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Try A Chapter Tag #6

Welcome to the sixth Try A Chapter post! As usual, this is a mix of new releases and backlist, this time with some significantly old backlist.


What I Tried

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall: let’s start by saying that I tend to dislike pirate stories, even if queer, and don’t find 12€ to be a reasonable price for an ebook. However, every queer release that gets some buzz also gets at least a try from me.
The first chapter: I don’t think I could have read something I was more not into had I deliberately looked for it! The writing is choppy, there’s a murder even before I had a chance to understand who the main character is, and the dialogue feels fake. Not happening. (YA fantasy stop starting out with a murder challenge. Things aren’t interesting just because people die, there are no stakes yet and I don’t care.)
[not for me, not adding to TBR]

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The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin: the more I read adult SFF, the more I’m interested in knowing more about older authors who are constantly referenced – especially those who were writing books with queer themes decades ago. They’re the proof that the genre isn’t and, most importantly, has never been a homogeneous, bigoted white men’s club. This is the first book that comes to my mind when I think about that, as it was published back in 1969 (!), but so far I haven’t even tried it because of how much I didn’t care for LeGuin’s most loved fantasy, the Earthsea series. This, however, is sci-fi.
The first chapter: Oh, old books, remind me why I don’t read you! It’s probably the neverending chapters (thirty pages, seriously? I didn’t read all of it, because there’s no way I’d start a book and leave it after thirty pages for a challenge) full of exposition. Anyway, I’m curious, even with all the inevitable parts that will chafe, being – from publishing’s standard – basically from another era.
[will read at some point]

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender: I feel like YA contemporaries will become a common feature of these posts! They’re useful to weed out the ones I without any doubt don’t like. Anyway, this is about a black trans demiboy finding love, I think?
The first chapter: I like this! And I can’t believe I’ve now tried chapters from at least four of Kacen Callender’s books and somehow have managed not to reach for any of them (…part of it is that all their contemporaries have high prices on ebook for some reason, and this one is no exception at almost 10€). I am interested in reading it, though.
[will read at some point]

Look by Zan Romanoff: again, a book about a social media influencer doesn’t seem that interesting to me, especially a YA contemporary about one, but again: F/F romance! That’s the main category of books I prefer not to dismiss without a try.
The first chapter: I… actually really like this? It has just the right attention to detail, and yes, the main character does kind of seem the “self-absorbed teen on social media” stereotype, but I already see the path for growth in the first pages (I don’t think it’s not one of those books in which the main character is awful for 300 pages and in the last 20 she has a change of heart), and we’ve already met the love interest. I think I’m going to read this.
[will read at some point]

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi: I haven’t read anything by this author and had only heard of her because of… negative reviews of another book, but one of my mutuals on twitter says that she writes the kind of fiction categorized as “literary” but that has a lot of crossover appeal for adult SFF fans. I’m curious.
The first chapter: this isn’t happening, at least not at the moment, by which I mean that this is the kind of book I could maybe see myself being interested in as I get older, if that makes sense. With every year I’m more for the weird and apparently aimless, and this looks like both (the beginning is still too aimless for my current taste). I’m removing it – for me, a TBR is a list of books I could realistically see myself picking up now or in the next few months – but I’ll keep it in mind.
[not on TBR for now]

We Were Promised Spotlights by Lindsay Sproul: I have my own doubts about this sapphic YA contemporary mostly because of the comp titles – The Miseducation of Cameron Post meets Everything Leads to You? Did you just pick two lesbian titles at random? One is about conversion therapy and the other is a fluffy homophobia-free romance – and the reviews haven’t been encouraging either. Let’s see.
The first chapter: everything about this book feels really off-putting and I think a big part of it is on purpose (it even has a fly on that ugly cover) but I don’t get said purpose. Not for me, and the Everything Leads to You comp is a complete miss – do you want to compare the fluffy F/F romance with a focus on aesthetics and filmmaking to “closeted homecoming queen barfs in the bathroom”? Yeah, no, the only thing these books have in common is the sapphic characters.
[not interested, not adding]

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The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar: I’ve seen a lot of hype for this one on twitter lately, because it’s an ownvoices Bengali Muslim lesbian book, and we certainly need more of that. Also, it’s set in Ireland, which we also don’t get enough of – the majority of queer books is so American.
The first chapter: oh!! A cold, not dramatic but still negative reaction to coming out! I’ve been there. And I can’t believe how we keep saying we don’t need more coming out stories when the ones we have are a) so white & American, b) so often written by straight people, c) so often either about unconditional support or violent reactions. To be honest, I think the average homophobe’s immediate reaction is *awkward homophobic disappointment*, and I’m surprised I had never seen it before.
[will read at some point]

The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya: I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one, from people saying it’s a waste of time to people calling a revolutionary queer novel. I know nothing about what I like in adult fiction, but I do think I should try more diverse adult contemporary novels, and this is about a falling out in a friendship between two South Asian women, one of them trans.
The first chapter: ok, I take it back – I do know what I don’t like in adult fiction specifically, and it’s pretentious characters. If you can stand this better, I think this could be interesting, because the set up for a toxic friendship between two artist with one thinking she’s so clearly better than the other (and doing a favor to the other with her mere presence) has potential. I also know I would hate every moment of reading from her PoV, so I’m not doing it.
[not for me, removing]

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Ship of Smoke and Steel by Django Wexler: yes, this kind of looks like a Generic YA Fantasy and not one I’ve heard good things about (hard to do when you’ve heard absolutely nothing about it). Also the cover is a shameless Throne of Glass copycat, which ordinarily would be enough for me to lose a lot of interest, but guess what? Gay.
The first chapter: this does kind of feel like generic YA fantasy with a magically gifted fighter girl but I’m into it, mostly because I like the writing. The magic system tied to wells vaguely reminds me of another series, though I can’t exactly point out which one (was it the Witchlands? I don’t remember.)
[will read at some point]


Have you read or want to read any of these?

5 thoughts on “Try A Chapter Tag #6

  1. I’m positively //screaming// about Felix Ever After, and I hope you love it when you get to it! I’m so excited to read The Henna Wars, so I’m glad you liked what you read of it. Also, even if it’s not for a blog post, I really need to try this one day. I find that even though I’m anticipating a book often, I never really know what it’s about. Loved this post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! I’m glad to hear that about Felix Ever After, I think I’ve only heard good things at this point (…I really should read something by Kacen Callender and stop procrastinating on things I think I’ll like)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m reading the mermaid etc and I wouldn’t be reading it if it wasn’t an ARC dddkdhkd I think it’s doing some interesting things but I would be surprised if at the end of it I came to tell you that you must continue or you’ll miss something amazing dldjdkddh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah this didn’t leave me with a good impression at all dkgh is the romance at least good? I don’t trust pirate books anymore, even if sapphic (…especially if sapphic? All the ones I can think of right now had seriously questionable parts)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. the romance didn’t go too far yet but it’s….just average? hdsflsd yeah i always say i like pirate books but i’m starting to believe it’s the idea of pirate books that i like more than the books themselves (and yeah, what you said about especially if sapphic)

        Liked by 1 person

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