Weekly

T10T: Underrated & Underread

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Freebie: Top Ten Tuesday Turns 10!

I haven’t written one of these lists in a while, but as they’re usually the posts on my blog that get more views, I thought I’d give a shout-out to some really underrated and underread books/stories/nonfiction that I either really like or think are worth your time. Witness how little these recs have to do with each other!


The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

This is a story about Marisol, a lesbian from El Salvador who fled her country for her life with her sister Gabi, and is caught into a “program” where she has to bear a white American girl’s grief to guarantee her and her sister’s safety. In a time in which publishing keeps giving unimaginable amounts of money to white authors writing latinx immigrant stories while ignoring latinx authors’ books on the topic (especially if they’re writing a queer story with sci-fi elements like this one; this is F/F), The Grief Keeper is a book to keep in mind. It’s painful and yet it’s a hopeful story at heart, with commentary on so many topics. [Despite what publishing would have one think, a well-written “issue book” never only actually talks about one issue. They don’t exist in their own separate boxes.]

Twisted Romance, edited by Alex de Campi

This ends up on all my “favorite underrated books” lists because it is! And it’s Pride month, so there’s no best time to shout out one of the most queer anthologies I’ve ever read, and written in a very unusual format as well – short comics and short stories in prose.
Polyamory, multiple queer vampire stories, lesbians, kink, body positivity, discussions on consent, asexual characters, stories about princesses escaping abuse – there’s so much in here about “romance” as a topic, in very little space. And it’s fun!

Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement, edited by Ejeris Dixon & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

The first nonfiction recommendation, a book I read back in March and mentioned on this blog only twice since – I don’t like talking about nonfiction. Let’s say, however, that this is a book about justice outside policing and how that may look like, which I think is an especially relevant topic now, but I’ve surprisingly seen this book talked about only outside book twitter circles (most of the nonfiction recs there seem to be books on antiracism or on the whys of police/prison abolition, which are also important).
Beyond Survival is a book about the how of justice outside of police and prisons: drawing on years of lived experiences of activists, it talks about what worked and what didn’t, and strategies employed. If you’re familiar with fiction anthologies, you’ll also know that they are usually a mixed bag, and I find that’s the same with nonfiction – there’ll probably be parts here that will be more or less useful to you, parts that will make you think “this sounds like a bad idea, actually”, and… it’s ok. I just think we should be thinking more about alternatives in general. [If you want to read a more in-depth review by someone who actually knows how to talk about nonfiction, unlike me, here.]

This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow

Back to lighter reads, but not any less great or necessary: This Is What It Feels Like is one of the most nuanced and multifaceted books about recovery I’ve ever read, which in my opinion should be on every list of great YA contemporaries about mental health. It talks about grief, addiction and low self-esteem; it’s a wonderful story about three friends reconnecting because of music, with also a very cute F/F romance. I read it in 2018, at 18, and it kind of changed the way I saw my own journey with mental illness and treatment.

Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney

Novellas aren’t usually hyped anyway, but Desdemona and the Deep got very little recognition even considering that. I don’t understand why, not when it’s a very queer, very weird gem, involving fae and goblins – and, more than anything, worker’s rights (yes, these three things have a lot to do with each other. You’ll see.) It’s also written in excessively purple prove and owns it. I love it so much.

I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom

Here again with nonfiction I read during my nonfiction time back in March. If you’ve ever been uneasy with how much of online activism/stuff-that-masquerades-as-activism is driven by righteous anger and desire to punish, this is the book for you. I really think anyone who has ever been in contact with the force that is book twitter could benefit from reading this. Righteous anger is addicting, and because of how social media is built, it does nothing but reward it. [That’s far from the only thing this book talks about – the way it talks about trauma specifically will also be relevant to anyone who has ever found themself in a placed steeped in fandom discourse.]

