The Moody Book Tag

I found this Tag on Jocelyn @yogi with a book‘s channel and I thought it could be fun to do; it was created by Slanted Spines.

1. Do you consider yourself a mood reader?

Yes, and I’ve disliked a book simply for having read it at the wrong time before (it happened with Jade City by Fonda Lee, which I DNFed twice then loved); that was why I struggled so much with ARCs. The other way around seems to happen less often, and is difficult to tell apart from a simple case of Suck Fairy. The only case of which I’m certain is The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, which I read while getting into my favorite genre (adult sci-fi) and deeply loved but found hollow on reread (because part of my love for it was… probably transferred from other great science fiction novels I was loving at the time; I don’t know if that makes sense). It was good, just not that good.

2. Do you set TBR lists and do you stick to them?

Yes, I set TBRs, and no, I often don’t stick to them. I love lying to myself!

3. Do books affect you emotionally? Does the mood of a book rub off on you?

Yes, a lot, I’m an emotional sponge – that’s why I avoid sad books unless I know I’m also going to be so in awe of them that it barely registers. If it’s going to be sad, it has to be otherworldly, else I’m not going to finish the book. I’m already good at focusing on the negatives and at becoming sad for no reason, pain is cheap and easy to come by, I don’t need a book to also make me sad if that’s the only thing it’s going to give me. (Despite this, I’m not really drawn to happy stories either, and my experience says that if something has been described as “hopepunk”, it will get on my nerves.)

4. When you’re feeling sad, what do you read? (Or do you not read when sad?)

When I’m really sad, I don’t read; apart from that I don’t notice anything different (I’m always kind of sad? Who knows. What are “feelings”)

5. Most often, do you use reading to escape, to learn, or to critically reflect?

I don’t really have a goal, I mostly read out of curiosity (the main reason I rarely reach for sequels unless I loved the first book is that I already know what to expect…) and every story that works for me is good for different things. My favorite stories are, again, the balanced ones that are good for more things at the same time, but I won’t look down on mostly escapism (what, for example, Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic was to me) or things that aren’t escapism at all (like Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi).

6. What is a book that made you laugh out loud?

I remember that by the end of the first time I read Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee I had laughed so much that my ribs actually hurt. I wouldn’t describe it as a happy book, but I’m not sure I ever read something that made me happier. According to my sense of humor, the funniest thing to ever exist is very competent characters doing extremely unwise things that somehow kind of work. This book starts with the novel’s antagonist kidnapping a spaceship fleet and only gets worse. Also, reading a whole book while rooting for the antagonist even though you like the main characters is a very interesting experience. Raven Stratagem is chaos made book. I love everyone in it.

7. What is a book that has made you cry? Or, if you don’t cry, one that really moved you?

Crying can be a bad sign; the book that made me cry the most had a surprisingly homophobic twist and I read it when I was just realizing I was gay; there are many ways to be upset and that wasn’t a “good” one. Anyway, apart from that – I can say that some of my favorite books made me tear up in joy at some point (some books I remember that did: Crooked Kingdom, Raven Stratagem, The Wise and the Wicked) and that’s my favorite kind of crying, but there are also times in which I actually cry because of pain and it’s not for the wrong reasons. The book I remember the most for this is Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente in the section There Are No Firebirds in Leningrad.

8. What is a book that you didn’t even know how you felt about?

All of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil. There are books that have been called out for “romanticizing” abuse when they clearly weren’t (see Never-Contented Things) and that I defend without question, there are authors who have been accused of extremely serious things for what then turned out to be bullshit reasons (see what happened to Tamsyn Muir and Isabel Fall) and I have no problem with saying that either; in a culture that is obsessed with policing stories about trauma in ways that ultimately only hurt survivors that’s something I always try to remember.

The thing about the controversy with All of Us With Wings is that this time it isn’t based on blatant or borderline-bad-faith misinterpretation of the text, but on the very role of stories, because this was – as far as I remember – showing a relationship between a 17-year-old and her 28-year-old employer in a somewhat good light. Given the author’s note at the beginning, I’m not sure I can accept an easy answer about this story being inherently harmful by existing, and that might mean I need to reexamine a lot of things to have an answer (but it can’t be a Simple Theoretical Exercise given my own personal baggage, ha.) For now, it stays there, awkwardly hanging in the corner of “I don’t know what to say about this”.

9. Are you more likely to read on a sunny day or a cloudy day?

Right now, I’m not likely to read at all! I don’t think it makes much of a difference for me, but I’m more likely to feel more strongly if I’m reading while it’s darker outside. It makes things feel more real and reality less close.

10. Do you usually “set the mood” when you read? Music, lights, smells, etc?

No, not really, that would take too much effort.

11. Can you leap from book to book or do you need buffer time between them?

I can leap from a book to another; the biggest obstacle for me is always starting the book, but that doesn’t seem to be influenced by other books.

I’m not tagging anyone because I’m tired and lazy, but don’t let that stop you if you like the questions! What is the book you’ve had the most confusing feelings about? Have you read any of these?

Tag · Wrap-Up

Half a Wrap-Up, but Also Not, and Half an Award Post

What is today’s post? I don’t know either, and in any case, categories are overrated.

Rules? On my blog?

In theory, this started out as a Liebster Award post, which has its own rules, but you know what? I don’t feel like coming up with facts about myself or questions to tag other people for, but I do feel like writing something and this is what you get.

The good news is, a review of Over the Woodward Wall should be here this week, because yes, I finally started something again after taking another unintentional break during September’s exam season. However, there won’t be a specific wrap-up post coming this month, because I read exactly two novellas and nothing else. No, the wrap-up will be right here because no one can stop me.

