Weekly

T10T: The Ten Most Recent Additions to My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is The Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf.

I’m pretty sure this meant to be things I added to my physical bookshelf, but as I buy very few physical books and have already posted a book haul in December, this would be repetitive, so I’m going to talk about recent additions to my TBR (or the “maybe” shelf of my TBR, as I’m on the fence about many of these).


Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

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I didn’t love Wilder Girls, but I might like this more? Maybe? I had two main problems with that book, one being the disconnection for various factors (which could still be an issue) and its failed attempt at being ecological-based horror (which shouldn’t be a problem here). Horror is hit-or-miss in any circumstance anyway, but Rory Power does write really well, so… I’m intrigued. Also, I’ve never understood American’s relationship with corn fields, and I hope this books will make me see it in the most upsetting way possible.

Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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So far, I’ve disliked all the adult thrillers I’ve read and liked all the Silvia Moreno-Garcia books I’ve tried. Let’s see what wins!
Jokes aside, I’ve seen a few reviews lately that made me really think I’m going to enjoy this and I do trust this author.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

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I loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and didn’t care for The Fifth Season, which according to many probably makes me someone with terrible taste in fantasy, but what’s undeniable regardless of my preferences is Jemisin’s skill. I really want to know how her short fiction is like, as I’ve also heard there are stories involving cooking in here.

The Devourers by Indra Das

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I’ve been hearing nothing but amazing things about this novel, and as I haven’t read anything involving werewolf folklore in… years, I think, I’m really curious. I’ve also heard it goes into really dark territory, so there’s that. (A recurrent theme in this list: books dealing with dark themes and me not knowing whether that’s something I can read at all.)

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker

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This is Seanan McGuire writing the book that was at the center of the magic system in her own novel Middlegame, using as a pseudonym the name of the fictional author who wrote that book inside of Middlegame. Between this and Or What You Will by Jo Walton, it’s going to be such a year for extremely meta content in SFF. I can’t wait.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

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This is 100% a cover add and I’m never going to pretend otherwise. Just… look at it?
Apart from that, this is an West African-Inspired YA fantasy story, and all I know is that there’s a girl who bleeds gold, and that’s a sign of something that might be powerful and might be horrible, and possibly intrigue. I’m not sure and it’s too early for reviews, but we’ll see – you know how picky I can get with fantasy these times.

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

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I wasn’t interested in this one until I heard of the levels of horrible the main character gets. Now I’m tentatively interested, because this might be too brutal/depressing for me (I’ve discovered I should do my best to avoid fantasy novels closely inspired by real tragedies) but reading about truly morally gray people is something I love, so. I’m not sure I’ll read it but I might include it in a try a chapter post and see how I feel.

Patsy by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

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A story about a queer Jamaican woman who was forced to have a child and then chooses to emigrate to the US leaving her child behind. It’s told in both Patsy’s PoV and the PoV of the child, and yes this is completely outside the genres I usually reach for, but that’s exactly why I’m interested. I want to read more queer literature across genres and this could be a place to start from. Or maybe not, because I never know when heavy topics get unreadable for me. I don’t know my limits for sure but I’m here to try new things.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

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I… just really love this cover and want to know more. It’s on my “keep an eye on it/maybe” shelf so far, then we’ll see. I’m not sure what this is about exactly but I know it’s a paranormal/urban fantasy novel that follows a friendships and deals with misogynoir.

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

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Despite loving pretty much everything I’ve read by Kameron Hurley, many short stories included, I’ve always stayed away from the Worldbreaker Saga, the main reason for that being length and bad reviews. Then I remembered that pretty much everything negative I had heard about this series came down to it being “confusing”, and at this point I should pretty much see that as a buzzword when it comes to adult SFF.


Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?

Book review · Fantasy · Adult

Reread Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Opinions change. There are times I don’t like a book and yet I know that, if I were to reread it, I wouldn’t feel the same way. It has happened to me with The Star Touched Queen and Jade City; now here we are again.

I knew, before listening to this audiobook, that I probably would have liked it more this time around. That’s also because of how much I loved In An Absent Dream this year, and because I see this series differently as a whole; I think I have a better grasp on what it wants to be.

DownAmongtheSticksThe first time I read this book, I was 17, and I rated it two stars. Now I’m 20, and with this reread, I see it in a completely different way, and yet not. I went back and reread my review on my old Italian blog, and I still agree with almost every single thing I said then. This book is the same as it was; I didn’t read it wrong, whatever that might mean, or miss anything particularly important.
It’s just that context can do so much.

