Back again! I am trying to change my relationship with reading, books, and the bookish sphere as things were clearly not going well™ for me, but that doesn’t mean I want to get rid of my blog or never talk to anyone about books again.
So, welcome to my most unstructured post yet! I don’t feel like doing wrap ups or TBRs or anything coherent at the moment. One of the least nice things about second languages is that it hasn’t even been a month and my English already feels rusty to me, so, bear with me?
I’m now fully in my no ARCs phase and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve seen some books I’m anticipating on netgalley, and guess what? No desire to request them. Now that I don’t feel the pressure anymore, I never want it back.
So, one of the things I’ve been up to in these two weeks is reading my two ARCs not from publishers, the only ones I felt some kind of obligation to read before release date (I might be really anticipating The Unspoken Name, of which I’ve had an ARC for months; however, it’s not like significantly less people will hear about it if I don’t talk about it on this blog.) I’m now done and it feels great.
Both of these ARCs were indie f/f romances, the first one being Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera.
I didn’t mesh with the writing of this one at first, but once I got into it, it was delightful. It’s the perfect mix of tropey (dislike to love! with bedsharing included!) and new – I don’t think I’ve ever read about a baking competition, much less in a romance book. Also, the way this talked about culture in relation to food and queerness? I loved seeing how Sully and Kiskeya are both queer Dominican women but have completely different relationships with their culture, and this influenced their dynamic in many ways.
What I liked the least was how this book made such a big deal out of the fact that it was set in Scotland that it reminded me of Her Royal Highness (is this a trend.) and then didn’t actually do anything with that. I mean, one would expect that there would be more to the setting than the characters gushing that oh it’s Scotland! But no, it could have been set anywhere. And it’s not like it lacked an atmosphere, because the holiday atmosphere was very much there.
The relationship in itself was well-developed and sweet, and both the sex scenes and the food descriptions were well-written, so I’m not complaining.
The other book I have been reading was Eight Kinky Nights: an F/F Chanukah romance by Xan West, and for something I’m deeply not the target audience for, it went well!
Every single time I found sensory processing disorder/sensory issues, which I have myself, portrayed in a book, the book was to some degree dismissive (if not insulting) about it. This is not, it never is, and it talks about sensory issues in-depth – how texture can be the most important thing about food, and how your tolerance for noise can affect where you feel comfortable going, and how when you’re stressed things feel… in many ways louder than they really are; all that. It’s not about preference, it’s not something one can overlook if the situation is serious enough (it gets worse in stressful situations; I can maybe overlook it on good days), and this book gets it.
But that didn’t mean me and the characters necessarily had similar experiences, because sharing some kind of neurodivergency doesn’t mean everyone experiences things the same way (about the sex scenes, I was often thinking how are you not having a meltdown right now) – and yet it still rang true to me. There’s a world of difference between this and that one book in which the main character suddenly got rid of her sensory issues and touch aversion because it was necessary for the heartwarming scene for her to be able to hug other people. Different, not wrong.
Overall, this was a really interesting read; sometimes going out of your comfort zone with reading is good. I also really appreciated the in-depth list of content warnings at the beginning of the book.
Since we’re talking of things out of my comfort zone: something I’ve been really wanting to read or at least try to read lately is In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. Everyone, across platforms, seems to love it, and I’m so curious I can’t wait for this to be available where I usually buy books. And it’s a memoir. 2018 me would be staring at current me in disbelief, I’m sure.
There are other books about queer women’s experiences I wouldn’t have reached for just a few months ago but that interest me now; I got some other interesting recommendations from this list of best queer new releases on autostraddle. Since it literally starts with it, I want to repeat that I really do recommend reading Gaby Dunn’s Bury the Lede, that graphic novel is amazing.
Outside of books, I’ve also been reading the ongoing F/F manhua Tamen De Gushi/Their Story by Tan Jiu, a slice-of-life story about two high school girls in Beijing, and also one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. It’s over-the-top and sometimes absurd and so, so sweet but not so much that it was too much for me (as it happened a few months ago with the webcomic Always Human). The sweetness and the odd sense of humor balance each other really well. Also, I love the art style a lot?
Also about stories that are not books, I’ve tried two out of the four text-based romance games that recently came out on Heart’s Choice. The first one is the space-opera-with-aliens Dawnfall by RoAnna Sylver. My previous experiences with this author were mixed – while I did really like her short Date the Lizard, I really couldn’t get into Chameleon Moon – and I still don’t think they are the author for me, not really. Dawnfall has a set up that reminded me a little of Becky Chambers’ books, of which I’m not a fan, but I liked the characters in here for the most part. I also didn’t quite get the outcome I hoped – often, all possible in-game responses were completely not what I wanted to say – but this is long enough that I don’t feel like trying again anytime soon. It was still a fun time, and I liked how queer this was (…if you want, you can date five people at once. I love that, even if I didn’t try this time around.)
I also tried Jazz Age by Nicola R. White. This was shorter and it’s set in New York in 1920. I really liked the romance plotline I chose in here, and the atmosphere as well, but it was amusing how this seemed to be so baffled that I wouldn’t want to date the cop. I get it, he’s a good person in the end, but the game never gave me any reason why one would want to date him (…also, lesbians exist.)
I’m not sure what I’m going to do next – and I never want to write another TBR for a long time – but I think I’m going to (slowly) return to reading novels in the next weeks. I have no intention to go back to the pace I read before, because that just… wasn’t good for me.
I’m currently putting together a try a chapter post you’ll probably see in a few days, if everything goes according to plan, and with that I’ll decide what I read next.
Also: I’m 20 now. Surreal.
What have you been reading lately?