Tag

Two Books, One Stone Book Tag

I missed yesterday’s Top Ten Tuesday because the topic (Books I’ve Read That I’d Like In My Personal Library) wasn’t something I had answers for, so this time you get a tag.

This tag was created by Shawn The Book Maniac. I wasn’t tagged by anyone.


1. The second-last book you read

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Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall. I really liked it, for what it was – a somewhat fanfiction-y short novel about an f/f vampire romance that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Since it’s a self-aware book whose humor kind of relies on the reader’s ability to recognize all the urban fantasy clichés and references, it gave me a lot of flashbacks to the old urban fantasy books I read, and wow, did I not want to remember the Fever series. (I read it at 16. It was addicting, but I don’t think I’ve ever hated a main couple as much as in here – especially Jericho Barrons, he was so gross. Gay urban fantasy is so much better.)

Anyway, this spends a lot of time making fun of urban fantasy tropes, but not in a “I’m superior to this” way, and it’s so refreshing. I can’t wait to read more from this author, especially since I had The Affair of the Mysterious Letter on my TBR. The review of this one should be up in a few days!

2. The second book from the top of your TBR

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I don’t have a numbered TBR list, so I’m going to talk about a book I’m hoping to read soon that still won’t be the next book I read, and that’s Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney. I first heard of this novella because of Kathy (her review) and since then I haven’t had as much time to read as I hoped, but I really, really want to get to it after what I’ve heard about it. It sounds so magical and unique.

(Well, I just said I want to read it soon! That means it probably won’t get read until next August.)

3. Two 2-star reads

I only rated three books two stars this year, and out of them I’m going to talk about The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees and The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, because I’ve talked about Here There Are Monsters multiple times recently.

  • The Waking Forest was, more than anything, overwritten and unnecessary. The author probably wanted to write something with a prose reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s and Catherynne M. Valente, but the result was a condensation of pretentious and often nonsensical descriptions; the plot was unnecessarily convoluted for something that turned out to be one of the most cliché YA fantasy stories I had ever read. I still really enjoyed the atmosphere and part of the first half.
  • The Nowhere Girls is another book that tried to do way more than it could – it tried to be an universal story about teenage girls, but some parts came across as… “let’s mention this for shock value or token points”? Which is not something you would expect from a book that handles well another very difficult topic (rape). I also thought the portrayal of sensory issues had some very glaring problems. I still really appreciated the goal, but it didn’t get there for me.

4. Two great books by the same author

There’s no way around this: Sarah Porter’s books are weird and uncomfortable reads, but once you get past that – they’re beautifully written, and have a beautiful message as well. My favorite is Vassa in the Night, this macabre modern fairytale, but Never-Contented Things is even more mature as a book, and certainly intense*.

I think that a lot of writing advice and even a lot of people’s ideas of what makes “good writing” are mostly useful advice to get a solid-but-very-bland writing, but I want authors to go further, to learn the rules and then take risks. I really appreciate when I’m able to open a book and immediately know that yes, it’s [author], that’s unmistakable because no one else writes this very specific kind of weird. Sarah Porter is one of those authors – no one else will ever tell you that the bridge is sweating birds wet as fresh-washed socks, after all.

[*I really recommend looking up the content warnings if you’re interested in these, they’re as dark as YA gets, especially NCT.]

5. Two bails or two books you wish you’d bailed on or two books you hated

I’m going to talk about two recent DNFs I haven’t really talked about yet on this blog.

  • The Plus One by Natasha West: it’s probably not great of me, but I tend to be wary of indie/self-published books – most of my experiences with them haven’t been the best. However, I’m always willing to give a chance to f/f content that is recommended to me, and after seeing multiple people I follow hype up books by Natasha West, I thought, why not? Well. I don’t know if it was the fact that at the same time I was reading a book by Aliette de Bodard, who tends to go for really long sentences, but this book had the most awkward and stilted writing I had read in… months if not years? It was all really short sentences, and the first chapter wasn’t an introduction to the main character and her life, it was a page-long infodump about her relationship, all awkward exposition. If fantasy authors can manage to introduce a new world without needing to do this, contemporary ones really should do better. To explain what I mean when I say it’s all short sentences, I’m going to quote the beginning of chapter one, because it really is all like this:

Charlie Black was sleeping deeply when her phone rang. She was incensed at the interruption. She’d been in the midst of quite the dream about Lucy. Lucy naked, to be more precise. In real life, she’d seen Lucy undressed many times.

  • All of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil: so, this is about a 17-year-old girl in a relationship with a 28-year-old man. There is nothing that even hinted at the content in the ARC (also needed CWs for rape of a minor and drug use), and while this was  one of the most beautifully written things I had ever read, it really wasn’t something I wanted to spend my free time on. Especially not when the first reviews saying that this book promoted unhealthy age gaps and power imbalances were appearing. On one hand, for how the whole thing was and felt (as if you were hallucinating), I don’t think it’s that likely that someone could read this and think “this looks like life advice, I should do that”. On the other hand, this book went out of its way to make excuses for the male character (in the part I read), which, without considering whether or not someone could look at this and see a relationship one should aspire to, I just really didn’t like to read. But at the same time, this is clearly a really personal story, and I didn’t want to be the person who was like “your lived experience, which is very different from mine, is wrong”. So I DNFed it.

