I already talked about some of these points in detail in the past, and I’ll be linking some of the posts in which I did that.
1. Is the cover pretty?
There’s a good chance that the first thing I ever see about a book is the cover. If the cover for some reason catches my attention, I’m far more likely to read the synopsis, or try an excerpt, or add it to my TBR.
- The closer I’ve been to a cover add recently is House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. I wasn’t that interested in the premise, and while I’ve heard good things, I want to read it mostly because its cover is a tide pool. There’s nothing as pretty as tide pools and I’m glad this book recognizes that.
- I probably would have never reached for Aliette de Bodard‘s novels if it hadn’t been for the beautiful cover of The Tea Master and the Detective. She’s now one of my favorite authors, and I’m so glad I decided not to ignore my so-pretty-must-read instinct. This novella is a genderbent Sherlock Holmes retelling but in space, of course I had to try it, but would I have noticed its premise if the cover had been boring?
- More than a cover buy, War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi was a cover download – it’s free to read on edelweiss – but still. Look at it. Isn’t it one of the most beautiful covers of 2019? (Also, Nigerian-inspired sci-fi!)
2. Do People I Trust Like It?
Reviews matter a lot, especially if I know and trust the person who wrote them. I’m far more likely to pick up something out of my comfort zone if someone I often interact with or whose recommendations have worked for me before liked it.
- Did I read the Twisted Romance anthology, edited by Alex de Campi, just because Allison @maliciousglee talked about it on twitter? Yes. And I’m glad I did, and if you like queer short fiction/short graphic novels, you should really give it a try.
- I read The Wicker King by K. Ancrum just because of Elise @thebookishactress and wow I really did almost miss the weird gay & polyamorous genre-bending book, I’m glad I listen to other people sometimes (and yes, I know, I should read the sequel too).
- At least three different people have told me to read Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, which I wouldn’t try otherwise because of my experience with the Illuminae series (nothing ever went downhill faster), and I promise that I’m going to get to it this year.
3. Can I Request it on Netgalley or Edelweiss?
(And did they approve me/grant my wish?)
I have very little self-control, and when I can request/wish for something on netgalley/netgalley uk/edelweiss that sounds vaguely interesting, I do. It often doesn’t work, and when it does, it doesn’t always work in my favor – ARCs mean pressure and feeling pressured to read something that wasn’t a priority for me to begin with doesn’t feel great – but I’m glad I have this opportunity.
- I didn’t expect to get this, but I have, and since I’ve also already read it, I can say that I recommend Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite to all of those who like mixed media novels and the “reconnecting with family” plotline in The Astonishing Color of After.
- I read The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke just because I got an ARC through netgalley UK – I wasn’t that interested in the premise, and was I wrong. It ended up being one of my favorite books of 2018.
- I didn’t know whether I was going to read Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao since I don’t even know if I will finish the Forest of a Thousand Lanterns duology, but it was free to download on edelweiss and it’s the retelling of a Vietnamese fairytale, so…
4. Is It Diverse?
I’m more likely to read something if I hear that it’s diverse, because I prioritize diverse books. I’m just not that interested in reading about white, allocishet, abled American main characters: I’m not one, and for someone who isn’t, I’ve read so many stories about them already. Literature should reflect the world in which it is created, and we live in a diverse world.
- I tried A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna just because it was a genre-bending retelling of the Mahabharata set in space and I’m always looking for ownvoices retellings of non-western stories. To this day, it’s my favorite YA book set in space (and it’s criminally underrated. Please read it.)
- When I heard that An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon was a sci-fi story with a mostly-queer cast – specifically, it follows an autistic intersex queer black woman – I immediately added it to my TBR, because I’m always looking for that kind of stories.
- I did buy Release by Patrick Ness just because it was gay, because if it’s gay and I find it in a bookstore in my country, I read it.
5. Specifically, Is It F/F?
I’m more likely to get out of my comfort zone for f/f books, because in the genre I read the most – YA fantasy – there’s not a lot of it (but there is some and I hate when people erase that). This has helped me find some genres I love, like adult sci-fi, which is currently my favorite genre.
- I don’t often reach for horror, but if it’s queer – especially f/f – horror? I’m going to try it, and that’s one of the two reasons I’m going to read Wilder Girls by Rory Power (…the other is the cover. Just look at it.)
- I’m going to read Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear just because it’s about lesbians in space. Have I heard anyone talk about it? No, but it doesn’t matter, I have to at least give it a chance.
