Wrap-Up

September 2019 Highlights

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.


Life Update

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.


Bookish News

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!

Adult SFF

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.

YA

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?

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Wrap-Up

August 2019 Highlights

Welcome to a new post in the Monthly Highlights series, in which I talk about the best books I read this month, what happened in August, and some book-related news.


What I Read

In August I read 13 books:

  • 8 new novels, of which 4 were ARCs and 2 I DNFed halfway through;
  • 2 collections, of which one was an ARC
  • 2 short stories
  • 1 reread of a novel

Quantity-wise, this might look worse than my average (I did read 15 books in July and not one was a DNF or a short story), but it’s actually not that bad, as two of the novels I read this month were over 500 pages (Jade War reached 600, even though it really didn’t need to). Quality-wise, this month wasn’t the best either; as usual, I’m going to talk in detail only about the books I really liked.

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↬ Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard is a collection of short stories by one of my favorite authors.

  • it talks about war, culture, colonialism and loss, and it’s as beautiful as it is painful. Even if you aren’t interested in the collection, I still really recommend the short story Immersion (the best one in my opinion), which is free online.
  • it was so interesting to see so many facets of Xuya. I only know this universe from short fiction – and as all the stories are set in different places on Earth or in space, in very different times, I still feel like I don’t know this world at all. Which only intrigues me more, because what we see is so fascinating.
  • the novella Of Birthdays, and Fungus, and Kindness made me love Emmanuelle/Selene as a couple, finally. From the book, I never cared about them strongly, but to read a story about them? Amazing. After this and Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship, they’re one of my favorite f/f couples.
  • there was so much f/f content in this book. Two short stories, a novella, and casually queer side characters… perfect. Also, nearly every main character is a woman and all of them are people of color (predominantly, but not only, Vietnamese)

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↬ The Impossible Contract by K.A. Doore is the second book in The Chronicles of Ghadid, companion sequel to The Perfect Assassin.

  • F/F ASSASSIN BOOK
  • Buddy read with Silvia! This was my first buddy read, and it was fun, and we should definitely do that again someday. So many dead camel jokes
  • Necromancy! Blood magic! Far wilder and darker than the first book, and larger in scope, but also messier both in storyline and pacing
  • still liked it more, and I did really like The Perfect Assassin
  • the romance was perfect. Useless lesbian with highly dubious morals and a need to prove herself meets sweet but somewhat judgmental healer girl. Disaster ensues.
  • Heru. He did really have all the best lines.

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The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta is a coming-of-age poetry novel following a gay biracial black boy.

  • About black biracial and queer identity, and especially about what being a queer man of color means in a world that expects conformity.
  • The main character finds himself through drag and I loved both this aspect and the discussion of toxic masculinity tied to it
  • Such an emotional read.
  • Some of the poems about friendship and family were just so painful and real
  • It’s set in the UK. Only this… relatively slight (still a western English-speaking country) change of scenery was so refreshing and made me realize just how overwhelmingly American supposedly diverse books are, especially when it comes to contemporary.

Games

↬ This month, I also played the online interactive fiction game The Moonlit Tower by Yoon Ha Lee (2002).

  • It’s from 2002. I was two at the time. This is so old! (Or, I am so young?)
  • the premise is that you’re lost in a mysterious but really beautiful tower and want to know how you got there and how to get out
  • perfect atmosphere
  • do you know how many times I tried to convince the game to let me eat inedible things?
  • Game: there are pines
  • Acqua: EAT PINE
  • Game, exhausted: [for the twentieth time], that’s plainly inedible
  • as usual, the writing was beautiful, and this was overall a really interesting and calming experience, which is great, since the other game by Yoon Ha Lee, Winterstrike, will soon not exist anymore (which makes me really sad, I loved just how weird and unique it was as a whole).

What Happened in August

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  • I spent a week in the Rhaetian Alps. It rained almost all the time, but at least the flowers were pretty. Here’s some raponzoli (Phyteuma sp.), which in English are called rampions – a really misleading name, considering that they share it with the edible campanula (Campanula rapunculus, the raperonzolo), a completely different plant which gave the name to the fairytale of Rapunzel. One of them has a six-spot burnet (Zygaena filipendulae) on it.
  • I also managed to have a few other underwater photography days in the second half of August:


Interesting Cover Reveals

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo – new Tor.com novella! This has, in my opinion, one of the most interesting covers I’ve ever seen. Also, I’ve heard it’s queer and that it has been compared to the Tensorate and I can’t wait.