6. Two favorite reads so far this year

I feel like I talk about my favorites constantly, so I’m going to try and talk about two I haven’t talked about as much in the last few weeks:

  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark: I recently said that I don’t love reading stories about haunted houses, but I sure do love reading stories about haunted tram cars, apparently. This is exactly what the title tells you, except the tram car is from this alternate version of Cairo’s aerial trams – this is set in a city where steampunk meeting and blending with the paranormal is everyday life, after all. I also thought the dynamic between the two main characters (basically experience detective and newbie detective) was really funny.
  • Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali: this one was such a surprise. I liked Saints and Misfits, but I didn’t love it. This one, however? So much emotion. I felt for Zayneb and for Adam and for Adam’s family and the romance was so, so cute and real. “Fierce girl and soft, quiet boy” really are the best m/f contemporary dynamic. And this is the kind of novel that balances dealing with bigotry (Islamophobia) while also being a really romantic read perfectly. Books usually focus more on one of the two aspects, but I thought that in this one, both were perfect.

7. Two new favorite BookTubers

I don’t try to look for new ones often enough, and all the ones I watch are ones I’ve been subscribed to for months? If you have recommendations, especially for small creators and/or people who talk about diverse books, I’d love to know them!

8. A book you’ve read twice

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I just finished my reread of The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard – and I have to say, being already invested in the characters (in Philippe and Madeleine because they grew on me during the second book, in Selene because of short stories) helped. One of my main problems with this first book, after all, was the fact that I couldn’t get attached to the characters, but I still ended up really liking it even the first time around.

Anyway, I still think the second book is infinitely better, let’s see if my reread confirms that.

9. Two fabulous quotes from books you’ve read recently

“The storm dragon replied that, above all things, a dragon is a state of mind, and it, like the storm dragon, had been born of their welcome.”

The Dragon Festival by Yoon Ha Lee, in The Fox Tower and Other Tales

“You can’t build an emotionless, rational, decision-making machine, because emotionality and rationality aren’t actually separate—and all those people who spent literally millennians arguing that they were, were relying on their emotions to tell them that emotions weren’t doing them any good.”

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

About the Yoon Ha Lee quote, I love this idea with all my heart as a concept, and about the Elizabeth Bear one, Ancestral Night is exactly the kind of book that keeps throwing ideas at you, and it will make you think about how we see AIs are just as much as it will make you think about how we see about democracy and government and capitalism and fairness. It’s such a smart book, and so much fun to read.


Have you read or want to read any of these? What is the most trope-y and cringe-inducing urban fantasy book you’ve read?

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Tag

The Wasted-Potential Tag

This tag was created by Elise @thebookishactress, and I was tagged by her (thank you!)

This is about all the books that were great… in theory; the result, not so much. And since negativity is fun sometimes, why not?


a book that tried but failed to tackle an issue?

I can’t think of any issue books I’ve read that I can honestly say failed, and I can only think of books in which the “issue” was an afterthought at most (but in that case, I can’t even really say books like The Selection really tried with social commentary, you know?) so I’m going to talk about something that is slightly different: books that tried to subvert a harmful trope and played it straight instead. One of the most well-known examples being:

I’ve never seen a meme describe a group of standalone books so well. I’m talking about the “connect two dots” meme:

These books: I’ve subverted the tropes!
Everyone else: you didn’t subvert shit

Let’s talk about Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, that are, supposedly, asubversion of the manic pixie dream girl trope“, and why these books are a perfect example of why, when a trope is known to be problematic, the group affected by it should be the one subverting it in fiction (outsiders don’t Get It).
The mpdg trope is an energetic and quirky woman whose only purpose in the story is to teach the male main character lessons about himself, or the world, or life. She’s not a character, she’s an exciting, attractive plot device with a message tied. The problem is that, especially in Paper Towns – which I also remember better than Looking for Alaska – the girl who the main character discovers is not going to change his life and be “his miracle”… only exists to teach him that lesson (and has no other character traits other than “rebellious, quirky and a little troubled”). Oh, maybe girls don’t exist to develop men! They have their own inner lives! Which we never see in the book, and Margo still exists to develop a man.

The Fault In Our Stars is a slightly different example – a story that tried to show that there’s nothing romantic about illness, and that tragic cancer romances are bullshit… but the reason people like it is still that it’s a tragic cancer romance that made them cry? That kind of defeats the purpose.


an intriguing series that didn’t pay off?

I don’t often talk about this series on this blog because I don’t like hyping up series that go this downhill, but the first book was good! The Queen of Blood is an interesting fantasy story about a girl training at a magical school built on trees, and I loved the worldbuilding. Except… the more I went on with the series, the more I realized I was reading about a matriarchy in which somehow all women were heterosexual, and then the second book turned out to be one of the most boring things I had ever read – in it, the main character needed a hundred pages to even decide to start training. Nothing happened. I skimmed most of it, because it was 2017 and I didn’t believe in DNFing books yet. I’m glad that has changed.


a great beginning with a mediocre ending?

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Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno started out so well. It’s set on an atmospheric island, it follows two twin sisters who don’t easily get along, and during the first half, there’s a really cute f/f romance developing with a tourist girl.

