In July I read 12 books:
- 8 new novels, of which 4 were ARCs
- 2 novellas, both of them ARCs
- 1 novelette
- 1 short story collection
- I also read 8 short stories but I won’t count them as I have already written mini reviews here.
July was an unexpectedly good reading month – I can’t say that I liked everything I read, because I was disappointed by some books, but I haven’t read anything I disliked, and I rated all the books at least three stars.
This month I also tried to read The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin, but I ended up putting it down after 20-30 pages because I have a complicated relationship with sad books, especially sad books about oppression. I want to try it again, but I want to start it on a day that 1) is not a Disaster Head Day and 2) isn’t one in which I feel like my brain is going to melt because of the heat.
Could Have Been Better
Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans – ★★★
Trans people loving each other and bonding over bad sci-fi films. Cute, very short, but really needed more editing.
Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie – ★★★
A somewhat cliché sci-fi story with really interesting technology, a focus on friendship instead of romance that I appreciated, and tokenistic queer representation that managed to be messy while barely being there because that’s what happens when your worldbuilding is that flimsy.
[I mean, if you’re writing queer SFF, you should at least bother to establish whether or not queerphobia and allo-cis-heteronormativity are a thing in that universe, and if you use labels for the character’s sexualities, you can afford to use the word “trans” instead of dancing around it.]
All Out (edited) by Saundra Mitchell – ★★★½
An anthology following queer teenagers in historical fiction. It focused mostly on America and Northern Europe and mostly on m/m and f/f couples, so it wasn’t as diverse as I had hoped, but it had some good stories. As an anthology it was mostly average.
Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells – ★★★¾
Rogue Protocol wasn’t my favorite novella in the series (I missed ART and the worldbuilding still isn’t as interesting as I want it to be), but I can say that The Murderbot Diaries is one of the best sci-fi novella series. Tor.com puts out so much great content.
Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – ★★★★
I postponed reading this for a long time because of my previous experience with Albertalli’s writing, but I can say that most of the hype this book got is deserved. It’s fun, it’s cute, it’s slightly cliché but that’s actually a good thing sometimes. I wonder if I would have guessed the twist if I hadn’t been spoiled for it at least ten times in the last two years.
Like Water by Rebecca Podos – ★★★★
A slow, atmospheric coming-of-age story with a vivid setting, developed, realistic characters and a romance I hated. I always feel bad when I hate queer romances but I’m tired of this kind of romantic dynamic and this kind of depression representation, in which the depressed person is constantly rude and manipulative and it all gets ignored and/or completely forgiven because she has issues. Also, I’m sad that for once that I found a queer Italian-coded (implied Italian-American descent) character, I hated her.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – ★★★★
After loving Borne last year, I wanted to read VanderMeer’s previous, most well-known book. I was surprised by how short and how much creepier than Borne this was (this scared me, and that doesn’t happen often). All the characters but the main one were flat, but did I love the biologist and her narration (women in science! Marine biology!). This book was wonderful and at the same time not really my kind of thing – I tend not to like scary, sad books like this one.
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum – ★★★★
One of the weirdest YA books I’ve ever read, weird enough that I had no idea how I felt about it while I was reading, but it’s the kind of book that stays with you. Now I can say for sure that I liked it.
Also: it’s positive polyamory (m/m/f, even though it focuses more on the m/m side) representation in YA, which I had never seen before.
A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna – ★★★★½
This one was a surprise. It was free to download on edelweiss, so I had to try it, and I loved it a lot. It’s a genre-bending space fantasy retelling of the Mahabharata with magical starships, floating space cities and a wonderful main character who actually makes sensible decisions when political intrigue is involved (…my standards for lost princesses are low).
Temper by Nicky Drayden – ★★★★¾
This was even better than Drayden’s previous book, The Prey of Gods, and I loved that one. It’s about magical siblings, an alt-history dystopian Cape Town and the conflict between magic and science, and it’s… weird. Maybe not as bizarre as The Prey of Gods but we’re almost there, and I love everything weird.
If you’re looking for complex family dynamics, great characterization, plot twists that are actually surprising and well-written (so many, none of them predictable or forced) and trans-inclusive worldbuilding in a book with an all-black cast, you should try this book.
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark – ★★★★¾
Another great Tor.com novella. This book is set in a steampunk-like version of New Orleans, which is a neutral city in this AU in which the civil war ended with a truce. It follows Creeper, a thirteen-year-old black girl who has been granted visions by the goddess of storms, Oya. The Black God’s Drums has a great cast of characters featuring an airship captain who is a queer black woman and awesome nuns. I also loved the atmosphere and I hope this will become a series.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik- ★★★★¾
Uprooted is one of my all-time favorite books, so this comes as no surprise, but I loved this book so much. It’s a subversive retelling of an antisemitic fairytale (Rumpelstiltskin) from the point of view of a Jewish girl and written by an author of Lithuanian Jewish descent. It’s also a story about mothers and daughters, with wonderful writing and atmosphere and just a hint of political intrigue, following three young women, all strong in different ways. There are also a winter faery and a tormented demon-tsar as love interests, because monster romance > any other kind of romance.