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 Audio Freebie. Since I don’t listen to audiobooks and don’t have a lot to say about music, I’m ignoring the “audio” part completely, and I’m going to make a list of books I don’t talk about often (and why).
I have read hundreds of books in the last four years, and I liked most of them. However, there are some I don’t talk about often, for one reason or another – they didn’t fit any recent weekly meme prompt, I haven’t thought about them a lot, or they were good but flawed and I don’t love having to recommend things that I rated under 4 stars.
And yes, it’s basically part two of the post “Ten Books I Love But Rarely Mention on this Blog” I wrote a year ago, except I don’t love all of these (I like them, but for most of them, “love” is too much).
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
I have no excuse. This is a gorgeous, somewhat underrated book about a young Haitian immigrant living in the US. It’s a story about institutional racism and police violence just as much as it is a story about first love, family, and getting used to a country with a culture completely different from your own. It also has magical realism aspects and it’s beautifully written. It’s like The Hate U Give meets Anna-Marie McLemore’s novels and it’s worth picking up if you liked any of the two.
God’s War by Kameron Hurley
I talk about the wonderful all-lesbian biopunk horror book The Stars Are Legion all the time, and I have talked about The Light Brigade on this blog too, before reading it (now I’ve read it; it’s not as good as The Stars Are Legion but it’s… Interesting).
Despite all of this, I almost never talk about the other Kameron Hurley book I’ve read, God’s War – even though it is a desert sci-fantasy story with bug-powered technology and a bisexual main character, and isn’t that A Premise – and there are three reasons for this:
- I read while I was in the hospital. I definitely wasn’t at my best, and my memories of this are very foggy.
- It’s good, but not as good as Kameron Hurley’s other novels; the worldbuilding was very flawed.
- I rated it 3.5 stars, which is exactly the “I liked reading it and I liked a lot of things about it but there are enough flaws that it will never end up on a recommendation list because there are books in this genre I liked a lot more” spot.
Ash by Malinda Lo
I prefer to hype up new queer releases, because – at least until these last two years – if someone was even only marginally interested in f/f books, they had heard of Malinda Lo and her most well-known novel, Ash, an f/f Cinderella retelling. However, I’m not sure that’s the case today, as more recent and hyped novels get published (I’m thinking about Girls of Paper and Fire and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Leah on the Offbeat).
So: if you haven’t heard of it, Ash is a quiet, slow-paced love story about a girl who falls in love with a female huntress instead of a prince, about a girl who talks with mysterious faeries, and if you like quiet stories set in forests (so many descriptions of trees!) you really need to read this.
How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
I… don’t think I’ve ever really talked about this novel on my blog? That’s because, unlike many other readers, I found the romance in this book underwhelming and it was overall not really my kind of thing (also one of the side characters was such an Italian stereotype it was annoying?)
But I mean, I still gave it 3.5 stars, so I did like it. This is an atmospheric f/f story following a girl who lives with an irresponsible, neglectful mother, and I thought this last aspect was explored really well. Also, explicit bi rep! And have I mentioned that the writing was really good too? I wonder if I’d like it more on reread.
What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
The reason I don’t talk about this is a combination of this book being well-known enough to not need my hype and the fact that I don’t know how to recommend it. It’s not a romance, but those who don’t like tropey romances will be very frustrated by the journey?
I liked it because it felt like a realistic (if at times over-the-top… but real life can be that way!) story about two boys falling in love but not really knowing how to make it work, and I feel like that’s the right story only for a very specific audience. Between this and the very annoying and frequent pop culture references, I’m not surprised this book is so polarizing.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
…I don’t remember this book enough to recommend it the way it deserves. (Also, it doesn’t really need me to hype it up.)
I don’t mean that to say that this was forgettable, I just read it a long time ago. I remember that it was really diverse and that it meant a lot to me – I related to Nancy because of her feelings about portal fantasy worlds, and because of her ability to see the magic in stillness. Do I remember anything about the plot? No.
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Another book in the 3.5 stars spot! “3.5 stars” often also means “I have no idea how I feel about this, even though I liked most of it“, which is exactly what happened with this book. To recommend it, I think I’d need to reread it to see how I feel about it now, because:
- the writing was amazing, the atmosphere too, but the pacing was terrible and I was bored for all of the second half;
- I liked the main character and the ownvoices bipolar representation, but I thought that both this book’s attitude toward sex and the sex scenes were pretty cringe-y;
- I love this kind of paranormal creature/human romance, but I can’t recommend it as a romance with that ending;
- I liked that this was set in Europe, but according to reviews the German in this book doesn’t make any sense;
- I liked that it called out racism, but I think you shouldn’t have the only openly racist character in a book set in Germany be Italian. And especially you shouldn’t make comments on his bushy eyebrows.
There are a lot of great things about this book (the atmosphere, how quiet it is, the focus on music) but I don’t feel like recommending something I have so many problems with.
Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas
On one hand, oblivion is the right place for novels that have m/f romances as aggressively mediocre as this one. On the other hand, this is a story about a scientist queen with anxiety, and it’s a fascinating murder mystery court intrigue novel set in a fictional world with no magic in it. They use chemistry to scare away the enemies instead! I loved this concept and the main character, and this truly was a fascinating read.
Again, this is a 3.5 star novel: I liked it, but not enough for it to take the place on recommendation lists of other fantasy books I liked more.
American Panda by Gloria Chao
I don’t talk about American Panda often because I don’t really know how to talk about it. Most of my posts are about SFF, and this is a contemporary, a contemporary that is neither a summer-y read nor a romance, which are the contemporaries I talk about the most (but it does have a romance in it). I think one could describe it as an “issue book”, as it’s mostly a story about a Taiwanese-American girl who has very traditional, strict parents, but as “issue book” often has negative connotations, I usually avoid that descriptor.
Anyway, if you want to read a heartftelt, heavy-and-yet-funny (Mei’s narrative voice is amazing) story about a girl navigating two cultures, you should try American Panda.
The Price Guite to the Occult by Leslye Walton
I haven’t talked a lot about this book because I admit it myself, the plotting and romance in here are mediocre at best. But I really don’t understand why this isn’t more hyped, since the prose and atmosphere are really pretty and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was even worse in the plot and romance aspects.
The main reason I like this book is the representation: it follows a main character who dropped out of high school because of depression and has a history of self-harm, but is now in recovery. I loved how… tactful her portrayal was, how she wasn’t shamed for her history and past trauma – she had an abusive mother and during the story lives with her gay grandmothers. It always means a lot to me to see mentally ill main characters in fantasy.
Have you read any of these? Are there any books you like but don’t talk about often?