Then the second half happened. The book really felt that it needed to take a darker turn, and we barely see the love interest again. Since that wasn’t enough, the book also decided to ruin the aromantic representation by making the aromantic character obsessed with animal corpses (if you want to know why that’s a problem, I wrote more about that in my review). And then it becomes a story about a something that happened halfway through the book, something that didn’t even involve the main character, making the first half feel completely aimless. The protagonist’s development is rushed and feels weirdly disconnected from the plot – she felt like a guest in her own story.

Other spoiler-y thing I felt iffy about (TW: rape)

The main character’s sister is raped halfway through the book, which… the more I think about it, if you want to write a story about rape, you really shouldn’t insert it in the story halfway through as a surprise – I know this book tries to go out of its way to not be triggering, and it is never graphic, but you still risk triggering the people you want to reach? Everything about this looked like a cute summer romance for the entire first half, and it’s not, in a way that is misleading.


a last-minute twist that ruined it all?

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Wilder Girls by Rory Power. This plot twist was just as out of place as the “a god fixed it” twist would be in hard sci-fi books. It suddenly tries to talk about science in something that had nothing scientific in it, and failed horribly, with a topic you really shouldn’t throw around for shock value.

What happened, and why it was bad (spoiler-y)

This book: and it was… GLOBAL WARMING
Me: oh really
This book: because… you hear it… resurrected PARASITES
Me: do you really want to go there
This book: that infected EVERYTHING
Me: this is not how any of this works

And yes, there are ways to incorporate climate change in a book as a metaphor, but this book failed. In Annihilation, for example, you can see that at least parts of it are inspired by climate anxiety; it doesn’t need to tell you, this is about global warming, because in-universe, that’s not the cause of the horror, no one knows the cause – but you, as a reader, know why we’re talking about an environment that is suddenly terrifying and twisted. It is, in a way, a metaphor.

Another way would have been to take a mixed approach to the question from the beginning: a book that does it really well, that talks about a paranormal creature from scientific lens, is Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant. All Wilder Girls needed to do was not to throw in the science in the last 10% after never, not once, mentioning anything ecology-related for the whole book. And the magic wasn’t inspired by anything ecology-related either; if it wanted to be a metaphor for increased selective pressure, well, it was a really bad one? The body horror made the girls’ bodies less adapted to their own environment (for example, blinding them from one eye), so that made no sense at all.

Also: if a parasite is going to be able to be a mammal’s endoparasite, it’s never going to be able to also be a plant’s endoparasite. There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s this.

And the thing is, there would have been so many better ways to make a body-and-environmental horror book about this topic, and the author would have known that too, had she picked up an ecology textbook once. I’m not an ecologist, I’m a first year student, and even I can see that there are so many interesting ecology-related concepts that can be adapted into horror. This was such a mess of wasted potential.


a great plot with some boring characters?

The opposite – interesting characters, weak plot – is far more common, so it took me a while to find the answer, but: The Interdependency by John Scalzi. This is a series that uses a natural disaster in space as a metaphor for climate change and our attitudes towards climate change really well! It’s just that the characters… eh. I’ve never seen such flat characters in an award-winning novel. The romances are so flat that they feel nonsensical, even the f/f one in the second book; one of the three PoV’s characters’ main trait is – I’m not joking – swearing a lot, and anything about this story is embarrassingly surface-level. Which is sad, because it is fast-paced and fun, and the potential is all there, but it gets boring really quickly.


a character death that ruined a book?

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I thought of many books that had the bury your gays trope, but not one of those was in any way good even before that trope came around. So, let’s talk about Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, and why this was my last Schwab novel.

I am not going to tell you who dies, but if there’s one thing I noticed about Victoria Schwab’s novel, is that for someone who talks on twitter about fridging a lot, she sure tends to kill off most of her relevant female characters. There was one side character’s death in here that I hated, because like the chaos eater plotline around it, it came completely out of nowhere and served very little purpose apart from making the reader and the male main character sad. This whole book was at the same time beautifully written on a sentence-to-sentence level and a complete mess on a structure level.


a romance that ruined a book for you?

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The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson: I was loving this book. It was gorgeous and weird and queer, and then… the romance. I never understood why Elena liked Freddie. Freddie was a manipulative girl who constantly threw tantrums because she could, and Elena just… let her. She never seemed to have a problem with that – she got upset and then always forgave Freddie. And the book just acts like Freddie’s is the normal behavior of a person with depression.

A big part of why I had such a strong response to parts of this book was absolutely personal baggage. Let’s say that books dealing with depression set in the US were likely to get that reaction out of me back then, and this got that in many places – for the way it talked about suicidal ideation, for example, I hated those parts, and I remember thinking something like this too about the whole Elena-Freddie dynamic:

This book: but see, Freddie acts this way because she’s struggling! She is depressed and goes to therapy twice a week!
Me, a teenage girl who back then had no access to therapy: shut the fuck up

I probably wouldn’t take it as personally if I read it today, but this and the author’s tweets (only straight girls complain about Freddie’s behavior in The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza according to him) have kind of ruined the book in my memory.


a romance you wanted to happen?

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Clara/Rose from The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo. I love this contemporary book, but it’s just the objective truth that it would have been so much better if it had been an f/f hate-to-love romance instead of a story about a hate-to-friendships between two girls in which the main character gets a (cute, but bland) male love interest. The boy could have just become Clara and Rose’s friend! That would have been a more interesting story.


a scene you have a petty beef with?

