What do you do when you’re not reading? Write a list of books to read, of course.
I know this is possibly the most nonsensical time to write a TBR, but I’m trying to see this less as a chore and more like a helpful list of books I might want to prioritize without needing to open my goodreads and scroll to the intimidating full TBR list.
Also, the TBR worked for June? I ended up not reading for half the month and all of July, but when I read, I read so much. (Enough that I ended up ignoring only one book out of nine!)
These are the two books I’m currently reading and would like tofinish.The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood is a fantasy novel with somewhat sci-fi-like aspects I’m mostly enjoying (but struggling with the pacing of); I also started the audiobook of A Song of Wraiths and Ruinby Roseanne A. Brown but I know I won’t have a lot of chances to listen to it in the current situation, so that might have to wait until the second half of August (I really like it so far, though!). We’ll see.
The only physical book I brought with me when I left is The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, and the tablet I read my ebooks on is kind of falling apart and definitely laggy. Yes this is an attempt at convincing myself to read it. Will I end up not reading anything at all? Stay tuned for the answer you already know! (More seriously, I am at least going to try.)
One of the main priorities has to be When Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles, which I’m reading for a blog tour I was invited in back before the book’s release date got pushed to August. This is the last blog tour I’m ever going to take part in – I may or may not write a post about that when I have more time – but while I’m not excited about the event at all, I’m still really interested in the book: I read an excerpt a while ago and I remember being really into the aesthetic, and “Phantom of the Opera retelling” sounds fun.
Another is Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. The fact that I have an eARC of it, even though it’s of a November 2019 edition, says a lot? I haven’t been great at keeping up with them, which is why I’m requesting a lot less. I started this one back in November, then went on a very unplanned hiatus during which I considered leaving blogging completely, and this book just got caught in the middle of that and I haven’t picked it up since. I need to change that.
Over the Woodward Wall by Deborah A. Baker is another I have an ARC of, and it’s tied to one of my favorite books of last year, so I definitely have the motivation to read it! Deborah A. Baker is yet another pseudonym of Seanan McGuire, and Over the Woodward Wall is the book-within-the-book that was featured inside Middlegame.
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 TheEmpire 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:
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).
Given that June is exam month and given the overwhelming nature of 2020, I thought that I should try to add some structure to my day-to-day life, instead of running from it at every turn. I don’t know if it will work; maybe it really will be one of those months in which I end up not reading a word.
Several Degrees of Autobiographical
This is not a category I often reach for, and why not change that?
🏳️🌈 My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata – I bought this while going through my “must buy all the gay graphic novels I found in my bookstore” phase, even though I had never read a memoir back then. Now I have, and this looks even more interesting to me, even though I’m afraid I will find it too intense (from skimming it before buying it, I know it dealt with an eating disorder among other things.)
🏳️🌈 All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson – I’m not sure what “memoir-manifesto” entails exactly, but it’s about the author’s experiences with being Black and queer in America, and I think that June is an especially good time to read about real queer people who have experiences different from mine. Also, I’ve already heard many good things about this one from people I follow.
🏳️🌈 Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi – I own the Italian translation of this one, Acquadolce, and this just looks like the perfect moment to finally read it after it has been staring at me from my shelf for months. Akwaeke Emezi wrote Pet, one of my favorite books of last year, so I’m really looking forward to this, even though I haven’t yet understood which kind of book Freshwater is. (It’s a novel with autobiographical elements I think? It’s not a memoir. I also have no idea how these genres work.)
Short, Therefore Friendly
Short fiction has been one of the most queer places in publishing for a long while. Also, let’s be honest, there’s no way I’d get through nine novels in a month.
🏳️🌈 Finna by Nino Cipri – first, Tor.com novellas are easy to get through, second, I can’t believe I haven’t read the queer [f/non-binary] sci-fi IKEA book. All my friends on goodreads seem to have liked it to a degree, which is also encouraging.
🏳️🌈The Candlevine Gardener and Other Stories by Yoon Ha Lee – this will be my collection of the month, and this time I’m taking a break from short stories and reading a lot of flash fiction instead. After loving Lee’s other queer flash fiction collection The Fox’s Tower and Other Tales last July, I have high hopes for this one.
