Welcome back to the Monthly Highlights series, in which I tell about my month by ignoring everything that happens in my life apart from novels and botany. I still manage to be accurate, because my life is boring.
What I Read
- I read 2 new novels and reread 3
- I listened to the audiobook of a novella
- I read a short story collection.
I didn’t read a lot in May, but I don’t mind that, because all the seven books I read were over four stars. I’m also a slow rereader, and I knew I wasn’t going to get to much when I decided to dedicate the month to a Machineries of Empire reread. (Totally worth it, by the way, but you probably already know what I think.)
What I Liked
↬ The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta is a contemporary fantasy novel following a group of queer witches living in a small town near the redwoods in California
- It’s GAY and it has TREES
- …anyway. Now that you know my priorities, I can say that it’s exactly the kind of atmospheric, witch-y story I had been looking for since The Raven Cycle
- there’s an f/f romance but to be honest the G(r)ays all felt in love with each other
- this is about belonging and community and the power found in them, and isn’t that a queer story™ in itself
- I feel like when people think about books about the queer experience they always think about coming out, as if that were the only part that matters
- I think it’s important to remember that this is contemporary fantasy and not contemporary from the beginning, so that you don’t feel weird about people walking barefoot in the woods at night
- I’ve heard almost nothing about this, which kind of makes me sad, because we might be getting a lot of f/f releases this year, but so many of them are being overlooked?
↬ I’d need to reread the other novellas to be sure (be sure!), but In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire might even be my favorite book in the series so far.
- I recommend the audiobook, and if you know me, you know that I’d never recommend the audiobook, but it’s short and the narration is amazing
- also Seanan McGuire’s writing relies on telling more than showing, which works better when the story is being told to you
- so atmospheric and vivid and I could see and feel the Goblin Market
- how can something be so beautiful and so sad at the same time
- about choices and fairness and the consequences of loneliness? There’s a lot to talk about here, it might be a novella but it’s the kind of thing I’d love to discuss
- it took me almost a month to read because I’m terrible at audiobooks and because I listened to it while traveling (for the “going around my region to see the plants” thing) in two separate occasions
↬ I spent most of the month rereading my favorite series, which everyone is tired of hearing me talk about, and its new short story collection (Hexarchate Stories), so I’ll try to be concise
- I didn’t love the sequel novella Glass Cannon as much as the novels; what it was doing made sense and so I appreciated it, but it had an exposition problem (and the execution was messy by this series’ standard; it needed more space)
- however, it was hilarious and the short stories were delightful
- I had already read some of them – half of Hexarchate Stories can be found on the internet, because this is a collection of stories set in the Hexarchate written over the years and published in various places. Anyway, it’s nice to have them all together
- the stories vary from “cute vignette with cats” and “fun caper” to “ominous foreshadowing” and “basically porn without plot”, I love variety
↬ Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson comes out in June (I read an eARC) and it was even better than I expected it to be
- it reminded me of An Enchantment of Ravens because of the humor – which I loved, YA fantasy often takes itself too seriously and this doesn’t – but it’s such a different book that I’d recommend it even to those who hated AEOR
- the romance was really cute but let’s be honest, I was there mostly for Silas, Nathaniel’s inherited demon™, who had the personality of a distinguished demonic noble crossed with an outraged cat
- sometimes a family is a sword-welding librarian, a bisexual disaster of a necromancer, and the demon who totally doesn’t care about them, no, why, where did you get that from
- the demon who told him bedtime stories I’m dying
- also, it’s set in a library and it’s full of terrifying magical books, what more do you want from life?
- the pacing was somewhat messy, I often felt like things took too long to get started and then ended up feeling rushed
I’m not even pretending this section is for something else at this point
- Guess what? I learned to recognize even more plants. No one is surprised. Anyway, this month’s highlights are the scorpion senna (Hippocrepis emerus), the mastic shrub (Pistacia lentiscus), the bloody dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and the manna ash (Fraxinus ornus). I can also now tell apart various species of broom (Genisteae) at a glance!
- From my hike in the Mediterranean shrubland, the first thing I learned is that almost every plant in it – it doesn’t matter if it’s a shrub, an herb, some kind of vine, or a tree – is full of thorns and personally hates you. The second thing I learned is that the next time I will bring scissors and gloves. (I almost paid my Calicotome spinosa sprig with blood. I won’t do that again.)
- I saw some species of non-photosynthetic plants (so, without chlorophyll) this month! They’re actually pretty common, as I’m discovering.
- One was the bird-nest orchid, Neottia nidus-avis [right (Yes I know it’s blurry)], which lives because of symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi. I didn’t even know that kind of thing could exist before, so it was really interesting to see.
- The weird plant [center] the flowerbeds in my city are full of is also non-photosynthetic – it’s a parasite of the common ivy (Hedera helix), whose name is… ivy broomrape (Orobanche hederae). Nice.
- I’m not 100% sure the Cytinus hypocistis [left], a plant which is a parasite of the Cistus genus, is non-photosynthetic, but I think it is – and anyway, it’s really pretty, so there’s a photo of that one too.
- I don’t know if I want to become a botanist, it’s too soon to tell what I’ll do in five years, and it’s not that I feel that more strongly about plants than I do about other life forms – I just think that while talking about parasitic plants won’t gross most people out, most might not appreciate my “parasitic isopod found in the fish I had for lunch” updates as much, that’s it
- When it comes to macroscopic life forms, I want to know about it
Cover reveals of books I’m more or less interested in that happened this month.
- Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller: I didn’t have the best experiences with Linsey Miller’s previous series, mostly because of the writing, but I believe in giving second chances to authors who write queer books, and this one is f/f. The cover looks like icing gone wrong, but oh well.
- Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan: the warrior lesbians are back, and both on the cover, and I can’t wait
- The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper: I’m not completely sure I’m going to read this but it looks really cute and I’m glad there are not one but two explicitly gay YA covers this month
- Docile by K.M. Szpara: it’s here. I’m not sure it’s going to work for me, as it’s completely out of my comfort zone, but this book’s premise sounds amazing and K.M. Szpara is one of my favorite short fiction authors, I can’t not try it
How was May for you? Any new favorite books/book covers?