At first I didn’t know how to answer, then I saw this part of Elise’s post that said:

(I can’t be the only one who sometimes just gets so so mad about this one specific choice made that I straight up can’t like the book anymore. Anyway.)

And I immediately realized that yes, that has happened to me as well.

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Welcome to the Main Reason Acqua hated The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and that main reason is one of the first scenes.

So, in said scene at the beginning, one of the major characters – Sissix, who ends up being the love interest – steals another character’s sci-fi toothbrush. Said character, who is characterized as a “complete asshole” and a snob and a whiny bigot, starts complaining because the other versions of toothbrushes hurt him.

And this is just seen as him being oversensitive. It’s just a toothbrush! No wonder no one can stand you, Corbin!

I have sensory issues which, especially from late elementary school to early high school, made it really difficult for me to brush my teeth with normal toothbrushes. If you don’t know, and I hope you don’t, not brushing your teeth for a while makes trying again even more painful, and that… I think you can guess what that leads to, and what I thought when I saw this scene.

I went into this angry. I never really stopped, because this books continued to try and convince me that Sissix was so good to disabled people, actually (in one scene, a disabled alien is introduced just to show you that Sissix Is A Good, which, no thank you – if Corbin can get called out for saying a specieist slur, she can get called out for stealing assistive devices from a disabled person), so it never ended up being anything like a heartwarming read for me, just boring.


I’m not tagging anyone, but if you like these questions, don’t let that stop you

Tag · TBR & Goals

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

According to my half-a-minute internet search, on July 1st we’re halfway through the year, so what better moment to do this Classic™ tag.


1: Best book you’ve read so far this year.

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It kinds of saddens me that I don’t even have to struggle with choosing, but my favorite book so far this year is A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. How often do you read political intrigue that actually surprises you, or worldbuilding that actually feels unique, and how many of these books have a slow-burn f/f romance and also powerful, smart female characters other than the main character or her love interest? I was going to love this book no matter what, with this premise, but the way this book was… relevant to my situation as an Italian person who is constantly in contact with American culture made everything even more personal.

2: Best sequel you’ve read so far this year:

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I’ve read only four sequels so far this year, Ruse, In an Absent Dream, Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven and Leah on the Offbeat.

Of these, the best one for me has been without a doubt In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – not only it’s a great novella on its own, with an amazing audiobook, and made me think about so many things, it’s also great as a sequel because it made me want to continue the series: after not liking Down Among the Sticks and Bones and not caring that much about Beneath the Sugar Sky, I was on the verge of quitting, but I won’t. I actually want to reread the previous novellas to see if my opinion about some things has changed.

3: A new release you haven’t read yet but really want to

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He – one of the few hyped YA fantasy books that came out this year I’m actually interested in, and I haven’t even tried it? It’s not like I have to wait for a sequel to read it, as we don’t even know if there will be one.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi – another of those few! I keep seeing mixed reviews and it seems to be so polarizing that I’m not even sure what I’m getting into. However, I loved Chokshi’s previous YA fantasy duology so much, I hope I won’t feel so differently about this one.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – I have no idea what this is about and I’d like to keep it that way until I actually read the book, but despite my constant avoidance of the synopsis and of every single review of this, I’m really interested in it and hope to get to it before the end of the year.

4: Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I just posted a list of them! Of all of them, my most anticipated is probably Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, because it’s known that queer space fantasy is my favorite genre (let’s be honest for a moment: Ninefox Gambit is space fantasy).

However, to not be repetitive, I’m going to talk about two books I’m really looking forward to that didn’t make it to the list, one because there was another book by that author already – the anthology Of Wars, Memories and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard, which apparently will have a new f/f novella in it! – another because I forgot to add it to my TBR when I heard about it and so forgot it when I wrote the post – Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, which is a YA book about a trans black girl from a trans black author that is in some way about monsters and denial, and isn’t that A Premise

5: Biggest disappointment

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With my DNF-what-doesn’t-work reading policy, I’m reading less and less books I dislike, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t find any disappointing ones. Honestly, the sequel novella Glass Cannon by Yoon Ha Lee was in itself kind of a disappointment (it was at odds with the tone of the rest with the series and just felt weird overall, even without the exposition problem), but as the short story collection Hexarchate Stories as a whole was not, it didn’t register that much.

The disappointment I felt more strongly this year was Wilder Girls by Rory Power. It did many things right, but I can’t ignore a) how simplistic and underdeveloped the attempt at metaphorical cli-fi horror was and b) how underdeveloped and emotionally flat the characters were (as Hermione would say, they had “the emotional range of a teaspoon”). They really did feel like words on a page.

6: Biggest Surprise

I have two of them! My favorite kind of surprise is requesting an ARC of a book I’m interested in but that I don’t think I’m going to love, and then the book proves me wrong! Sometimes I love being wrong.

  • Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali is one of the best contemporary books I’ve ever read and the demonstration that one can write about marginalized young people and what they face without making everything a tragic story. This is such a happy book about Muslim teenagers in love – an adorable happy story, just with a background that isn’t always as happy (it tackles Islamophobia and also follows a character who was just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis).
  • I almost thought that I wasn’t going to read anything by Amy Rose Capetta ever again, after being disappointed by Echo After Echo and being annoyed at the existence itself of The Brilliant Death. But The Lost Coast was amazing, and so queer, and such a welcoming story about the importance of community and acknowledging your own power.
7: Favorite New Author (Debut or New To You)

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I thought I was going to have to repeat myself and say Arkady Martine, but technically I read two of her short stories last year, so she isn’t exactly new to me! My answer for this one is Victoria Lee, author of The Fever King, possibly the best dystopian book I’ve ever read.

There are those books you like, there are those books you love but in a… distant way? You think about them, but they don’t follow you. Then there are those that take root in your brain. I thought about The Fever King every day for at least a month and a half, which… usually doesn’t happen. I can only count two other books (or, should I say, two series) that did the same to me for longer. If you’ve been here a while, you probably already know which ones I’m talking about.

8: Newest Fictional Crush

I always feel weird about this question, as I don’t even get crushes on real people, so I’m going to see it as “character I’m very into, even though they’re kind of evil”, because that’s the closest I ever get to something like that.

And the answer this year is Nineteen Adze, “whose gracious presence illuminates the room like the edgeshine of a knife”, from A Memory Called Empire, because what can you expect from me when it comes to very morally ambiguous and just as competent female characters (I’m in love.)

9: Newest Favorite Character

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Millicent “Millie” Roper from Borderline by Mishell Baker. She’s such a well-written, complex, and sometimes horrible character. I loved her and her voice so much, and I will always like reading about a main character who is impulsive and really good at lying (it makes for interesting plot developments). Also, she’s an amputee who lost her legs in a suicide attempt and has borderline personality disorder, and I had never read about a character who was either before.

10: A book that made you cry

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None, but the one that got closer was The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum. And… probably for the wrong reasons? I loved this book, but I found the idea of some things the characters wanted from their future so upsetting that I was in a really weird place emotionally for a few hours.

11: A book that made you happy

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Second place for the “which book made you cry” question is Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee, because I did seriously almost cry of happiness after I finished this. This story gave me so much joy, I had almost forgotten books could do that. And Nim!! Such a shapeshifting disaster of a 13-year-old, she was one of my favorite protagonists this year.

12: Favorite adaptation

This time I can answer, because I’ve seen two! To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Love, Simon. Honestly, as adaptations, they were both really good? As story, I enjoyed Love, Simon more, but that’s more because romance-focused stories on a screen are never that much my thing. As aesthetic/setting, however, TAtBILB was more interesting, and maybe I like Lara Jean as a character a bit more than Simon (don’t really care for her love interests, though).

13: Favorite post you’ve written

On Ratings and Being Critical. I probably should have made the message about “appreciating books more the more you read instead of the expected contrary” clearer, but I still really like it.

14: Most beautiful book you bought or received so far this year

If we’re talking about physical copies, then definitely Monstress Vol. 3 by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda. The art in this series is one of the best things I’ve ever seen, and there’s one specific panel (at the beginning of Issue/Chapter 14) in which there’s a villainess sitting on a throne (I!!!!) and wow that was attacking me personally

If ebooks count, then it’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. The art in this one… so soft. Those panels. So much emotion. I almost want a physical copy just for that, I hope they translate it.

15. A book you want to read before the end of the year:

AHAHAHA all of them

But it would be nice if I managed to read King of Scars before the year ends! I won’t count on it because I still have to reread Ruin and Rising, which I have no intention of doing anytime soon (…it’s so not a summer book)

Also: I’m going to make at least another attempt at reading The Fifth Season or The Traitor Baru Cormorant (two books I know will be difficult to read for me emotionally) before the year ends.


How is 2019 going for you? Have you read any of these?

 

Tag

I Should Have Read That Book Tag

I was tagged by AceReader (thank you!)


The Rules

  1. Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their post.
  2. Link to the creator’s blog in your post (booksnest.co.uk)
  3. Answer the questions.
  4. Tag 10 others to take part.
  5. ENJOY THE TAG!

A book that a certain friend is always telling you to read.

29758013-1Until a few weeks ago I would have said that the book I was recommended the most by friends was Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, but we saw how that went. (The more I read English books, the more I want Anglo authors to stay away from Italy and Italian-inspired settings.)

A book I’ve been recommended multiple times (mostly by Aneta) but that I haven’t heard that much about nonetheless is The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams, which I hope to get to before the end of this year. I mean, I’ve been told there are interesting villains, especially female villains, and that it’s also queer in some way. I have to try it.


A book that’s been on your TBR forever and yet you still haven’t picked up

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. But I’m making progress! I bought a physical copy in Italian (if it’s queer, I don’t hate the idea of it and it gets translated, I buy it) so this is going to happen. When, I’m not sure, but I don’t leave physical books unread. I will at least try. Same thing with the physical copy of The Traitor Baru Cormorant I bought to motivate myself and finally read it (in English, it doesn’t exist in Italian, and I’m… kind of glad of that; the last thing we need is another influx of tragic gays when we have very little fictional gays to begin with).