🏳️🌈The Four Profound Weaves by R.B.Lemberg – I don’t know much about this, but I have an old ARC and I know it has at least one trans main character (maybe a trans woman? I’m not sure and I haven’t read many reviews) and it’s a novella, so it’s perfect.
I’ve found that the best way to induce a slump is having something stressful in real life, while the best way to fight it is variety in genres, so here we are.
🏳️🌈Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender: I think this will be my choice for the audiobook of the month™, as contemporary is the genre I’m more comfortable with reading in this format. Anyway, I tried a chapter of this recently, really liked it, and would say the same of the audio narration (by Logan Rozos). [Edit: started this morning]
🏳️🌈The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood – I don’t know how I managed to not read this one yet when it’s one of my most anticipated releases of the year… which I’ve had since 2019 because back then I requested every ARC that sounded interesting (I know, the answer to “why haven’t I read this yet” is probably something like “I’m intimidated by things I think I’m going to like”). I should fix that.
🏳️🌈 Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller – I’ve had mixed experiences with Linsey Miller so far, and I’m kind of reluctant when it comes to YA fantasy in general, but this has an F/F romance with an asexual mc, and I liked the first chapter back when I tried it, so I’m hopeful.
Let’s start with the obvious: there’s no way I’m going to read all of these in a week. I’m going to give myself an option for every challenge, but some of them I might complete by counting a book twice instead of actually reading every book I write here – and for some of these I might decide to read a sapphic short story instead.
#1: Reread a book
I read A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo back in 2017 and loved it; since then, I haven’t read one contemporary mystery novel I’ve actually liked. I want to revisit this to see what about it worked for me that others don’t have (difficult to explain in a way that makes sense why you like a book if you only remember it vaguely), and also because I can’t wait to read about this messed up lesbian love triangle again. It’s shorter than 300 pages, and mysteries are generally easy to get through, so it shouldn’t take me too much time.
#2: Read a graphic novel
The only two graphic novels left on my TBR are memoirs, so my choice will be Spinning by Tillie Walden – it’s longer than I’m used to in this format, but I already own a physical copy of it, and that’s great because I hate reading graphic novels on a screen and buying physical copies right now might not be easy.
If you want to participate but are thinking, I can’t come up with any sapphic graphic novel right now, here are my three favorite sapphic graphic novels across genres, because why pass up on the occasion to talk about some of my favorites?
Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn & Claire Roe (adult noir): my underrated fave! About a young journalism intern trying to solve a mystery. It’s full of queer women who do horrible things with a kind of “the end justifies the means” logic; the main character is bisexual. All the characters are the worst and it’s also such a great time.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (YA contemporary): set in high school, also one of the very few books I know dealing with an abusive relationship involving two girls. The art is gorgeous.
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda (adult dark fantasy): if you marginally know anything about SFF graphic novels, you’ve heard of this one, but a lot of people don’t seem to know it’s sapphic! It is, it’s only that the first two volumes are subtler about it. The third is not. Anyway, steampunk Asian matriarchy full of queer women.
#3: Read a book with a trope you love
I can’t believe how long it took me to find an answer to this question, as I couldn’t think of either tropes I loved or sapphic books that had them. Then I remembered that one of my favorite things to read about – maybe not exactly a trope, but I say it counts – is anything that blurs the boundary between magic and science, fantasy and sci-fi. The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood is space fantasy, so it’s perfect. I mean, it is for what I said, but it might not be for a readathon because it’s 464 pages of adult SFF, which takes me a while to get through. If I can’t fit it in here, I’ll count A Line in the Dark for this prompt because “F/F/F love triangle” is for sure one of my favorite tropes.
#4: Read a book by an author of color
For this one, I’m going to pick Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo; I’ve recently discovered that one of the two main characters is a lesbian, and I think there’s an F/F romance. Also, I can’t wait to read Acevedo’s next book, after how much With the Fire on High affected me last year (has any other book ever convinced me to take up a hobby before? No.) It’s written in verse, which means it shouldn’t take me a long time to read, too.
#5: Read a book you got for free
The Unspoken Name could count for this, as it’s a leftover ARC from one of last year’s netgalley request sprees, and so would The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke, which involves lesbian teen witches and is also an ARC from when I was still requesting them (and if there had been a prompt for “pretty cover”, this would have been the best one). If I can’t manage to get through either, I’ll look for sapphic short stories that are interesting to me, but as I don’t love to make TBRs for short fiction, I’ll choose them as I go.
