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 of 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?


Monthly Try A Chapter #4

Welcome to the fourth monthly Try A Chapter! This time I’m yet again going to try mostly older books, because I don’t have many March releases on my TBR (which is instead full of stuff that comes out in April and May, for some reason).

The Books


The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: I want to be honest with myself and say that I’m never going to read this unless I make an effort to reach for it, because I’m bad at long books. I hope reading the first chapter will convince this is worth doing at some point!
The first chapter: fine fine fine I’m reading this, the writing is too nice for me to say no, and it also looks easy to get through! (I say, while also having the distinct impression of having understood nothing of what was happening.) I might try the audiobook but I’m not sure, I feel like I’d miss a lot. We’ll see.
[will definitely continue]


A Pale Light in the Black by K.B. Wagers: F/F sci-fi, which of course appeals to me, but I’ve never read anything by this author before despite the fact that she has a significant backlist.
The first chapter: looks like this is the kind of sci-fi that thinks throwing acronyms at you is worldbuilding (…my opinion is that all sci-fi could stand to have less acronyms), and while usually I’m not worried when I understand nothing in this genre, this also didn’t hint at anything that sounded interesting. And I know it might… not sound believable given what my favorite book is, but I usually don’t like to read about the military. I don’t think this is for me.
[removed from TBR]


You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce: several reviewers I talk with often loved this! It’s a mystery (I think?) that blurs the line between real and paranormal, and it could either be something I find amazing or something that is incredibly not for me, as anything with mystery elements often is.
The first chapter: I mean, I think it would be lovely if the mixed media parts were readable on ebook, but what do I know about formatting. Apart from that, it’s… really weird and I’m not sure if that’s my kind of weird. The writing is really good, though, and I’m curious about a lot of things already. I’ll see if I’m ever in the mood for it in the next few months, else I’ll remove it – anything mystery/thriller disappoints me more often than not, so there’s no need to let them on my TBR to stratify.
[keeping it on the maybe shelf]


Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw: I keep hearing that this is a weird book about monsters and there’s some queerness in it and both things really appeal to me! On the other hand, I’m shallow and… this is probably one of the ugliest covers I know.
The first chapter: monster doctor! monster doctor! “treating the differently alive”, oh wow, isn’t that a realistic-sounding euphemism. I really like the writing already and overall it sounds really interesting, I want to read it.
[will continue at some point]


Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone: another apparently-it’s-sapphic novel from last year, this time adult SFF. I haven’t even tried it, for no reason at all. It sounds like it could be very fun, as I think it’s set between near future and far (maybe parallel universe) future.
The first chapter: oh, I really liked this! At least, I really like the narration and what it’s saying about how a surveillance state is like, and I’m intrigued. It looks like the kind of book that manages to balance lightness and humor with that kind of background.
[will definitely continue]


Carnival by Elizabeth Bear: if I don’t remember wrong, this is Bear’s debut novel, apparently a queer (I think m/m but I’m not at all sure) sci-fi published in 2006. Queer books have always been around in the genre. Elizabeth Bear is the author of one of my favorite books of last year, and yet I haven’t tried anything else by her since – I should change that. Will this book be the right place to start from?
The first chapter: I love how Elizabeth Bear writes about space! Though it does feel really dated – I mean, if I read a queer sci-fi that had a homophobic society (or, as far as I understand? Sci-fi beginnings are always a little weird) published in 2020, I’d be annoyed; space is gay and we know that. But I get why something published 15 years ago would do this. Still, this sounds really interesting and I do want to read it.
[will continue at some point]

Have you read or want to read any of these?


The Blogger Recognition Award + Awesome Blogger Award

I get nominated for things, I want to answer, and then I procrastinate.

Blogger Recognition Award Rules

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select up to fifteen bloggers you want to give this award to (not tagging people for this one, I will for the one under)
  6. Comment (or pingback) on each blog to let them know that you’ve nominated them and provide a link to the post you’ve created.