A book in a series you’ve started, but haven’t gotten around to finishing yet

…so many of them? Just to make two examples, the Book of the Ancestor series is one of my favorite fantasy series (Nona Gray is the bisexual assassin we like here and I’m in love with this cover) but I still haven’t read Holy Sister and I’m actually intimidated by it, and then there’s Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly, the third book in the Amberlough Dossier, and I really should read it someday – even just to see how Cyril and Aristide are doing.


A classic you’ve always liked the sound of, but never actually read

I can only think of classics that fit the “never actually read” part. I can’t think of one classic whose premise appealed to me, and I’m not interested in English classics as a whole (I’m saying this since these are almost the only ones I see people talk about. If I were to read a classic – which I won’t, because my not-for-fun reading is… natural sciences stuff and not literature stuff, to be brief – I’d read something from here or from a country I have stronger ties with than England/America.)


A popular book that it seems everyone but you has read

24233708Apart from The Fifth Season, I can’t really think of anything super popular? My TBR is small (I like to keep it that way) and it’s mostly new releases and ARCs + a few backlist books I think sound good but aren’t necessarily that well-known.

Anyway, according to my TBR, the book with the most ratings on goodreads I haven’t already mentioned here is An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, which I’m going to read just because of the “gay and translated” rule. I wouldn’t have guessed that (I would have thought it was On the Come Up, now that I saw it and remembered that On the Come Up was on my TBR) and for something this popular I’ve heard surprisingly little about it.


A book that inspired a film/TV adaptation that you really love, but you just haven’t read it yet

That would include watching movie of TV adaptations, and well, you might already know about my experiences with anything on a screen


A book you see all over Instagram (Twitter) but haven’t picked up yet

More twitter because I’m not on Instagram often, but some examples that are everywhere are Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (adult romance that isn’t f/f is hit-or-miss for me, but I want to try) and The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (will I… ever. I don’t know.)


About Tagging

If you’re reading this and the questions sound interesting to you, act as if I tagged you? yes, this is lazy, but in my defense I feel like the keyboard is going to melt and I don’t want to stay at the uncomfortably warm(er and warmer) computer for long during this kind of summer days

Tag

The Pancake Book Tag

This tag was created by Becky @beckysblogs. I wasn’t tagged and I’ve never eaten a pancake in my life, but I saw this tag because of Marie @drizzleandhurricanebooks and I thought it looked really cute, so why not.


The Rules

  • Link back to the original creator in your post.
  • Feel free to use any of my pancake graphics in your post, or create your own!
  • Tag 5 other people at the end of your post, and let them know you’ve tagged them. (I won’t because I wasn’t tagged and because I’m lazy)

The Questions

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398213121. Since we’re talking about beautiful descriptions and about food, I can’t not talk about The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, as one of my favorite parts of the book were the food descriptions. So much food, from so many different cultures (if you like reading about multicultural fantasy cities, you need to read this book), and detailed writing = the perfect combination.

And I mean, there isn’t one thing about this book that isn’t beautiful, starting from the cover (just look at it). The writing isn’t exactly easy to get into but it was so worth it for me. I especially recommend this book to those who like Roshani Chokshi and desert fantasy books in general.

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377941492. A sharp character? What’s sharper than a blade? I’m so glad this question was there, I get to talk again about ezuzuacat Nineteen Adze, “whose gracious presence illuminates the room like the edgeshine of a knife”, who could stab me and I’d thank her, from A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine.

She’s the best non-PoV female character I’ve ever read. She’s exactly what I mean when I say that I want to see more competent, seriously morally gray women who know what they’re doing when it comes to political intrigue. While she isn’t a villain, the way I like her is similar to the reasons I like many of my favorite villains. She’s so fascinating.

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TheGalleryofUnfinishedGirls3. The thing is, I don’t really like “comforting”? Or, it’s not something I will go back to and reread. The closest thing I can think of is The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz, which is a low-conflict atmospheric novel I like to read/reread during August.

However, calling it comforting is a stretch – this is about perfectionism and death and unrequited feelings and wanting to retreat inside your head and never live outside again. But it’s not depressing in any way? I once said it was “the happiest sad book you’ll ever read” and I stand by that description. This is such a gorgeous novel following a bisexual Puerto Rican girl and I still can’t believe how underrated it is.

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398970584. There have been many, but the most recent and strongest book hangover since Ninefox Gambit has been The Fever King by Victoria Lee.

For more than two weeks, I could barely think about anything else. Maybe I was even reading other books, but I was still thinking about this one, its morally gray characters, its really original magic system based on science and knowledge, its complex exploration of trauma and how people respond to it, and the questions it raised about ends justifying or not the means. This really is dystopian done right (finally, with a villain that is actually really interesting.)

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361186825. I’m not sure what “indulgent feels” means exactly, but I feel like it’s a good description for what Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan felt like: a Gothic book that was unapologetically just there for the aesthetic but that still had a solid, interesting plot, characters I loved, and quite disturbing undertones.

Maybe saying that it’s just there for the aesthetic is an exaggeration, because the book is also clearly there for the disaster villain romance unfolding, but for something that was so purposefully dark and morally messed up by YA standard, it was also… a really fun read? I loved that it didn’t take itself too seriously.

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315562356. When I saw this question, I immediately thought of Runa, the archer from The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke. She’s grumpy and abrasive and a pessimist and doesn’t really want to be there, but… she’s also so much more than that? And she ended up being my favorite character in the whole book, for how much I loved Frey and Juniper.