#6: Read a book that has been on your TBR a long time
The book that is best described by this prompt is Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente, an old, multi-PoV book that was released when I was nine (!!) and has at least one sapphic main character. I don’t know much about it apart from the fact that its plotline revolves around a sexually transmitted city, and isn’t that a remarkable premise. I haven’t read anything by Catherynne M. Valente in a while and I really should fix that, since she wrote some of my favorite books. But again, it’s adult SFF, so it might take me a while and I might choose something shorter if I need to, like a sapphic short story I’ve been wanting to read for a while or something like that.
#7: Free choice
…I probably won’t be able to read six books to begin with, much less seven, but if I manage to fulfill some of the above challenges with short fiction I just might. If I get to that point, I’ll leave this one open anyway so that I have the space to choose according to my mood, as that usually helps me not to get stuck.
Will you participate in SapphicAThon? Have you read any of these?
To give you an idea of how confused I am and how much we are a joke to time itself, I first wrote “May Wrap-Up” and stared at the title of this post for a full ten seconds with the vague awareness that maybe something was off, just a little.
A Brief Life Update
April was exactly like March! Which means it was exactly like the second half of February, which means I haven’t been out of my house in more than two months. Well, there were some different flowers on my balcony, I guess, the prettiest one being this Anemone:
April as a Reading Month
In April, I read 9 books:
5 new novels, of which one I DNFed halfway through;
2 novellas, of which one was a reread
1 graphic novel
I also ended up reading 14 short stories (yes, this was one of those months) but I will talk about them in my next short fiction wrap-up and not here.
In terms of quantity, this month was average. In terms of quality, I went from not reading a five star novel for three months to finding five in just a month, so I think I can’t complain. I don’t write ratings in wrap-ups anymore, but I’m going to mark those with a 🐉.
What I Read
It didn’t start out too well: my first two reads were the Hungry Hearts anthology, that reminded me of how easily lack of cohesion can make an anthology fail (review to come soon), and Crier’s War by Nina Varela, which I DNFed halfway through (not for me).
I then finally read a sequel right after having reread the first book (yay), and read 🐉 The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty astonishingly quickly given how long books over 500 pages take me these days. I loved every moment of it, and wow, is fantasy amazing when the author knows how to build interesting and terribly tense interpersonal relationships along with a fascinating world.
Then I read an ARC of 🐉 Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee, a steampunk novel with folktale-like elements set in a country inspired by Korea under Japanese occupation. It’s easier to follow than Lee’s usual, and the portrayal of what it’s like to be an artist in a colonized country made it stand out (also, it was interesting to see Lee write from the PoV of someone who isn’t a genius, this time). You get all this with a non-binary main character, their pacifist mecha dragon best friend, and a female duelist the main character really shouldn’t be into, but is anyway. I could call this both “delightful and fun” and “bittersweet with some horrifying undertones”, and that’s always the best combination.
Then the Hugo Finalists were announced, and I decided to read some of them for a post I’m putting together with my opinions about this year’s line-up. The first of them was Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher, a cute but forgettable middle grade read about a boy who is a not-so-good mage and his armadillo familiar. I was luckier with my attempt at reading all the nominees in the Best Novel category, where I had only two books to get to:
🐉 The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders wasn’t even on my TBR, but I ended up falling in love with it, which I would have never predicted – I didn’t like anything I tried by Anders before and this didn’t even have that many good reviews from people I follow! I thought it was an incredibly smart book, a story about the downfall of societies and what might work to save humanity on a hostile, tidally locked planet. At its heart is a toxic relationship between two women involving unrequited love and the differences brought by privileged upbringing. The writing and worldbuilding are wonderful, too. My review of this one is neverending because there’s so much to say and couldn’t bring myself to cut any of it out.
I finally stopped procrastinating on what was my most anticipated novel for the second half of last year, 🐉 Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and while I loved it deeply, it’s true that having expectations that high is never good (I wanted this to be an all-time favorite! As of now, it’s not). Still, it’s a really great read and just the kind of queer sci-fantasy mashup I love – with a mystery aspect thrown in the mix as well, because this book knows that you never have too many genres (or dated memes, or bones).
