Tag

End of the Year Book Tag 2019

I did this tag last year as well (here), and early November is generally a smarter time to do this than right before December, so here I am.


1. Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

Not really? There are a few books I’ve DNFed that I might return to in the future, but nothing I started and want to finish. That rarely happens.

2. Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

40221949

I had! It’s already been autumn for more than a month by now, but back then, Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist was perfect for this. Fast-paced, thrilling, eerie – the perfect way to start fall. I can’t believe just how underrated this little queer ghost book is.

3. Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

All the books I’ve been really anticipating (as in, the ones I included in most-anticipated lists) are already out by now, but a book I’m waiting for that isn’t out yet is The Deep by Rivers Solomon, a novella about an underwater society born from the descendants of enslaved African women. I’m also really anticipating Reverie by Ryan La Sala, out in December, but I own an ARC of that one.

4. What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

Apart from the ones I talked about on my TBR yesterday? I don’t want to put too many obligations on myself, but it would be nice to manage to get to:

  • Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly: third and final book in a series I deeply love; it’s good to not let too much time pass between a book and its sequel, so I’d like to finish this series this year. I’m not sure I’ll make it because time, where is it.
  • A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig: another sequel in a really under-the-radar series that really should be noticed by more people. I just want some more mixed media fantasy in my life, and the first book was really important to me last year.
  • Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo: I’d love to finish my reread of The Grisha Trilogy before next year. I know the sequel of King of Scars probably won’t be here in early 2020 (or we would have seen at least a title reveal by now?) but I want to get to King of Scars before it releases.
5. Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

Oh, that would be difficult.

Not “nearly impossible”, as it was in the last two years, in which my “favorite book” position was taken by Ninefox Gambit (in 2017) and then by Revenant Gun (2018) and there’s just no competing with my favorite series of all time, but still, it’s not easy. I also think you might already guess which is my favorite book of the year so far (am I obvious about which it is or not?), and then you know why it’s not easy.

29094888._sy475_

Anyway. Books that could, if not become the favorite, at least make it to my “favorites of the year” list? I’m kind of hoping that at least one of the three non-ARC books I mentioned in yesterday’s post will make it (so: Middlegame, Gideon the Ninth, House of Sundering Flames) but I’m hesitant. Another one that calls to me is The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar, it sounds like the kind of complex and beautifully written (if heavy) fantasy I can love and it comes highly recommended. We’ll see.

6. Have you already started making reading plans for 2020?

Kind of. I’m trying to organize my rereads (the ones for sequels) a bit more, but apart from that, I’m trying to go into 2020 with as little plans as I possibly can. That makes reading more fun.


Do you think you already know which book is your favorite of the year?

Tag

The Productivity Book Tag

I was tagged by Sahi @My World of Books. Thank you!

It only seems fitting to do this tag (created by Sam @fictionallysam) while I’m procrastinating on The Beautiful – which, by the way, I’m really liking – and on the rest of my October TBR.


1. Planning: a book that is completely thought out.

More often than not, this is the kind of thing you can’t truly appreciate until you reread, which I don’t do often. For example, I think the Shadow and Bone trilogy is really well-plotted and has amazing foreshadowing as far as a YA fantasy series goes, but I have to say that I also reread it many times, and that’s why it stands out to me. The symbolism, the scenes at the beginning and end that mirror each other, inside the same book and with the two other books… what best way to evoke such a fairytale feel? I think many people hate on it for not being Six of Crows instead of appreciating that, for what it meant to be (a simple, almost fairytale-like story about power, the call and the dangers of it), it’s really good. I still have to reread Ruin and Rising to see what I think of the resolution of the thematic arc now (a few years ago, I hated it, but I also didn’t understand what it meant to do). But I still get the feeling that there’s not a scene out of place.

2. Focus: a book that kept your undivided attention

38244358

Difficult to do that, when I barely have the time to read! (And when I do, I write posts instead. Apparently.)

Anyway. I read it in May, in which I had more time to read, but In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire is a remarkable example of this, because I usually lose focus completely when it comes to audiobooks, and with this novella, I never did, because both the story and the narration were really good. Also, since I read it while traveling, I associate it with a lot of good memories and nice places.

3. Delegating: a book that should have been a series

35053372

I would have loved to get more from The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta. My main complaint, when it came to this book, was the open ending: it even hinted at f/f/f polyamory and now, you can’t just hint at that sort of thing and leave me not knowing whether it will happen? Also, it’s about a group of six girls, there’s definitely enough material for another book at least, for developing them and their dynamic more.