September was mostly a month of me using every opportunity to get out of the house as often as possible, because getting some practice in existing outside is a good idea when you had to spend the first months of the year leaning into your agoraphobia due to pandemic reasons. Also, I’m still making friends with the cats, and the outside in itself is a really beautiful place sometimes:

After exam season ended, (online) lessons have started again, so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do this in the next months. Another unrelated things that has changed is that I’m learning how to cook fish more by myself now! I’m now the designated fish buyer and cleaner in the house (can do both completely on my own), because that’s what a marine ecology course is good for, and the shark dissection we did in class back in January means that certain things don’t faze me much anymore.

As far as books, I read two novellas, Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling and Over the Woodward Wall by Seanan McGuire. Of the first, I already have a review up, and I mostly thought it was fine but not that memorable – maybe I didn’t understand it fully – but I did appreciate how messed up it was. About the second one, I was again not sure of what it was trying to achieve or what it was even trying to be target audience-wise, but finding the parallels between it and Middlegame was a fun experience.

The Liebster Award Questions and Their Answers

I was tagged by laurel @ the suspected bibliophile. Thank you!

What is your favorite carbonated drink?

Water, I guess? That’s pretty much all I drink, and sparkling water doesn’t bother me – which on the US-dominated internet seems to be an unpopular opinion. At least, I’ve seen a lot of people talk about it as if it were Water From Hell, when to me it’s perfectly fine; I just won’t seek it out deliberately.
(Well, we also make banana + cocoa smoothies after dinner sometimes here, but that’s more of a dessert than a drink. Now that would be a nightmare if carbonated.)

How has the pandemic affected your coping skills?

There would be a lot to say, but I don’t feel like writing it down. Something relevant to this blog is that I find it more difficult to get into books, which was one of the reasons I had to put down Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston earlier this week even though I was liking it – I’m finding it difficult to read adult SFF at all. I hope that changes soon.

Do you have a library card? And do you use it?

No. Local libraries’ concept of a “fantasy section” is made up of three beaten up copies of an Italian fantasy series from around 2005, the entirety of Twilight, and either an old edition of The Lord of the Rings or a random A Song of Ice and Fire novel (probably not the first one, you won’t be that lucky). It’s not very useful.

What are the top five books you’ve read so far in 2020?

I don’t feel like ranking them, so I’m going to say them in the order I read them: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (I don’t think I’ve ever annotated a book this much), The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (the way this was written just Gets Me), The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders (unforgettable, rightly monstrous), the short story Always the Harvest by Yoon Ha Lee (well-intentioned body horror… best romance), and Night Shine by Tessa Gratton (also unforgettable and rightly monstrous, because I have a type). Only two of them are novels, because I don’t want to spoil the whole “favorite novel of the year” post! That’s my favorite post to write.

What are the five books you cannot stop recommending to people?

I think I’ve recommended Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong to all people asking me about queer short fiction over the years and I stand by it – it’s about murderous Asian vampire-like creatures in a messed up F/F/F love triangle and it’s one of the most memorable short stories I’ve ever read.

Other than that, I can’t really think of anything I’ve recommended to many people? I know several people have read Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter because of me, but I wasn’t actively recommending these books to them – it’s just that I talked about both a lot on my blog. Also, I convinced people IRL to read Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (and back when I was in high school, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente), and not much else…

Do you write? If so, what’s your current work in progress?

No. But I’d like to – I have a work in progress which will most definitely never get written. So far, it exists as a prologue (I think they’re nice actually) and a piece of a first chapter. As for what it is about: what happens when the quintessential magical YA heroine, after completing the quintessential girl power YA novel arc (minus the romance) and defeating evil, decides that she and her devout following have to create an all-girl utopia in the woods? Yes, this is about cults. (And religious trauma, and reactionary conformist thought masquerading as “feminism”, but let’s not get too into that yet.)

The YA-heroine-type character isn’t the PoV character, that would be boring, and I wouldn’t describe this idea as YA – they’re already older and I didn’t make it up with teens as a main audience in mind. I love this story and where it goes, but I don’t think that of my English, so I don’t know if I’ll ever actually finish even a first draft.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled? Was it for yourself or someone else?

Sometimes I look up unusual or even straight up cursed-sounding food combinations to see if there’s anyone who has ever actually tried that, or if it isn’t even as unusual or cursed-sounding of a combination as it actually seems to me. One of my favorites can be translated as (I look them up in Italian) “clam profiterole“. I didn’t find a result for that, but I did find recipes by looking up the variant “clam chowder cream puffs“, so!

The clam cream puffs from the recipe I found weren’t meant to be sweets, but my idea of “clam profiterole”, or to be an Italian, “bignè alle vongole”, was absolutely meant to be a sweet pastry – what if you bit into a regular cream puff and there was a whole clam inside the cream? Without the shell, because of course I’m not a monster 🙂

What is your favorite fall (or spring) activity?

Last year it was impulse-buying cacti, the year before it was [depressive episode static noise], who knows what this year will bring?

the only one of my cacti that has ever bloomed

What is your most paranormal experience?

There’s no experience that stands out. However, being surrounded by [phobia trigger] can do really weird things to my perception of reality. I wouldn’t call it paranormal but it sure feels like it.

Besides reading/blogging, what are your hobbies?

Before the pandemic it was “underwater photography” – by which I mean snorkeling with a waterproof camera near underwater rocks; I can’t scuba dive, but there’s a surprising amount of interesting stuff one can find near the surface, including morays. This year, I haven’t been able to go to the beach at all. Now, it’s… Pokémon Go. Which is fun but also makes me sad because real fish were better.