The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee – first, this cover is perfect and will look really well side-by-side with The Fever King. Second, I’m scared.

The US cover of The House of Sundering Flames by Aliette de Bodard has finally been revealed! I don’t love it, but I don’t love any of the US covers, so this wasn’t a surprise. Still can’t wait to read the book, of course.


How was August for you? Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?

Wrap-Up

July 2019 Highlights

Welcome to another post in my Monthly Highlights series, in which I will talk about everything book-related (and sometimes not) that happened in July.


What I Read

July was exam month for Acqua and heatwave month for Europe, so I’m surprised that I still managed to read 15 books:

  • 10 novels, of which 6 were ARCs
  • 2 novellas, of which 1 was an ARC
  • 2 collections, of which 1 was an ARC
  • 1 graphic novel, which was an ARC

I didn’t read as much as I read in June, but I did read just as many novels – this time, without DNFing one – so I consider this a good reading month. Rating-wise, there were a lot of four stars (eight of those 15 books were four stars), a few fives and threes, and a two. We’re over halfway through the year and I still haven’t rated a book one star!

As usual for a highlight post, I will only talk about the books I liked the most.

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↬ Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear is a space opera novel following Haimey Dz, a black lesbian space salvager, as she discovers an abandoned ship and the terrifying truths tied to its existence.

  • this is officially the most unexpected favorite of the year. I hated it at the beginning and wanted to DNF it, but as usual, sci-fi with somewhat dense worldbuilding is worth it
  • I had so much fun with this, even when the story got really dark, because this was just so interesting and beautiful. I was never bored, and this is longer than 500 pages.
  • the premise of this book is basically “archeology in space, but with pirates“, and if you thought it couldn’t get better than that, what if I told you that there’s lesbian villain kissing involving the evil pirate lady?
  • no romance, a great emphasis on friendships between queer characters, and does this book understand that everything, including space, is better with cats
  • combine the ideas of “ancient mysterious artifacts”, “alien technology incomprehensible to humans”, and “the terrifying beauty of space” and you get the aesthetic of this book
  • Haimey’s character arc is one of the best I’ve read in months. This is a story about coming to terms with trauma (she has PTSD from growing up in a cult) and while it gets dark at times, the ending was everything to me.

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↬ The Fox Tower and Other Tales by Yoon Ha Lee is a collection of cute flash fairytales and prose poems.

  • queer (f/f and m/m stories and some non-binary main characters) twists on familiar fairytale tropes and archetypes are so refreshing
  • cuddly foxes!
  • flash fiction is a lot like poetry, which means that sometimes this goes a little for the “pretty for the sake of it”, and… I love that. Because Yoon Ha Lee’s descriptions are many things but are never banal
  • I am still thinking about descriptions like “crystals unfed by unsunlight”. It shouldn’t make sense, in a literal way it does not make sense, but it does, it always does
  • then there are three prose poems, two of which – Candle and Thunder – are clearly tied to some characters from Ninefox Gambit and I still have so many feelings
  • “I don’t expect your hands to glove black (ashes are my favorite fashion)” I personally hate you, [spoilery name censored]
  • “and sometimes it’s about gunfire opening your heart” of course you’d use that imagery, go figure
  • it’s not really tied to the Machineries of Empire universe if you don’t want to scream “Jedao, NO” at some point
  • this, overall, made me so happy and there’s a lot of value in that.

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↬ Pet by Akwaeke Emezi is a futuristic novel following Jam, a black trans girl with selective mutism, in a world in which evil doesn’t exist anymore… or so she’s told.

  • I recommend this book to… almost everyone? It’s really short and it’s the kind of thing middle schoolers can read and understand but that adult can also get important things from
  • It’s unlike everything I’ve ever read. This is a YA book with no romance (already uncommon), following a 15-year-old main character (also not common) who is a disabled black trans girl (previously unheard of in tradpub YA novels) in a book that isn’t about her being marginalized. It’s also about a society that looks utopian to us (why are all futuristic novels dystopian?) and it involves paranormal elements.
  • it’s about how evil is allowed to thrive unseen when people start refusing to admit that it can exist, and it has a lot of really interesting things to say about what makes a monster, and what – specifically – makes monsters so dangerous
  • it’s a charming kind of weird, beautifully written, and unique
  • the main character isn’t always able to voice and as someone who has also struggled with voicing things (for slightly different reasons, but it’s not that different from the outside), the fact that no one ever makes her selective mutism a problem meant so much to me

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The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang is the fourth and final book in the Tensorate series. It follows Lady Han, a courtesan-turned-revolutionary, and it’s written in the form of a drunken monologue.