Let’s start with the thing I hated the most about Down Among the Sticks and Bones in 2017: it’s one of the most repetitive and unsubtle things I’ve ever read, and relies almost only on telling. There’s little in the book world I hate as much as a story that doesn’t trust its reader to understand and therefore beats them over the head with its message. Usually.
Here’s the thing: I didn’t realize, back then, just how much these books are meant to be read as a fairytale. The whole series plays with fairytale and portal fantasy tropes, and both genres tend to thrive on the familiar, on repetition.
Because of how it relied on telling more than Every Heart a Doorway did, this novella was an irritating read. If you listen to it on audiobook, as I did the second time around, it’s delightful. Not only you don’t have to worry if you miss something – oh, will the story remind you, as anyone speaking to you who wants to get their point across would – but the telling bothers you a lot less if the story is actually being told to you.
It’s not that it can’t work in written form, it’s just that most of what I saw as a flaw then I now see as just a difference in format and goal.

I still don’t like how much this story lacks in nuance.
This is true for most of Seanan McGuire’s books, especially the less recent ones I’ve read. This story won’t let you draw your own conclusions about the characters and the themes it explores, it has the tendency to tell you what to think. Which is irritating even though – because? – I would have drawn those conclusions anyway and agree with the message.
Lack of nuance also tends to come with the territory. Neither fairytales nor portal fantasy are known for it (is anyone going to pretend Narnia ever bothered with something as heretical as nuance and subtlety? Ha. Yes, lack of subtlety is probably more irritating when you disagree with the message, but then you don’t feel bad about it!)

That still doesn’t mean I have to like it. It’s kind of dissonant to read about how adults often don’t allow their children to form their own preferences and opinions because they don’t really see children as people in a book that fervently demands you don’t form your own about the theme either.
One thing I liked the most about In An Absent Dream is that I felt it gave the reader more space to think on their own. This really doesn’t, and it’s the reason I can’t give it a higher rating despite how much more I appreciated this story this time around.

This time, I understood the charm the world of the Moors has, and grew attached to Jack in a way I hadn’t at all the first time. She’s a queer mad scientist in training who has to deal with mental health issues (OCD)! Of course I love her. And the author really made this world come alive with the descriptions. So creepy, so terrible, and yet I get why the twins want to stay. It’s not like our world can’t be that to a lot of people.

Another thing that has changed for me is that I’m no longer angry at the ending. I don’t fault 17-year-old me for feeling that way about an ambiguous ending that might or might not have implied a homophobic trope, and I didn’t know Come Tumbling Down would exist then. Now, of course, things have changed.

My rating: ★★★½


Have you read this? What is your favorite novella in this series?

Discussion

Acqua & Movies: Booksmart + Let It Snow (2019)

In March of 2019, I wrote an Out of My Comfort Zone post about book-to-movie adaptations. I finally felt like I was in the right place to watch something again.

Prepare for a whole post of low-level culture shock and me being confused!


I wanted to try a movie that was not a book-to-movie adaptation, and I wanted something that was a) sapphic and b) available to buy in my country on google play, the only place where I could easily buy things online without having to ask my parents.

Unsurprisingly, that’s a really small pool, and that’s how I ended up watching Booksmart (2019, directed by Olivia Wilde), in Italy “la rivincita delle sfigate” (wow do I hate this title).

bI wish I were able to start by telling you something as simple as whether I liked Booksmart or not, but as usual, screen-induced anxiety made this a weird experience and I don’t know what to say. Or, I should probably tell you that you shouldn’t take what I say too seriously, as I started to get into this only around the 75% mark, and the 102 minutes of it actually took me a whole afternoon, since I kept pausing things.

We started off on the wrong note because this was only available in Italian, and not in English (with or without subtitles), and the dubbing was… messy. At first I struggled to understand which of the two girls was speaking. Also, the humor in this book relies a lot on certain types of joke that don’t translate well, and that doesn’t help.

And since we’re talking about cultural barriers: I always forget just how alien American culture – and, especially, American high school – is to me until I actually see them. I realize I keep imagining things wrong when I read contemporary books, because even the settings (the cities are so flat and yet going anywhere has to involve a car?), the objects in here (…people actually seriously unironically wear togas? I forgot that. And cars that old are allowed? Like no one will stop you?) – everything is so weird to me. And this is important, because this is a story about challenging high school stereotypes, and it doesn’t work as much when those stereotypes aren’t really your own? But once I got into it, it was a fun time, if one I always felt like I couldn’t fully get.

