Welcome to a new post in the Monthly Highlights series, in which I talk about the books I read this month, what happened, and some book-related news.
What I Read
In September, I read five books, which is probably my lowest number ever. This is somewhat less concerning if we consider that all of them were novels and one of them was longer than 1000 pages, but, well: this month was what it was. As there are only five of them, I can take the time to talk about all of them a little.
I spent the first half of the month reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Mo Dao Zu Shi (the >1000 novel, of which I also watched two adaptations, see my “out of my comfort zone” post). While the second one definitely took up a lot of my time, together with having to study for the zoology exam, I struggled more with the first; the more I think about it, the more I realize that the only thing I liked about January’s book was the beautiful writing and the parallels I kept drawing in my head between the book’s magic system (doors as bringers of change, instability seen as necessary for the worlds to thrive) and the intermediate disturbance hypothesis (wikipedia page) in ecology. I wish there were more books that talked about the theme of stability as stagnation or atrophy, because I find it really interesting, and that was definitely my favorite aspect of the book.
If you want to know what went wrong (pretty much everything else), my review of this one is already up.
About Mo Dao Zu Shi, all I wanted to say has already been said in the post I linked above, but one more thing I didn’t mention is that I’m not used to reading things that have a big fandom anymore – what happens when you read a lot of ARCs – and being able to consume it while also seeing fan content was a refreshing experience. (Also, it might look like I’m over it? I’m not. You don’t know how much I need more gay necromancer fantasy in my life now.)
I ended the month with Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden. It was even weirder than I expected, which is of course a fault on my part, because I should have known better after reading Temper and The Prey of Gods. But I really didn’t expect the plot-relevant alien tentacle sex scene, and now that I’ve read this book, all I have to say is that I greatly admire The Stars Are Legion‘s restraint in setting a book on a cephalopod-like world-ship like Escaping Exodus did, but not putting any actual tentacle sex in it.
For a more serious review, in which I talk about how much I loved the environmentalist message, what I thought of the f/f romance, and what really didn’t work for me: it should be up tomorrow.
Now, to the books I loved this month. Surprisingly – or maybe not much so, as I’m going through a stressful time and these are always easy to follow – they’re both contemporary-set YA with a magical twist. I have yet to post reviews for both, because I’m bad at scheduling, but I am going to soon.
Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist surprised me because of how addicting it was. I’m struggling to read books in a few sittings lately, and when I read them quickly it’s usually a bad sign (it probably means I’m skimming), but not here. It still took me a few days because real life, but every time I had the time to read, I flew through it. I love ghost stories so much, and stories about gay haunted girls, and I think this would be a great spooky October read for YA readers. I mean, paranormal murder mystery with a dash of romance and lots of angst? Perfect recipe.
And since we’re talking about recipes, With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – my favorite book of the month – managed not only to make me hungry with its food descriptions, it also made me want to learn how to cook again. I don’t think a book has ever done something like that to me before? This is about an Afro-Puerto Rican teen mother who cooks so well her food is almost (kind of?) magical, and this is the story of how she figures out what she wants in life and how she could get there. Acevedo’s writing is amazing and there was so much heart in this story, just like in The Poet X. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
There’s not much to say about my non-bookish life apart from the fact that university started again and… *sigh*.
I spent the first half of the month watching things on a screen (see the Mo Dao Zu Shi post), which is unusual for me, and spent a significant amount of time having a lot of feelings about the Fleet Foxes’ newer album, Crack Up, which I got around to listening only now – because if it’s not a book, I’m bad at it. (I don’t even know what I like in music. I have nothing resembling musical taste or something like that; I just kind of stumble on things and come back if I feel like it.) For someone who doesn’t understand the lyrics of the songs she listens to, I appreciated that at some point (I think?) this talks about ossified roses on the oceanside. Maybe it would make more sense in context, but that would make it less weird and that would be no fun, so I don’t want to know.
Also: the botany course started again. You might start getting plant updates again soon! Maybe.
First of all, it was announced that Yoon Ha Lee is writing another book in the Dragon Pearl universe and I’m so here for it. I didn’t keep up with book twitter as much this month, so it’s possible that I missed some interesting cover reveals. If you know some I’m not mentioning that are really pretty, tell me!
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – I prefer the first book’s cover but I have to admit that they really went there with the skeleton boobplate. I love this on so many levels and I really should read Gideon the Ninth.
The Order of the Pure Moon, Reflected in Water by Zen Cho – Tor.com novellas are always unfairly pretty and this is no exception. Look at it. I’m in love with this cover and can’t wait to read more Zen Cho short fiction. I struggle with her novels, but not her with her short stories, so I hope this will work for me.
There either weren’t a lot of YA cover reveals in September or I was unusually bad at twitter. Knowing how healthy of an environment YA twitter as a whole is, that might have been a good thing.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson – cute! And with a model who actually looks like a teenage girl, on a sapphic book! I hope this is as happy as it looks.
Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran – I appreciate that we’re getting more f/f fantasy releases, but I can’t be the only one who thinks this is greatly underwhelming as a cover. The title’s fond kind of makes me sad, it looks so small and lost in the dark.
How was September for you? Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?