August 2020 Wrap-Up

Here I am, back to monthly wrap-ups! At least I read enough this month to make an individual post.

Life Update

After two exam months, August was a much-needed empty one. For the first two weeks, I was in the Rhaetian Alps; the rest of the month was pretty much like July minus the studying. By which I mean, my project involving becoming friends with all the city’s cats continued. I know many by now, several of which meow at me in recognition, but I finally have a Best Friend! She calls and follows me when she sees me, and she also tried to jump on my knees while I was crouching to pet her (startling me. sorry cat. The second picture is her right after that happened, by the way):

People who say cats love you just because you feed them are wrong! I don’t feed any of them and we’re still friends. And, as far as the Rhaetian Alps time went, it wouldn’t be Acqua’s blog without plant pictures:

  • maybe an unusually pink Astro alpino (alpine daisy, Aster alpinus)
  • Euphrasia, also known as eyebright: I had never seen so many of them in flower, the meadow looked like something that had just been touched by fairies.

What I Read

This month I read seven things, one short story and six novels, and DNFed a seventh. The short story was The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex by Tamsyn Muir, following Camilla and Palamedes from Gideon the Ninth; it was fun but a little underwhelming and I don’t have much to say about it, so let’s get to the novels:

At the beginning of this month, my brain was still fried from exams, by which I mean it took me almost a week to finish a book I was already halfway through, and I was even liking it! I ended up giving The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood 4.5 stars.
I’m used to predicting when the most intense parts of the book will happen basing myself on how far into it I am, as most books follow a very predictable structure. This one doesn’t, it even has a time jump of several years when you’re 30% in, which was both really interesting and horrible for my attention span. It was a very weird time and I recommend it especially if you like to read adult fantasy about unhinged immortal beings. (review)

Then I started Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles. I’ve already talked about it several times by now, but this book would have benefited from more editing and just… more substance. It did have some of the most memorably-written descriptions I’ve found this year, though, so if you’re a really atmosphere-driven reader who just wants to Imagine the Pretty, you’re going to have fun with this! I gave it 3 stars. (review; discussion of the atmosphere)

As I said I would in my August TBR, I tried The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson and determined that this is a story I’d love to read while I’m not witnessing the global rise of fascism. One could say that these books are more relevant than ever, and I agree, but I need to keep my energy for mentally dealing with this sort of thing for when I read actual, non-fictional news. If you’re someone who can’t get anxiety attacks from media, I do recommend trying this out because I do think it’s doing a lot. I wouldn’t have felt this way otherwise.
Another book that ended up not working for me is Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, because I don’t get along with books that clearly think action scenes for the sake of action are interesting. I got through this book in two days because I skimmed most of them, I was so bored – I gave it 2 stars. At this point, I’m not sure I want to reach for Black Sun at all later this year, because everything I’ve tried by this author hasn’t worked for me.

All the while, I was listening to the audiobook of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown, a West African-inspired YA fantasy that ended up restoring my interest and trust in this genre. For a long time, the best thing I could say about the YA fantasy I was reading was “I would have loved this at 16, I’m glad it exists”, but yes, there are stories that I can still love now, and this is one of them. From the world full of magical creatures, mysterious deities and unraveling legends to the very real, deliberate focus on mental health and xenophobia – it’s beautiful, compelling, and well-crafted. I gave it 4.75 stars; it’s one of the best YA fantasy books I’ve read in a while.

Then I read the weirdest contemporary I’ve ever found, The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel by Moe Bonneau. It’s an F/F coming-of-age story that deals with mental illness (mainly OCD) and a relative’s terminal illness. The writing happens to be very strange. Everyone speaks in the same, unexplained slang; the word choices go from “unusual” to “outright baffling”; and the writing has a rhythm to it that makes it feel like poetry. It has no author note. I’m not surprised this got many bad reviews, but personally I really liked it and I have theories on why this was the way it was – and in a novel about finding the courage to be yourself, I appreciated the unapologetic weirdness. I gave it 4 stars.

The last book I read was Night Shine by Tessa Gratton, my favorite of the month (maybe favorite of the year? too soon to tell). This is a subversive queer YA fantasy about identity, choice, and the damaging, restrictive nature of binaries. The writing is beautiful and dreamlike, and so is the way it talks about learning who you are and the nature of identity and gender. Of course, my favorite aspect was the romance between the main character and the Sorceress, because villainesses are hot in a gay way. When I hear about someone named The Sorceress Who Eats Girls, the main thing I also want to know is whether she’s single. I gave this 5 stars.

As you can see, this was an unusual month – one in which I found not one but two YA fantasy books I loved (…it’s been so long), and I’m even currently reading a third that may also fit that, Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. After two years of either avoiding or being disappointed by this genre (and sometimes by its adult counterpart as well), it’s so refreshing. I mean, I’m aware that I would have loved something with the concept of Night Shine even more if it had been an adult book, because it would have been allowed to be just a little darker and subtler and that would have been perfect, but you know what? It’s great the way it is already. Please ignore the unfortunate cover and read it.