  • I know “drunken monologue” doesn’t sound appealing at all but it works
  • this was a great month when it came to f/f villain kissing, because this is about the relationship between Lady Han and Hekate, the series’ villainess
  • how did I not know this was an f/f villain romance before reading it. how.
  • a tragic gay story, but not the kind of homophobia-related tragic gay story we’re used to; it’s a story about two very morally gray women and how their relationship fell apart
  • queer stories should get to be sad like the non-queer ones do, in ways that have nothing to do with the characters’ marginalizations
  • everyone is kind of horrible and I loved that
  • the best novella in the series, and I don’t say that lightly when this was already my favorite novella series. I love this world so much
  • …I still want more Tensorate

Life Update

  • Despite exams, I was finally able to have a free morning for my first Underwater Photography Day of the year. The quality of the water wasn’t the best – it wasn’t dirty (I know where and when to go to avoid that most of the time) but it was somewhat… cloudy? Not sure what the right word is in English, but I couldn’t see very far. Anyway, that was probably caused by a recent coastal storm.
  • Still managed to take some pictures, and the Cystoseira are still there, which should be a good thing (Cystoseira is a genus of algae known for being bioindicators of good water quality)


Cover Reveals

YA


Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen – I love this cover, it looks like such a cute, fun romance, one following East Asian-American characters and set outside the US!

When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson – this one is also set outside the US, it’s a Canadian YA novel about teens going on a road trip to get to Toronto Pride, and… there are so many queer YA novels, but surprisingly few of them feature Pride parades. I’m glad that this exists and that it looks really gay from the outside already.

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett – all I know about this one is that it’s f/f and will have a setting with a really wintry atmosphere. The cover looks a little too “generic YA fantasy for my taste” (it reminds me a lot of Bloodleaf, for example) but the details are everything.

Adult

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood – F/F fantasy!! I don’t love this cover, but I am really anticipating this book. I’m not sure what it is about Tor and F/F involving necromancy but I support the idea?

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer – and I thought Borne was trippy. Oh well? (I love this, but it also almost hurts to look at)

Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty – I still have to read the second book (I know, I know), but can we just say that the UK covers of this series are objectively superior? They have a simple, straightforward and effective aesthetic.


How was July for you? Have you read/are you anticipating any of these?

Wrap-Up

June 2019 Highlights

Welcome to the another post in my Monthly Highlights series, in which I talk about books, what happened this month, plants, and bookish news.


What I Read

June was exam month! I did as well as I possibly could have and also managed to read more than during any month so far this year. I also liked most of the books I read and all of them were queer in some way, so yes, I do consider this a good reading month.

So, numerically, this month I read 18 books:

  • 10 novels, of which 3 were ARCs (2 of them I DNFed but counted anyway because I stopped halfway through instead of 10% in)
  • 5 graphic novels, of which 1 was an ARC
  • 3 novellas, of which 2 were ARCs.

As usual for my highlight posts, I will only be talking about the books I really liked, and while you can find most reviews of the books I read this month scattered around this blog, I made a complete thread of Pride Reads on twitter, with ratings and reviews linked.

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is a graphic novel about Freddie, an Asian-American girl, and her toxic high school relationship:

  • my favorite standalone graphic novel!
  • I was completely in love with both the art style and the characters
  • the part in which Freddie says “I know there are LGBTQIA activist out there who fought for centuries for me to have the right to fuck up like this. I am progress” = I love her so much and do I understand that
  • I really appreciated how it talked about love and how romantic relationship don’t exist to isolate a person
  • queer stories that aren’t happy romances and aren’t tragic but are just a reflection of how queer teens’ lives (and especially love lives) can be are so important

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The Weight of the Stars by Kayla Ancrum is a near-future story following Ryann, a girl who has always dreamed of space, and Alexandria, a girl whose mother has left earth forever to live in space, as they fall in love.

  • Ancrum’s books are so beautiful, they give me so many feelings
  • and I struggle to explain those feelings with words, because they don’t always use words to convey them!
  • There is so much in what isn’t said.
  • kind of mixed media format, but not really, it’s complicated
  • characters who are rough around the edges and very gay
  • found family! casual polyamory representation!
  • the more you go on and read, the more you can feel the terrifying maws of the void, which is definitely staring at you
  • I was upset. But also not?
  • It’s a weird one, maybe even weirder than The Wicker King, but I liked it more.