I also agree with this tweet by author Rory Power:

I’m not going to pretend I know anything about movies and say whether or not this was in any way good on a technical level, but it was really nice to see a lesbian on a screen, and that’s what I wanted, so I’m not unhappy. I also got emotional because of the character development, so that was nice, but the nicest feeling is the one I got by constantly reminding myself of how good it is to not be 17 or in high school anymore.

Now I’m left with a question – why does US media like to pretend high school is something worth missing? The characters seem to hate it, and yet the ending is all about how they’ll miss this time of their life. I’m two years out of high school and I haven’t missed it for a moment, and it’s not like people in my country seem to expect people to. Cultural differences again? Or is there something I just don’t get?


Then I finally figured out I could a 25€ giftcard at my local bookstore and start a Netflix account on my own without needing anyone’s help, which definitely widened the pool of material available to me.

To start out safe, I went back to a book-to-movie adaptation of a collection I read before I started blogging even in my first language, Let It Snow.

let_it_snow_posterI liked this so much more than Booksmart, surprisingly. Not because of… better quality of the original material, I don’t think so, but this time the dubbing wasn’t a tragedy and the movie wasn’t quite as heavy on my screen anxiety. Maybe it was the recent exposure (two movies only a few days apart from each other… wow Acqua) and maybe it’s really this specific story, but I managed to enjoy some parts of this, which is a lot for American movies about teenagers.

I don’t remember the book that clearly, but I have to say that as an adaptation this is both:

  • high quality, or at least, better than I remember the book being
  • not faithful at all – it’s almost more “inspired by the collection Let It Snow by Mauren Johnson, John Green & Lauren Myracle” than an actual adaptation, which is probably a positive thing

(In case it wasn’t already clear, I didn’t love that book.)

The main thing I loved about this adaptation/reimagining was how they took away a lot of space from Lauren Myracle’s short story, which I remember most people hated and that I didn’t love either, to give space to a sapphic romance. I don’t remember if there was any F/F content in the book, but it definitely wasn’t a major storyline as it was here – so much more space is given to Dorrie and Kerry’s romance than it is to Addie’s “woe is me I’m so self-centered that everyone hates me… maybe I shouldn’t be like that” storyline.
The sapphic romance still isn’t as developed as the two straight romances and it is written with straight lenses (it has the dreaded “person who is out pressures other person to come out” trope portrayed with no nuance whatsoever – the movie acts as if Kerry is wronging Dorrie by not being out) but I honestly don’t have it in me to nitpick the very little sapphic media that is legally available to watch in Italy. Also, this story might be a tired cliché and not a very good one, but it still had a lot of heart in it? Probably because the actors playing these two characters are both queer; that matters.

What I would have changed was the amout of space given to the characters of John Green’s short story, Tobin and Angie “the Duke”: their friends-to-lovers story is boring and has no flavor at all apart from the overwhelming heterosexuality and how much the main character is a typical John Green Novel Main Guy. (If you’ve read one of his novels, you know the type.) Their story had like… two funny moments and the creepiest romantic declaration I’ve seen in a long while (“when I see you with someone else I want to kill them”? What the…? What? Why didn’t Angie run? I hope that was a joke and that I didn’t get it.), which ruined what little good it had.
Though I have to admit their story had one of the funniest parts in the movie, the completely out-of-nowhere blasting of Rock the Casbah during the car chase. (…I couldn’t stop laughing at that.)

The main storyline, though, is pretty much unambiguously the normal girl/celebrity one, following Julie and Stuart. It was adorable, if really different from Maureen Johnson’s short story (the only story I remember liking). I’m glad that the main roles were given to two actors of color. I just wish the whole miniature decorative houses played a bigger part in the movie, as they do in the novel, because they’re cute.
Another thing the movie did right was that it got the atmosphere down perfectly. If there’s one thing these teen movies are good at and have in common, it’s being really pretty.
Also, tinfoil lady was the best character.

And this time, I’m again left with a question: is going in Africa for a semester after high school so… not uncommon for American students? It was mentioned both in here and in Booksmart. That’s “I’ve never heard of anyone in real life doing that” level of unusual for Italians.


Have you seen these? What did you think? What should someone with a Netflix account and time they should definitely be using to study watch?