I was nominated for this by E. @localbeehuntersnook (Thank you so much!) I’ve started following E. recently and I already love her blog.

The Acqua di more Beginning

I started blogging in Italian in December 2015. I had just started reading books in English in September, I was 15, and I had no one to talk about English books with. I soon realized it didn’t make much sense to review English books in Italian, so I started trying to write in English. I began writing a few sentences on goodreads every time I finished a book somewhere around March 2017 and finally created a blog in September of the same year, when I could put some paragraphs together. (My first reviews were still really awkward; as with everything, it takes time.)

Fun facts about acquadimore as a blogging entity:

  • I don’t remember why I chose to call myself “Acqua” (water) or “Acqua di more” (literally, “water of blackberries”). I think I chose a random object in my room – a perfume I never used – and went with that, but I don’t know if there was a reason and I just forgot it. 15-year-old me was odd and I’m just happy I didn’t do the usual and try to name myself after a bobbit worm or something of the sort
  • The owl pendant I use as my image across platforms is a gift from one of my grandmothers. As with the blog name, I think I just chose a random thing that looked cute to avoid using my face and name.
  • I don’t think either my blog name (a perfume) or my picture (a pendant) accurately represent who I am as a person (basically a rat) but I also don’t care. I don’t think it even occurred to me at 15 that people try to have a brand that reflects how they present themselves online. That would mean doing things with some kind of purpose and was very much beyond me.

That was not brief. Anyway, onto the advice part! I still don’t feel like I’m qualified to give advice to bloggers because I don’t know what I’m doing either, but here are two things I learned that might be useful to others:

1. ARCs aren’t worth the stress.

I get it, it’s free books. But unless that’s the only way you can legally access the books you want to read – and I know that for some things can be like that; there were moments in my life that were this way for me – I really don’t recommend them. You’ll end up feeling like you have to force yourself to read books you’ve lost interest in to keep up your feedback ratio, or you’ll make your way through some horribly formatted/not even edited material, and sometimes no reviews are out when you start a book, so you don’t have the chance to have any content warnings. Your blog doesn’t have to revolve around ARCs; new releases get more engagement but that doesn’t mean backlist gets none.

things in ARCs I had the unhappy experience of stumbling on after the synopsis didn’t even hint at them:

fraternal incest as a main plotline, a relationship between a 17-year-old and her 28-year-old employer painted in a positive light as a main plotline, an entire book masquerading as a contemporary mystery when it was mostly historical fiction about reproductive rights involving forced pregnancy and child rape.

2. Some people will make your life worse. Block them.

This goes for blogging and even more so for twitter and goodreads.
Some ugly sides of the book community don’t show themselves until you’re in it. For some unfathomable reason, review plagiarism isn’t that uncommon (why do people even have a blog if they post someone else’s opinions? Oh, I don’t know either). Some people are also on here only to stir up controversy, or act like their review is a chance to write a point-by-point response of your own in which they also call you stupid/boring/illiterate. You can block them. You don’t owe them an explanation or any of your time and blocking isn’t a defeat. Feel free to report the plagiarists if you want to. You’ll have a much happier online life without any of these people. Also, some more advanced advice: if there’s someone (be them an author or a blogger) who, for some reason – even one that looks perfectly acceptable – is always, and I mean every single time, somehow involved in the controversy of the day, you can go ahead and assume they’re bad news. Or at least be cautious. Every time I noticed this about a person I ended up hating that I didn’t trust my gut.

This wasn’t brief either! I’m… not good at brief when I feel strongly about something. Sorry.

Awesome Blogger Award Rules

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you
  • Credit the creator (Maggie @ Dreaming of Guatemala)
  • Tag this post with #AwesomeBloggerAward
  • Answer all the questions given to you
  • Nominate some people
  • Write 10 questions for them to answer

I was nominated for this by laurel @thesuspectedbibliophile. Thank you!