I also ended up reading a graphic novel, Eat and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo & Lilian Klepakowsky, told from the PoV of a woman with an eating disorder as she finds a magical chocolate bar that makes her relive some of the moments in her past that defined the negative relationship she has with herself and her body. It gets how much small, seemingly insignificant moments can have a impact on you as an adult; it explores the long-term effects of bullying (books that do this are so rare!) and growing up in a casually fatphobic household. The art was great and everything was easy to follow despite the frequent flashbacks. Also, I loved the cat! More comics need to have cats in them.
Then I decided to reread Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Sometimes I get this feelings about books I read a few years ago – in this case, long enough that I was still a minor – that tells me that I might not have understood them. I had liked Binti back in 2017, but hadn’t thought about it often since. In 2019, it got translated in my country, and I had bought a copy of the trilogy because I like to support translations of diverse SFF, and since then I’ve had that feeling, maybe this book is better than I remembered. I don’t feel like that often, but when I do I’m usually right, and this time I was too. I feel like I got what this wanted to say so much more and I’m glad I reread it as an adult.
I broke my ARC ban twice this month! For my two most anticipated releases of the year, which I read immediately after getting (my ARC ban exists to avoid accumulation of ARCs aka reading stress), so I’m not too annoyed at myself. The second ARC I got was 🐉 Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, a fairytale-like fantasy novel set in a country inspired by ancient Persia and Zoroastrian beliefs. I don’t want to say too much about it, because it’s the kind of book I think one should go into without knowing too much, but it was gorgeous and sapphic and maybe I even liked it more than Girls Made of Snow and Glass. Such an interesting twist on the “girl deadly to the touch” premise.
May is Wyrd and Wonder month! Wyrd and Wonder is a month-long celebration of all things fantasy; if you haven’t heard of it yet, here’s the announcement post.
As I don’t write TBRs anymore, I thought I’d talk about what I’m planning for May here. I don’t know if I’ll actually be reading more fantasy than usual, as I’ve learned – after trying to make monthly TBRs work for all of last year – that I can’t accurately predict what I’ll want to read, but I know that:
on May 6th, my review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (out on July 7th) will be up;
on May 11th, a post I’m really excited about, On Rules and Magic Systems, will be up (…with footnotes!) That one was really fun to write, and I hope you’ll find it fun to read as well.
From May 18th to May 25th SapphicAThon will also be running – my attempt at a weekly TBR will be up sometimes later this month (yes, a weekly TBR sounds more manageable) and I might take Wyrd and Wonder and SapphicAThon as an opportunity to read more F/F fantasy.
May is also the time of both the Tome Topple Readathon (May 9th-22nd) and the Asian Readathon, and while I don’t know if I plan to participate in either (as far as making an actual TBR and following challenges) but that might just be the encouragement I need to read the 600-page tome Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang. Problem is, it wouldn’t count for either SapphicAThon or Wyrd and Wonder, being not sapphic sci-fi. We’ll see.
Have you read any of these? How was April for you? Will you participate in Wyrd and Wonder and/or SapphicAThon?
#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @Local Bee Hunter’s Nook and you can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. It occurs every Monday when we post about 5 books on our TBR.
This week’s topic is Hype from the Past, so books on my TBR that aren’t new releases but are on my TBR.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
This is the first one that came to mind, because I’m currently challenging myself to read all of this year’s Hugo finalists, and this was one of last year’s – I honestly don’t know why I haven’t read it yet, when it’s been on my TBR since 2017.
I started it (and got around two chapters in) during that very unlucky week in November 2019, alongside with Gideon the Ninth, then took a very sudden, unplanned hiatus for more than a month and just forgot about it. But now that I finally picked up Gideon the Ninth back up for the Hugo finalist challenge, I should just remember to get to this as well.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
A moment of honesty: if it weren’t for the fact that I bought it when I knew myself a lot less, this wouldn’t be on my TBR at all, because there are two categories of fantasy stories I firmly don’t get along with, “clearly based on a real tragedy” (think The Poppy War) or “the conflict is driven by homophobia”, which seems to fit this one perfectly.
