This year I’m not writing wrap-ups, I’m just going to write whatever I feel like writing, which is to say, this is going to be a very long and messy post. I hope you won’t mind it and I hope you will like this weird “discussion + book news + life update + opinions about plants + writing update + reading wrap up” frankenpost.
I’m alive! Unlike… basically all nice-looking palms in my city. My city is fighting – and losing – a war against an alien, accidentally-imported palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) and it’s killing most of the Phoenix canariensis in the whole region. Since I always have strong opinions about plants (how could I not), and palms from the Phoenix genus are the prettiest, the result is really sad. Oh, and having so many dead trees in private gardens when it’s this windy is also dangerous, apparently removing dead trees is costly and not everyone can do that immediately. So, yeah. I’m fine, the palms are not, and I withdraw what I said in my last highlights post – there’s an insect I hate more than processionaries.
Anyway. I don’t have much to say about my not-palm-related life because February was exam month and exam months are the boring kind of stressful. The other kinds of stressful are worse, of course – sometimes not having a story to tell is a good thing.
What I Read
I know I’m reading less than usual – counting novels, novellas and anthologies I read 9 books this month, and I usually read more than that – but I don’t mind that. What I’m proud of is that I’ve managed to not rate a book one or two stars yet this year. Quality >> quantity.
This month I read:
- 5 novels (of which one was a reread and 3 were ARCs),
- an ARC of a serial novel,
- 2 novellas,
- a webcomic and a half,
- 22 short stories, of which 14 were inside an ARC copy of an anthology.
I’m only going to talk about the books that stood out to me in some way.
↬ I found a new favorite book this month! It’s Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee, a Korean-inspired middle grade space opera.
- This has many of the things I like about Ninefox Gambit (sci-fantasy! Unreliable ghosts! Inventive and vivid world! Queer and trans-inclusive!) but without the inaccessible worldbuilding, very weird writing and extreme violence parts
- Which will probably make it a more appreciated book
- It’s about a 13-year-old rebellious and very determined gumiho who is just trying her best – she wants to help her family, bring her brother back and eventually explore the galaxy. I loved Min so much.
- I would have loved this book at 10 and I would probably love this if I had read it as an Actual Adult™
- I’m planning to make one of my parents read it; if you’re hesitant about trying this just because it’s middle grade, I can tell you that I usually don’t like reading middle grade but this was awesome and I think Actual Adults™ can enjoy it too
- Yes, this is a RR Presents book. No, it’s nothing like his books. Please don’t make this about him.
This month, I read two novellas I really liked:
↬ Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole is a second-chance f/f romance following two black women in New York.
- it’s very atmospheric and I could visualize the setting perfectly!
- the romance is adorable and cute and everything I wanted from this novella
- the reasons these characters didn’t get together previously made sense and didn’t feel forced at all, which is probably one of my most common problem with the second chance trope
- doesn’t shy away from real issues while still being a very hopeful and happy story
- I consider it one of my favorite contemporary romance books.
↬ The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark is a paranormal investigation story set in alt-history steampunk Cairo.
- do you like reading about worlds in which magic, mythology and technology meet? Read this novella. Also, the atmosphere is perfect, Clark’s Cairo felt so alive.
- it’s about an angry ghost haunting a tram car and those who are trying to get rid of it. The two main characters have an hilarious dynamic.
- it’s set in an universe in which colonialism in Africa ended earlier and it talks about historical feminist movements.
↬ The Perfect Assassin by K. A. Doore will come out this month, and if you like atmospheric desert fantasy, you should check it out!
- I loved the setting. Ghadid is one of the most interesting fantasy places I’ve ever read about: it’s built in the sky – on pylons – over a desert.
- If you liked the magic system in Jade City, in which jade was magical and tied to the economy, I think you’ll like this! In Ghadid water is magic, water is wealth water is money – which makes sense, since it’s very scarce.
- This is such a smart book. Yes, it’s a fantasy mystery about assassins, but at its heart it’s about the morality of assassination. It was a really interesting discussion, I loved the themes.
- It’s really gay! The main character is gay and asexual, there’s a side f/f couple and other queer characters as well.
↬ I also really liked The Past and Other Things that Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson
- Shaun’s first book was We Are the Ants. Then came At the Edge of the Universe. Then The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza. Now The Past and Other Things that Should Stay Buried. I predict that eventually his titles will end up being longer than the books themselves.
- It’s about a friendship that didn’t get closure because of a tragic death. And then these two friends get closure because one of them comes back to life and it shouldn’t work but it does
- It’s so weird and it doesn’t try to hide that. And the main character are messy and such fools but they grew up on me? They’re both “unlikable” but I thought that made them realistic
- I wanted to shake them so much sometimes, though, but I like how the book always ended up calling them out when they said messed up things
- Also, there’s a very interesting discussion about people’s obsession with putting others in boxes!
Some February Cover Reveals
↬ the anthology The Mythic Dream, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe has been announced and I can’t wait, it’s all about retellings of myths and it has so many authors whose short fiction I love, like Arkady Martine, Alyssa Wong, JY Yang, and Kat Howard. There are also many authors in here whose novels I love but don’t really have an opinion about their short stories, like Seanan McGuire, Ann Leckie and Naomi Novik. Also, the cover? Gorgeous.
↬ A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig: listen. The first book already had a cool cover, but this? This is one of the best combinations of pretty and creepy I’ve ever seen, and it also screams “necromancy”, as it should. I can’t wait.
↬ Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland: I’m not sure how I feel about this one because it reminds me of some of Cruel Beauty and Kerstin Gier’s covers and it doesn’t really stand out, but I love the premise.
↬ The Serial Box original The Vela, co-written by Yoon Ha Lee, S.L. Huang, Rivers Solomon & Becky Chambers got a cover. Knowing the content, I think the choices regarding the color scheme (cool background, bright spaceship) make sense, even if the result is a bit generic.
- Serial Box Pub was kind enough to send me an ARC (thank you!)
- It follows a brown trans woman who is a mercenary and a non-binary hacker as they try to solve a mystery in a dying star system with an ongoing refugee crisis
- Unfortunately, I didn’t end up liking this one as much as I hoped
- It didn’t have what made Ninefox Gambit feel so special or the depth of An Unkindness of Ghosts or the fun character interactions of Zero Sum Game. It didn’t even have what made The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet stand out from its genre (and in a not so good way, in my opinion, I kind of hated that book). It was overall a forgettable read.
- It’s very queer and the themes were great! But there was nothing fun about it, and it felt… hollow? Maybe it’s a side effect of being co-written (but it didn’t feel disjointed to me), I don’t know.
For other cover reveals, mostly of books I’m not interested in, look here. Am I the only one who thinks the Three Dark Crowns series has the most hideous covers ever? The first one was already not great and they only get worse.
I’m starting to write fiction again! There’s a reason I didn’t before – for a long time, my English was too clumsy to be useful for anything and my Italian was too rusty (multilingual struggles). These days, I’m trying to put together a non-linear short story. It features:
- my hometown’s traditional food, but In Space™
- a narrator whose reliability is… questionable, but she’s doing her best
- survival through stories
- it’s mostly written in English but the names are in two other languages because that’s my life. (If you think English spelling makes no sense, you should see Gallo-Italic languages).
I don’t know if I’m any good and I’m still at the “a paragraph takes me an hour” – yes that’s what happens when I actually care about sentences being pretty. On this blog, meaning > nice words and proper structure, because I’m too tired to care – but at least I’m writing something.
How was February for you? Have you read/are you anticipating any of these books?