I think I started following her on goodreads first and then on her blog, which you also should do, as she writes amazing reviews.

The Questions

What is your favorite genre?

Sci-fi! I think. Or, I feel like a fraud when saying this, because I don’t like a lot of sci-fi subgenres. I don’t think I’ve ever read hard sci-fi in my life (real physics? I’m already full of textbooks at home, I don’t want that for fun. Real environmental science? If the author doesn’t do their research, I’ll notice and be annoyingly nitpicky) and I will go out of my way to avoid anything cyberpunk. Maybe it would be more correct to say that my favorite genre is… sci-fantasy? All the books that aren’t clearly recognizable as either science fiction or fantasy but are instead some weird hybrid are my favorites. Especially if set in space.

Do you have any go-to recommendations for someone looking to get into reading or in the middle of a book slump?

  1. looking to get into reading: I think I’d have to know the person;
  2. in the middle of a book slump: if they’re a reviewer, my #1 recommendation would be to stop requesting or worrying about review copies, as that was usually the cause for me.

Let’s talk about underrated books! What are your top five books no one is talking about?

The only books I can think of which I love but never actually see anyone talk about are three of my favorite illustrated works. This might also be caused by the fact that I don’t follow a lot of graphic novel/comic readers. They are:

  • Twisted Romance, edited by Alex de Campi: this has the bad luck of sitting exactly at the intersection of two formats the book community doesn’t care about, “anthology” and “comic”. Which is a shame, because this was such a remarkable experience for me. A really queer anthology about romance and love and the many forms they can take, with both short stories and short comics? It was amazing.
  • Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn & Claire Roe: I don’t even like adult thrillers or noir and this is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Dark graphic novel about a highly unethical journalism intern trying to investigate even more unethical people, with a mostly-queer cast! So many queer women, and everything is written and illustrated with… the queer female gaze, so clearly? I can’t even describe it but I could feel it.
  • Sol by Loputyn: a collection of illustrations; it reads like the graphic novel version of a poetry collection. Almost no text, so even though it’s by an Italian artist, it can be read by everyone, and it’s about toxic relationships, monster love, and the monsters inside ourselves. Gothic and creepy and beautiful; not afraid to be dark and gross. To give you an idea of the atmosphere: look at the cover. It’s pretty and kind of sad, right? Look closer. The pavement is covered in bugs.

As far as “novels I almost never see mentioned anywhere” that deserve your attention, these are two good examples:

  • This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow, one of my favorite F/F contemporaries that somehow I almost never see anyone talk about. It’s one of the stories I know that handles mental health and recovery better, it has so much heart, the relationships (romantic and platonic) in it are so sweet, and I recommend it even if you don’t actually care for musical band plotlines (I don’t). Just… if you like YA contemporary dealing with heavy themes in a non-depressing way, this should be on your radar.
  • Temper by Nicky Drayden: I get why this isn’t so popular; it’s weird and trippy and the main characters are inappropriate and kind of insufferable. But they managed to grow on me, and this was just… so funny? If you like fantasy that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, stories about really unusual magical schools, or want something set in alt-history South Africa (with no colonization!), I really recommend this. It has some of the most imaginative worldbuilding I’ve ever read.

If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who is it and what’s the meal?

I don’t think I have an answer for this! It’s mostly because I don’t want authors to know what I thought of their books. Most of the time, I don’t want them to know I exist at all. (I know they can see my reviews of their books if they want. If they do, I still don’t want to know they have read them.)

What pulls you into a story? World-building? Characters? Plot? Tone?

My first impression, especially in circumstances in which I’m not going to give the author a lot of time to pull me in (so, with short stories and try-a-chapter challenges), is mostly made up of writing (does it flow well? Do I like it?), tone (if it’s something that appeals to me or if it’s something too bleak/pretentious) and subject (is anything happening, is it setting the atmosphere, or did it start with an infodump?). I usually don’t have the time to notice if the worldbuilding or characters are well-written or not, but I can see if there are any red/green flags in those aspects.