Always the Harvest by Yoon Ha Lee

A short story by my favorite author, and also my favorite short story I’ve read so far this year. Initially written for the anthology Upgraded, it has been reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine, where it is free to read online. Short stories get very little attention outside of awards in general, and this is even more true for older short stories, so: I loved this queer outcast romance story set in a ever-shifting space city full of well-intentioned body horror so much. It’s… sweet? It will replace your body parts lovingly? It’s the best, strangely-written kind of weird, feat. artistic murder and enough worldbuilding for a novel.

Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn & Claire Roe

This is a queer new adult graphic novel about a bisexual journalism intern trying to solve a mystery and survive her workplace at the same time. It’s messed up and full of queer women, which automatically makes it the best kind of graphic novel, and I don’t even like mysteries (I think this one is technically a noir?). It’s just… the depth of Not Okay this goes to. The sapphic tension. I love this so much and can’t believe how little I hear about it.

Temper by Nicky Drayden

Another commonly featured book in Acqua’s Best Underrated Reads, because it is and because I don’t understand why that is (ok, it’s weird. Really weird. But we like that sometimes, no?); also, I’ve seen several threads Black SFF book recs around in the last month, and when Nicky Drayden is on there, this book never is. [While The Prey of Gods and Escaping Exodus are, and both of them are also very weird and good reads, but I liked Temper so much more.] This is a story set in an AU sci-fantasy South Africa in which everyone is born with a twin, is assigned one out of three genders at birth, as well as marked with the deadly sins that will define them. As it turns out, stuff assigned at birth isn’t necessarily correct. It also has the most unstable magical school I’ve ever read in my life and that was a great time!

Salt Slow by Julia Armfield

I’ve never had this much fun with a short story collection, and there’s technically nothing funny about this book – it made me uneasy a lot of the time, actually. It’s just that I remember how much I loved trying to interpret these very weird stories about women, body horror, and metamorphosis. I definitely recommend this to fans of Wilder Girls and Her Body and Other Parties. It’s also very queer, and Stop your women’s ears with wax is one of my favorite short stories I’ve read this year – a sapphic, frenetic, vibrant rising tide of creepy. Don’t dismiss girl bands and their fan so easily, now!


Have you read or want to read any of these?

TBR & Goals · Weekly

#5OnMyTBR — 5 Books Hyped in the Past

#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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.]


Have you read any of these?

Weekly

T10T: Books I Love I Haven’t Talked About in a While

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About.

This is for the books you liked, but rarely come up in conversation or rarely fit a TTT topic, etc.

I have many of these! Though I want to point out that I will purposefully exclude ultra-hyped books from this list even though I almost never talk about them. You might or might not know, but Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite books. It also doesn’t need me to hype it up.


Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

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I spent a good portion of 2018 and 2019 talking about this book (and its cover) in a lot of bookish weekly memes, but I’m now realizing that I haven’t talked about this book in a while and that the people who read my blog in 2018 aren’t all necessarily the same who read it now. So. Hi! I love this book.
This is perfect for every person who has ever thought that fae books don’t go nearly as far enough with the uncanny valley and morally messed up material, for those who like Gothic fiction, or really twisted/plain out weird stories (yes the sun in fairyland is literally a pendulum, the moon is a fish, and there are land whales). Also, a lot of theology. I really recommend looking up the content warning first, if one is interested.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

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A surprisingly unpopular book in YA sapphic circles, A Line in the Dark is one of the few mystery/thriller books that has ever worked for me, because of its heavy focus on interpersonal relationship and specifically a messed up f/f/f love triangle. It’s a story about three girls doing a lot of questionable things for even more questionable reasons, never written to be palatable and often shining a light onto the uncomfortable; a story about friendship, attraction and love bleeding into obsession, with a nice side dish of murder. It’s also not afraid to genre-bend – it starts out with what looks like a slice-of-life story in first person, and then… you’ll see.
I really should reread it; I’ve been trying to find some mystery-adjacent novel that works for me the way this one did for years and I still haven’t been able to.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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It’s been at least three years since I last reread this book, so I don’t talk about it often also because I don’t remember the details really well, but this is one of my favorite fantasy books and probably the novel that convinced me I could in fact read adult books in English (it has been since translated into Italian with an ugly cover-title combination I refuse to acknowledge).
I’ve talked about my plant-related phobia on this blog before, and I will admit that most of my love for this book comes from the very odd and special place it has in my heart for fully acknowledging that yes, forests are as beautiful as they’re scary. The villain in this book is a wood! I also remember loving the somewhat unexplained and unexplainable weird magic system.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