Serranus scriba (“painted comber”), one of my favorites to photograph – it turns to stare at you instead of fleeing when followed. Also, look at the patterns on its head!

Which Chris is the best Chris?

The actors? I don’t know anything about their personalities or what they do, because I… watch approximately one movie a year and usually don’t even know the names of the actors in it. One of the many ways I live under a rock! As far as looks, I don’t find them interesting.

How was this month for you? Have you read any of these books? Do you also have an Overly Specific Role if you live together with other people? And, most importantly, would you eat the clam profiterole?


Try A Chapter #8

The Try A Chapter Tag is back! A little longer than usual, as I’ve been away for a while – my goodreads TBR was getting too long after the new entries in the last few days…

As usual, these are not reviews and don’t say much about the quality of the work as a whole; there are just far too many books I want to read, and trying the first chapter of those I’m not completely sure about helps me understand what I want to prioritize.

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho: I plan to slowly go through most of the YA books on my TBR with the Try A Chapter Tag, just to be completely sure that I actually want to read them. Most of their premises sound great – I know this one does, as magical foxes in any form are my favorite creatures in fantasy and this is about a gumiho – but let’s see if I also think the same about the story itself.
The first chapter: apart from some slightly cheesy turns of phrase, I really liked this! The atmosphere is perfect, the conflict Miyoung is facing is intriguing, and I haven’t read an urban fantasy in so long. (Also, so many food mentions already… I haven’t had lunch yet this is an Attack)
[will read at some point]

The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer: listen I actually have no idea what this is and I’ve never even heard of the author, but the cover is an ELDRITCH TOOTH SWAN. I have to know why this was a choice that was made. I have so many questions.
The first chapter: I’m just not getting along with this, and I can’t even tell why – there’s nothing exactly wrong with it, but trying to get through the first chapter felt like wading through mud. I don’t want to be unfair to the book, so I’ll say that it’s about stage magicians and I just finished a book about the same topic (…with much better writing though), so maybe I just don’t feel like it.
[goodbye, eldritch tooth swan]

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena: to be honest, I added this for the cover only (just look at it), as the last two years had me slowly losing all the trust I had in YA fantasy, but A Song of Wraiths and Ruin singlehandedly reminded me that this genre can be great fun if you choose the right ones, so let’s try!
The first chapter: listen it’s not the book’s fault but why are maps always unreadable on ebook?? anyway, this didn’t catch my interest at all. There must be some terrible writing advice on the internet that says you have to start every YA fantasy with a scene of someone getting murdered, because I find this kind of thing in half of the ones I try. I don’t know how common of an opinion this is, but I honestly couldn’t think of a more off-putting opening – I haven’t even heard the main character speak once and you’re talking to me about arrows going through people’s heads. If I don’t know the characters, it just feels like yeah get some graphic violence, don’t you want more when actually I want to know about the characters and the world. Tell me why should I spend time here.
[removing from TBR]

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White: in theory, F/F sci-fantasy sounds like the best premise a story could ever have and exactly like the kind of book I could see going on my list of favorites of the year, but the fact that it has been on my TBR since 2018 tells me that maybe there’s a reason I don’t feel drawn to it. After the almost-all-correct Five Star Predictions post, I want to trust my gut feelings even when I don’t understand them.
The first chapter: it’s literally named D.N.F. Is this a joke? Anyway, I kind of hate the writing – listen, I’m the last one who will complain about everything being full of sci-fi-sounding words for the atmosphere™, but this has no grace to it – and couldn’t care less about race cars in space™, so I guess this is going. (I also skimmed the rest of the ebook preview and I’m just not feeling it.)
[removing from TBR]

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet: me, trying ~literary~ historical fiction? I know, unusual, but I do believe one can find something that works for them in pretty much every genre if they know where to look – and to know where to look, one has to try kind of randomly at first. This sounds interesting and everyone seems to love it, so why not? (Now, if only I were able to find an adult mystery/thriller that worked for me…)
The first chapter: this is fascinating and, as predicted, the writing is great. The fact that we’re going to be following different characters across history is encouraging, because I don’t know if I would be up for reading a whole book set in the sixties. I might check out the audiobook, because it does have the kind of writing that could work great aloud.
[will read at some point]

I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch: on one hand, it’s an F/F romance. On the other hand, it’s YA contemporary – which is very hit-or-miss for me – and got mixed reviews from my goodreads friends.
The first chapter: I guess it makes sense for an enemies-to-lovers book about fanfiction to read like mediocre enemies-to-lovers high school AU fanfiction of a pairing I don’t know, but that doesn’t mean it’s interesting. Remind me to never have high hopes for books that have anything to do with fandom.
[removing from TBR]

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He: I wanted to read this last year, then it just never happened for no reason, despite the positive hype and the lovely cover and the fact that the premise does sound interesting to me (court politics… yes).
The first chapter: now this is my kind of beginning. Carefully setting up the atmosphere, and in the meantime… let’s talk about treason. I’m intrigued but don’t want to go too far into the book before I actually pick it up. Sometimes you really do know you want to read something just from the first paragraphs.
[will read at some point]

“I felt like I was having a stroke”

goodreads review of The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel

The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel by Moe Bonneau: I removed this book from my TBR last year because it has almost overwhelmingly horrible reviews, all of them complaining about the writing. Which is interesting, because YA contemporary is possibly the genre in which I see authors take the least risks writing style-wise, so I’m curious – and also, it doesn’t feel right to not give a chance to a book about queer girls.
The first chapter: oh. The reviews all complained about the writing being overdone and weird and unreadable. They’re not wrong. It’s written half in slang I don’t fully understand and half in the way I think when I’ve just had a panic attack, by which I mean its writing is full of repetition, echolalia-like patterns and a kind of… rhythmic matching of words? To make some examples, this is a quote from the narration: glow little glowworm, glimmer, glimmer. I laugh and hum and pick up my marker and draw. Shine little glowworm, shimmer, shimmer. Or describing someone as everyday, every-guy, average hit hero. It’s all like that. In case it wasn’t clear, I love it and appreciate the neurodivergence of it all, intentional or not. It’s very cozy.
[will definitely read]

Have you read or want to read any of these?