Still, I have it! And many people like it! I’m torn between curiosity and knowing deep down that this will be a terrible idea, but after all, if I don’t like it I can just put it down like I would with literally any other book. Instead I’m just here acting like its very presence on my shelf will threaten me if only I acknowledge it too much, which is very reasonable of me.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
This was… pretty much half of my friends’ favorite book back in 2018? I still haven’t even tried a chapter of it, for no reason at all but the fact that seeing this book makes me think “oh I’ll get to it later”. It’s not even “I don’t want to get to it”, because I do. Later.
It probably has to do with the fact that at any point in the last two years, the last thing I’ve been wanting to read is “hard-hitting YA contemporary”, even if said book sounds and probably is amazing. I’m giving myself a deadline: if I haven’t read this by the end of the year, off my TBR it goes. No point in keeping it there when I’m clearly never going to read it (unlike Baru, I don’t own it). I hope to prove myself wrong.
Spinning by Tillie Walden
I’ve known about this for years, and Tillie Walden’s comics are hyped in general, but I wasn’t going to read this until I decided I absolutely had to buy all the queer graphic novels in my bookstore, and so I own it now. I’ve since discovered that I do like memoirs sometimes, so I’m hopeful this will work for me as well. (The only thing that worries me is how long it is, but a graphic novel should be easy to get through.)
The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
This is significantly less hyped than any of the books on this list, because I don’t have that much backlist on my TBR (don’t get me wrong: I’m not good at getting to backlist. I’m just really good at removing things at the slightest hint of disinterest, as long as I haven’t already bought them). However, it is a really well-loved book for many of the people I follow! So, in my tiny bubble, it is something similar to hyped. Do I know what it’s about? No. Do I want to read it soon? Yes, because sometimes not knowing the details makes me more curious.
[It’s also longer than 500 pages, so “soon” might as well mean next year. Or maybe not, given how quickly I got through the 600 pages of The Kingdom of Copper. Not every book is a Jade War.]
I don’t do TBRs anymore, and since I stopped doing them, I got better at understanding which kind of books I actually want to read soon. After all, of the ten books mentioned in my “books I’d love to read this fall” post, I’ve read eight (of which one was a DNF); only two are still on my TBR (Ninth House, A Kingdom for a Stage), and that’s pretty good!
I’m already going to tell you that I could rename this post “Acqua, read that sapphic SFF book you think you’ll love and stop procrastinating” and I wouldn’t be too far off.
Stormsong by C.L. Polk
I decided to reread Witchmark in occasion of the release of the sequel. Did I pick up the sequel? Of course not. Anyway, this is the F/F continuation to one of my favorite books, one I’ve been anticipating for more than a year, so I should move already.
The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood
I was a little surprised to find out that the main character of this one was an orc, because we don’t see a lot of non-humans that aren’t fae lately. Which is really interesting! It’s F/F and it’s apparently also sci-fantasy/space fantasy in some way, which makes it look unlike everything I’ve ever read. The reviews have also been mostly positive, so I have high hopes and I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet. I own it.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
This is the prettiest book on my shelves (the black pages are so gorgeous and this may be my favorite cover ever) and I can’t wait to get to the inside as well – I say, while carefully avoiding it as with all the books I’m sure I’ll like. It has lesbian necromancers and it’s so hyped and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. Just… look at it.
Splintegrate by Deborah Teramis Christian
Another book I have mentioned multiple times on this blog that I’m really anticipating and happens to be sci-fi with a lesbian main character. I have very specific criteria for which books I choose to procrastinate on apparently!
The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
This one isn’t out yet, but it comes out this spring and I hope to get to it before… next year, so it belongs on this list. It’s about queer witches, and while I’m kind of outgrowing a lot of YA fantasy, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to give this at least a chance. It sounds amazing and the cover is really pretty.
Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly
I don’t want to leave what has been one of my favorite series unfinished. The second book wasn’t as strong as the first, but I’m still really attached to the characters and I want to know where this series will bring us next. I hope I’ll finally find a sequel that doesn’t disappoint me!
A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig
Concept: reading the second book of a series before the third comes out, maybe, possibly, have I done that ever in the last year? This is the sequel to For a Muse of Fire, one of the few m/f YA fantasy novels (but with a sapphic protagonist!) I’ve liked in the last few years. It deals with colonization and how it’s like to be mentally ill when the world is going to hell, which is, I feel, very relevant.