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*incoherent screaming*

Add this to the list of books I don’t like to talk about even though I love them because I never quite know how. Like, is this somewhat excessive in at least ten different ways? Absolutely! Do I love it anyway? Yes. It also has the record of being the only book so far that has ever managed to actually make me cry, and to this day I still think that the most emotionally impactful way to look at a war is to look at it sideways. Talk all you want but let the things you don’t say bear the weight! Also, it might be more of an exploration of fairytale archetypes than a villain romance, but I still consider it a must read for villain romance fans.

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

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I don’t often talk about this because it’s now 2020 and there are many F/F fantasy novels that aren’t a walking pacing problem and don’t have the worldbuilding issues this one has (the sequel was an even worse slog, which didn’t help). But I did really like this first book and the relationship between Shefali and Shizuka is still important to me – I haven’t read such an intense, epic story about fated love since. To see their relationship grow, to see these tropes employed for a sapphic couple really made me understand just how much F/F fantasy could do that straight books weren’t doing for me.

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

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What happens on this blog is that I don’t often talk about contemporaries, and so even some of my favorite books – like this one – end up kind of forgotten. Which is wrong, because Final Draft is one of the most accurate portrayal of a school-stress-induced anxious breakdown I have ever read, and do I know a lot about those. It hit so close to home that even though I read it already out of high school, it still hurt a lot, but every moment of it was worth it because the ending was everything to me (getting help and freeing yourself of the problem at the same time? We love that) and the F/F romance was absolutely amazing.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

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I don’t know how to talk about this either, because to talk about it properly I’d have to reread it and actually understand what I’m reading the second time around, but the chances of me ever touching this book again are low. From the way I talk about Too Like the Lightning, one would think I hate it, but no, I consider it an almost-favorite and truly worth going through at least once, even just to wonder why the fuck are you doing this to yourself. I’ve been told by multiple people that my review of this book is “the most negative four star review they’ve ever seen”. Anyway, read the near-future philosophical murder conspiracy book! It’s really smart and complex and has the weirdest sense of humor and it will probably make you regret your decision at least a little at some point.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

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My love for quiet fantasy has no limits and this is one of my favorite examples, with its wintry atmosphere and introspective nature. It’s one of the most original fairytale retellings I’ve ever read, too – you could almost forget it’s based on Snow White. It also has a sweet F/F romance, but it’s not the focus of the story, that’s the complicated relationship between princess Lynet and her stepmother Mina, which in a more boring book would be “the evil queen”. This book is unhurried and calm, but never that kind of boring.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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For something that ended up on a list of favorite books (in 2018), I almost never talk about it, and I should change that, because The Astonishing Color of After was a gorgeous story about grief, art, and family – specifically, about an artist that lost her mother to suicide and is reconnecting with her maternal grandparents in Taiwan. From the gorgeous writing and atmosphere to the portrayal of synesthesia and the care it gave to mental health-related topics, there was so much to love about this. It’s one of the best examples of what I want from contemporary-set YA novels: emotional, hopeful stories dealing with difficult themes with grace.


Have you read or want to read any of these?

Weekly

#5OnMyTBR: Rom-Coms

#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 rom-coms. I don’t have that many on my TBR anymore – both because my TBR is small in general and because I’m reading less and less YA contemporary, which is what 90% of my rom-coms are – but I had enough for this list.


Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

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This is a F/F hate-to-love romance published last year that I haven’t read yet for no reason at all, since it sounds amazing – and I might have seen mixed reviews of it (mostly because one of the girls is apparently really rude at some point?), but I’ve also seen some really convincing five star ones.


I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

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Ok this one is on my TBR just because of how radiant this cover is. If pure joy had a form? This is about a girl who “has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star” and falls in love with her competitor in the process. It’s m/f with a bisexual main character, if I remember right.