Medieval Queens Book Tag

I was tagged Jess @jessticulates (thank you!), the creator of the tag. Check out her post to see the reasons and history that led her to choose these questions for each queen!

If you’re wondering, my knowledge of Medieval English queens is extremely minimal and I only vaguely recognize some of these by name.

Empress Matilda (1102-1167)

 Choose a book with a protagonist who stands their ground.

When Desdemona aka bi icon Tattercoats Thousandfurs gets a goal, you can’t stop her. She will change history by sheer force of will, and if you’re an evil rich man who thrives on workers’ suffering, she will make a deal with the king of the goblin realm just to ruin you. Yes, even if you’re her father.

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204)

Choose a book or series in which the heroine has more than one romantic relationship.

I couldn’t think of any series I read in which the heroine has two relationships at different points in time, but what I did remember is a lovely portrayal of an open marriage: Sanao Mokoya gets married to Head Abbot Thennjay in The Black Tides of Heaven, and then gets in a relationship with non-binary Rider in The Red Threads of Fortune, which has one of my favorite examples of a developing relationship in a novella.

Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290)

Choose a bittersweet book.

One of the most underrated novels published in the US in 2020 is Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu. It’s a slow, very introspective sci-fi story about a group of young people born on Mars and who spent their teens on Earth as they start to question Martian society when they go “back home”. It’s quietly beautiful and it has a lot of things to say about so many topics; I really recommend it, especially if you have the chance to buddy read it with someone.

Isabella of France (1295-1358)

Choose a book where the romance overtook the plot.

I haven’t read one of these in such a long while! Which makes me really happy, because I remember this being a common problem back when I read mostly straight YA fantasy (around 2016). If anything, what I often feel these days is that books want me to believe in a romance without giving it enough space to grow in a way that the reader can feel. Anyway, the last example of this I could think of is a book I’ve read a year ago, which happens to be a very white, straight YA fantasy (unsurprisingly. or maybe the surprising part is that I read it despite that, but the cover was pretty?): House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. I spent so much time wanting to shake the surviving sisters because all they could think about was that boys wouldn’t dance with them anymore – the boys were afraid of the curse that was decimating the sisters’ family. Yes, the boys are the main problem here, aren’t they.

Philippa of Hainault (1310/15-1369)

choose a book set at a university.

I think “university” has the potential to be my favorite kind of setting – after all, that’s the stage of life I’m in – but I rarely reach for that kind of stories, because sadly they’re mostly about college, and I couldn’t care less about that. (I think at this point my lack of interest in the Dark Academia genre is well-known! It’s just that it’s so overwhelmingly based in American touchstones, which include college itself.) The only book with that kind of setting I remember liking right now is Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, which follows most of the main characters’ lives, including the parts they spend at university – and I didn’t love those any less.

Joan of Navarre (1368-1437)

Choose a book about witches.

A series that takes an extremely interesting angle on the persecution of witches and witchcraft is The Kingston Cycle by C.L. Polk: in this Edwardian England-inspired story, poor witches are persecuted for their illegal magic while rich people who have the means to hide their magic basically use it to run the country, and even use a different name for themselves – mages, because they couldn’t possibly be the same as those lowly, dangerous witches. When it comes to understanding and challenging power structures, few books are as good as this series.

I Tag:

[as usual, don’t feel obligated to do this, etc.]

Have you read any of these?

Tag · TBR & Goals

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

Remember when it was 2019 and I posted things on time? Anyway. Exam season still hasn’t ended, but I managed to put together a version of this I was ok with, so here we go.

Despite being late, I still haven’t managed to find enough favorites to fill all questions with answers that are as satisfying to me as last year’s. I haven’t even had a bad reading year, not really; it’s just that most of what I read has been… good. I gave so many four stars compared to previous years.

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

I’d usually use this spot for novels, but this has been the year of nonfiction, and there’s no doubt that the best book I’ve read so far this year is In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. It’s a memoir about domestic abuse in a relationship between two women written in a very nontraditional format – the author looks at her own experience through archetypes, literary tropes and genre expectations – and it has so much to say about the way homophobia shapes abuse survivors’ experiences, and so many other things as well. I don’t think anything I can say can do this book justice, and so I’ll tell you to read it if you can. If what’s holding you back isn’t the heavy subject matter but the fact that you’ve barely read nonfiction/memoirs before and don’t know what to expect from one, I can say that was the case for me too.

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

Without a doubt, The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty, sequel to The City of Brass. It took the politics, intrigue, and pain to a whole new level – but it’s the complex, tangled web of character relationships that keeps this series alive, and this book started making use of its full potential. I can’t wait for the third book to follow the consequences even more. TKoC’s ending was explosive in so many ways. (And to think I almost didn’t continue the series. I have so many questions for past!Acqua)

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

Surprisingly, I think I kept up with the new releases I was interested in pretty well! That was probably “helped” by some of them being pushed back. Anyway, apart from the obvious – it being that I still need to read the newly-released The Empire of Gold and definitely intend to do that before the end of the year – I’m looking forward to the recently-released The Damned by Renée Ahdieh, sequel to one of my favorite books of last year (The Beautiful), and to A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown (loved the audiobook sample). My real problem is older backlist, I have so many books from last year I still want to read and haven’t even tried.