Book review · Fantasy · Young adult

Review: The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos

35053988._sy475_This book has my favorite m/f romance of the year, and maybe of ever. I can’t believe I almost didn’t read it.

The Wise and the Wicked is a contemporary fantasy story following Ruby Chernyavsky, a 16-year-old Russian-American girl from a “slightly magical” family in which every woman gets to know at which age she will die. Or so they thought.

I fell in love with this story right from the beginning because of Ruby. She is the youngest of three sisters, and her mother left them when Ruby was really young. Because of that and the burden placed on her by the family’s magic, Ruby is really insecure and lost, and deals with that in a number of ways – from kleptomaniac tendencies to being closed-off and trying to believe that she’s better than others to drown out her constant self-loathing. She’s also self-centered enough to often misunderstand other people’s motives; all of this makes her an easy target for manipulative people.
I love stories about difficult, imperfect girls, and I loved Ruby (even though she is well-meaning but seriously self-centered heterosexual representation), and her growth in this book meant so much to me.

My favorite character, however, was Dov.
I haven’t felt this strongly about an m/f romance in so long, and that’s because so many male love interests in novels (especially, but sadly not only, in YA) come in three formats: “rude”, “overprotective” and “personalities are for losers”.
And Dov feels real in a way so many characters don’t. He’s sweet, and maybe a little too trusting, not because he doesn’t understand that people can hurt him, but because he chooses to see the good in others – and in a genre so full of brooding boys, this is so refreshing? He is funny without his sense of humor being at the expense of the main character, which I also value a lot.
I could feel how much Ruby felt lighter during their interactions, how she let her closed-off façade crack with him, even when she was still hiding a lot from him. Their scenes were just… the chemistry. Everything was too much for me and I often had to put down the book because I had a bad case of Feelings™. I must be getting old.
(*Acqua, sitting on a pile of villain romances, tearing up*: but he is so KIND)
Dov is trans and Jewish, and this is one of the very few books I’ve read with a trans boy in which said trans boy gets to come out on his own terms. Not because of some naked reveal scene, not because he was pressured, not because he’s asked, and that was a beautiful scene.

Many scenes in here worked for me specifically because of the writing’s attention to detail. I loved the witchy early spring atmosphere, sure, but the way the author focused on objects, and small details in people’s rooms – everything felt real and deeper, as bright as this cover. When I think of Ruby, I don’t see her in a blank space, I also think of odd ice cream flavors and science books; when I think of Dov, I see aquariums and fish drawings and hitchhiking butterflies (…that scene); all these small, not plot-relevant things about them made me feel as if I knew them, and made them memorable.

I also really liked reading about Ruby’s relationship with her sisters, who raised her, and Cece’s storyline. Cece is Ruby’s cousin, and the two are really close while still hiding things from each other, because sometimes the truth is too heavy for you to talk about it with your family. Cece is a lesbian and in a relationship with another girl, and I really appreciated that this book talked about how a family can be homophobic in subtle ways even when nobody is a blatant bigot and there are other queer people in it. At its heart, The Wise and the Wicked is a story about intergenerational trauma and the weight of traditions, how they can bring comfort as well as stifle people, and how sometimes you just need to let some of them go.

Now, onto my main and only complaint: this book doesn’t work that well as a standalone. I know the author has plans for a sequel, but we don’t actually know if it will happen (because publishing), and while this doesn’t end on a cliffhanger – it ends at what I’d consider a calm point for both the characters and the romance – it’s clear that Ruby’s arc isn’t complete, and some plotlines, like the podcast one, were left without a conclusion to a level that goes far beyond “ambiguous ending”, as for example the one in Podos’ previous novel Like Water was. It’s not disappointing and I don’t feel like I was left without an answer I needed, but without a sequel some parts of this felt somewhat unnecessary.

My rating: ★★★★¾

lists

Non-Novel Favorites of 2019

As I said in my post about my favorite novels of the year, I also have a lot of “favorites of 2019” that aren’t novels, and I will talk about them in this post.


Novellas

2019 was a great year for novellas, and less of a great year for me actually reading them. I still have to get to a few titles I’m really interested in, like the unanimously-praised Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney and the unusual-looking The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall. And I should definitely reach for more novellas, because I read 15 and 5 of them ended up being favorites, and that’s not even all the five stars. If only with full novels I could find a favorite every three books.