4. Small goals: name a book below 150 pages that you loved

366865471

So many of them? To talk about one I haven’t talked in a while, The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard is only 96 pages and yet so memorable. Genderbent, Vietnamese Sherlock Holmes in space! Bots, magical tea and talking spaceships! Terrifying alternate layers of reality! There’s a lot in here and I love this universe.

5. Peak hours: a series you could only read at a certain time

34523174

I tried reading Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant almost only while I was at the beach, because with marine horror, that’s the best way to get into the atmosphere, and because nothing is that scary in open sunlight. And it worked! If I ever reread it (or if there will ever be a sequel, I hope so), I will do that again.

Also: if paranormal horror isn’t something you hate, read the book! It’s a really good example of sci-fantasy.

6. Lists: a book that you finally crossed off your TBR

19161852

I’m really proud of myself for actually having read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin this year, after it was on my TBR for at least two years. I didn’t end up liking it, but I’m still glad I managed to read it.

7. Proactive: a book that is/was ahead of its time

I don’t have a real answer, because I almost never read older books. For every older book that sounds vaguely interesting – and most don’t; it probably doesn’t help if your favorite range to pick books up from is “queer SFF that has nothing to do with homophobia”, in which most books are really recent – there are at least ten newer books that sound a lot more interesting, so I never reach for anything old.

However, I hate when people act like queer SFF is an invention of the last three years, so here are two older and explicitly queer SFF books I know of: A Matter of Oaths by Helen S. Wright (1988, I wasn’t even born ten years later) and Carnival by Elizabeth Bear (2006; I was six). I haven’t read them and I don’t know if I will, but (as far as I know) they’re not tragic, and they exist.

8. Declutter: a series you wish you could unread

17399160

I almost never finish series if I don’t love the first book, and my reaction to a bad ending is usually “I wish I could change it”, not “I want my time back” – that usually happens with standalones.

Anyway, a series that really wasn’t worth my time back in 2016, when I still tried to finish most things, was Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch. Such a generic, weak YA fantasy with cookie-cutter everything and no depth to it, coming to an even weaker and formulaic conclusion.

9. Multitasking: books that you read at the same time

I… don’t remember? I have done this, but it’s not something that I register, not really.


Now I’m going back to maybe reading The Beautiful! Are you, too, procrastinating on a book?

Tag

🍁 Finally Fall Book Tag 🍂

Another seasonal-themed tag! This time, unknown-to-me food items weren’t involved.


The air is crisp and clear

name a book with a vivid setting!

WildBeauty

Whenever I think of books with the right atmosphere for fall, Anna-Marie McLemore is the first author who comes to mind, and her novel Wild Beauty was for me the one with the most vivid setting. The beautiful world of La Pradera and its undercurrent of pain and grief was so vivid and enchanting and… scary, at times. I still remember the morning glories and the starflowers and the beautiful Lactarius indigo. Everything was magical and I felt as if I was experiencing it along with the characters, which is the reason this is my second-favorite of McLemore’s.


Nature is beautiful… but also dying

name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic like loss or grief.

35604686

I don’t talk about The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan that often, considering that it’s a favorite book, but it’s the perfect answer to this question. It’s a beautifully written novel about a biracial Taiwanese teen coming to terms with losing her mother to suicide while visiting her grandparents in Taiwan. It hurts to read in all the right ways, it’s one of the best portrayals of a mentally ill parent in an age range that tends to turn them into villains, and the way it talks about grief and memories and art… this is almost 500 pages but it didn’t feel like that, at all.


Fall is back to school season

share a non-fiction book that taught you something new

442668

I don’t talk about the nonfiction I read on here, because I doubt anyone who follows my “SFF + some contemporary” blog is that interested in knowing what I thought of the Field Identification Guide to the Skates of the Mediterranean Sea or something like that, but since it’s a question: in September I read Abissi by Claire Nouvian (I think the English title is The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss) and… well, there is so much that is weird, creepy and breathtakingly beautiful about this part of our world we barely know. (The inflating glass squid was definitely my favorite kind of weird.)

If it’s an option for you – I have no idea whether this would be easy to find in English – I really recommend it. It’s worth it just for the pictures.


It’s good to spend some time with the people we love

name a fictional family/household/friend-group that you’d like to be a part of.