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

This answer is actually a lie! Or, incomplete; three of my most anticipated releases I’ve already included in an upcoming “5 star predictions” post and didn’t want to be repetitive, so they’re not here. Here, I’m going to talk about Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, a West African-inspired YA fantasy novel I’ve heard enough wonderful things about to be curious but not enough to be intimidated in any way by the hype (*hides from a stack of hyped YA fantasy avoided for exactly that reasons, the main one being King of Scars*); Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker aka Seanan McGuire, a book I know nothing about apart from its… meta ties to the alchemical masterpiece that was Middlegame; and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, sequel to one of the best and most unusual novels I’ve read this year.

5: Biggest disappointment:

It’s only by coincidence that The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon didn’t end up in a “5 star predictions” post. As it turns out, the bad reviews were right. This was described as “old-school fantasy, but make it diverse”, but it is only like old-school fantasy if you take away what made it feel special. That’s mostly nostalgia, let’s be honest; however, the unhurried, wandering nature had its own merits in that kind of books, and despite its length, The Priory of the Orange Tree is always in a hurry. It did keep all the worst parts of old-school fantasy though, the ones I’m glad we left behind years ago – the stiff writing style, the good vs. evil framing that was common back in the day, the way some of these old fantasy books relied on coincidences – while flattening everything as much as possible to fit it into a standalone. There’s no complexity; it was epic only in length. The only thing this book has going for it is the diversity, and I didn’t even like what it did with queerness and worldbuilding (more details in the review).

6: Biggest Surprise:

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders wasn’t even on my TBR. I hadn’t liked anything I tried by this author before, and this novel didn’t even have a great average rating on the hellsite goodreads. Then I decided to challenge myself to read all the Hugo finalists for best novel, and The City in the Middle of the Night ended up being my favorite novel I’ve read so far this year. The combination of layered worldbuilding full of cutting political and social commentary, the dreamlike atmosphere, and themes of unrequited queer love made it a stunning and unforgettable story. For a different reader, it might feel removed and anticlimatic; for me, it was perfect. (Also, if something is set on a tidally locked planet I automatically Love It. That’s just how it is.)

7: Favorite New Author (Debut or New To You):

This is always a difficult question because I never know whether an author is a favorite until I read multiple books of theirs, and that’s not something that can happen easily with debuts. Anyway, a new debut author I definitely want to read more from is Nghi Vo, author of The Empress of Salt and Fortune, a quiet, introspective, atmospheric novella even though it’s technically about toppling emperors (and now I can’t wait for the sequel); a new-to-me author who isn’t a debut is C.S.E. Cooney, who wrote the lovely and weird Desdemona and the Deep, probably the best fae book (whimsical, queer, very unromantic, with a dash of disturbing: as it should be!) we will ever get.

8: Newest Fictional Crush:

I didn’t really have one, but the closest thing I can currently think of is Parvaneh from Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. What could ever be better than a morally questionable immortal moth girlfriend?

9: Newest Favorite Character:


I don’t have a new all-time favorite character this year – as I said before, everything I read in 2020 was mostly good but there were surprisingly few standouts, and this is true across categories. I’m going to answer Felix Love from Felix Ever After, mostly because he surprised me: I don’t feel strongly about characters in contemporary the way I do in SFF. Felix was memorable in the way 90% of YA contemporary characters are not – he leapt off the page, and now that it’s been more than a month, I still think about him. There’s enough of a difference between my experience with this book and most of this genre that now, while I’m reading another contemporary that happens to be Just Perfectly Fine, I’m finding the characterization dull and mediocre, because the last contemporary I read was Felix Ever After and this just can’t compare.

10: A book that made you cry:

A discovery of the year is that while I rarely cry because of fiction, everything is different with nonfiction. I think the one that made me cry the most is All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson. For many reasons, but mostly these three:

  • the way it talked about the effect of gender roles on small children
  • the way it talked about extended family in the context of queerness
  • the way it talked about coming out in real life vs. the narratives we’re sold

I had very different experiences with these things than the author, and yet close enough for it to seriously hurt (in a good way). These aren’t topics I often find in the [fictional] books I read, both because of the age ranges I prioritize and because of the topics that are prioritized by publishing (white American gatekeeping says that romance is the most interesting and relatable part of the teen experience, and you’re lucky if a YA book talks about family at all, much less the extended one. Support systems and one’s complicated relationship with them are “boring” apparently)

11: A book that made you happy:

Gideon the Ninth nails a certain part of my sense of humor perfectly. I’m… not that interested in clever witty banter in most situations, but when it comes to deliberately horrible puns? Keep throwing them at me, thank you. And I also found Phoenix Extravagant really funny, because the main character Jebi was a walking disaster and the mecha dragon, a pacifist weapon of mass destruction, was not.

12: Favorite adaptation:

I’ve only watched one, the Netflix show The Ghost Bride, so I guess that’s the answer. It was entertaining and I did like it, but as with 90% of the things I watch on a screen, I don’t think about it often.

13: Favorite post you’ve written:

Definitely On Rules and Magic Systems. I’m really proud of it, even though I’m not sure I was able to convey my point the way I wanted – and there was a bigger point to be made as well, mostly about the ways gatekeeping manifests itself through writing advice.