My 5 favorites were:

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire: Seanan McGuire has outdone herself this year. Both her books were full five stars for me, which I didn’t expect, as I had liked many of her previous ones, but hadn’t rated them that highly before.
I have such fond memories of In An Absent Dream because I listened to it on audiobook (the only audiobook I’ve ever liked!) on the two days I was going with my class on botanical excursions, two of the best days I had in 2019. The audiobook is perfect – the narration was so good I felt as if I could see and feel the goblin market’s world – and the story is as well. It’s about unfairness, navigating two worlds, and how freedom isn’t always defined by choice. It made me think about so many things and it’s one of those stories that will stay for me for a long time. It’s bitter and I wouldn’t change one thing about it, despite how much I wish it could have gone differently.

The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang: I will never not be there for F/F villain romances. As it’s tradition for this novella series, it’s written in an experimental format – this time, it’s a drunken monologue – and I loved that about it, as the point is as much the story as it’s Lady Han’s current feelings about what happened, the hindsight, the hate coexisting with grief. She is telling the story of how her very dysfunctional relationship with the empress led to the dawn of a revolution, and I will always value tragic queer stories that are not tragedies about being queer.

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark: this universe (the same of A Dead Djinn in Cairo) is one of the best examples of imaginative worldbuilding in fantasy. I will always love stories about cities that feel alive and chaotic and real, and this is all of that while mixing steampunk and paranormal, which is a great concept in itself. I mean, haunted aerial trams? One can’t do better than that, and the way this novella balances between “paranormal mystery” and “story about the advances in technology and society” is also masterful – it is mostly about the ghost, but also about corruption and politics and there’s a background storyline about women’s right to vote. I hope I will get more from this world, and P. Djèlí Clark is becoming one of my favorite authors.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone: If I had known what this novella truly was – the closest a book can get to poetry without being in verse – I would have liked it even more, so I plan to reread it at some point.
I’ve seen it end up on many other lists of favorites, and I can definitely see why, from the perfect hook “F/F enemies-to-lovers between two spies during a time travel war” to it being one of the most beautiful examples of sci-fantasy I’ve ever seen, with a dynamic between the two main characters that is so intense and… such a powerful positive force in a way we don’t usually get for F/F relationships. A really remarkable novella I expect to win a lot of awards this next season.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole: this is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read. I’ve never been to New York and I’m probably imagining it wrong as well, but I felt as if I was walking alongside with the characters: the author’s attention to detail made this sweet romance unforgettable. This is a second chance F/F romance between two Black women and I loved Fabiola and Likotsi’s story so much.


Short Stories & Novelettes

Sadly, I didn’t have as much time to check out short stories in the second half of the year as I did in the first, so I basically didn’t read any after… July? But I did find some favorites during the first half of the year.

Circus Girl, the Hunter, and Mirror Boy by JY Yang: sometimes a story stays with you because it hit you in a way only short stories can, so personal and close that you can barely look at it with any distance. I can’t tell you what it’s actually about, but I can tell you that nothing has ever described so well the feeling of being forced to face your own past coping mechanisms – the struggle between what the world says you should feel about what you did to survive and what you actually feel.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho: the cutest F/F short story between a human and an imugi who wants to become a dragon. Funny and bittersweet and definitely deserving of the Hugo, it’s about perseverance, and when that is a good idea, and the great things you stumble into while looking for something else.

The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly: the most interesting banquet/revolution story you will ever read, as well as a really smart way to explore the link between food and memory in a more… literal way. I can’t say more without spoilers but I loved this a lot.


Collections

I haven’t read an anthology in all of 2019? 2018 was a year of slowly realizing I don’t like them 90% of the time, and this is the consequence. What I can like, however, is collections written by my favorite authors. I read 4, and one of them ended up being a favorite. (The other three, Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee, Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard, and Meet Me in the Future by Kameron Hurley, were also really good but not favorites.)

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The Fox Tower and Other Tales by Yoon Ha Lee is a collection of delightful flash fiction fairytales. It’s sweeter than anything you’ll find in Lee’s books, but still with the very characteristic kind of writing I love about them – the blurred lines between magic and math, magic and science, and the many, many foxes. Also, many stories are queer, of course. It made me so happy.


