Druids (Hard: Not the Iron Druid Chronicles)

Lock In

by John Scalzi

Hard Mode ✓

Featuring Robots (Hard: Robot protagonist)

The Infinite

by Ada Hoffmann

Hard Mode ✓

Sequel (Hard: Book 3+)


‡ are my favorites, ∿ I listened to the audiobook. Full reviews + all reviews for each author are linked.

Sequel (HM: Book 3+): The Infinite by Ada Hoffmann. Sci-fi with post-singularity AI acting as gods and a touch of cosmic horror. Interesting discussions about neurodiversity. My favorite of the series and a solid conclusion.

Mundane Jobs (Not on Earth): Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee. A parallel to the China/Japan conflicts of a century ago and the jobs and sacrifices normal people (esp. artists) have to make during times of war and occupation. Also, Arazi (the dragon on the cover) really sells the book.

‡ ∿ Published in the 00s (HM: (HM: Not top 30 on this list): Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik. What if the Napoleanic Wars, but with DRAGONS. This one now with more travel to China. It’s a neat concept and I like throughout the series how the idea is explored in a number of different cultures, although as the series goes on, it starts to wear a bit thin. Temeraire and Laurence (dragon and … handler? it’s complicated) are really the soul of these books. Temeraire is the first book in the series; but I’d previously read that years ago.

Angels and Demons (HM: Protagonist): Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. A mix of the wonderful worldbuilding of Pratchett and Gaiman that builds on both their strengths to build a fun ride, political/religious in exactly that fun somewhat blasphemous irreverent sort of way.

Bottom of TBR: Blindsight by Peter Watts. Vampires. In Space. It’s such a bonkers idea that I want more of it. Plus you get a surprisingly solid scientific reasoning for a lot of Vampire myths, a discussion on AI and the Chinese Room argument, talk about multiple personalities. It’s dense and a bit chaotic and weird. I liked it.

Horror (HM: Not King or Lovecraft): Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz. What if Frankenstein survived into the modern era and tried to conquer the world Invasion of the Frankenbodysnatchers style. It’s a solid Dean Koontz book, which I hadn’t read in years now. The problem is that it tries to fit far too many threads into one story and doesn’t really work without the sequels (and only barely works with them). Another book dealing with autism, dealt with mostly well.

Coastal or Island Setting (HM: Features Seafaring) Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson. The feel of Princess Bride told through through the narrative lense of Hoid (which won’t make the least bit of sense if you haven’t read much of Sanderson’s Cosmere I suppose). I’ve read and enjoyed just about all of Sanderson and he’s got 4 novels out this year, so of course I have to use one of them. It’s delightful, touching little story and probably worth a read even if you haven’t read the rest of Sanderson’s work, although the ending will be weird.

‡ ∿ Queernorm Setting (HM: Not Futuristic) Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune. So… what do you call a slice of life story when the protagonist dies at the end of the first chapter? Whatever you do, Under the Whispering Door is a delightful example thereof. Despite taking place within our world, I would say it’s Queernorm within the much reduced setting of the story (the tea house and this specific corner of the afterishlife).

Set in the Middle East (HM: By an author of Middle Eastern heritage): Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. Take Persian mythology and worldbuilding, more than a touch of fairy tale feel, a cursed princess, demons, div (what in a Euro-centric story would be probably be fae), a touch of romance, and the spark of revolution. It’s an interesting world, an interesting premise, and you really want everything to go right in the end. I like the variety of non-humans. They feel the same as dozens of stories I read before–and yet, being based on a different set of myths and legends, different. All at the same time. It’s fun.

Title with a Title (HM: Not Royalty): The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Take the extremist end of the American Protestant religious right. Give them everything they want (plus some) over the span of years (if not months). Like any good story of this sort, it takes a potential problem–an idea–and turns it up to eleven. It goes steps further than anything we’ve seen in modern times–or at least differently. And all the more telling when you feel people in today’s world taking it as inspiration rather than a cautionary tale.

Superheroes (HM: Not DC or Marvel): Zeroes by Scott Westerfield. The story of six American teenagers who discover they have superpowers. What I like most perhaps was the entire idea of the title: “Zeroes, not Heroes”. They’re not superheroes. (oops, guess it doesn’t fit after all). I also enjoyed how diverse the cast was.

Magical Realism or Literary Fantasy (HM: Not from this list): The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd. Plus side: I love the premise. Take the idea of phantom settlements / copyright traps. Now make it so that if you happen to have the right map–you can actually get to those phantom settlements. I may have to check out Paper Towns. Minus side: it takes forever to actually get to the magic of the book. You (as the reader) are sure there’s more to them than you’d think, either having read the blurb–or just being aware of the book’s genre. But for how magical a concept it is, we barely get anything to do with them until halfway through the book and even then we’re only touching the surface. I suppose that’s Magical Realism for you?

‡ ∿ Multiverse and Alternate Realities (HM: Not through a literal door): The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. Hopping between worlds–with one big caveat. If you visit a world where another you is still alive, you die. It’s fascinating digging into the idea that the best world hoppers are those raised under circumstances where they should have died.

Myths and Retellings (HM: Not Greek or Roman): The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. It seems no matter the culture, myths and legends get weird. Norse mythology is absolutely no exception to that. In this story, we have a novelization of the story of Angrboda. Wife of Loki. Mother of monsters. She’s been around a while (it’s mythology, even she doesn’t know how long) and she just wants to be left alone.