The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

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Another contemporary F/F romance! And with a lesbian muslim main character. Twitter loves this one, and I might not have seen a lot of reviews of it but it sounds adorable.


Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

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I didn’t know if this counted until I found a tweet from the author, who described it as a rom-com. In which the main character kills people, of course, where would the fun be otherwise? Anyway, ready for this paranormal romance with a gumiho as a main character.


I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

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A Japanese-American girl is invited by her grandparents to Kyoto and falls in love with a boy who “moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot”. This sounds lighthearted and incredibly cute and I’m always here for contemporary stories in non-US settings.


Have you read any of these?

TBR & Goals · Weekly

T10T: Books I’d Love To Read This Spring

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Books On My Spring 2020 TBR.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


Have you read any of these?

Weekly

T10T: Favorite “Romantic” Scenes

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Love Freebie.

So I decided to talk about my favorite scenes involving romance, kissing, or romantic subplots. As a title, it was too long, but don’t let the actual title of the post mislead you, because not *all* of these scenes are actually romantic – that’s just who I am. After all, nothing amuses me as much as reading about horrible people making bad decisions.

They’ll be in chronological order (the order I read them in), just because.


The Winter Fete Kiss

in Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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The first time I read this series, I had just turned 16, and I inhaled it in less than a week, for mainly one reason: I didn’t know that one could write a fantasy book in which the heroine got to passionately make out with the villain – and since it was clearly possible, why weren’t more people doing that? I had spent a whole life making that sort of thing up for myself in the fantasy stories I read. To this day, this is obviously one of the most memorable kiss scenes I’ve ever read – it helps that it’s set in the most atmospheric and magical part of the book – and I still think writers don’t go there often enough. If the characters aren’t making the worst possible choices in their romantic lives, why am I even here?


The Night Kiss

in Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

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In this book, Night is as much as a character as it is an entity and a time between sunset and sunrise. Yes, Vassa in the Night is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read, and in it every Night (as in the time) gets longer and longer, because Night (as in the entity) has been trapped by a witch, and… the main character Vassa actually gets to kiss the Night? More books in which the main character ends up kissing an abstract entity, please. It’s would be one of the most memorable kiss scenes I’ve ever read just because of the imagery, just because of how beautiful it is – after all this is the book where Night lands on the main character’s arms “like a pair of star-flecked falcons and enfolds both hands up to the wrists”. The book of Night sees you, Vassa. It speaks to me on a level I can’t explain and do I need to reread it.


The Kiss in the Tree

in The End of Love by Nina LaCour, short story in Summer Days & Summer Nights

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Another thing I didn’t think people could or would do: have queer girls be the main characters of something. This is the first time I ever saw a story center an f/f pairing, and it was… life-changing? It’s a story about two girls finding each other during the summer, while the main character Flora’s parents are separating, and I didn’t know just how much a summer romance short story could do, how much Flora and Mimi would stay with me. They kiss! After climbing on a tree! And they were happy and they were the main characters and it was 2016, when I couldn’t find much of that at all.


Marriage Night

in The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

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Combining two of the previous entries! 2017, when books about queer female main characters were starting to become more common, but still mostly limited to contemporary, until I tried and looked into adult sci-fi, and… well. What’s better than a antiheroine/villainess post-arranged marriage sex scene in the context of an F/F/F love triangle (or all-female love square depending on interpretation)? It was horrible and it was everything and I’ve never been happier to know that a book got translated into my country as I was when I saw this one (Il destino della legione, and yes, I bought it just to support it and reread that scene in my first language). This is usually a dynamic that is limited to heterosexual pairings when it is there at all, which is boring.


The Comb Scene on the “Beneath the Orchid”

in Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

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I mean, pretty much every scene set on the Beneath the Orchid could fit this because Brezan/Tseya is one of my favorite romances ever, being an antagonistic-but-not-really-or-maybe-so relationship between a soldier and a spy who are on a secret mission together but have very different values (…and possibly, aims). But the comb scene? “I’m clearly not distracting enough”? AAAAAAA. I love Tseya so much and I’ve never felt this strongly about the lead up to a sex scene.