Have you read or want to read any of these? How was August for you?

15 thoughts on “August 2020 Wrap-Up

  1. “When I hear about someone named The Sorceress Who Eats Girls, the main thing I also want to know is whether sheโ€™s single” LMAOOOOOOO (same)

    That’s a lovely cat you befriended, she’s so cute! I hope you find more great reads this month ๐Ÿ˜ธ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always glad to find books that have the right priorities! I hope you also have a great reading month.
      The cat is ๐Ÿˆ one of the best parts of this year so far. I can’t have one myself so it’s been really nice (…I wish I were more used to being around them! I don’t understand Cat Body Language well and I’m afraid of the Fast Clawsโ„ข)
      Also I live for the Nicaise pictures because she’s also really cute! More cats

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think every cat has slightly different body language so even if you’re used to one it doesn’t mean you’ll understand every cat fkdhddkdj I’m now very used to Nicaise’s but with other cats I realize I can’t take for granted that they’ll act the same as Nicaise does! But I hope you get to spend more time with her and learn her language better ๐Ÿ˜ป

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The cat is so cute! ๐Ÿ˜ป
    You had a really good reading month. ๐Ÿ™‚ I loved the Traitor Baru Cormorant but, it’s not a book I would want to read now. I hope you can start it again when (if?) the world stops falling apart…
    I haven’t been able to enjoy YA fantasy in years but your mini review of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin makes me want to give this book a chance. Night Shine also sounds amazing, the world needs more queer romances!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. About Baru: I hope so too.
      About A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, I wonder if listening to the audiobook helped me because I’m far less likely to nitpick, but in any case it was just… such a fun, atmospheric experience written with a lot of heart and a world I loved reading about. It’s as full of YA fantasy tropes as one would expect, but I didn’t mind for once, despite the fact that I don’t even particularly like those tropes.
      I hope you like it and Night Shine if you end up trying them, and I’m glad you liked the cat!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “When I hear about someone named The Sorceress Who Eats Girls, the main thing I also want to know is whether sheโ€™s single.” Ahaha same tbh.

    I’ve never heard of Night Shine, and Tessa Gratton is an author I’d like to try, so that’s one book I’ll be adding to my TBR. I’m so glad you enjoyed A Song of Wraiths and Ruin and I’m sorry Trail of Lightning didn’t work for you! I need to get to The Unspoken Name before the end of this year–if I leave 2020 without reading about queer orcs, I’ll be so disappointed in myself.

    P.S. That is one very cute cat. Steal her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s always great when books know what to prioritize! I hope you like Night Shine, I’ve tried all of Gratton’s most recent books and it’s the one I liked the most.
      Also yes, read The Unspoken Name and get to know Csorwe and all the horrible people she’s surrounded by! It’s a great time

      re: P.S. I wish ๐Ÿ˜น she’s so friendly (I can’t have a cat, and that’s why I bother all the ones in the neighborhood! It’s The Plan)


  4. I had a similar experience with Trail of Lightening, only it took me like two weeks to finish it because whenever I put it down I just didn’t want to pick it back up again! I also gave it 2 stars. I’ve heard so many good things about Black Sun I feel like I at least have to give it a shot but am willing to DNF that one if I don’t get along with it, since it’s so much longer.

    Your review of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin has definitely convinced me to pick up the book! It certainly seemed like very generic YA fare that I wouldn’t like but I’m interested enough now for sure.

    I hope you get to Baru at some point! I’m planning on binging the whole series once the fourth and final book is announced. I can definitely see why you wouldn’t want to read it during this time, though, it’s definitely a bleak read.

    KITTIES. I love that she tried to jump into your lap, omg.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m still on the fence about Black Sun, I hope it won’t be an action-focused journey book this time.
      The thing about A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is that… it even is kind of trope-y and generic. But it works? I don’t know if listening the audiobook helped because I’m less likely to nitpick, but it never gave me that feeling of I can see this play out scene for scene and I’m so bored that kills half of YA for me, and I loved the world. I hope it also works for you!

      …there is a fourth Baru book? I had completely missed that, I thought it was a trilogy. I’m curious about the story for many reasons, but I could barely get through a few chapters, so realistically four books of it are never going to happen

      About the cat: she’s so friendly! I’ve never met an outdoor cat that friendly, many of them “answer” if I talk to them but definitely wouldn’t do that

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve read Where Dreams Descend- agreed it needed more editing. And Trail of Lightning – which I do think was a frustrating read. I am still going to give Black Sun a try because I loved Roanhorse’s short story “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience.” I’m hopeful maybe in Black Sun will agree with me more (it’s supposed to be adult, right?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve tried several of Roanhorse’s stories (but not that specific one) because of anthologies, and I thought they were all fine but not that interesting, like most of Trail of Lightning. I think me and the author have different priorities when it comes to stories…

      Black Sun is an adult book, but so is Trail of Lightning apparently (one of those adult fantasy books marketed as “adult with YA crossover appeal”). I hope it ends up working for you!


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