And I wouldn’t even say that the characters are the strongest point of this book – the main reasons I loved it were the themes of agency and heroism for women (finally a story in which the main characters end up on a quest because they want to and not because they were forced to!) and the lost, distant atmosphere.

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409390447. I’ve never read a book as “slippery” as Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan. In theory, this novella is about lesbians and cave horror. In practice, it’s not at all (but it is gay), and I felt like I was reading an oddly coherent transcription of a bad dream. Which was probably the goal, but it was such a weird experience that I still don’t really know how I feel about it.

If the narrator had suddenly stopped, declared a part of the book “all just a dream” and turned it into a a cute romcom, I wouldn’t even have been that surprised (it’s not what happened), because it felt so much like it was going to come apart and become something else from one moment to the next.

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414500818. Lei and Wren from Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. I didn’t really feel it at first, but that’s how it is with slow-burn romances. It ended up being one of my favorite romances ever in one of my favorite books of the year. It means so much to me that f/f couples – following two Asian girls, too – are finally getting the development that is usually dedicated to m/f ones and getting they hype they deserve. Also, I’ve finally found a “forbidden court romance” novel I actually like.

I can’t wait to see how Lei and Wren are doing in the sequel, even though I’m also worried, because the world they live in is all but kind.

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NinefoxGambit9. I’ve never eaten peanut butter, so I don’t know if it would make me recoil, but a character who does is Kujen from the Machineries of Empire series by Yoon Ha Lee. It’s just… there are so many terrible people in these books that I can’t even really tell if some of them are villains or not, but Kujen gets to some unparalleled levels of fucked up – especially in Revenant Gun. It takes a lot to write such an interesting character considering that he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Spoiler-free explanation for those who haven’t met him: he kind of feels like the sci-fi version of a sadistic immortal fae, but like, very into math and gayer (…like everyone here).

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4014814610. I don’t know what to answer, because so many books I know would fit (…as do most books I’ve mentioned on this post) and I don’t want to be the person who is like “this book does diversity better than any other”, because that’s not how diversity works, and I know I’m just overthinking this, but I don’t know which one to choose?

I’m just going to tell you about the most recent I haven’t already talked about  here, which is Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali, a love story between two Muslims set in Qatar which features multiracial main characters and also talks about disability and women’s rights.


I’m not tagging anyone, but I’d love to see other people’s answers to this! Also: have you read any of these? Do you have “comfort” reads?

 

Tag

Books I WANT To Read, But Don’t Want To READ

This tag was created by Jamieson @jamishelves. I was tagged by Ngọc @readwithngọc (thank you!)


A book that you feel you need to read because everyone talks about it

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The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin.
I want to read this book. I want to read what’s probably the most loved and critically acclaimed SFF series that was published in these last five years.
But. When I tried it, I had to stop, because… I don’t like to hurt myself on purpose and that’s what reading this was like. I plan to try it again but I’m not sure it will work the next time either.

A really long book

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The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon.
Can Samantha Shannon write something that isn’t either 7+ books or 700+ pages? Probably not. I want to read this because gay and dragons but I don’t want to spend weeks on a book, so I don’t know if this will ever happen.

A book you’ve owned / had on your TBR for too long

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The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May.
This is going to happen. Eventually. I own it! But I’d need to reread the second book and will I ever get to that if I almost never get to physical books?

A book that is ‘required’ reading (eg, school text, really popular classic – something you feel obligated to read!)

I’m in university and I’m not studying anything lit-related so I hope I never have to think about required fiction reading ever again. There isn’t anything I feel obligated to read either, not really.

A book that intimidates you

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The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. Will this:

  • be too sad for me
  • make me angry
  • be something awesome and hard-hitting I will love with all my heart?

I won’t know until I read it, I guess.

A book that you think might be slow

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer. It has a beautiful cover, it sounds like a beautiful fantasy story, but… everyone says it’s slow and will I ever pick a slow adult book up when I don’t have much time to read? I don’t know, but I want to – I own it.

Also Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke – I want to read it because it’s a thriller set in Antarctica featuring lesbians, but what I’ve heard about the pacing makes me hesitant.

A book you need to be in the right mood for

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I’m sure I’m going to love A Thousand Beginnings and Endings when I get to it, since it has stories by Alyssa Wong (one of the best short fiction authors ever), Aliette de Bodard (everything she writes is great), Roshani Chokshi (her writing!!! gorgeous), Cindy Pon (she’s the author of Want and I know she writes great short fiction too), Lori M. Lee (her short story in Color Outside the Lines almost made me cry), and so many other authors I love. However, I need to be in a really specific mood to enjoy anthologies, so I’m not sure when this is going to happen.

A book you’re unsure if you will like

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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. I have one rule: if it’s queer, it’s not Call Me By Your Name, and gets translated in my country, I’m going to buy and read it – and that’s exactly what I did for this one. However, I don’t think it’s my kind of book at all, so I’m not sure how this will end.


Have you read any of these?

Tag

Sunshine Blogger Award #3

I was tagged by Elise @thebookishactress. Thank you!


The Questions, The Answers

What color do you wear the most?
For most of the year, greens and grays. In summer, I’m either some combination of white and blue or a walking rainbow. There’s no in-between.