‡ ∿ Set in Space (HM: Not from Earth) (replacing Book Bingo/Readalong): House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds. In House of Suns, we have the story of a small subset of humanity writ large. The speed of light is the ultimate limit. Planets are decades apart; the galaxy hundreds of thousands of years around. So how do you continue that oh so human drive for exploration and expansion? Well in House of Suns, you create a thousand clones. Imprint them all with your memories. And send them out into the universe. Set it up so that ever few decades/centuries/millenia, they meet up, share all they’ve been to. What other branches of humanity have risen–or fallen? What other miracles of technology have been discovered? Who’s fallen in love? Sci-fi at it’s finest.

Druids (HM: Not Iron Druid): Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier. Take a bit of magic/folklore in an oldentimes Ireland; add in a Fae bargain (with all the complications that ensues); combine with a prince and princess who’ve never met outside of letters–and seem entirely different in person; and finish it all off with fairy tale magic of Dreamer’s Pool. It’s got an interesting cast and a nice fairy tale sort of plot, if a bit incomplete feeling.

Mythical Beasts (HM: Not dragons): The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. It’s one of those books that just feels like a fairy tale. An ageless story. A story passed down from long ago ages of myth and fantasy. Ages with heroes and villains and wizards and–you guessed it–unicorns. It’s beautifully written (for the most part; there are certainly parts that feel overdone), chock full of wonderfully fantastic descriptions and metaphors that just sort of stick around. I really enjoy the characters, especially the titular Last Unicorn–they don’t feel human; which I appreciate.

Featuring Robots (HM: Robot protagonist): Lock In by John Scalzi. A near future Earth where a flu-like pandemic (Haden’s Syndrome) has caused locked-in syndrome in some small percent of the world’s population (a small percent of billions is still an awful lot of people). Those affected are completely paralyzed, unable to move, while still being fully aware and conscious. Luckily(ish) a massive global effort has figured out how to embed computer hardware in their brains so as to allow them to remotely pilot either robotic bodies (threeps) or (more rarely) other humans who’ve allowed them access. This of course is widely accepted by the rest of humanity and causes no issues whatsoever. It’s arguable if the human minds in robotic bodies (the threeps) counts for the square, but if Murderbot counts, I would think this does too? It’s their body (although that’s a decent plot point in itself).

Novella (HM: Not Tordotcom): Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente. Take (the vague outline) the story of Snow White. Make it a Western. Things get weird. It’s an interesting premise and certainly an interesting writing style–although not my favorite.

‡ ∿ 5 SFF Shorts (HM: An Anthology): Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Story of Your Life became the film Arrival, which got me to read the book. The rest are also really good, including some really interesting alternate takes on religion.

‡ ∿ YA (HM: Published in the last 5 years): A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher. A world with weirdly specialized sorts of wizards. You might be able to cast lightning bolts… or you might have the power to animate and converse with dead horses. Or you might even have magical powers over… bread! It’s such a delightful idea and Kingfisher manages to do all sorts of fun things with it. Some obvious (Mongo eat your gingerbread heart out), some less so (Bob the sourdough starter; so delightful). I need to read more Kingfisher.

POC Author (HM: Furturistic Sci/fi): Rosewater by Tade Thompson. A fascinating premise. Take the world a half century in the future. Most things are the same, but there’s a bit more tech floating around, mostly. Introduce a massive alien organism that lands in London and ends up burrowing it’s way to Nigeria. From that alien blob, fill the atmosphere with alien microorganisms/cells that create their own xenosphere, enabling (among other things) psychic powers in some very small proportion of the population. Writ rather more gritty than I was expecting with a complicated structure.

Self/Indie published (HM: Fewer than 100 ratings): The Book of Zog by Alec Hutson. Zogrusz is an Eldrich Horror, a being from beyond time and space. But… a nice one? That just wants to do the right thing? It’s surprisingly adorable with some interesting cosmic level universebuilding.

Elemental Magic (HM: Not Shades of Magic or Codex Alera): Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Rather YA and the TV show is better (partially because it pulls from the other series in the same world as well). But I did enjoy the Russian influenced worldbuilding and the slightly more flexible than many YA contemporaries groupings. Has a lot of potential for the series.

Published in 2023 (HM: Debut): The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown. A generation ship with something going bump in the night? Isn’t it always night in space? In any case, it’s nicely terrifying if rather short (at novella length). Feels very similar to Alien, but that’s not a bad thing. A solid debut.

(I originally read VenCo by Cherie Dimaline for this spot, but realized as I was writing this post that it doesn’t fit hard mode.)

Some stats

Audiobooks: 14. The rest were all ebooks.

Borrowed on Libby: 21. Libraries are the best.

Series (that I read the rest of):

New (to me) authors: 15

Repeat authors for book bingo: 5

Other repeat authors: 7

2023 Book Bingo

Two years down (2021, 2022) and yet another one to go! Much more breathing room last year than the year before (two weeks!) and I’ve already been reading more this year, so I’m confident. Let’s do it. As a side note, if anyone I know wants to read along on any of these, drop me a line. Love to chat about books. 😄 Rules: Must be speculative fiction (SF, fantasy, horror with speculative elements) Limit the number of novellas (fewer than 40k words or defined by the author as such) or combine them A book of short stories counts Graphic novels/manga should be treated as novellas Web novels count (if they’re long enough) Audiobooks count Official thread