35053372

At first I couldn’t think of any, because I’m noticing that most of the books I like don’t have anything like a found family trope (the only exceptions I can think of being Six of Crows, Want and The Lost Coast) and I’ve never really wanted to infiltrate someone else’s fictional household. However, while I’m not sure I’d like to be a witch in the redwoods (I’m dendrophobic. I’m better than I was a few years ago but that’s still horror material), it would be nice to meet the Grays from The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta, the six queer witches this story follows.


The colourful leaves are piling up on the ground

show us a pile of fall-colored spines!

IMG_20190920_111948755 (1)

There you go! Now you can add this picture to “the many reasons Acqua is not a bookstagrammer”. And yes, I still need to read King of Scars. (I’ve read all the others, usually before buying the physical copy, and they’re all five stars but Moonshine, which I bought just because the ebook wasn’t available to me and why not, when I really want to read a book that has a pretty cover? It was fun but not mind-blowing.)


Storytelling by the fireside

share a book wherein somebody is telling a story.

34613788

I’ve been surprised to discover that I actually don’t like this kind of books, usually, but there are exceptions, when the book focuses clearly on either the story told or the storyteller’s timeline. My favorite example of “person telling a story” is probably The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang, in which courtesan-turned-revolutionary Lady Han recounts her complicated romantic relationship with Hekate, who is the Protector (basically an empress) and the series’ villainess. And she does it while drunk. Yes, it works, I didn’t think it would but it did.


The nights are getting darker

share a dark, creepy read

34523174

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant. After reading Abissi by Claire Nouvian, I can’t help but think that this book could have done even more with the deep-sea setting, but I can’t even complain, because Heather’s descent with the Minnow is still the creepiest scene I’ve ever read. There’s so much to love in this book, really – from the large cast of characters, all developed and interesting, to the fact that the main romance is f/f and gorgeous, to the fact that it follows a queer marine biologist and that will always mean everything to me. Also, scary.


The days are getting colder

name a short, heartwarming read that could warm up somebody’s cold, rainy day

25733384._sy475_

I was thinking that “short and heartwarming” is usually a code for forgettable, and then I remembered that The Fox’s Tower and Other Tales by Yoon Ha Lee exists and that I’m definitely wrong. If you want something that doesn’t require you to think too much about worldbuilding and magic but you still want beautiful writing and gorgeously weird (and cute!) sci-fantasy imagery, this is perfect. Bite-sized flash fiction that will make you contemplate foxish mathematic, that will introduce you to gay crane wives and dormouse paladins, that will tell you about the lives of carousel horses. It’s everything to me.


Fall returns every year

name an old favourite that you’d like to return to soon

28220892

I’d love to reread Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. I loved it in 2016 because – according to my review on my now-private Italian blog – it made no sense but spoke to me on a level I didn’t fully understand but felt deeply. This usually means that it does make sense – see what happened last year with my reread of The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, which was a story about perfectionism and a difficult relationship with fantasy all along – and that I just didn’t know how to explain it. Also, seeing how much Sarah Porter’s Never-Contented Things also made sense to me, I really need to get to this.


Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading nights

share your favorite cozy reading “accessories”!

I don’t really have any? I can read pretty much everywhere and the point of reading is that my surroundings become irrelevant (or half-irrelevant; at the bus stop, I’m still kind of paying attention while reading on my phone). So I don’t have an answer.


As usual for tags for which I wasn’t tagged, I won’t tag anyone, but feel free to act as if I tagged you if the questions sound interesting to you!

Tag

🍁 Pumpkin Spice Latte Book Tag

After the Pancake Book Tag and this, doing tags about food items I’ve never tried could become an acquadimore tradition.

Anyway: this tag was recently created by The Book Pusher. I’m still in a place in which I don’t feel like reading much, so I don’t have many reviews to post, but I do like the idea of seasonal-themed tags, so you might see some others in the next few days as well. Maybe.


Pumpkin Spice Latte

a book everyone likes to hate on but is delicious

31180248

Leah on the Offbeat is far from a favorite for me, and also far from being a perfect book, and some of the points people have raised are ones I agree with – the label policing scene should have been handled better, and Leah and Abby should have had a conversation about it later instead of dropping it as if it were nothing of consequence.

I just really don’t like the double standard of this book getting so much hate for one scene when both Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited had some scenes equally as bad for the queer representation. And yet, Leah on the Offbeat is the only one I regularly see people say “why do people even recommend it, it’s problematic” about. Because we hold f/f books to higher standards, and Leah is not a “likable” protagonist – her arc revolves around learning the importance of honestly communicating your feelings instead of making negative assumptions about others and their perception of you. She is a realistic teenager, and unlike Simon, she actually has a personality, which means that she is immature and sometimes rude and does overreact. And I liked her for that.