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The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite is a historical romance set in England around 1816.

  • science lesbian (astronomer) meets art bisexual (who likes botany, embroidery, and botanical embroidery)
  • I hate the concept of historical romances and yet here I am, this book is amazing
  • queer women living happy and fulfilling life despite sexism and homophobia!
  • What is the opposite of a slow-burn? Because that’s this book. Don’t say instalove, this is obviously not instalove, they have so much chemistry
  • (*rembers a certain sex scene*)
  • it did have pacing problems and at times it was boring but I’m yet to find an adult romance novel that isn’t at least some shades of boring so that’s probably more on me than on the book
  • maybe I should really get to that “reading romance as an aromantic” post

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This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone is an epistolary sci-fi enemies-to-lovers f/f novella set during a time travel war:

  • f/f stories making me emotional is the theme of the month
  • gorgeous writing, which sometimes gets too much, but if you don’t viscerally hate prose with a purple side to it, it will make you feel things!
  • some of the best descriptions and quotes I’ve read in months, and so many colors
  • excellent plotting too!
  • I struggled with the time travel aspect at first, but did it stick the landing with that.
  • you know who is gay? Time. Time is gay.
Other Books Worth Mentioning
  • Coffee Boy by Austin Chant: ownvoices trans man representation! Cute m/m workplace romance novella, and as always, novellas are the best format for romance. One of the happiest trans stories I’ve read.
  • Borderline by Mishell Baker: the plot and worldbuilding didn’t surprise me that much but I liked this main character so much that I almost didn’t mind. I’m considering continuing the series, and I almost never do that if the first book isn’t five stars and it’s not a companion series. Bisexual main character who has BPD and uses a wheelchair!
  • Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju: awkward biracial Sri Lankan lesbian Nima Kumara-Clark discovers her town’s drag scene (and herself, too). A really cute read, if you don’t mind a little secondhand embarrassment; the writing could have been better.
  • Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh: a forest fairytale inspired by the figure of the green man, with a sweet m/m romance. Loved the plant magic aspect and the atmosphere, didn’t feel strongly about the plot or the characters themselves.

The two books I DNFed were Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells (it was fine, but I have exams and don’t have time for “fine”), and All of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil (I was loving the writing and atmosphere, but seeing what the book was doing with the 10-year-age-gap “”romance”” involving a teen, I quit – and I also didn’t want to review it).


(Plant-)Life Update

  • June 1st was the day my city’s botanical garden was open to the public! Last time I went there it was winter and it just wasn’t as interesting, but this time the Brazilian coral tree (Erythrina falcata) was blooming and I’ve never seen a more gorgeous tree in my life.
  • I also recognized the common myrtle (Myrtus communis) and the manna ash (Fraxinus ornus) easily and almost got the sessile oak (Quercus petraea; I was on the fence between that one and Q. robur because I couldn’t see any acorns) so I’m really proud of myself.
  • This month, I went for a few days in the Tuscan–Emilian Apennines and there were many beautiful things I expected – we went in a place that is famous for its beautiful beeches, and if you don’t think a beech (Fagus sylvatica) can be beautiful, you’re wrong – but what I did not expect were the fact that all the brooms (Cytisus scoparius) were blooming together.
  • nearer to the towns, there were also some impressive Spanish brooms (Spartium junceum) but I didn’t take pictures of those.

Cover Reveals!

This month there have been several remarkable cover reveals, and here are my favorites:

A Phoenix Must First Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell: the best cover of the month, maybe even of all the 2020 covers revealed so far. I love it so much, and also this is an anthology of Black speculative fiction featuring so many authors I’ve read and loved both novels (Ibi Zoboi, Elizabeth Acevedo, Somaiya Daud) and short stories (Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, L.L. McKinney) from.

The Silence of Bones by June Hur: historical mystery set in Korea in the XIX century? This sounds unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the YA age range and the cover is a sad kind of quiet – it has my interest, for sure.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez: apparently the author illustrated her own cover? That’s so cool, and the result is both original and charming. Can’t wait to hear more about this Bolivian-inspired fantasy novel!