A Phoenix Must First Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell
One of my most anticipated (and one of the prettiest) anthologies ever, A Phoenix First Must Burn is made of sixteen SFF stories by Black authors about Black girls and non-binary teens. It came out recently and I plan to read it as soon as I finish the collection I’m currently reading.
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
Quarantine means that, if things keep going the way they’re going now, I’m going to have all the time I need to dedicate myself to something that will no doubt be weird and somewhat overwritten in the best possible way. So I will finally have the time and energy to read a Catherynne M. Valente book!
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
It looks like I’m going to be stuck at home for a while, so I might as well try to tackle my physical TBR? This is one of the books that has been on it the longest, and it’s contemporary-set sci-fi.
I haven’t been doing TBRs this year, but I have plans around reading and blogging, so I thought I’d talk about them and what I’ve been reading this month (spoiler: not a lot, and in a way not as much as I’d like, though I’m trying to get over that).
After all, even in the current best case scenario, I’m going to have a lot of free time this week – I live in Northern Italy, and while I’m not in one of the outright quarantined towns, university lessons have been cancelled and we’ve been recommended to move as little as possible.
↬ I’ve been slowly trying to get into audiobooks, just as I’ve been slowly trying to learn how to cook. The two things go really well together, as it turns out.
I still struggle a lot, probably for a combination of difficulties with processing sounds (how do people listen to things on 2x speed? That sounds like a squirrel blabbing in a dead language from another galaxy) and my English just being Not That Good. I posted my review of You Must Not Miss yesterday, and in the next few days I should post the one of The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake. For now, I reach only for contemporary and contemporary fantasy, but I don’t know, maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to change that.
When I’m not “cooking” (90% of the cooking I do time-wise is peeling and cutting vegetables. It doesn’t require that much attention), I’m finding that coloring books are also a good way to keep myself occupied so that I don’t drift off.
↬ I’ve also tried out the excerpts of a few audiobooks to listen to next:
The Deep by Rivers Solomon: I struggled with the excerpt a little at first (I’m not used to men narrating) but I got used to it fairly quickly, so I think I’m going to make it work in some way. I think this will be one of the next books I try, and it will probably be my first non-contemporary audiobook.
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia: an f/f release from last year I haven’t been able to get to yet! And the sequel is already there, so this is perfect. I really liked the narrator.
The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: this is an UK audiobook, which means the narrator’s accent is going to give me some trouble at first (I don’t know why American book characters seem so obsessed with British accents, they sound like they’re chewing on their words), but I tried an excerpt and it feels doable. I’m really excited for the vampire lesbians.
I don’t know how many of you have been following Serial Box originals – they’re collaborative serial novels (the authors involved this time were Fran Wilde, Martha Wells, Malka Older and Curtis C. Chen), and I think they’re just not for me. I had the same problems with Machina that I had with The Vela last year: it feels like the people writing it have been given an outline and are just trying to make it work, moving the characters to point A to point B while disregarding everything that would feel natural. The result feels… soulless, there’s no heart in it, and after a few chapters, the characters start feeling like puppets. Which is a shame, because I did like the premise (robot competition! going to Mars!) and the first chapters.
↬ I’ve been putting together a new Short Fiction Time post (read the last one here), in which:
I’ll review four short stories, two of which Nebula-nominated. Yes, Nebula awards finalists have been announced! I’m glad to see a lot of books I loved on here and I hope I’ll be able to read most of the short story/novelette categories before the winners are announced.
I’ll talk about what it has meant for me to read fiction from people I disagree with, what the benefits of that might be, and which kind of diverging points of view I seek out.
My goal with this series of post is to have a space to talk specifically about short fiction and associated topics, as I feel that is missing.
↬ I’m getting through rereads to get to some anticipated sequels
While sequels seem to have the habit of disappointing me as often as they can (see what happened with Girls of Storm and Shadow last year and now with The House of Sundering Flames), there are still some I really want to read. I’ve been rereading Witchmark by C.L. Polk – which, by the way, is turning out to be as good as it was the first time around – because, after all, Stormsong is already out. I’d also love to get to The Fever King by Victoria Lee again before The Electric Heir is released, but I might not, as I’m not exactly in the right place to read about pandemics, even magical ones.