Dancing in the Estate

in The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

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In this contemporary fantasy book, the Red Mangrove Estate is a building with its own very specific brand of magic. The main character Mercedes finally dances and kisses her best friend and crush Victoria in its red room, her room, and everything is perfect, like a moment suspended in a teardrop of amber – and you know what they say about perfection and its disagreements with reality: things come crashing down. This is one of the most emotional things I’ve ever read and really personal to me as well. The yearning! As I said many times, this is the happiest sad book I’ve ever read. This sequence of scenes is the best example of why.


The First Thuan/Asmodeus Kiss

in House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard

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Is it even a romance if they don’t want to kill each other? This is one of the most explosive moments in a plotline that is basically an m/m enemies-to-lovers arranged marriage between a shapeshifting dragon prince and a fallen angel, and the sexual tension was absolutely off the charts. Still surprised that there are so many fantasy romantic plotlines that, unlike this one, do not in any way involve stabbing. Sometimes authors are no fun.


A lot of things (and especially Unbound by Naomi Salman)

in Twisted Romance, edited by Alex de Campi

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Would it be cheating to point out a whole story? Or a whole collection, really, because Twisted Romance is all about the many forms romance can take – all its beautiful weirdness and lack of care for norms. It’s really queer and polyamorous, and the story Unbound was what stood out the most. It’s only a few scenes long, and it’s a contemporary among a lot of paranormal and fantasy, but it’s about queer outcasts finding each other, and I loved it for how… not sensational it felt? It’s about having survived homelessness, and it’s about kink as something some people do and not “something weird and freaky I wanted to include in my book to be edgy”, which was just really nice to see. Also, being able to establish a romance in barely three scenes takes serious skill. This romance-focused collection of short stories and short comics convinced me that I really could like both comics and romance, so it’s really important to me.


The Kiss on the “I Rise From Ancestral Night”

in Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

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Apart from this being the moment in which the very repressed lesbian main character ends up kissing the evil & very hot space pirate lady, which of course is everything I want from a sci-fi book (I have priorities), it’s also really important for character development reasons! Do I love when something I’ve been waiting for a whole book to happen finally happens and ends up having a pivotal role in the main character’s arc in a way that isn’t even tied to a romantic plotline (this is very much not a romance book).


The Bonfire (and many other scenes)

in The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos

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And after a whole post of me mostly pointing out villain romances and related plotlines, I’m ending on a nicer note, because Ruby/Dov might be the first time a very sweet romance actually has made a lasting impact on me.
It was just… how much these two enjoy each other’s company, more than anything. How Dov is really understanding of Ruby’s jagged edges, how Ruby believes she doesn’t deserve it but just feels so happy when he’s around – they have so much chemistry that I still remember their scenes vividly, and the bonfire was probably my favorite. They have just the slightest awkwardness, so everything feels true, but I never got a whisper of secondhand embarrassment. The author’s attention to detail also helped; I could always see their surroundings very clearly, and she managed to make their scenes dynamic – they interact not only with each other but with their environment as well. How often in kiss scenes characters just… stand there and internally purple-prose-monologue about what’s happening? The kiss after the bonfire is the opposite of that, and that’s why the romantic scenes in this book are actually engaging. Everything felt so real in a way that hit me.


Do you also have favorite scenes in romantic subplots more than favorite couples? Have you read any of these?

Weekly

T10T: 5 Star Predictions

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Books On My TBR I Predict Will Be 5-Star Reads.


Were They Five Stars?

As it’s tradition for my 5 star prediction posts, I’ll wrap up the previous one first. My last post about 5 star predictions was in July of 2019. I haven’t read all of them since, but I have read three of them:

  • Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden: a wonderful, futuristic F/F book full of great ideas; sadly, the execution was really messy at times. 3 stars (review)
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: a genre-bending masterpiece from someone who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. 5 stars (review)
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo: slice-of-life about an Afrolatinx teen mother and her love for cooking. Changed my life.  5 stars (review)

Two out of three! Not bad; it means I can actually predict this kind of thing at least a little.