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

These three:

I honestly wasn’t a fan of this cover of The City in the Middle of the Night, and when it comes to the pictures on the internet I’m still not, but in person… it’s probably the prettiest book I own? It looks like a special edition of a classic. I love it.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me was in last year’s post too, but this time I actually bought a translated physical copy (randomly found it in a bookstore, I didn’t even know it existed!) so it’s here again and just as pretty as I thought. Then, of course, Monstress Vol. 4, which finally arrived this year in my country as well.

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

This question is kind of a joke, because every single time I name at least a book I don’t even try to read before the end of the year. To try something easier than three fantasy tomes like last year, I’m going to say a novella – Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor, as I’ve started rereading the series this year – as well as two YA novels, Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (which I will remove from my TBR if I don’t get to it by the end of the year) and The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis, which I recently found in my local bookstore when I didn’t even know it had been translated (see a trend? Will never make sense of the Italian publishing world).

Have you read or want to read any of these?


Monthly Try A Chapter #7

Welcome to the seventh Try A Chapter post! As usual, this is a mix of new releases and backlist.

What I Tried

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown: I’ve mostly been avoiding YA fantasy this year because of my experiences with it last year, but the combination of the cover (seriously how is it so pretty) + hype-induced curiosity made it end up on this post. Anyway, this is West-African inspired YA fantasy!
The first chapter: this sets the atmosphere really well, and I already like the writing. I’m not completely sure this is my kind of fantasy (…when was the last time m/f enemies-to-lovers did anything for me? Or enemies-to-lovers in general to be honest), but a lot depends on execution. I also tried the audiobook and I can say that the narration is really good, so I think that’s how I’m going to read this; appreciated the inclusion of content warnings at the beginning too.
[bought, continuing as an audiobook in July]

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons: I didn’t even consider this one for a while because of a series of bad early reviews I saw, but it got translated in my country, so here I am! Always on board with dragons. Now I want to know if this is enough my style to actually buy it.
The first chapter: …oh well, looks like I agree with the early reviews? This is very infodump-y and it starts with a slave auction, and I find neither particularly interesting. At this point, I’m very picky about the adult fantasy I choose (I rarely reach for them to begin with, it has to be worth it), so this isn’t happening.
[removed from TBR]

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord: Unraveling ended up on my radar back when it was published, but I’ve since heard that one should read this one first, so that’s what I’m doing! I haven’t tried anything by Karen Lord yet, but heard good things; also, this is a retelling of a Senegalese folktale.
The first chapter: I’m on the fence about this one, mostly because I didn’t feel in any particular way about anything. It probably needs more reading time for that, so I’ll try more in the future. For now:
[keeping it on the maybe shelf]

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney: my interest in adult contemporary novels is generally low, but I saw this one in my city’s bookstore’s Pride display (very subtle, but they had one. Progress!), and you know how I feel about queer books that get translated in my language.
The first chapter: this was so boring I really couldn’t even get through three pages without skimming. It’s written – deliberately – in a style I can’t stand, that basically goes I did this, and then we did that, and then we did this and I thought that. I don’t get the appeal.
[removed from TBR]

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth: on one hand, contemporary F/F romance with the loveliest cover on earth! On the other hand, me and this genre are growing apart and I almost exclusively reach for it on audiobook, so let’s see what I think.
The first chapter: in a disappointing and surprising turn of events, I hate both the main character’s voice and the writing – it comes across as corny instead of quirky, as it’s clearly attempting to be. I’m sad because I always want to be there for anything F/F but this one just isn’t going to work
[removed from TBR]

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee: a fantasy novel with an Asian main character, creepy woods, and a magic system inspired by Hmong shamanism? Sounds really interesting, even though I’ve already seen several not-so-positive reviews.
The first chapter: and it even has wyverns! More fantasy needs to have magical creatures in it, that’s just the truth. I liked this enough that I felt the need to continue past the first chapter, so I’m definitely coming back to this (and apparently it has no romance, at least for the first book, which is unusual for YA fantasy. I’m curious).
[will continue in the future]

Have you read or want to read any of these?


Would You Rather [Evil] Book Tag

I was tagged by Silvia @silviareadsbooks (thank you!)

Would you rather spend one day in your favorite fantasy world but never meet the main characters of the story OR meet the characters from your favorite fantasy book but in our world?
I don’t really have a favorite fantasy world, so I don’t have the answer for this! Also, most of the worlds I like are horrible, but so are the characters… no I really don’t know how to answer this.

Would you rather have a (friend) date with a villain you love or a protagonist you dislike?

Listen, the idea of a (friend) date with Nirai Kujen is nightmare fuel but it’s funny nightmare fuel, while a (friend) date with the only protagonists I remember hating in the past year, the whole cast from If We Were Villains, is boring nightmare fuel. And, you see, I stand an equal chance of getting murdered (in scenario #1, because Kujen is bored; in scenario #2, because I was bored and couldn’t stop myself from saying that the only reason Shakespeare is still considered relevant today is that he wrote in English), so I might as well have fun! I choose #1 just because I can’t stop laughing at the idea of Nirai Kujen going on friend dates.

[He’s from Ninefox Gambit but you don’t really get to know him until Revenant Gun. I’m sad most of you haven’t met him just because I don’t get to share how funny this idea is]

Would you rather have a massive book collection but they’re all paperbacks OR only have one small sized bookcase with only special editions of your favorite books?
My favorite books don’t have special editions, so… the first one? But the sad part is that many of my favorite books don’t exist in paperback either because they were too obscure to make it to that point! But I guess that for once it’s good that my favorite series only exists in paperback?