What’s your favorite episode of your favorite TV show and why?
I don’t have one, I have never watched a TV show. I don’t like watching anything that is on a screen and there are reasons for that that I don’t want to explain right now. (In one word, it’s anxiety.)

Pretend you work in a book store and are asked for three staff picks. What are they?

I’m not sure how staff picks work (I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen in an Italian bookstore?). Are they just three books I like or three books I like that fit some specific criteria like “published recently, not that hyped but could appeal to a large audience”? I’m going to chose three books that fit option #2 because if I only had to choose three books I like I wouldn’t know where to start. So, my picks are:

  • This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow, a YA contemporary which should be just as popular as Far From the Tree, with its focus on reconnecting (through music!) and healing. Also, it’s f/f and it has ownvoices black rep…
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark, a steampunk novella following two paranormal investigators and a haunted tram car in Cairo. Very atmospheric and it has a great message (it’s alt-history post-colonial fiction that talks about historical feminist movements).
  • Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore: it may not be my favorite McLemore but it didn’t get half the hype it deserves. It’s a “Snow White and Rose Red + Swan Lake” retelling about sisters and the way women are pitted against each other, categorized as either “good girls” (princesses) or “bad girls” (witches). It has two gorgeous romances, latinx and trans representation, and (of course) beautiful writing.

What book first made you feel really seen?
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. I could joke about it making me feel seen for the wanting to kiss and also kill the villain element, but that’s not the main reason. The main reason is Alina Starkov. I haven’t seen people mention it before, but what stands out the most to me is how tired she is. So tired that she kind of hates other people when they try to interact with her, so tired that she barely eats and looks sick, and wasn’t that my high school experience
The way this book alternated “can use magic, eats, is happy” with “too tired to eat and interact, constantly bitter” was… my life. Even though I’m definitely not magical and even though Alina’s powers aren’t an intentional metaphor for an illness.

Put your phone on shuffle and find a book that matches the song you got.

Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko? Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler because of the coming-out-as-a-lesbian part and overall light mood, The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown because of the steal-mediocre-and-toxic-boys’-girlfriends part.

Book to movie adaptation you’re genuinely excited for?
I… won’t watch them? But I’m glad The Sun Is Also a Star is getting adapted, even though I don’t love how they cast someone who is almost 30 to play a teenage boy. But I probably was never going to watch it anyway. I mean, I still haven’t seen Love, Simon and I really was interested in that one.

Choose one book for each season.

Spring: The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton, because it has a beautiful atmosphere, it’s full of life but hasn’t completely left winter behind, and because it never seems to end.
Summer: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz, even though this book is actually set in spring-to-early summer. However, it talks about moving on, liminal spaces, and feeling removed from reality even though you’re being the most you that you’ve ever been. Those are very summer-y feelings.
Fall: When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, because of the gorgeous atmosphere and… basically everything about the book is fall.
Winter: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. Sad, slow-paced, quietly beautiful, lonely? That sounds like winter to me.

Dump-him-challenge: What love interests do you think are just deeply, deeply overrated?

Most of YA fantasy male love interests are so mediocre I can barely tell them apart, and some of those who stand out, do so in a bad way (…Rhysand. No, I never liked him). However, in those cases the problem wasn’t the love interest, it was the whole book, so I don’t feel like it counts?
I also don’t like Cardan. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the romance in that book (I don’t have any problem with intentionally toxic romances and I think that’s what this is), but I can’t imagine anything more unattractive than a bully. I really don’t get it, and I usually understand the appeal of messed up romances.

Favorite Netflix original series?
(See above.)

What’s your current most anticipated release for this month?

I’m writing this post in February, and the current answer is Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower. I haven’t heard a lot about it but it’s apparently about godhood and has trans characters in it. However, by the time this post will be up, this book will already be published. My most anticipated March release was A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine… which I’m currently reading. My most anticipated March release I haven’t read yet is The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley: she wrote one of my favorite books, The Stars Are Legion, and now she’s back – this is going to be so weird. I can’t wait.

What’s a situation in your life that you’ve learned a lot from?
It’s not that there aren’t any, it’s that I can’t think of one I’m comfortable talking about on the internet. On a not too serious note, I can say that a situation I learned a lot from was reading bad fanfiction at 15. What did I learn? Well, I couldn’t find that sort of thing in Italian, so… the English language.


My Questions:

  1. What was the last book you rated three stars, and why?
  2. Do you read short fiction?
  3. A book you’re anticipating that isn’t getting much hype?
  4. Have you ever felt like a book/its writing was manipulative?
  5. A trope you don’t like?
  6. Is there anything (like a trope, a setting, or a specific subgenre) that recurs often in your favorite books?
  7. Two random non-bookish facts about you?
  8. A book whose premise was better than the actual content?
  9. What’s the weirdest book you’ve ever read?
  10. Supposing that plot and characters are both well-written, which do you value more in fantasy: atmosphere or a well-defined magic system?
  11. Is there anything you wish was talked about more in the book community?

I’m tagging [don’t feel obligated to do it!]: Silvia @SilviaReadsBooks, Caro @Bookcheshirecat, Ngọc @ReadWithNgọc, Sahi @MyWorldofBooks, Marie @Drizzle&HurricaneBooks.


Which YA fantasy love interest is the most overrated?