Welcome back to the Monthly Highlights series, in which I talk about what books I read, what happened this month, and recent bookish news.
What I Read
This month I read 11 novels (of which one was a reread) and 9 short stories (reviewed here). It isn’t a lot, especially if I consider that in 2016-2017 I could effortlessly reach 17, but my life isn’t what it was when I was in high school and since in the last two months I read 4 and 5 novels respectively, this is an improvement.
Books I Loved
↬ A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine is a political science fiction book about a space empire and an ambassador who is trying to understand in which circumstances her predecessor died in that space empire. Also, it’s f/f!
- this is the kind of novel I know will end up on my “favorites of 2019” list, and I know I will never forget it, and I really hope I’m going to see it in the Nebula and Hugo shortlists
- this is one of the best examples of political intrigue I’ve ever read. Smart, complex worldbuilding, a world you get invested in, and characters that stand out while hiding a lot. Everything you need, basically.
- what it said about language, growing up on translated literature, and navigating two cultures when your neighbors are far more powerful that you are meant a lot to me (I explain this better in my review)
- Complex female characters, both main and side! I loved Mahit Dzmare, a main character who changes history without ever needing a weapon or magic. And the romance? Lovely.
- And if we’re talking about remarkable, really morally gray female side characters, ezuzuacat Nineteen Azde, “whose gracious presence illuminates the room like the edgeshine of a knife”, could stab me and I’d thank her
↬ The Fever King by Victoria Lee is a futuristic sci-fantasy novel featuring a main m/m romance and a Colombian Jewish main character.
- it took over my head for a week and didn’t let go, and I still think about it multiple times a day. I almost ended up rereading it but I don’t have the time!
- I love reading about training montages, superpowers that don’t remind me of superheroes (this book has technopathy in it and its magic system is based on knowledge and science, how cool is that) and teenagers trying their best to be heroes in a world that is made of difficult decisions
- Noam and Dara deserve so much better!
- I just want them to be ok, is that too much to ask
- this was an unusual read because it’s the only book I know that worked because it was predictable and not despite its predictability, and I loved that a lot
- we can’t talk about the villain because spoilers, but. Can we talk about the villain? He’s my favorite villain trope and he’s awful and I won’t act like that’s not the main reason this book isn’t leaving my head
↬ Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan is a gothic Russian- and Polish-inspired YA fantasy novel about a girl who can commune with the gods and a magical war.
- March was such a good month for villain reads. This one, if some of you don’t know that already, is a villain romance
- this book was worth reading just because of the aesthetic and didn’t hold itself back in that aspect
- all the characters were somewhat terrible – even if some were far more terrible than others – and I loved that
- it was so much fun! Which I feel isn’t that easy to find in YA fantasy anymore, and I love when a book is dark but doesn’t take itself too seriously.
- the banter! the tension! those dialogues!
- Cosmic horror, discussions about theology, and heresy for everyone!
↬ The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley is a military sci-fi novel following a bisexual main character in a world in which corporations own everything.
- this was such a weird reading experience
- I was really confused, because time travel does that to me. And this kind of novels about war is not something I enjoy reading, or so I thought for most of the book
- However. The ending. That ending!!!!
- This will stay with me for a long time and I think that among all of those books that try to talk about the horrors of war this is one that I feel I can recommend
- the more I think about it the more I like it and I thought I didn’t like it at all while I was reading it
- It’s very violent and gory (it wouldn’t be Kameron Hurley without gore?) but you don’t get out of it feeling like you hate existing and that’s something these books always fail at
- Describing a book like this as hopeful feels weird to me because I still haven’t fully processed the ending but yes, that’s what it is
- The Stars Are Legion is still my personal favorite – …it did get me into sci-fi – but this is book is just as (if not even more) clever
Some books that I didn’t feel as strongly about but still recommend:
- The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie: a very interesting if slow-paced novel narrated in second person by a god who lives inside a rock to the main character Eolo, who is a trans man. A lot of great concepts and ideas, and an execution I found flawed. It’s Hamlet-inspired, so you might get more out of it than I did if you are familiar with that story.
- Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite: mixed media contemporary novel! The eARC formatting gave me a headache and the plot was somewhat messy, but this is worth reading just because of the main character, he voice was amazing. Also, it’s the story about a Haitian-American girl visiting Haiti for the first time and if you liked the “reconnecting with my family and culture” theme of The Astonishing Color of After (I love this kind of stories and I’m always looking for contemporaries set outside the US), you should read this. It will be out on September 5th.
- Ruse by Cindy Pon: I didn’t love this as much as I loved Want but it’s still a sequel worth reading. It’s set in Shanghai, which I really liked, but, unlike what the cover might make you think, it’s still mostly narrated by Zhou.
- All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle: a really heavy contemporary fantasy novel about a lesbian who lives in a strict, Catholic Irish family. Like Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, it deals with getting to know more about your family’s history and what may or may not be a family curse, but it’s mostly about the crimes of the Catholic Church. If you agree with the idea that there’s nothing as terrible as a story untold, I really recommend this book, because it talks about historical erasure and the way institutions try to bury the tragedies they caused. Don’t go into this if you’re looking for a strong narrative voice or well-developed characters. It will be out on August 1st.
I also found the first two two stars of the year this month (The Waking Forest and The Nowhere Girls). Disappointing, but it had to happen eventually.
My life in March:
- In botany news, this is the season in which all the Wisteria trees (or, as we call it, “glicine”) in my city are blooming and there are some places that are so beautiful right now. However, a lot of plants bloomed in January/February and right now the weather feels as if it were June (and it has rained twice in a month and a half), which is worrying me.
- Blooming wisterias means that it’s Carpenter Bee Time. I love my Xylocopa friends. So fuzzy.
- On a more bookish and biopunk horror note, The Stars Are Legion was translated into Italian! I broke my “only one copy per book” rule because I couldn’t not support something like this.
I’m not a bookstagrammer and it shows
Some Cover Reveals I Want To Talk About
- The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco – I am not sure what this is supposed to represent but it’s one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen, so I had to talk about it here. I know nothing about the premise but I usually like Rin Chupeco’s books and this one is queer, so…
- Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron – this is giving me a “The Library of Fates but darker” impression and I’m so here for this. It does look somewhat unnatural because of the lighting, but I don’t mind that, it’s wonderful.
- Crier’s War by Nina Varela – f/f fantasy!! And the cover looks amazing. At first I thought it was a boring brown but the amount of details and the perfect lighting changed my mind. I hope the inside is as good.
- A House of Rage and Sorrow by Sangu Mandanna got a cover! I can’t wait for the book but I actually hate how this looks like. The first cover was great, but this looks like a blurry mess.
Then we have Queen of Nothing by Holly Black, Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, and Queen of the Conquered by Kheryn Callender (technically revealed in April, but I want to talk about it now), which, if they look vaguely similar, it’s exactly because they’re using the same stock photo. Which most of the book community is finding pretty funny, and I agree, and I’m just going to link you this.
How was March for you?