Still Have To Read:

  • The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar: currently reading! It’s really difficult to follow and also one of the most lyrical and confusing things I’ve ever read in my life.
  • Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi, a dislike-to-love contemporary romance following two girls; I’ve seen mixed reviews around this but I do tend to like stories about girls who make terrible decisions and dislike people for almost no reason. I’ve been that teenager.

The New Ones

Now, onto the new 5 star predictions. I will only list seven of them (five novels, two novellas), as I already have two left over and ten would be too much anyway.

Just one rule: sequels aren’t allowed. That would be too easy (to choose) and too difficult (despite my high hopes, I rarely like sequels).

The Empress of Salt and Fortune

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I’m starting with this, as I’m pretty confident I’ll like it. While I haven’t read anything by Nghi Vo before, this is a Tor.com novella and those almost never disappoint me – I really appreciate how high-quality this imprint is – and has also been compared to the Tensorate novellas, my favorite novella series together with Wayward Children.

Phoenix Extravagant

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My favorite author is back and he’s back with one of the weirdest covers I’ve seen in the fantasy genre! I don’t know who chooses his covers – or which is the weirdest between this and the Ninefox Gambit space urchin – but I hope they continue with this style. Anyway, this is Korean-inspired fantasy dealing with colonization, following a non-binary protagonist. I can’t wait.

In the Dream House

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I’ve since read the first chapter of this and can officially say I love both Carmen Maria Machado’s writing style and what she has to say. I took notes while only reading the prologue (it talks about the violence that is perpetrated on queer people through erasure and gatekeeping) and can already tell this is going to be a great experience.

Freshwater

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Akwaeke Emezi is the author of Pet, one of my favorite books of last year, so I’m really interested in reading this one; I think I’ll really like it as well. I don’t have a lot of experience with adult magical realism/literary stuff, so it should be interesting. I also already know that Akwaeke Emezi’s writing is stunning.

The Unspoken Name

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I was already anticipating this one, because anything F/F ends up on my radar, and this is F/F; however, the more I hear about this, the more it seems just… perfect. Not only it’s fantasy, space is somehow involved, and apparently the main character describes herself as an atheist? Can’t wait to get to it; I have an ARC from when I was still requesting them.

Desdemona and the Deep

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Again with the novellas! As I said, I trust Tor.com, and I trust all my friends who reviewed this and without one exception rated it five stars. I’m not even completely sure what it is about; I just know it’s queer and that there are the faerie involved. It should be interesting in any case.

Palimpsest

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This is the one I’m least sure about – mostly because I’ve had mixed experiences with Catherynne M. Valente’s older works – but I own it, and want to convince myself to read it. After all, I really do think I’ll like it once I get to it. I just need to get over the fact that I’m always intimidated by her books because getting into them isn’t easy. (Also I’m shallow and hate this cover.)


Have you read any of these?

Weekly

T10T: Some Pretty Covers I Discovered In the Last Few Months

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Cover Freebie.

I decided to talk about some beautiful covers I discovered in the last few months that I haven’t talked much about yet. Not all of these are recently revealed, some of them are just from lesser-known books or from genres I don’t usually follow.


Soft Science

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I’m tempted to read this poetry collection (here’s a genre I really never reach for!) just because I’m that in love with the cover. It’s just… the geometry? The soft but unusual color scheme? I really want to know what all of this means.

A Wicked Magic

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I really like purple. Also, this is about witches, and it really is true that YA witchy stories often end up wasting their potential for a vaguely-creepy, really pretty cover like this one. (Both the original cover of Undead Girl Gang and the one of These Witches Don’t Burn really disappointed me, and the only thing I loved about The Lost Coast was the rainbow color scheme.)

The Scapegracers

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Here’s another YA witch book that gets the aesthetic (and the purple) right! I like when books get it. Also, you know what’s better than a YA book about a witch? One about a lesbian witch. Yes, this is on my TBR, I hope it’s good.

