Welcome back to the Monthly Highlights series, in which I talk about what books I read, plants, what happened this month, recent bookish news, and whatever I might want to say, but mostly plants.
What I Read
This wasn’t as good of a reading month as March was, because sometimes that happens. Anyway, I read 5 novels (one of which was a reread), 1 novella, 1 anthology over 600 pages, and 10 short stories outside that anthology (yes, I read a lot of short fiction this month). And it’s not a bad thing! Honestly, the only months I see as failures are the ones in which I find no five stars, and this wasn’t one.
The novella, the anthology, and 3 of the novels but one were ARCs.
As usual, since this is a “highlights” post, I’m going to talk about what stood out.
Books I Loved
↬ Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali is one of the best YA contemporary novels I’ve read in months. I thought I’d like it but not feel strongly about it, as it happened with Saints and Misfits, but was I wrong.
- This book is important. This book is the cutest romance ever. Both things are true.
- I usually don’t like the romance in contemporary romances this much? Especially not m/f ones. But Adam and Zayneb… I love them so much. They’re perfect for each other.
- It talks about Muslim across different cultures! Zayneb lives in the US and is of Pakistani and Caribbean (West Indian) descent, Adam is a Canadian convert of Chinese and Finnish descent.
- It talks about two people falling in love just like it talks about being a young, visibly Muslim person in an Islamophobic place, and it also talks about living with a disability (the love interest, Adam, has multiple sclerosis).
- The narrative voice was amazing, especially in Zayneb’s chapters.
- Part of it is set in Doha, Qatar, so… non-western contemporary!
- I want this book to get translated in my country and I want all the people I know to read it, because I think it’s important and because it’s one of the few “important” novels I know whose message isn’t awfully US-centric.
↬ The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad is one of the most original fantasy novels I’ve read in a while.
- Multicultural cities in fantasy! I have talked about favorite fictional cities in the past, but books like this one really make stand out how unrealistically homogeneous the average fantasy city is.
- The main character is Muslim, but not everyone in this city is, and this isn’t a point of conflict.
- Third person present omniscient narration sounded like the worst idea ever and I did struggle with it at the beginning, but the author clearly knew what she was doing, and it ended up working.
- It’s really slow-paced, so keep that in mind.
- So many female characters, all of them as developed as they needed to be!
- It’s a standalone! Not one that will be turned into a series after being promoted as a standalone! The author confirmed this.
- Don’t read this book while hungry. Trust me.
Books I Didn’t Love But That I Want To Talk About
↬ Wilder Girls by Rory Power is a cli-fi horror book I have some mixed feelings about, which kind of makes me feel bad, because I really don’t want to be the one to complain about a decently hyped f/f book.
- the writing is amazing, and for once this is a plant horror book that actually talks about which plants there are.
- it’s about going wild! And you could see the horror metaphor – especially the way girls are affected by their changing bodies – in so many ways! I love reading the interpretations.
- However: I’m so tired of books that attempt to talk about climate change without talking about ecology. It’s the sci-fi equivalent of having gods be active parts of your worldbuilding in a book that never talks about religion: it feels so cheap and it doesn’t make any sense.
- “but it’s horror! It’s a metaphor!” -> a metaphor about climate change that doesn’t also have some kind of metaphor for the dynamics of ecosystem is a shitty metaphor
- if I look at the horror aspect in this book from a botanic viewpoint it’s not perfect but far better than average and so I appreciate it, from the “what it says about expectations put on girls’ bodies” angle it’s amazing, but if I look at it from an ecology angle, it’s mediocre at best
- the characterization was so weak and in some cases inconsistent that by the end of the novel I felt like I didn’t know any of the characters.