Would you rather have a mediocre TV adaptation of your favorite book or no adaptation at all?
None! I’m not sure I’d want a good one either, to be honest (probably wouldn’t be able to watch it.)

Would you rather never find another favorite book but read all four stars books OR find new favorites but all the rest are three stars and lower?
What’s the point of reading if you never find favorites?

Would you rather try out one fictional dish or listen to one fictional musical composition?
*me, a person who clearly has a very good memory, trying to remember even one fictional dish or musical composition:* …
I mean, I will forever be curious about Vassa in the Night‘s lagoon-flavored pop tarts, but that wouldn’t mean I’d actually try them. I think.

Would you rather be cast as the protagonist of an hypothetical adaptation of your favorite book OR be the one to adapt it for TV?
Can I have no adaptation? …option #1 should definitely not happen (would be racist casting), but I’m not a fan of #2 either.

Would you rather make friends with a fictional pet or a fictional AI?

Depends on the individual, I guess? I’d love to befriend Arazi from Phoneix Extravagant, and one could of argue Arazi is both an AI and an animal companion, being a steampunk mecha dragon. And maybe I’d also like to talk with Singer from Ancestral Night, one of the few snarky AIs who isn’t downright scary. (ART, I love you, but.)

Would you rather read a “good” but poorly written ending or a “bad” but well written ending?

I don’t think an ending can be bad if it’s well-written – if something is well-written the book should at least make me understand why the author made that choice even if I had wished for something different? One of my favorite books of this year, The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders, did exactly that, so I think that’s what I’ll choose. Same thing with one of my favorites of last year, The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum – the ending was… not what I was rooting for while I read it, but now that it’s been months I can’t imagine the book ending in any other way? It was amazing. I guess I just need the author to make me believe in what they’re doing. Or, maybe I just can’t think of examples of this not working right now.

I know I’m supposed to write my own questions, but I realized that I just don’t have the Talent for Evil™ this tag needs. Anyway: do you think a well-written ending can be bad, or are you also easily convinced?


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]


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]


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]


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?


Monthly Try A Chapter #5

Welcome to the fifth monthly Try A Chapter! As usual, this will be a mix of backlist with some April releases thrown in.

The Books


Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: she was my favorite author when I first started blogging, and… I haven’t read any of her books that came out in 2019? I’m not ever completely sure I’ll like this one, because while I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing, I’ve discovered that there’s no genre I’m as incompatible with as dark academia, aka “misleading name of the genre in which pretentious students murder people and them being insufferable is absolutely the point but I don’t know why I should care”. If there’s someone who could make it work for me, it may be her, and unlike the other Dark Academia books I tried this one has fantasy aspects, but it’s not like she managed to make me like superheroes with that Wonder Woman book. Let’s see.
The first chapter: *names, names, names, dates, names, vaguely interesting hook, names, dates, names, drugs, creepy latin, names, creepier latin, that looks like a cult, names, names*
I don’t think that’s going to work and the more I try dark academia and keep bouncing off the more I realize that it doesn’t work for me also because of how much of an American genre it is (elite college culture and all that), more than any other I’ve tried, which makes it very uninteresting to me.
[removed from TBR]


The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco: I feel like me and YA fantasy don’t easily get along anymore, and even though this is F/F, I want to try a chapter before saying for sure that I’m going to read it. I love the cover, and I usually love stories that have to do with godhood, but I’m not sure about the climate change-related themes. I already have to deal enough with that outside of books. So far, all I’ve read by Rin Chupeco was in the three star range, so I’m curious.
The first chapter: so, the worldbuilding feels kind of like a mess (so many names, so much about trying to set up the magic) but I already love how gay it is. Upon reread, I’ll try to piece together better what is being said, because yes, I do want to reread this part now! More gay goddesses!

[currently reading as audiobook]


Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke: back in 2018, The Boneless Mercies was the weird quiet fantasy I needed and ended up on my list of favorite books of the year. This is a companion sequel, one with a cover I love, and I usually like Tucholke’s writing, but I’m… still not sure I want to read this? I was fine with the first book as a standalone.
The first chapter: it starts out with a plague and that makes it for sure a book I don’t want to be reading now. I also have other doubts: while the writing is gorgeous and like The Boneless Mercies it feels like the kind of story one could imagine having been told around a fire for centuries and centuries, it’s the same old girl-goes-on-a-quest-to-rescue-sister kind of story, which I’m not into, and the reviews aren’t encouraging either. I think I’ll pass.
[removed from TBR]


The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: this had been recommended by so many people I’ve followed since I started blogging, enough that I lost count, and yet I never glanced at it twice because I deeply hate the cover (I know, I know) and because it has been described in ways that don’t really spark my interest. But since so many people I’ve trusted through the years love this, and since I haven’t seen a single bad review, I should at least consider it.
The first chapter: I really don’t like the writing, or to be more specific, the dialogues. “Written specifically to sound distant” isn’t something I usually go for and the last time I found myself reading a book like that (The Priory of the Orange Tree) I couldn’t make it through without reading a translation, which mostly erased the distance because certain things don’t translate. I don’t have a translation of this.
[removed from TBR]


Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang: relevant not-so-far-future sci-fi, with humanity split into two societies, one on Mars and one on Earth, written in Chinese and translated into English by Ken Liu. I don’t know a lot about this but a) I’m curious because I’m tired of only reading books written in English and b) this is something I could see ending up as some SFF award finalist next year.
The first chapter: the writing. AAAA the writing!! Do you know what it takes to make a translation flow this well? Both the author and the translator need to be amazing and this is… really impressive. Also it looks like it will be s l o w (and it’s 600+ pages… good luck Acqua!), so I’m unsure, but now I’m really curious.
[still on TBR but I might be lying to myself about this]