Comics & Graphic Novels

After this Out of My Comfort Zone experiment at the beginning of 2019, I decided I wanted to read more of them, and for once, I actually did. I went from having read 4 graphic novels in 2018 to this year’s 16. My five favorites were:

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell: this is a graphic novel about Freddie, an Asian-American girl who is in a toxic relationship with a white, popular girl who keeps breaking up with her. I stayed up late to read it because it’s wonderful, as much a story about the importance of friendships in your life as as it is a celebration of queerness – yes, even though it follows a relationship gone wrong that needs to end. And the art? Breathtaking. I want to reread this soon.

Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn & Claire Roe: as it’s important to me, a queer person, to read about failed queer relationships, it also is to read about morally messed up queer stories like this one. A vital part of being acknowledged as human in fiction is being allowed to be a horrible person without being turned into a caricature, and this was the deeply unhetical noir with a mostly queer female cast I didn’t know I always needed.

Monstress Vol. 3: Haven by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda: I could tell you that I liked this because the story or the art (both are amazing, don’t get me wrong), which is true, but honestly the thing I remember most vividly was just how much I was into some drawings of one of the antagonists. I’m glad my favorite bookish villainesses only exist in written form or I wouldn’t survive.

Sol by Loputyn: this collection of gothic illustrations by Italian artist Jessica Cioffi is the drawn equivalent of a poetry collection, and I’m sad that the author being from Italy means it won’t get any attention outside of my country despite having barely any words in it (it wouldn’t need to be translated). It goes from sweet to sad to eldritch in a few steps, and it’s gorgeously witchy. Most of the illustrations featuring couples are M/F, but there are a few F/F ones as well, and to see queerness in Italian-authored books is everything to me. (If you want to see a little more of the art, here’s my review.)

La mia ciclotimia ha la coda rossa by Lou Lubie: a memoir about living with cyclothymia I liked so much that I made my whole family read it (it helps that it’s short and has an amazing sense of humor) and they all liked it! I recommend it if you ever want to start/continue a conversation about mental illness with someone, even if you don’t have any kind of bipolar disorder – as far as I know, I don’t, but some parts of this were relevant to me as well. It exists in Italian, French (original language) and Spanish.


Poetry

Poetry is something I should explore more, but I don’t quite know where to start. The only kind of poetry I read this year – The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, a novel written in verse – was a favorite, so I really should try more.

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This is a story about growing into your own identity, following a gay Black boy as he understands what he wants from his life and what it means for him to be gay, to be biracial, to be Jamaican and British and Cypriot, and finding his own people as well. It focuses on friendships and family and some of the poems about that really resonated with me.


Shows

I would never have thought there would be a section like this in one of my “favorites” posts. While I did watch 3 movies this year (a record? maybe?), none of them was anything like a favorite, but I absolutely have to mention The Untamed, the only show I watched, adaptation of the Chinese novel Mo Dao Zu Shi by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu.

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I read the novel and really liked it, but this story ended up working even more this way for me, which I didn’t expect at all, as I usually lose interest in TV shows. And yes, while unlike the novel it can’t let its main character kiss because of censorship, it’s still so blatantly gay that my straight friend got it (without me telling her) during the first episode.
Anyway, if you don’t know what it’s about (which would surprise me, unless somehow you’re never on social media but you are reading this blog – this is everywhere) I can tell you that it’s a Chinese fantasy story involving necromancy, war, and an epic romance – starting out with the resurrection of the most hated person in the whole country, our main character Wei Wuxian.


What did you think of these?

Weekly

T10T: Most Anticipated Releases of 2020 (January-June)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020.

Technically, my most anticipated release of the year is Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee, which according to goodreads will came out on June 9th. However, since it still doesn’t have a cover and might have been pushed back, I’m not including it on the list.


Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

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New book by a favorite author! Can’t wait to see what they’re up to with what’s probably the most fantasy-like book they’ve written so far, and can’t wait for the overwhelming feelings this will no doubt bring. Dancing fever! Prejudice! Queerness! This is probably going to be intense.

Stormsong by C.L. Polk

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The sequel to one of my favorite books of 2018, Witchmark, is finally going to get there, and it will be F/F. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I also really need to remember to reread Witchmark, I miss those characters a lot.

Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke

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Also a companion/standalone sequel, to The Boneless Mercies, which was another favorite of 2018! I usually like companion sequels more than direct ones, so I have high hopes for both this and Stormsong. By the way, I can’t believe that I didn’t even know there was going to be a sequel until a month ago.

The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee

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…I promise this list won’t completely be sequels. Anyway, this is the only direct sequel on the list, and I know that there’s a high probability it’s going to destroy me.