↬ In the next weeks, three books I’m anticipating that aren’t sequels are going to be out:
While this year so far I’ve been terrible at keeping up with new releases (you know how many I read? One. And it was a novella), I’m still going to talk about them, because why not. I’m not sure I’ll actually be able to read these in March, but who knows:
Among novellas, the only thing I’ve been marginally decent at keeping up with, I’m really looking forward to The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. The comparisons to one of my favorite series, the Tensorate, make me really anticipate this.
If you’re in any way involved in adult SFF circles or circles dedicated to queer releases, I’m sure you’ll have already heard of Docile by K.M. Szpara, a story about capitalism, consent, and sexual slavery. It might be too much for me, I won’t know until I try (the comparisons with Captive Prince do not bode well, but then, I DNFed that one because I wasn’t invested enough to get through that much sexual violence, not because of the violence itself), but K.M. Szpara has been one of my favorite short fiction authors for a while. [If you want to start from his short fiction, I recommend the trans vampire novelette Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time]
The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett is going to be out in March as well. It’s on my TBR because it’s F/F fantasy, and while me and YA fantasy don’t get along that well anymore, I’m going to give it a chance.
↬ I’ve been getting through N.K. Jemisin’s collection How Long ‘Til Black Future Month, and it has convinced me to give another try to her novels:
As of the writing of this post, there’s only one short story left. This was overall a mixed bag for me, even more than the average collection/anthology, which reflects my experiences with Jemisin’s novels so far as well (loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, didn’t care at all for The Fifth Season). I’ll talk more in detail about which stories didn’t work for me and why in my next Short Fiction Time post.
However, two of my favorite short stories in here were The City Born Great and The Narcomancer, respectively set in the worlds of the upcoming The City We Became and her backlist Dreamblood duology. Maybe The Fifth Season really was the fluke for me, which seems partially confirmed by me not caring for Stone Hunger, the short set in that world. If I can explain what went wrong with The Fifth Season for me – that book is a lot like a rock. A solid read for sure! Also dull, a pain to bite into, and emotionally flat.
I might try The Killing Moon in the next Try A Chapter post; the short story I read really made me fall in love with that world.
↬ I’ve been putting together a list of adult contemporary fiction I want to try. Have I actually tried any of it yet? Of course not
Apart from some more ~literary~ adult stuff I want to try that I’ve already talked about, like Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, I’m also looking for contemporary adult fiction that should more or less be as easy to follow as YA contemporary is but doesn’t actually follow teens. So far, some interesting titles to me are Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (I’m not sure what the story is about exactly but it follows a Jamaican-British woman and deals with mental health issues) and In at the Deep End by Kate Davies (about an abusive lesbian relationship). I’ve also been looking for adult fiction set in countries that aren’t the US or UK, and so far If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha and The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao, respectively set in Korea and Indonesia, look interesting to me. I’m not sure when I’ll actually get to any of these but they might be featured in upcoming Try A Chapter posts.
As I’m starting to move away from YA more seriously (not completely, of course; it’s just that I’m 20 and I don’t want that to be most of what I read anymore), I also want a contemporary counterpart to the amazing adult SFF I’ve been reading lately. It might take a while for me to find my niche but I hope I love it just as much.
↬ I’ve also been looking at memoirs that could be interesting to me.
I’ve already talked multiple times about In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, which I just finished yesterday (and absolutely loved; I hope to have a review up soon). However, that’s not the only memoir I’ve been interested in: I’ve also found Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown, a YA memoir (I didn’t even know they really existed) and two graphic novels, My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Kabi Nagata and Spinning by Tillie Walden. Both are queer and have been translated in Italian, which means I have physical copies – my favorite format to read graphic novels, of course. As usual, only the graphic novel section of the Italian book industry cares about diversity. [If by chance you’re another Italian, I have some recommendations here.] Memoirs still feel kind of intimidating to me and I hope I’ll be able to get through them easily in this format.
Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?
And so we get to the second-to-last month of the year! It’s clear by now that I won’t be able to read as much as I read in the last two years, but I still hope I’ll be able to put together a long list of favorites at the end.
How did the October TBR go?