We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia: the first one was prettier, but you know what? If you put them together, they kind of look like sunset and sunrise, which might have been the intention. Or a rainbow, which also could have been the intention, because gay, and I really need to get to that first book, don’t I.


How was June for you?

Wrap-Up

May 2019 Highlights

Welcome back to the Monthly Highlights series, in which I tell about my month by ignoring everything that happens in my life apart from novels and botany. I still manage to be accurate, because my life is boring.


What I Read

This month:

  • I read 2 new novels and reread 3
  • I listened to the audiobook of a novella
  • I read a short story collection.

I didn’t read a lot in May, but I don’t mind that, because all the seven books I read were over four stars. I’m also a slow rereader, and I knew I wasn’t going to get to much when I decided to dedicate the month to a Machineries of Empire reread. (Totally worth it, by the way, but you probably already know what I think.)

What I Liked

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↬ The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta is a contemporary fantasy novel following a group of queer witches living in a small town near the redwoods in California

  • It’s GAY and it has TREES
  • …anyway. Now that you know my priorities, I can say that it’s exactly the kind of atmospheric, witch-y story I had been looking for since The Raven Cycle
  • there’s an f/f romance but to be honest the G(r)ays all felt in love with each other
  • this is about belonging and community and the power found in them, and isn’t that a queer story™ in itself
  • I feel like when people think about books about the queer experience they always think about coming out, as if that were the only part that matters
  • I think it’s important to remember that this is contemporary fantasy and not contemporary from the beginning, so that you don’t feel weird about people walking barefoot in the woods at night
  • I’ve heard almost nothing about this, which kind of makes me sad, because we might be getting a lot of f/f releases this year, but so many of them are being overlooked?

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I’d need to reread the other novellas to be sure (be sure!), but In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire might even be my favorite book in the series so far.

  • I recommend the audiobook, and if you know me, you know that I’d never recommend the audiobook, but it’s short and the narration is amazing
  • also Seanan McGuire’s writing relies on telling more than showing, which works better when the story is being told to you
  • so atmospheric and vivid and I could see and feel the Goblin Market
  • how can something be so beautiful and so sad at the same time
  • about choices and fairness and the consequences of loneliness? There’s a lot to talk about here, it might be a novella but it’s the kind of thing I’d love to discuss
  • it took me almost a month to read because I’m terrible at audiobooks and because I listened to it while traveling (for the “going around my region to see the plants” thing) in two separate occasions

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I spent most of the month rereading my favorite series, which everyone is tired of hearing me talk about, and its new short story collection (Hexarchate Stories), so I’ll try to be concise

  • I didn’t love the sequel novella Glass Cannon as much as the novels; what it was doing made sense and so I appreciated it, but it had an exposition problem (and the execution was messy by this series’ standard; it needed more space)
  • however, it was hilarious and the short stories were delightful
  • I had already read some of them – half of Hexarchate Stories can be found on the internet, because this is a collection of stories set in the Hexarchate written over the years and published in various places. Anyway, it’s nice to have them all together
  • the stories vary from “cute vignette with cats” and “fun caper” to “ominous foreshadowing” and “basically porn without plot”, I love variety

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Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson comes out in June (I read an eARC) and it was even better than I expected it to be

  • it reminded me of An Enchantment of Ravens because of the humor – which I loved, YA fantasy often takes itself too seriously and this doesn’t – but it’s such a different book that I’d recommend it even to those who hated AEOR
  • the romance was really cute but let’s be honest, I was there mostly for Silas, Nathaniel’s inherited demon™, who had the personality of a distinguished demonic noble crossed with an outraged cat
  • sometimes a family is a sword-welding librarian, a bisexual disaster of a necromancer, and the demon who totally doesn’t care about them, no, why, where did you get that from
  • the demon who told him bedtime stories I’m dying
  • also, it’s set in a library and it’s full of terrifying magical books, what more do you want from life?
  • the pacing was somewhat messy, I often felt like things took too long to get started and then ended up feeling rushed

Plant News

I’m not even pretending this section is for something else at this point
  • Guess what? I learned to recognize even more plants. No one is surprised. Anyway, this month’s highlights are the scorpion senna (Hippocrepis emerus), the mastic shrub (Pistacia lentiscus), the bloody dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and the manna ash (Fraxinus ornus). I can also now tell apart various species of broom (Genisteae) at a glance!
  • From my hike in the Mediterranean shrubland, the first thing I learned is that almost every plant in it – it doesn’t matter if it’s a shrub, an herb, some kind of vine, or a tree – is full of thorns and personally hates you. The second thing I learned is that the next time I will bring scissors and gloves. (I almost paid my Calicotome spinosa sprig with blood. I won’t do that again.)
  • I saw some species of non-photosynthetic plants (so, without chlorophyll) this month! They’re actually pretty common, as I’m discovering.