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

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See? Not a sequel. On here because I’ve heard it’s gay and it has necromancers, and as someone who will always be there for sapphics, resurrections, and bad decisions, this sounds like everything I’ve ever wanted.

The Damned by Renée Ahdieh

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Companion sequel to The Beautiful, prettiest cover of 2020, I’m not sure what it will be about but I’m sure it will be decadent and slow-burning and have just enough Catholic-trauma undertones to hit me in the face but not enough to make it unreadable. At least I hope.

Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

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YA contemporary usually doesn’t end up in lists like these for me, because I don’t feel strongly about it often – but this being about a queer girl with anxiety, and being about what it means to be a Real Teenager when most of the typical teenage experiences don’t seem to apply to your life makes it relevant to me, even though I’ve just turned 20. I know the feeling and want to see how this book deals with it.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

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So she returns to verse! The premise of this one involves a plane crash and sisters reconnecting and… it’s just going to be a lot, I know.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

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After loving every moment of Girls Made of Snow and Glass in 2017, I’m so glad this is coming out. Every person I know who has read it loved it, so I have high hopes; the cover is gorgeous and doesn’t look like the Book Snake™; and also, Persian mythology?

The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

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So, this is being promoted as an F/F villain romance, and… that’s all I’ve ever wanted in my whole life? I hope it isn’t a misleading description, because no premise will ever appeal to me more. And apparently it’s also a retelling of a Scottish tale? I can’t wait.


Are you anticipating any of these?

Tag

Sunshine Blogger Award, Kind Of

I was nominated by Evelyn @evelynreads and by Laurel @thesuspectedbibliophile (thank you!)

I know there are rules about asking questions yourself and tagging people, but I know this is never going to get published if I try to do that (yay anxiety) and I’m already late, so this time I just decided not to.


Evelyn’s Questions

Your top three reads of the year?

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear, Middlegame by Seanan McGuire. Apparently, I like adult SFF that makes me think about how I could never put together something like that? If you want to know about the other ones, here they are!

34510711._sy475_Worst read of the year?

I don’t want to give more blog time to the least favorites I’ve already talked about, so: I agree with pretty much every single early review of Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. That book is… bad. There’s no other way around it, and I don’t think the author is ready to write fantasy at all. It didn’t make my list just because I feel bad putting a book that isn’t even out yet on there.

What author do you own the most books of?

Do ebooks count? If not, Cassandra Clare because I bought all her books (that were out at the time) in 2015 and haven’t gotten around to giving them to a friend who wants them far more than I do yet (they were what I wanted at the time, but they’re not what I want now, so they’re going). If yes, I’m not sure.

Top three authors?

Ever? Yoon Ha Lee, Anna-Marie McLemore, and I would have said Leigh Bardugo, but I haven’t read her two newest releases, so maybe… Elizabeth Acevedo?

Describe your favourite bookstore?

It’s the Feltrinelli in my city, and there’s not that much remarkable about it apart from it being the biggest I can easily reach, but: there’s someone who is in charge of the graphic novel display and routinely puts new queer/feminist/diverse graphic novels in full view. This doesn’t happen in the rest of the bookstore. Whoever you are, I see you and appreciate you.

36373688Favourite quote?

“The presence of atrocity doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold. You’ll arguably be better at dealing with the horrible things you have to witness, or even to perpetrate, if you allow yourself time to do the small, simple things that make you happy. Instead of looking for ways to destroy yourself.”
Yoon Ha Lee, Revenant Gun

Also the quote that finally convinced me to get over my weird guilt (ah, Catholic upbringing, never fail me) and put together an efficient mute filter on twitter.

Being on the internet means knowing all of the world’s tragedies, constantly, and since my usual reaction is being paralized in a “I can’t be happy, people are dying” state, I want to remind myself that it actually helps no one and actively hurts me, so this is also a reminder of what I want from my life in 2020.

What city would you love to travel to one day?

The only thing I can think of is a town: Corniglia. I’ve seen Monterosso and Vernazza, I should see this one someday as well, hopefully in a day with less tourists who don’t know that you can’t walk with flip flops in the notoriously thorny Mediterranean shrubland.

Favourite animal?

My answer changes from day to day, but today the first thing that comes to mind is that bobtail squids are really, really cute.

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(Euprymna berryi, by Rickard Zerpe, CC BY 2.0, cropped)

Favourite fictional creature?

I can’t think of any specific example right now. Do magical foxes count? Everything fox.