Splintegrate

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I have since bought this mysterious book (I’ve talked about the weird circumstances around its release here, but the TL;DR is that it was published on the 31st of December by Tor and got no attention at all from pretty much every place. Weird.) and the main reason I was drawn to it in the first place was the cover, it has… such a harmony? I love this illustration style.

What If a Fish

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It’s really true that no one gets pretty illustrated covers like middle grade books. I’m not sure I’ll read it because I don’t often reach for middle grade, but this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. 12 year-old-me would have asked someone to buy it for her without even thinking about it.

The Book of Koli

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I will never stop loving plant horror, and this is probably one of the creepiest depictions of fiddleheads (young fern fronds) we will ever see. I love it a lot. It looks like they’re ready to reach for everything! I don’t know if I’ll read it but the presence of plant horror is tempting.

The Afterward Cover Change

I read this book in May of last year and had mixed feelings about it (review), but this paperback cover is a great improvement compared to the original one for me! It portrays the two main characters perfectly, and explains “knight/thief f/f romance” far more clearly. It’s one of the best cover changes I’ve seen in a while.

In the Dream House

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I could pretend I became interested in this because I still haven’t seen a review that wasn’t raving about it, but in reality it was about the cover first for me. (I didn’t think there would be a time I would think a memoir’s cover is pretty, much less be interested in one! How things change.)

Trouble the Saints

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A recently revealed cover that follows a really interesting scheme – cards! I wonder what that means – from Alaya Dawn Johnson, the author of one of the most vibrant and colorful short stories I have ever read (A Hundred Thousand Threads, in Three Sides of a Heart). I’m really looking forward to this even though I don’t really know what it is.

The Deathless Girls

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Not only this is a gay vampire novel with a gorgeous cover, I’ve also been told the details are symbols and direct references to things that appear in the story, and now I want to know what they mean. It has such a dark fairytale look.


Have you seen any interesting new covers lately?
 

Weekly

T10T: The Ten Most Recent Additions to My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is The Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf.

I’m pretty sure this meant to be things I added to my physical bookshelf, but as I buy very few physical books and have already posted a book haul in December, this would be repetitive, so I’m going to talk about recent additions to my TBR (or the “maybe” shelf of my TBR, as I’m on the fence about many of these).


Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

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I didn’t love Wilder Girls, but I might like this more? Maybe? I had two main problems with that book, one being the disconnection for various factors (which could still be an issue) and its failed attempt at being ecological-based horror (which shouldn’t be a problem here). Horror is hit-or-miss in any circumstance anyway, but Rory Power does write really well, so… I’m intrigued. Also, I’ve never understood American’s relationship with corn fields, and I hope this books will make me see it in the most upsetting way possible.

Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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So far, I’ve disliked all the adult thrillers I’ve read and liked all the Silvia Moreno-Garcia books I’ve tried. Let’s see what wins!
Jokes aside, I’ve seen a few reviews lately that made me really think I’m going to enjoy this and I do trust this author.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

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I loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and didn’t care for The Fifth Season, which according to many probably makes me someone with terrible taste in fantasy, but what’s undeniable regardless of my preferences is Jemisin’s skill. I really want to know how her short fiction is like, as I’ve also heard there are stories involving cooking in here.

The Devourers by Indra Das

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I’ve been hearing nothing but amazing things about this novel, and as I haven’t read anything involving werewolf folklore in… years, I think, I’m really curious. I’ve also heard it goes into really dark territory, so there’s that. (A recurrent theme in this list: books dealing with dark themes and me not knowing whether that’s something I can read at all.)

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker

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This is Seanan McGuire writing the book that was at the center of the magic system in her own novel Middlegame, using as a pseudonym the name of the fictional author who wrote that book inside of Middlegame. Between this and Or What You Will by Jo Walton, it’s going to be such a year for extremely meta content in SFF. I can’t wait.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

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This is 100% a cover add and I’m never going to pretend otherwise. Just… look at it?
Apart from that, this is an West African-Inspired YA fantasy story, and all I know is that there’s a girl who bleeds gold, and that’s a sign of something that might be powerful and might be horrible, and possibly intrigue. I’m not sure and it’s too early for reviews, but we’ll see – you know how picky I can get with fantasy these times.

