In November I read 14 books:
- 11 new novels, of which 3 I DNFed and 4 were ARCs
- 3 rereads (novels)
- 1 novella
Unfortunately, I ended up not caring about more than half of them. This wasn’t a good month for me, I kept finding a lot of mediocre stuff.
I also tried to read – and had to put down – Mirage by Somayia Daoud. I will give this book another chance, but I have to say that I’m kind of tired of reading about protagonists who are trapped in a place and forced to do things they find humiliating and I need to take a break from this kind of SFF for a while.
Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron – ★★ DNF
A short book I found lacking in pretty much every aspect – characterization, romance (I’m always sad when I don’t like the f/f ones, but it was so flat), setting (there was no atmosphere) and writing (juvenile, this almost felt like middle grade). I wanted to like this book about fallen angels in Edinburgh, but I was so bored I DNFed it after the halfway mark, which I almost never do.
The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson – ★★½ DNF
I don’t have much to say about this one – it’s beautifully written and well-researched and everything a historical book with just a hint of magic should be, but it just really wasn’t for me. Which is a shame because it mentioned the Genoese a lot, and I always love to read about Genoese history. Also, the main character is Circassian!
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri – ★★½ DNF
This was just… boring. And upsetting. The atmosphere was great and so was the worldbuilding, but nothing happened, and there was always the possibility the main character would be forced to have sex with someone she didn’t want to have sex with. I can read books involving sexual assault, but it has to be worth it. Here, it wasn’t. Again, another book in which the main character is trapped in a place where she’s forced to do things she finds painful or humiliating. Great.
Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield – ★★½
A novella about a time-traveling sapphich highwaywoman robbing sexual predators with the help of the scientist girlfriend? Great concept. The actual story, however, was so confusing it was nearly unreadable, and there was very little f/f romance (the sapphic main character, who is only one of the two main characters, spends more time flirting with a man than with her girlfriend).
Vita Nostra by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko – ★★½
In my review of K. Ancrum’s The Wicker King, I said that reading it was like watching a story unfold through opaque glass – I thought it was a beautiful book, but I couldn’t connect with it. Vita Nostra is like watching a story unfold through opaque glass, except the glass is now shattered, but you realized that the story was actually inside it – and now you’re trying to put it together even though you could cut yourself in the process. This is is a wholly unpleasant book with an overwhelmingly hopeless atmosphere that is also weirdly addicting for reasons I don’t understand. I don’t even know what it was about, I didn’t get it, I was bored, and yet. At least I can say it was memorable?
Could Have Been Better
The Phoenix Empress by K Arsenault Rivera – ★★¾
One of the worst cases of middle book syndrome I’ve ever witnessed (if I can call it that). Even ignoring all the structural issues, I’m here for the romance, I don’t care about that 40% made up of flashbacks in which the main character is alone (and I already know what happens). So much filler, so watered down, which is sad, because I love all the characters. The more I think about this, the more I think this shouldn’t have have been a series at all, and I doubt the third book will be better (I don’t think I’ll read it).
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – ★★¾
I probably would have liked this a lot, had I read two or three years ago. But I haven’t, and it may be unfair to this book, but I’ve already read this story too many times, and this felt very formulaic. The romance was lackluster and contrived. I really liked some aspects of the worldbuilding (but there was still a lot of room for improvement) and loved the main character, but these two things weren’t enough to make me care about this story as much as I hoped. Maybe I went into it with too-high expectations.
The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones – ★★★
A solid, fast-paced and yet underwhelming book about self-hate, parental abuse, and learning to let people in. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn’t have the time to get attached to any of the side characters or the romance, even though I did like Dee and her character arc. Also, my suspension of disbelief suffered a lot here. Forgettable.
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi – ★★★★½ [lowered in this reread]
I didn’t love this book as much as I did on my first read – fast-paced fun books that do not have that much depth are less fun and feel less fast-paced on reread – but I still really like this. It convinced me I wanted to read more adult sci-fi, it will always have a special place in my heart. Also: one out of the three PoV character is bisexual, my favorite one (Kiva! How did I miss that the first time around, she literally has sex with a woman at some point.) Anyway, this is a story about an empire falling apart and people, who have the worst priorities, trying to make money out of it instead of helping each other. It’s very entertaining and full of backstabbing, but it becomes less fun when you notice the parallels with global warming.
This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow – ★★★★¼
A story about three girls, Dia, Jules and Hanna, and their recovery from (respectively) trauma, a toxic relationship and alcoholism. It’s also a story about second-chance friendship, about people reconnecting through music. A story that talks about addiction and teen pregnancy without sounding judgmental or like a cautionary tale. This is a beautiful, underrated book I wish more people knew about. Also, there’s a very cute f/f romance and two of the main characters aren’t white.
The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera – ★★★★½ [raised in this reread]
I’m glad this book exists.
It’s the heaviest, most slow-burn and slow-paced fantasy romance novel I’ve ever read, full of “fated lovers” tropes and promises and all the stuff I would normally hate, but we usually don’t get those things with f/f content. And yes, it’s far from perfect – sometimes it really did get boring, and the reviews talking about the misrepresentations of Asian cultures on goodreads are worth reading – but we live in a world in which a book about warrior princesses falling in love can exist and that’s something. I also love Shefali and Shizuka a lot.
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway – ★★★★½
I can’t believe I removed this book from my TBR last year (in my defense, it sounded sappy, and I thought the f/f relationship was going to have a sad ending). But I found out that it got translated in Italian when I was in a bookstore, and I read all queer books that get translated in my language if they’re not Call Me By Your Name. And as it turns out, this is a beautiful book about family and overcoming self-hate and I’m so glad teenagers in my country can pick it up now. Like This Is What It Feels Like, it deals with teen pregnancy, alcoholism and people reconnecting after circumstances separated them, so I feel like if you like one of these two, you’ll also like the other.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – ★★★★¾
I rarely say it because it’s often overused, but I think this book is necessary. Not only it’s a fantasy book set in a country inspired by Malaysia with a wonderful, sweet f/f romance, it’s also a multilayered, complex exploration of what it means to be a victim of sexual violence (specifically as a queer teenager of color) and of the way women react to sexual violence. It’s set in a beautiful, horrifying palace it has some of the most interesting characters I’ve found in YA fantasy this year, and I know I won’t forget it. It was everything but an easy read (it’s probably the book that started by “trapped main character” fatigue!), but it was worth it for me.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – ★★★★★
Anna-Marie McLemore’s books are magical in a way very few other novels are. When the Moon Was Ours is my favorite by her so far, and with this reread I fell in love with this story again, with Miel and Sam’s sweet friends-to-lovers romance, and I remembered how much it meant to me to see a character of Italian descent (Sam is an Italian-Pakistani trans boy, Miel is latinx) that wasn’t in any way an Italian stereotype in an American book, and to see a girl struggling with an unusual plant-related phobia like I do. Also, this book has the perfect autumn atmosphere, creepy glass coffins, and food scenes that will make you hungry.