Welcome to another post in my Monthly Highlights series, in which I will talk about everything book-related (and sometimes not) that happened in July.
What I Read
July was exam month for Acqua and heatwave month for Europe, so I’m surprised that I still managed to read 15 books:
- 10 novels, of which 6 were ARCs
- 2 novellas, of which 1 was an ARC
- 2 collections, of which 1 was an ARC
- 1 graphic novel, which was an ARC
I didn’t read as much as I read in June, but I did read just as many novels – this time, without DNFing one – so I consider this a good reading month. Rating-wise, there were a lot of four stars (eight of those 15 books were four stars), a few fives and threes, and a two. We’re over halfway through the year and I still haven’t rated a book one star!
As usual for a highlight post, I will only talk about the books I liked the most.
↬ Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear is a space opera novel following Haimey Dz, a black lesbian space salvager, as she discovers an abandoned ship and the terrifying truths tied to its existence.
- this is officially the most unexpected favorite of the year. I hated it at the beginning and wanted to DNF it, but as usual, sci-fi with somewhat dense worldbuilding is worth it
- I had so much fun with this, even when the story got really dark, because this was just so interesting and beautiful. I was never bored, and this is longer than 500 pages.
- the premise of this book is basically “archeology in space, but with pirates“, and if you thought it couldn’t get better than that, what if I told you that there’s lesbian villain kissing involving the evil pirate lady?
- no romance, a great emphasis on friendships between queer characters, and does this book understand that everything, including space, is better with cats
- combine the ideas of “ancient mysterious artifacts”, “alien technology incomprehensible to humans”, and “the terrifying beauty of space” and you get the aesthetic of this book
- Haimey’s character arc is one of the best I’ve read in months. This is a story about coming to terms with trauma (she has PTSD from growing up in a cult) and while it gets dark at times, the ending was everything to me.
↬ The Fox Tower and Other Tales by Yoon Ha Lee is a collection of cute flash fairytales and prose poems.
- queer (f/f and m/m stories and some non-binary main characters) twists on familiar fairytale tropes and archetypes are so refreshing
- cuddly foxes!
- flash fiction is a lot like poetry, which means that sometimes this goes a little for the “pretty for the sake of it”, and… I love that. Because Yoon Ha Lee’s descriptions are many things but are never banal
- I am still thinking about descriptions like “crystals unfed by unsunlight”. It shouldn’t make sense, in a literal way it does not make sense, but it does, it always does
- then there are three prose poems, two of which – Candle and Thunder – are clearly tied to some characters from Ninefox Gambit and I still have so many feelings
- “I don’t expect your hands to glove black (ashes are my favorite fashion)” I personally hate you, [spoilery name censored]
- “and sometimes it’s about gunfire opening your heart” of course you’d use that imagery, go figure
- it’s not really tied to the Machineries of Empire universe if you don’t want to scream “Jedao, NO” at some point
- this, overall, made me so happy and there’s a lot of value in that.
↬ Pet by Akwaeke Emezi is a futuristic novel following Jam, a black trans girl with selective mutism, in a world in which evil doesn’t exist anymore… or so she’s told.
- I recommend this book to… almost everyone? It’s really short and it’s the kind of thing middle schoolers can read and understand but that adult can also get important things from
- It’s unlike everything I’ve ever read. This is a YA book with no romance (already uncommon), following a 15-year-old main character (also not common) who is a disabled black trans girl (previously unheard of in tradpub YA novels) in a book that isn’t about her being marginalized. It’s also about a society that looks utopian to us (why are all futuristic novels dystopian?) and it involves paranormal elements.
- it’s about how evil is allowed to thrive unseen when people start refusing to admit that it can exist, and it has a lot of really interesting things to say about what makes a monster, and what – specifically – makes monsters so dangerous
- it’s a charming kind of weird, beautifully written, and unique
- the main character isn’t always able to voice and as someone who has also struggled with voicing things (for slightly different reasons, but it’s not that different from the outside), the fact that no one ever makes her selective mutism a problem meant so much to me
↬ The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang is the fourth and final book in the Tensorate series. It follows Lady Han, a courtesan-turned-revolutionary, and it’s written in the form of a drunken monologue.
- I know “drunken monologue” doesn’t sound appealing at all but it works
- this was a great month when it came to f/f villain kissing, because this is about the relationship between Lady Han and Hekate, the series’ villainess
- how did I not know this was an f/f villain romance before reading it. how.
- a tragic gay story, but not the kind of homophobia-related tragic gay story we’re used to; it’s a story about two very morally gray women and how their relationship fell apart
- queer stories should get to be sad like the non-queer ones do, in ways that have nothing to do with the characters’ marginalizations
- everyone is kind of horrible and I loved that
- the best novella in the series, and I don’t say that lightly when this was already my favorite novella series. I love this world so much
- …I still want more Tensorate
- Despite exams, I was finally able to have a free morning for my first Underwater Photography Day of the year. The quality of the water wasn’t the best – it wasn’t dirty (I know where and when to go to avoid that most of the time) but it was somewhat… cloudy? Not sure what the right word is in English, but I couldn’t see very far. Anyway, that was probably caused by a recent coastal storm.
- Still managed to take some pictures, and the Cystoseira are still there, which should be a good thing (Cystoseira is a genus of algae known for being bioindicators of good water quality)
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen – I love this cover, it looks like such a cute, fun romance, one following East Asian-American characters and set outside the US!
When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson – this one is also set outside the US, it’s a Canadian YA novel about teens going on a road trip to get to Toronto Pride, and… there are so many queer YA novels, but surprisingly few of them feature Pride parades. I’m glad that this exists and that it looks really gay from the outside already.
The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett – all I know about this one is that it’s f/f and will have a setting with a really wintry atmosphere. The cover looks a little too “generic YA fantasy for my taste” (it reminds me a lot of Bloodleaf, for example) but the details are everything.
The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood – F/F fantasy!! I don’t love this cover, but I am really anticipating this book. I’m not sure what it is about Tor and F/F involving necromancy but I support the idea?
Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer – and I thought Borne was trippy. Oh well? (I love this, but it also almost hurts to look at)
Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty – I still have to read the second book (I know, I know), but can we just say that the UK covers of this series are objectively superior? They have a simple, straightforward and effective aesthetic.
How was July for you? Have you read/are you anticipating any of these?