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

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I wasn’t interested in this one until I heard of the levels of horrible the main character gets. Now I’m tentatively interested, because this might be too brutal/depressing for me (I’ve discovered I should do my best to avoid fantasy novels closely inspired by real tragedies) but reading about truly morally gray people is something I love, so. I’m not sure I’ll read it but I might include it in a try a chapter post and see how I feel.

Patsy by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

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A story about a queer Jamaican woman who was forced to have a child and then chooses to emigrate to the US leaving her child behind. It’s told in both Patsy’s PoV and the PoV of the child, and yes this is completely outside the genres I usually reach for, but that’s exactly why I’m interested. I want to read more queer literature across genres and this could be a place to start from. Or maybe not, because I never know when heavy topics get unreadable for me. I don’t know my limits for sure but I’m here to try new things.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

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I… just really love this cover and want to know more. It’s on my “keep an eye on it/maybe” shelf so far, then we’ll see. I’m not sure what this is about exactly but I know it’s a paranormal/urban fantasy novel that follows a friendships and deals with misogynoir.

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

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Despite loving pretty much everything I’ve read by Kameron Hurley, many short stories included, I’ve always stayed away from the Worldbreaker Saga, the main reason for that being length and bad reviews. Then I remembered that pretty much everything negative I had heard about this series came down to it being “confusing”, and at this point I should pretty much see that as a buzzword when it comes to adult SFF.


Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?

Weekly

T10T: Most Anticipated Releases of 2020 (January-June)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020.

Technically, my most anticipated release of the year is Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee, which according to goodreads will came out on June 9th. However, since it still doesn’t have a cover and might have been pushed back, I’m not including it on the list.


Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

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New book by a favorite author! Can’t wait to see what they’re up to with what’s probably the most fantasy-like book they’ve written so far, and can’t wait for the overwhelming feelings this will no doubt bring. Dancing fever! Prejudice! Queerness! This is probably going to be intense.

Stormsong by C.L. Polk

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The sequel to one of my favorite books of 2018, Witchmark, is finally going to get there, and it will be F/F. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I also really need to remember to reread Witchmark, I miss those characters a lot.

Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke

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Also a companion/standalone sequel, to The Boneless Mercies, which was another favorite of 2018! I usually like companion sequels more than direct ones, so I have high hopes for both this and Stormsong. By the way, I can’t believe that I didn’t even know there was going to be a sequel until a month ago.

The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee

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…I promise this list won’t completely be sequels. Anyway, this is the only direct sequel on the list, and I know that there’s a high probability it’s going to destroy me.

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

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See? Not a sequel. On here because I’ve heard it’s gay and it has necromancers, and as someone who will always be there for sapphics, resurrections, and bad decisions, this sounds like everything I’ve ever wanted.

The Damned by Renée Ahdieh

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Companion sequel to The Beautiful, prettiest cover of 2020, I’m not sure what it will be about but I’m sure it will be decadent and slow-burning and have just enough Catholic-trauma undertones to hit me in the face but not enough to make it unreadable. At least I hope.

Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

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YA contemporary usually doesn’t end up in lists like these for me, because I don’t feel strongly about it often – but this being about a queer girl with anxiety, and being about what it means to be a Real Teenager when most of the typical teenage experiences don’t seem to apply to your life makes it relevant to me, even though I’ve just turned 20. I know the feeling and want to see how this book deals with it.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

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So she returns to verse! The premise of this one involves a plane crash and sisters reconnecting and… it’s just going to be a lot, I know.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

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After loving every moment of Girls Made of Snow and Glass in 2017, I’m so glad this is coming out. Every person I know who has read it loved it, so I have high hopes; the cover is gorgeous and doesn’t look like the Book Snake™; and also, Persian mythology?

The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

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So, this is being promoted as an F/F villain romance, and… that’s all I’ve ever wanted in my whole life? I hope it isn’t a misleading description, because no premise will ever appeal to me more. And apparently it’s also a retelling of a Scottish tale? I can’t wait.


Are you anticipating any of these?