Do you DNF books?

Yes, often, and I’d love to say “without remorse”, but I also often give second tries when I previously thought I wouldn’t, and when I’m motivated enough to do that, it usually works out.

How long is your TBR? I mean, really—not just the books you own physically or electronically. How big is that list?

Currently, adding all the books from the “to read”, “maybe” and “collection TBR” shelves on my goodreads account, it’s 150. I try to keep this number as small as I possibly can to stay sane, and 150 might still be too much – I don’t read that many books even in a year.

Who is your favorite audiobook narrator?

38244358Of the ones I tried so far, I really liked Cynthia Hopkins from Every Heart a Doorway and In an Absent Dream – she convinced me I could, in fact, listen to an audiobook – and Cassandra Morris from You Must Not Miss, she sounded like an actual young teen and was so easy to follow.

Do you use your library? Why or why not?

No, because it doesn’t have books in English and its YA/SFF section is like 10 books all older than five years. I don’t really have a choice.

What three things do you want to accomplish in 2020?

Me? Having goals? Oh we can’t do that. Making them up right now:

  • Getting through the Italian lockdown time with my sanity and everything else intact.
  • Spend less time on twitter (it doesn’t make sense that I’m even there if 90% of what I do is complain about it elsewhere). That’s probably the main one, but I’m not sure I can do it
  • Find a five star novel. I still haven’t rated one novel five stars this year and it’s making me sad. No, rereads don’t count.

My Questions

  1. Favorite novella?
  2. Favorite cover of a 2020 book?
  3. Have you ever completely changed your mind about a novel you were reading because of its ending?
  4. What is the last book you DNFed/wished you had DNFed?
  5. What was the last book you rated four stars, and why?
  6. Something you removed from your TBR?
  7. What’s the book that has been on your TBR the longest?
  8. Are there any subgenres of your favorite genre you don’t often reach for?
  9. Have you ever given a second chance to an author after disliking one of their books? If so, what happened?
  10. Are there any books you don’t get to talk about as often as you’d like?

For the awesome blogger award, I nominate:

[don’t feel obligated to do it!]

Silvia @silviareadsbooks  | Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky | Sahi @My World of Books| Evelyn @evelynreads

Do you prefer your TBR to be small or to have all the books you could possibly be interested on it?


Monthly Try A Chapter #3

Welcome to the third monthly Try A Chapter! This one will be mostly backlist, as there aren’t many February releases I was on the fence about.

The Books


The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso: I’ve been hearing a lot about this for a while, and the reviews so far have been mixed – most seem to agree the way this was marketed was kind of misleading – but I am interested in a fantasy story focusing on a failed marriage, we don’t get a lot about the developments of established relationships in fantasy. Also, Kameron Hurley recommended it on twitter.
The first chapter: every time I see the words “bitch queen” I get a flashback to the Throne of Glass fandom when Queen of Shadows came out. That quote was everywhere and I hated it. Anyway, I don’t think I love the writing – it feels really dry so far – but I’m intrigued. Since I haven’t had the best luck with fantasy lately, I’m not sure I want to read this, but I’m not ruling it out either.
[keeping it on the “maybe” shelf]


If, Then by Kate Hope Day: I’ve seen this appear on some queer SFF list last year, and it should be sapphic, but it’s also in that “literary sci-fi” niche I have no experience with and many doubts about (I hope it doesn’t mean “sci-fi, but boring”).
The first chapter: just like I’m too old for most middle grade and a good portion of YA fantasy, I’m too young for married adults regretting their life choices and boring lives. I wouldn’t be too surprised if that continued to be true even as I get older, but you never know. Anyway, next.
[removed from TBR]