The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: you know what’s the worst thing about book discourse? It covers up the book. This came out last year, and I know that at some point I read the premise, but now that it’s been a year, all I remember about this book is the way people talk about it: half the book community saying that it’s exactly like Six of Crows and the other half saying that they’re nothing alike and Six of Crows didn’t invent group casts. For now, let’s see if this is my kind of thing; I really liked the Star-Touched Queen duology, so I’m hopeful.
The first chapter: houses in Paris? Murder? This reminds me so much of The House of Shattered Wings already in the best way (after all, both deal with French colonialism) but the tone is completely different, of course, being YA. I’m not a fan of prologues in the perspective of a character who dies, but I’m really curious now.
[keeping it on TBR]


The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker: I have no idea what this is, but there are dragons, and I’ve seen it in a few “best fantasy” lists lately. (Let’s say that it being 1,99€ on google play books helps with the “being interested” part.) Also, I should really be reading more adult fantasy.
The first chapter: I first thought this was going to be yet another book in which there’s a prologue from the point of view of an useless character who dies, and I was wrong! And pleasantly surprised by that. I’m not sure I understand anything about the world yet but the aesthetic of it is unbelievably cool. (Yes, there are literal ships made out of giant dragon skeletons, if I understood anything.) However, I’m not completely sold on the characters; so we’ll see.
[keeping it on the “maybe” shelf]

Have you read or want to read any of these?

Fantasy · Tag

Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag

I was tagged by Jess @ Jessticulates (thank you!). Bree Hill originally created this tag as the Get to Know the Romance Reader Tag, and The Book Pusher adapted it for fantasy readers.

1. What is your fantasy origin story? (The first fantasy novel you read)

Well, if we don’t count children’s books about talking animals as “fantasy”, I think it was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, and I was around… eight? Seven? I don’t remember. I really liked it and was obsessed with the elves, which by the way are kind of antagonists in this book. I’ve always liked that about characters, apparently?

2. If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

…can I decline? 😬 Being anywhere in the story of a fantasy novels sounds like a terrible time, and all my favorite authors are not nice to their characters, so I don’t really have an answer. As far as tropes go: friendly ghosts and animal companions sound nice, so maybe that?

3. What is a fantasy you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?

40939087._sy475_Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney! I mostly haven’t had the best luck with fantasy novels so far this year, but I loved this novella so much, and I wish more people would reach for this hallucinatory rococo fae book with a deep love for weirdness.

4. What is your favourite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?

My favorite subgenres are sci-fantasy and contemporary fantasy, because I like fantasy more when it overlaps with other genres. Subgenres I rarely reach for are grimdark, because a lot of it has a weird set of priorities (there are a lot of people there who believe only trauma can shape people and so write accordingly) and historical fantasy, because the whole genre seems to have a pacing problem (though I do like it anyway sometimes; an example is Renée Ahdieh’s The Beautiful).

5. Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

I think that not until a long time ago I would have said Leigh Bardugo, but I still haven’t bought Ninth House and I’m not sure I will, so I’m not sure if I have an auto-buy author who writes primarily fantasy? I will for sure say that if Leigh Bardugo, Aliette de Bodard, C.L. Polk, S.A. Chakraborty, Seanan McGuire, or JY Neon Yang write a book, it will very easily end up on my radar, and they’re all primarily fantasy authors, but I’m not sure I consider any of them auto-buy.

[Editing!Acqua comment: love how this asked for one auto-buy fantasy author and I gave six that aren’t.]

6. How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram..)

Goodreads, twitter, other blogs, occasionally booktube (though I don’t watch it as often as I did once).

7. What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee is my most anticipated release of the year, so that! It’s a Korean-inspired fantasy with a non-binary main character and… mecha dragons? Maybe? I haven’t read the synopsis because I don’t want to know too much. I broke my “no ARCs of novels” ban for it, and I got it.
[Editing Acqua: as of today, I’m currently reading it! And yes, it has a steampunk mechanical dragon and it’s my favorite character]

For something I don’t own yet, I’m really anticipating Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, since I really liked Girls Made of Snow and Glass back in 2017.

8. What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

That fantasy and science fiction have nothing in common. I thought that too until I started reading science fiction, and look, most of the sci-fi that gets a lot of attention right now is basically fantasy with a magical science hat. (That’s why I love it.)

9. If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

I… don’t know? It really depends on the person and what they want, fantasy is an enormous genre. Some books that have a chance to work for this, however, are:

  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin: this is my recommendation if they like romance. I remember that it was easy to get through, full of surprises, and had a romance that was kind of addicting.
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: some people like to start with a challenge, and this is a book that is challenging and deceptively easy to get through despite that;
  • It’s not my favorite but I think A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab has the potential to draw in a lot of fantasy skepticals, because it has a really interesting set up and it’s just fun. Maybe not for people who are mostly for character-driven stuff, though.

These are all adult books with crossover appeal in the YA age range, so they could work for both categories. I’m sure that if I thought about it more I could find some that are even better for this but this specifically asked not to think too much about it, so I won’t.

10. Who is the most recent fantasy reading content creator you came across that you’d like to shoutout?

…this is probably a sign I should blog-hop more, because I really can’t think of any newly-discovered bloggers for this. I semi-recently (I think it was February? Oh am I losing track of time) started following StarlahReads on youtube, and while she is far from a fantasy-only reviewer, she does talk about fantasy and I really like her channel.

Do you also never have any idea what to answer when people ask for recommendations despite having an entire blog dedicated to books?