After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott – read, ★★½ (review)
The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht – read, ★★★½ (review)
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling – early DNF, no rating (short review)
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi – early DNF, just not my thing
The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh – read, ★★★★½ (review)
Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan – DNF 75%, ★★ (RTC)
Not bad! I’m finding that writing smaller TBRs works a lot better for me, so I’ll continue that way. As usual, this is not all I’ve read. I could go back to writing longer TBRs, because I do read just enough books, but I also want to give myself the space to be a mood reader while still keeping up with the ARCs I have left.
While I am requesting less, I still have a few from this summer’s request sprees, so:
Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao – I haven’t read anything by this author since loving Forest of a Thousand Lanterns in 2017 and that should change. I’ve heard wonderful things about this one and the romance in it, so I’m going into it with high hopes and without knowing that much (all I know is that’s m/f Vietnamese-inspired YA fantasy).
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – I’m finally doing this. It only makes sense that I try to read a fantasy book I was anticipating since it was announced when the sequel is already out! Classic Acqua. Anyway, this should be post-apocalyptic fiction with a Navajo main character. (Yes, it’s an ARC of the UK edition. No I’m not using the UK cover because it’s ugly.)
Reverie by Ryan La Sala – I’ve heard this is weird, very queer, and has a drag queen sorceress. I’m not even sure which genre it is but I requested it and here I am, reading it. It should be out in December; I hope it’s good.
Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – I own a physical copy of this book and it’s beautiful, so I can’t wait to go into this tome without knowing nothing about it, as I’m told it’s a good idea to do.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – I have a copy of this and it needs to happen before the end of the year. Please don’t disappoint me, weird lesbian necromancy book in space.
House of Sundering Flames by Aliette de Bodard – I finally got around to rereading The House of Binding Thorns, loved it just as much as the first time, and now I hope I won’t wait another full month before completing the series.
Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?
As you probably already know, this is Acqua’s No Free Time Fall, which means smaller TBRs, but I’d still love to (try to?) participate in this October’s Spookathon, since I never have before (readathon announcement here on Booksandlala’s youtube channel).
How September Went
From my September TBR I had:
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – read, ★★½ (review)
A House of Rage and Sorrow by Sangu Mandanna – still to read
Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden – currently reading (70%) [might still finish it this evening]
Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist* – read, ★★★★½ (RTC on this blog)
The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard – still to read
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to read much this month, and struggling with The Ten Thousand Doors of January for half of it certainly didn’t help. However, I still did manage to read a few books, and this isn’t everything I read this month, so everything went well.
*In my last TBR, Gideon the Ninth was in this book’s place, but I said that if I wasn’t able to get to it because of costs (as it happened), I could put another book I read in September in its place.
This readathon has five challenges; these books should fulfill all of them. So, hopefully, I will be reading these between October 14th and October 20th.
After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott – I’ve been considering this thriller with a lesbian main character for a while now; queer adult thrillers don’t seem to be that common. It should fulfill the “read a thriller” and “read something you wouldn’t normally read” prompts, as this would be my first adult thriller.
The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht – the secret to actually reading things is also choosing the right books, in this case really short books. This is a gothic horror novella with a queer male main character, I think. Anyway, I’m always here for, as Tor.com said, “gratuitous corpses”. This is great for the challenges “read a book with red on the cover” and “read a book with a spooky word in the title” (monster).
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling – lesbian cave horror! It should be really messed up and extremely creepy and I hope I’ll be there for both. This definitely goes for the “read a book with a spooky setting“, I really hope it won’t disappoint in that.
The sad reality is that yes, at least for this year I will still have ARCs to read before the end of the month. Since I’m requesting less now, I hope that won’t often be the case in the future. I love ARCs! Having only one month left to read multiple of them, that’s what I don’t love.
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi – this could be a struggle because futuristic climate apocalypse stories aren’t something I want to read right now and probably ever, but I will give it a chance since I got an ARC and it looks like it has potential to be something apart from “depressing”.
The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh – I haven’t read anything by this author in years and I’m really interested in seeing how her writing feels like now! And I’m also so here for diverse takes on paranormal romance tropes. Even in the case I don’t end up liking it, I really hope publishing won’t stop at this one.
Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan – oh, am I bad at sequels. Anyway, this is out in early November, so I want to get to it now if possible. I loved the first book, but I know this is going to be a heavy read too and I’m not sure I will be in the right headspace? We’ll see.