Favourite posts to write?

My posts about favorites at the end of the year. I read all year hoping to have a great line up, and for now it has always been true.

Any goals left for the year?

…it’s not anyone’s fault but mine that I’m always late when it comes to this kind of thing. My reading plans for the last weeks of 2019 were blatantly ignored by me, but at least real life was good. For 2020, my only real goal is trying to find a balance between reading, blogging and everything outside the booksphere, and if I can, read a little more sequels.


Laurel’s questions

Why did you start book blogging?

In Italian, December 2015. In English, September 2017.

What are your favorite parts of book blogging?

I think being exposed to other people’s opinions, especially people who you could have never met without the internet (from so many other countries, for example) is a great thing and has made me an infinitely better reader – not because I read more or read objectively “better” books, whatever that means, but it has taught me to appreciate things I would have never thought about before, and helped me find great books I would have never reached for.

What are your least favorite?

Most discourse. The way some like to pretend personal likes and dislikes make a person more or less moral, as if liking the right books could excuse bad behavior, and pretty much every single thing that happens on book twitter.

What advice do you have for new book bloggers?

I’ve been on all three sides of the ARC thing:

  • can’t get any ARCs because of circumstances I can’t influence (blogged in my first language, INTL reader, minor so no netgalley/edelweiss at all)
  • can get some eARCs, so I read and review them (for most of this blog’s life)
  • could get ARCs but won’t get them (me right now)

and honestly? They aren’t worth it. If you have any way to do so, keep reading without deadlines, even more so if you already have some form of anxiety. You will read less, because you’ll have less options to get free books, but consider: that might not be a bad thing.

Also: learn how to build distance between your personality and book taste. Social media likes to kick up disasters over nothing, so I really don’t recommend getting into this if you don’t have anyone to talk to – whether from real life or other corners of the internet – that isn’t involved in the book community, especially if you’re a teen. There are times in which you will need someone to help you put things into perspective.

What makes you want to read a book?

I honestly don’t know? There are a lot of factors at play and I put together a series of posts about that (Judging Before Reading; most of it is more than a year old, so some thing have since changed) but there are more that I don’t understand or haven’t thought about yet.

What were your favorite reads of 2019?

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Here!

What books were your least favorite of 2019?

Also here, if you want to know, but I feel like lists of least favorites don’t have that much value in the end.

What books lived up to the hype? Which didn’t?

What is hyped and what is not is difficult to determine for me, because sometimes books that are really hyped and talked about in my circle of friends (The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, The Perfect Assassin) are actually mostly ignored by the community at large. So I’m only going to talk about objectively hyped, often-talked-about-everywhere books, and only 2019 releases or this list gets too long. Oh, and I won’t talk about books I’ve already included in favorites/least favorites list, that would be too obvious.

  • Lived upSorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (such a fun time), This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (just beautiful), Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (best ending of the year)
  • Didn’t: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (I was so bored), Wilder Girls by Rory Power (missed potential), House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (how was this published in 2019)

What are your favorite tropes and why?

The obvious one: hero/villain sexual tension, because it’s the best way to make a book’s conflict at the same time 100% more fun (I just find it really funny. There’s usually terrible decision-making on at least one part.) and 100% more painful. More emotions, which is after all what we all look for, if not always in the same shape.

One I haven’t talked about as much but is definitely one of my favorites is resurrection as an inciting incident. Stories with resurrection solving things aren’t really my thing (religious aftertaste? Deus-ex-machina aftertaste? I don’t know), but stories in which resurrection jumpstarts the problem? They can be really good, if the author isn’t just using it as a cheap out-of-nowhere way to reintroduce the villain: for it to work, it has to already have been established as a possibility long before the end of the first book, or the first book has to begin with it, ideally. If these things are all true, I usually have a lot of fun with the story.

35297390Who in the book world (blogger, youtuber, bookstagrammer, author, friend, etc.) inspires you the most?

I don’t really have an answer for this? There are many people whose bookish content I love and many I love interacting with, but I try not to see anyone that way – I know how it feels like if you do and then that person ends up behaving badly on twitter.

What is one book that helped you through rough times (or taught you something valuable?)

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente during my hospital stay in May 2018. I wasn’t that lucid so I remember it only in flashes, but it’s the kind of book that is somewhat nonsensical anyway, and really funny, so it was perfect.


I feel like half of this post was me being annoyed with book twitter, but who isn’t annoyed with book twitter?