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