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  • One was the bird-nest orchid, Neottia nidus-avis [right (Yes I know it’s blurry)], which lives because of symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi. I didn’t even know that kind of thing could exist before, so it was really interesting to see.
  • The weird plant [center] the flowerbeds in my city are full of is also non-photosynthetic – it’s a parasite of the common ivy (Hedera helix), whose name is… ivy broomrape (Orobanche hederae). Nice.
  • I’m not 100% sure the Cytinus hypocistis [left], a plant which is a parasite of the Cistus genus, is non-photosynthetic, but I think it is – and anyway, it’s really pretty, so there’s a photo of that one too.
  • I don’t know if I want to become a botanist, it’s too soon to tell what I’ll do in five years, and it’s not that I feel that more strongly about plants than I do about other life forms – I just think that while talking about parasitic plants won’t gross most people out, most might not appreciate my “parasitic isopod found in the fish I had for lunch” updates as much, that’s it
  • When it comes to macroscopic life forms, I want to know about it

Cover reveals!

Cover reveals of books I’m more or less interested in that happened this month.

  • Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller: I didn’t have the best experiences with Linsey Miller’s previous series, mostly because of the writing, but I believe in giving second chances to authors who write queer books, and this one is f/f. The cover looks like icing gone wrong, but oh well.
  • Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan: the warrior lesbians are back, and both on the cover, and I can’t wait
  • The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper: I’m not completely sure I’m going to read this but it looks really cute and I’m glad there are not one but two explicitly gay YA covers this month
  • Docile by K.M. Szpara: it’s here. I’m not sure it’s going to work for me, as it’s completely out of my comfort zone, but this book’s premise sounds amazing and K.M. Szpara is one of my favorite short fiction authors, I can’t not try it

How was May for you? Any new favorite books/book covers?

Wrap-Up

April 2019 Highlights

Welcome back to the Monthly Highlights series, in which I talk about what books I read, plants, what happened this month, recent bookish news, and whatever I might want to say, but mostly plants.


What I Read

This wasn’t as good of a reading month as March was, because sometimes that happens. Anyway, I read 5 novels (one of which was a reread), 1 novella, 1 anthology over 600 pages, and 10 short stories outside that anthology (yes, I read a lot of short fiction this month). And it’s not a bad thing! Honestly, the only months I see as failures are the ones in which I find no five stars, and this wasn’t one.

The novella, the anthology, and 3 of the novels but one were ARCs.
As usual, since this is a “highlights” post, I’m going to talk about what stood out.

Books I Loved

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↬ Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali is one of the best YA contemporary novels I’ve read in months. I thought I’d like it but not feel strongly about it, as it happened with Saints and Misfits, but was I wrong.

  • This book is important. This book is the cutest romance ever. Both things are true.
  • I usually don’t like the romance in contemporary romances this much? Especially not m/f ones. But Adam and Zayneb… I love them so much. They’re perfect for each other.
  • It talks about Muslim across different cultures! Zayneb lives in the US and is of Pakistani and Caribbean (West Indian) descent, Adam is a Canadian convert of Chinese and Finnish descent.
  • It talks about two people falling in love just like it talks about being a young, visibly Muslim person in an Islamophobic place, and it also talks about living with a disability (the love interest, Adam, has multiple sclerosis).
  • The narrative voice was amazing, especially in Zayneb’s chapters.
  • Part of it is set in Doha, Qatar, so… non-western contemporary!
  • I want this book to get translated in my country and I want all the people I know to read it, because I think it’s important and because it’s one of the few “important” novels I know whose message isn’t awfully US-centric.

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↬ The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad is one of the most original fantasy novels I’ve read in a while.