Who am I kidding. *Plant Update
- I learned to recognize a lot of plants this month! The laurestine (Viburnum tinus), the “tree of heaven” (lol) (Ailanthus altissima), the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), the Mediterranean hackberry (Celtis australis), the field elm (Ulmus minor), the rough bindweed (Smilax aspera), various species of Genisteae, and many others. This means that I… notice a lot more plants than I did before, oddly? There are so many plants in this city. I had never realized just how many different species we have. And being able to give a name to things feels really nice.
- Since I learned to recognize Ailanthus altissima, I’m realizing just how many of these we have, and how difficult they are to eradicate. And I love how the English name is “tree of heaven” while the name this tree has in our dialect roughly translates to “poop tree” and “stink tree”, from its characteristic smell. So, yes, we have a stinky tree infestation.
- After a month and a half of overwhelmingly sunny, almost summer-y weather, it finally rained, and that’s how I ended up discovering one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life: rain droplets on the scale-like leaves of the Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus semprevirens). The branches end up looking like reaching hands covered in silver-green lace.
I saw this “villain alignment chart” a few days ago and I think it explains a lot. If you don’t know me, hi, I’m a villain fan (for details, read How I Fell In Love With Villains, In Five Steps), but a very picky villain fan. One that didn’t really know how to explain why she liked Malachiasz and (especially) the Darkling, to talk about two characters who are in this chart, but couldn’t bring herself to care about Cardan or Kylo Ren in any way. And it is because they’re pathetic.
- “Pathetic” isn’t an appealing trait to me. I’m all for villains who have weaknesses, but if it that apparent from the beginning… I just can’t take them seriously
If I’m going to have to read about terrible men, at least make them competent. I can see mediocre ones every day
- But more that anything, they’re not my type. I think I understand what other people see in them, especially if I look at the kind of dynamic that is Jude/Cardan and in a way also Rey/Kylo – powerful girl beats up (vaguely, for Cardan) villainous, pathetic boy, with lots of sexual tension – it’s just not my kind of power fantasy
- “Charming fanatic”, however, is a very concise way to explain what I usually describe as my favorite kind of character, the intersection between the “(somewhat) well-intentioned extremist” and the “manipulative bastard” trope
- “Charming fanatic” is a very concise way to explain my favorite character, why am I not surprised
- I Have A Type
In Book News
This month’s most interesting cover reveals:
- Reverie‘s cover was finally announced! I still haven’t really understood what this book is about and I’m not sure if it will be for me but it’s a queer ownvoices story, so of course I’m interested.
- Subterranean Press announced a collection of novellas and short stories by Aliette de Bodard, Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight. She’s one of my favorite authors and we already have a cover, I can’t wait!
- I don’t know how I feel about Come Tumbling Down‘s cover yet (I… think it’s my least favorite?) and I don’t know how I feel about the fact that it follows the character who two years ago was my least favorite (now I don’t know, because I don’t remember the story that clearly). We’ll see?
- I don’t know how I feel about the new Anna-Marie McLemore cover for Dark and Deepest Red yet either – it’s not really my style but it makes sense for the story as far as I know – but of course I’m going to read it.
- I’m not sure I’m going to read A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian because it’s a novella of a series I’m not interested in, but… just look at that cover. I’m.
- Would it kill adult fiction designers to put together covers that actually look interesting? I’m interested in reading The Starless Sea because it’s Erin Morgenstern but the cover is really meh
I usually only talk about cover reveals, but this time there haven’t been a lot of them. But I want to talk about some bookish announcements:
- A sequel to one of my favorite books of 2018, Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente, has been announced! It will be called Space Oddity. I didn’t see this coming but YES
- Kameron Hurley has announced Losing Gravity, a space thriller that will be queer and will have female villains and… she can make me like things I hate like she did in The Light Brigade and she did write my favorite villain ever in The Stars Are Legion so I can’t wait, even though I have no idea what “Killing Eve meets Die Hard” might mean
- Both of these will be out in 2021. It’s so far away… w h y
Also, the Hugo finalists were announced! I wrote a whole post about that.
Have you read or are you anticipating any of these? How was April for you?