Also, the idea that we should write off queer books for not being perfect representation is something I feel really iffy about, especially when I consider that right now this is probably the only YA book about an f/f relationship teenagers in my country can easily access in a bookstore. And to me, being able to read f/f in my first language has a value that neither the badly handled label policing scene or the shaky translation could affect.


“Fall is my favorite season”

a cliche you cant get enough of

I don’t really have one? I do have a lot of hated clichés that I actually don’t mind/mildly like as long as the author knows how to write them – chosen ones and love triangles, for example. I also tend to like forced proximity tropes in certain circumstances; to make an example, a common variation is “there’s only one bed”, and while that’s personally not my favorite version, I do like it. Also, making it gay makes me like a lot of clichés I would normally be annoyed by.

I have recently written a post of tropes I like, though I don’t think most of them are common enough to call them a cliché. (I wish.)


Sweater Weather to T-Shirt Weather

A book you thought was one thing but was completely different by the end

36165054

You know what the trouble is with books that, like The Waking Forest, are about stories inside of stories? The premise tells you about a story, but what you’re going to get from the book is something completely different, because the book ends up focusing on a story that is different from the one the synopsis told you about.

The fact that the story this book ended up focusing on also had one of my least favorite tropes didn’t help, and this is probably my least favorite book of 2019 so far.


“Spoops”

do you have a spooky book on your tbr?

42269378-1

Yes! I think the book currently on my TBR that fits this description best is The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht, which is the only book on my TBR that I’m sure can be described as horror in some way. I’ve heard mostly positive things about it and I hope to get to it this fall.


Tarot Reading

a five star prediction

32056397._sy475_

I’ve written a post about my five-star predictions a few months ago. Want to know how many of them I actually read? Only one, which I finished yesterday (at least, it was five stars). And I own all of them but one, so I have no excuses.

Anyway, as using one of those I talked about in the post would be repetitive, I have high hopes for Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender. For various reasons, I haven’t been able to read one of this author’s books yet, but they all sound really interesting, and this is f/f middle grade. I haven’t had the best experiences with middle grade lately, but this sounds really promising.


Sephora Sage + Crystal Set

a book that meant well but missed the mark by a landslide

25528808

To talk about a book I haven’t talked about in a while: I really do think That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston meant well, when it tried to write an alternate version of history that wasn’t as hostile to queer people and people of color as our own. The problem was doing that with the “what if colonialism, but not as bad??” question. I don’t think you can have a balanced, functional society that doesn’t have a deeply racist backbone if you set your novel in a colonized version of Canada in which there are apparently no indigenous people (or, at least, there weren’t any for all the first half). There’s a past of genocide and land-stealing, and there is still a British Empire, but apparently all is well? Ha. Also, this society’s weird focus on eugenics was really uncomfortable to read about, I hope that was challenged in some way but wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t the case.


Have you read any of these? Have you ever thought that a book had good intentions but completely missed the mark?

Tag

Two Books, One Stone Book Tag

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

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


1. The second-last book you read

46284528._sy475_

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

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

2. The second book from the top of your TBR

40939087._sy475_

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

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

3. Two 2-star reads

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

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

4. Two great books by the same author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Two favorite reads so far this year

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

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

7. Two new favorite BookTubers

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

8. A book you’ve read twice

29741643

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

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


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

Tag

The Wasted-Potential Tag

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

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


a book that tried but failed to tackle an issue?

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

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

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

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

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


an intriguing series that didn’t pay off?

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


a great beginning with a mediocre ending?

35230420

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

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

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

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


a last-minute twist that ruined it all?

42505366

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


a great plot with some boring characters?

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


a character death that ruined a book?

OurDarkDuet

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

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


a romance that ruined a book for you?

35297386

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

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

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

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


a romance you wanted to happen?

35704397

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


a scene you have a petty beef with?

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

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

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

SmallAngryPlanet

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tag · TBR & Goals

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

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


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

37794149

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

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

38244358

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5: Biggest disappointment

42505366

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

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

6: Biggest Surprise

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

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

39897058

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

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

8: Newest Fictional Crush

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

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

9: Newest Favorite Character

25692886

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

10: A book that made you cry

36952571

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

11: A book that made you happy

34966859

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

12: Favorite adaptation

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

13: Favorite post you’ve written

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

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

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

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

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

AHAHAHA all of them

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

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


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