The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin: after not loving The Fifth Season, I kind of lost interest in N.K. Jemisin’s books, until I tried almost by chance her collection How Long ’til Black Future Month, in which the story The Narcomancer made me understand that I absolutely need to try this.
The first chapter: can I just say that I love this a lot? The world and the magic system are what’s drawing me in the first place – as it was for The Fifth Season, but this time I think this will be more of my kind of story and less… that. I hope I like the characters, because everything else seems gorgeous.
[will definitely continue]


My Education by Susan Choi: dark academia is that genre that keeps drawing me in in theory and so far doesn’t work in practice (I… didn’t even get what one could like about If We Were Villains, for example) but this is about a queer woman so maybe?
The first chapter: yeah, no! I quit a paragraph in. You can just feel the pretentiousness radiating from the writing, which is going out of its way to purposefully sound like that. I think I keep hoping for dark academia to mean something different than it actually does – probably because most of it is inspired by The Secret History. But why does “dark academia” have to mean people being pretentious about things I don’t care about when you could do so many other things with it? What a waste of a name.
[removed from TBR]


Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland: on one hand, asexual representation! villain romance! On the other hand, it’s an m/f one, and the way gender roles are tied into those kind of turn me off and I’ve been slowly losing interest in YA fantasy as time goes on, so I’m not completely sure about this one.
The first chapter: I don’t love the tendency to infodump – the prologue of this was basically an enormous infodump masked as a lesson – but this was intriguing enough. I want to know more about this world and its mythology, though I have to admit I still have some doubts (…as someone who isn’t much for romance and has gone on and off identifying as aromantic but is definitely not asexual, I like villain “romances” because of the sexual tension and don’t really actually care about the romance. So. We’ll see?)
[will probably continue]


Rebelwing by Andrea Tang: this has been getting some hype on twitter since it just came out, and it does look sufficiently weird (sci-fi dragons?). However, it was compared to The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, which I hated (it’s not bad. It’s deeply not my thing), so I want to try first.
The first chapter: I think I like this? It’s absurd and over-the-top, as it means to be, and the opening scene is really funny. However, I feel like it’s the kind of thing that might wear off quickly. I’ll see if I’m ever in the mood for it in the next few months, if not, I’ll remove it.
[keeping it on the “maybe” shelf]


Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: an award-nominated contemporary adult novel following a British Jamaican woman and her struggles with mental health and everyday microaggressions. I’m not familiar with this genre at all, I’m just trying to venture in the adult contemporary spaces, but I’m curious.
The first chapter: awkward, feels real, and I already really like the voice of the main character. Funny and sad at the same time. Does it make sense to say that I’d probably love this more in a few years? The only thing that holds me back is that I kind of feel that “adults doing boring adult things” detachment, but at the same time I am an adult, just… still young enough for this to feel that kind of distance. I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a problem, though.
[will definitely continue]


The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao: Might this be the one time I actually like an adult contemporary mystery? I’m always looking for something that might work for me in this genre, so far everything I’ve tried has disappointed me. Anyway, this one *starts* with a mass poisoning, so maybe I won’t spend 30% of the book wondering when people will begin to die? (Looking at you, Untamed Shore & If We Were Villains)
The first chapter: of course it has a loooong flashback right after that is all about rich people life details I don’t care about. And it’s just… going from a long, drawn out description of the death of an entire large family to rich people problems is a weird shift in tone and I’m probably not interested in this one either. I really don’t like the idea of not liking a whole genre, but so far… I don’t know why adult thrillers are all so unreadable to me. They always sound amazing until I actually try them.
[removed from TBR]


Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: the thing is, you see, that I don’t care that much about ultrarich/famous people’s everyday life. So I thought to go through my TBR and remove all the ones dealing with that. Then I remembered that this is probably last year’s most hyped book, and that I should at least give it a chance.
The first chapter: a romance book that starts with an infodump? I don’t want to know what’s in the room of a main character I haven’t even met! The first dialogues are about the characters talking about tabloid coverage of themselves, and the main character has a rivalry with the prince of England. While I might be interested in the author’s next book – the writing is fine, once you get through the beginning – I realize that I deeply don’t care about any of this. Please don’t kill me.
[removed from TBR]

Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?