- I thought I didn’t feel strongly about adult contemporary romance until I read Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole, and I read it just because it’s an f/f second chance romance following two black women in New York. I’m so glad I did, because I loved it and now I know that I was just reading badly-written romance.
6. …Did Anyone Mention Villains?
If someone praises a book because they loved the main character, I will consider adding it to my TBR. If someone praises a book because they loved the villain, it’s very likely that I’ll add it instantly, especially if said villain and their storyline seem to fall into my two favorite tropes: either a monster romance, or manipulative well-intentioned extremists. I wrote a whole post about why I love villain romance if you’re interested in knowing the reasons (and some recommendations!).
- I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin when I rarely reached for adult fantasy and didn’t even really know who NK Jemisin was, just because someone compared it to Shadow and Bone (and yes, it’s accurate).
- One of the reasons I was anticipating The Fever King by Victoria Lee was that I heard something that, while very vague, made me think this book had an interesting villain. And while the main reason for reading this was “this is a futuristic gay book” (and it is a wonderful futuristic gay book, read it), the villain was as amazing as I expected.
- The villain romance was the main reason I wanted to read Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan since it was just “the damn cleric book”, and I wasn’t disappointed.
7. Does Its Premise Sounds Like Something I’ve Never Read?
I wrote a whole post about what I like in synopses, but anyway, while the pitch isn’t everything, an interesting one will get me to add the book immediately.
- My most anticipated release of 2019 from a new-to-me author is Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, which is apparently a space fantasy story about lesbian necromancers. I read some excerpts and… this book is so out there. I want it now.
- I picked Witchmark by C.L. Polk up just because it was a steampunk murder mystery with an m/m paranormal romance inside. It ended up being one of my favorite novels of last year.
- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a story about Mayan gods in Mexico in the 1920s and I don’t think anything similar even exists. I have an ARC and I hope to read it this spring.
8. Does It Have Any Of My Buzzwords?
I have many of them! While I have already mentioned the main one before – and it’s villains – I have other ones, some of which I’ve talked about in this post.
- I now know that political intrigue in space is… basically my favorite genre, so when I heard that A Memory Called Empire was specifically about that, I knew I had to read it. And, surprise, it’s my favorite book of this year so far. (Also, it’s f/f!)
- One of my main buzzwords I talked about in my post was plant magic/creepy magical forest, and apparently the novella Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh has both! And it’s an m/m fantasy romance which is being described as Uprooted meets Witchmark, so everything I didn’t know I needed.
- I was thinking about what trope often appeared in my favorite books, and “haunted people” turned out to be one of them. Which is the reason I immediately read the short story Circus Girl, The Hunter, and Mirror Boy by JY Yang when I heard of it. It’s my favorite story of 2019 so far, and it’s free online!
9. Is It From An Author I Trust?
This is probably the main one. If I trust the author, I’m willing to stick with something that doesn’t work for me or that sounds completely out of my comfort zone to see if it improves.
- The main example of this I can think of is The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley. I dislike reading fiction about the horrors of war, but I didn’t DNF this book even though I was hating it, just because Hurley wrote one of my favorite books. I don’t regret it, as I ended up really liking it.
- New adult about secret societies in American colleges isn’t something I would usually be interested in, but Leigh Bardugo wrote Ninth House and of course I’m going to at least give it a chance.
- I don’t know what Escaping Exodus is really about, and I don’t need to: Nicky Drayden wrote Temper and I’ll be reading everything she writes in the near future.
10. Did I Read an Excerpt And Love It?
Sometimes, I try an excerpt of a book I’m not that interested in out of curiosity. I usually end up not feeling strongly about it – as I’m really not that interested after all – but sometimes I fall in love with the book just because of the first few chapters.
- I tried an excerpt of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee because I thought the cover looked like a weird space urchin and I wanted to know more about that. After I read it, I couldn’t think about anything else for the following two weeks. I didn’t even want to read anything else for those two weeks, until I finally bought a physical copy (which I almost never do with books I’ve never read) – and that’s how I found my favorite book!
- I didn’t feel strongly about This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow and wondered whether I actually wanted to read it – the early reviews were few and mixed. So I read an excerpt, fell in love with it, and ended up buying an ebook immediately. It’s a gorgeous book that deserves more hype.
- I was going to remove The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz from my TBR because of the lukewarm reviews, but I decided to give it a last chance and read an excerpt. That’s how I found what’s probably my favorite standalone.
What makes you pick up a book? What are some of your buzzwords? Have you read or are anticipating any of these books?