I could claim that in May 2018 I read 21 books. It sounds a lot less impressive when you consider that:
- 7 of them were short stories (I won’t talk about them in this wrap-up, I reviewed them here)
- 3 of them were novellas (of which one was an ARC)
- 2 of them were short story collections (of which one was an ARC)
- only 9 of them were novels (of which 3 were ARCs)
May wasn’t the best month for me – I spent most of the first week studying because I had three exams, then I ended up at the hospital for a week and had to stay home for another (…I also got sick while recovering from surgery). I’m tired, but I also read a lot – I couldn’t do that much else – which is the only good thing that I got out of all of this.
Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro – ★★½
Anger is a Gift is a YA contemporary about police brutality in schools told from the point of view of a gay black boy with a panic disorder.
I didn’t like this book, but it took me a while to understand exactly why. In my review, I said it was the writing style – which is definitely one of the reasons – but I usually don’t two-star books just because the writing was bad (it was, but it wasn’t terrible). But there’s another reason, and I realized it only recently: this book is emotionally monotonous. The beginning is sad and tense. The middle is sad and tense. The ending is sad and tense. After a while, it didn’t have any impact on me anymore, I only felt a sense of dread every time I picked it up again, and I didn’t want to keep reading it. But I want to point out that I read this book while in pain, and this probably influenced my reading experience.
Waters of Versailles by Kelly Robson – ★★½
This is about a former soldier who is trying to gain money and status in Versailles with new, revolutionary technology: toilets, which he builds with the help of a magical water creature. It was a nice story but not that memorable – I remember very little about it. But, again, I read it while very sick.
Could Have Been Better
Reading this was a very unusual experience, because I loved many stories and hated (yes, hated, couldn’t-get-past-three-paragraphs hated, sometimes) many others. Almost all my ratings were five, four and one stars. My favorite stories were Warped Passages by Kameron Hurley (backstory to The Stars Are Legion), The Chameleon’s Gloves by Yoon Ha Lee (a story set in the Machineries of Empire universe), and The Universe, Sung In Stars by Kat Howard (beautiful writing, about people who wear galaxies in their hair and stars around their necks).
The Reader by Traci Chee – ★★★¼
A slow-paced fantasy book about the magic of reading. It felt like a fantasy classic and reminded me of the books I loved to read before I started reviewing (a far more diverse version of them), but many aspects of the worldbuilding were underdeveloped. I may have loved the atmosphere, the writing and the way the many different storylines were woven together, like books inside of books that all came together at the end, but the characters lacked depth.
God’s War by Kameron Hurley – ★★★¼
Kameron Hurley has written one of my favorite books, The Stars Are Legion, so I had high expectations when going into this, and I can’t say that they were completely met. I liked the characters and their relationships, but the worldbuilding was very underdeveloped and the potential of the premise (bug-powered technology!) was mostly wasted: the author decided to focus on the consequences of a holy war instead, without ever actually developing the religion. I really liked the fast-paced action scenes (I couldn’t put the book down), and the main character is a bisexual atheist antiheroine I love, but God’s War was somewhat disappointing.
The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana – ★★★¼
Young adult fantasy keeps disappointing me. This was at the same time very well-written (beautiful writing, stories inside of stories, complex mythology, clever ending) and not (flat characters, unnecessary love triangle, awkward dialogue, bad pacing). I liked how it was inspired by Indian and Macedonian history, but many aspects of this felt both predictable and convenient.
Apocalypse Nyx by Kameron Hurley – ★★★½
This was exactly what I expected from a collection of short stories following Nyx and her gang, but I liked it more than the actual book because there were more character interactions and fun action than worldbuilding (I really don’t like the worldbuilding of this series and I probably won’t continue reading it).
Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault – ★★★¾
Set in a Québec-inspired magical city in which witches are discriminated and there are literal witch hunts, Baker Thief follows Claude/Claire, an aromantic genderfluid baker who is a thief by night, and Adèle, a police officer who likes Claude-the-baker and is trying to arrest Claire-the-thief. It’s a cute fantasy story on the lighter side which uses common romance tropes for non-romantic relationship. It also has an all-queer cast, a chronically ill main character, and the aromantic rep was great. The plot had some weak points and it took me a while to get into this, but I ended up really liking it.
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages – ★★★¾
A f/f romance set in San Francisco in 1940. I read this novella because I loved the cover and the book itself is just as beautiful, atmospheric and gay. There were too many underdeveloped side characters, but everything else was great.
Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly – ★★★★¼
Sequel to Amberlough with more talking, just as much scheming, a little less sex and worse pacing. I loved the character development, and I can’t wait to know what happens next (I need answers! This book didn’t give enough of them).
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells – ★★★★¾
I liked All Systems Red, but I still didn’t expect to love Artificial Condition so much. Murderbot is an awesome main character, but in the first book the side characters (who were all human) were really underdeveloped. In this book, a new AI is introduced, a rude spaceship who Murderbot names “ART” (which stands for “asshole research transport”), and I loved it.
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly – ★★★★¾
Spy thriller inspired by 1930s Europe, about the rise of fascism from the point of view of marginalized characters. I loved the characters just as much as the atmosphere, and the ending was so cruel I was at the same time dying to read Armistice and dreading it.
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente – ★★★★★
One of my new favorite books. I started reading this right after surgery, and – between the pain and what they gave me not to feel the pain – I wasn’t at my best, so I think I missed some things, but it didn’t matter to me: this book is so weird and makes so little sense it wasn’t even a problem. And it was fun, I really needed fun. Anyway, it’s Eurovision in space and it’s about humanity and art, but with many weird aliens and a lot of nonsense. It was so beautiful and unique and my reviews will never do it justice. Some parts of it almost made me cry.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – ★★★★★
Did I read this book just because everyone kept comparing Ninefox Gambit to it? Yes.
Are they similar? No, they’re just in the same genre of queer sci-fi with complicated worldbuilding, but themes, characters and plot have nothing in common.
Did I love it? Yes, and I think it’s the time I stop lying to myself and start answering “adult sci-fi” to the question “what’s your favorite genre”.
I loved everything about this, from the details of the worldbuilding to the fact that it’s told from the point of view of an AI who is trying to pass as human, and I love the antagonist because she makes no sense whatsoever.
Have you read any of these? What was your favorite book you read in May?