Monthly Try A Chapter #2

Welcome to the second monthly Try A Chapter! These posts will replace monthly TBRs this year.

Each post will be mostly focused on recent releases I’m on the fence about (the ones I’m sure I want to read at some point, like Dark and Deepest Red, won’t be here), but there will be some backlist books as well. My goal is, of course, to keep my TBR small, which will allow me to focus only on things I’m really interested in – I won’t have that much time for reading this year and I want to make the most of it.

The Books


Spellhacker by M.K. England [January new release; sci-fi]: I haven’t tried anything by this author before, but they write queer YA SFF that seem to be more or less well-liked? I have my biases against YA sci-fi but I’m always ready to be proven wrong.
The first chapter: Instant quit. I hated the magic system at first sight – there’s Maz (magic, I presume) of which some strains are, I kid you not, “Obscuraz, Songaz, Sunnaz, Scentaz and Formaz”, because certain authors have neither imagination nor sense of grace when it comes to naming things – and the way the characters interacted in the first chapters gave me Illuminae flashbacks. Not for me.
[removed from TBR]


The Outside by Ada Hoffmann [backlist; sci-fi]: this should be… cosmic horror in space with a queer autistic protagonist. And it should be weird. I’m not sure it will work for me because cult-related plotlines are very hit-or-miss, but I’m curious, even though most reviews I’ve seen weren’t positive.
The first chapter: Oh, this opens with a quote from the Inferno, and it’s a really peculiar choice for an Inferno quote. Maybe out of context it speaks of fanatism? But it’s about love in context, so I don’t know. We’ll see. And I really liked what I saw of the first chapter – physicists in space! Creeping dread! This is going to be fun.
[will definitely continue]


Prosper’s Demon by K.J. Parker [January new release; fantasy novella]: so, I’m in love with this cover, I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews, and apparently there’s something about bronze statues in here? Because of a running joke in my family, this might be relevant to my interests. However, I’ve never read anything by this author before.
The first chapter: the writing is great, the voice stands out from the beginning, and I guess this is a very effective way to open a book and give you a feel of both the world and of the main character. I can’t fault that. However, there’s quite nothing that will annoy me in a few pages as starting a book with graphic details of the death of a nameless woman – a sex worker, since that’s fantasy’s favorite victim – especially if the author is a man and the male main character makes it about himself. Please don’t take this as a meaning that this book is bad, because I have no way of knowing that – I just realize that I deeply do not care about knowing what happens next, and that’s fine.
[removed from TBR]


We Used To Be Friends by Amy Spalding [January new release; contemporary]: I liked The Summer of Jordi Perez well enough, but it was neither a life-changing nor perfectly written story, so I’m not sure about this. It’s a story about a friendship breakup in which one of the main characters is queer, and we do need more stories about friendship.
The first chapter: This was… boring. I don’t know if it’s the book or me – I find myself less and less interested in YA contemporary as time goes on – but I don’t think I’m going to get to this one.
[removed from TBR]


Blood Countess by Lana Popović [January release; historical fantasy]: this is an Elizabeth Bathory retelling focusing on a toxic f/f relationship between the countess and the girl who will become her servant. It sounds horrible and I’m so here for it.
The first chapter: starting a book about Elizabeth Bathory with a kitten had me worried about the worst immediately, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case (…so far). Still, here’s the thing: I have already read another novel by this author, Wicked Like a Wildfire, which also had everything I could ever want from a book – and I liked it but didn’t love it, because me and her writing don’t get along much, and the same might be happening here. I find the dialogue a bit clunky here too, so I’m not sure.
[will probably wait for reviews]

This was more “to remove” than I ever found in a Try A Chapter Tag! I guess it’s successful? Having a big TBR stresses me out, and while this was not a great day for first chapters, now at least there are four less books.

Do you like having a small TBR as well?