  • Multicultural cities in fantasy! I have talked about favorite fictional cities in the past, but books like this one really make stand out how unrealistically homogeneous the average fantasy city is.
  • The main character is Muslim, but not everyone in this city is, and this isn’t a point of conflict.
  • Third person present omniscient narration sounded like the worst idea ever and I did struggle with it at the beginning, but the author clearly knew what she was doing, and it ended up working.
  • It’s really slow-paced, so keep that in mind.
  • So many female characters, all of them as developed as they needed to be!
  • It’s a standalone! Not one that will be turned into a series after being promoted as a standalone! The author confirmed this.
  • Don’t read this book while hungry. Trust me.
Books I Didn’t Love But That I Want To Talk About

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↬ Wilder Girls by Rory Power is a cli-fi horror book I have some mixed feelings about, which kind of makes me feel bad, because I really don’t want to be the one to complain about a decently hyped f/f book.

  • the writing is amazing, and for once this is a plant horror book that actually talks about which plants there are.
  • it’s about going wild! And you could see the horror metaphor – especially the way girls are affected by their changing bodies – in so many ways! I love reading the interpretations.
  • However: I’m so tired of books that attempt to talk about climate change without talking about ecology. It’s the sci-fi equivalent of having gods be active parts of your worldbuilding in a book that never talks about religion: it feels so cheap and it doesn’t make any sense.
  • “but it’s horror! It’s a metaphor!” -> a metaphor about climate change that doesn’t also have some kind of metaphor for the dynamics of ecosystem is a shitty metaphor
  • if I look at the horror aspect in this book from a botanic viewpoint it’s not perfect but far better than average and so I appreciate it, from the “what it says about expectations put on girls’ bodies” angle it’s amazing, but if I look at it from an ecology angle, it’s mediocre at best
  • the characterization was so weak and in some cases inconsistent that by the end of the novel I felt like I didn’t know any of the characters.

Life Update

Who am I kidding. *Plant Update
  • I learned to recognize a lot of plants this month! The laurestine (Viburnum tinus), the “tree of heaven” (lol) (Ailanthus altissima), the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), the Mediterranean hackberry (Celtis australis), the field elm (Ulmus minor), the rough bindweed (Smilax aspera), various species of Genisteae, and many others. This means that I… notice a lot more plants than I did before, oddly? There are so many plants in this city. I had never realized just how many different species we have. And being able to give a name to things feels really nice.
  • Since I learned to recognize Ailanthus altissima, I’m realizing just how many of these we have, and how difficult they are to eradicate. And I love how the English name is “tree of heaven” while the name this tree has in our dialect roughly translates to “poop tree” and “stink tree”, from its characteristic smell. So, yes, we have a stinky tree infestation.
  • After a month and a half of overwhelmingly sunny, almost summer-y weather, it finally rained, and that’s how I ended up discovering one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life: rain droplets on the scale-like leaves of the Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus semprevirens). The branches end up looking like reaching hands covered in silver-green lace.
Blogging Life

Self-promotion time? If so, I’m really proud of my post about what I think changed in American YA books in these last ten years and also of the my favorite quote and what they mean to me one. Also,

I saw this “villain alignment chart” a few days ago and I think it explains a lot. If you don’t know me, hi, I’m a villain fan (for details, read How I Fell In Love With Villains, In Five Steps), but a very picky villain fan. One that didn’t really know how to explain why she liked Malachiasz and (especially) the Darkling, to talk about two characters who are in this chart, but couldn’t bring herself to care about Cardan or Kylo Ren in any way. And it is because they’re pathetic.

  • “Pathetic” isn’t an appealing trait to me. I’m all for villains who have weaknesses, but if it that apparent from the beginning… I just can’t take them seriously
  • If I’m going to have to read about terrible men, at least make them competent. I can see mediocre ones every day
  • But more that anything, they’re not my type. I think I understand what other people see in them, especially if I look at the kind of dynamic that is Jude/Cardan and in a way also Rey/Kylo – powerful girl beats up (vaguely, for Cardan) villainous, pathetic boy, with lots of sexual tension – it’s just not my kind of power fantasy
  • “Charming fanatic”, however, is a very concise way to explain what I usually describe as my favorite kind of character, the intersection between the “(somewhat) well-intentioned extremist” and the “manipulative bastard” trope
  • “Charming fanatic” is a very concise way to explain my favorite character, why am I not surprised
  • I Have A Type

In Book News

This month’s most interesting cover reveals:

  • Reverie‘s cover was finally announced! I still haven’t really understood what this book is about and I’m not sure if it will be for me but it’s a queer ownvoices story, so of course I’m interested.
  • Subterranean Press announced a collection of novellas and short stories by Aliette de Bodard, Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight. She’s one of my favorite authors and we already have a cover, I can’t wait!
  • I don’t know how I feel about Come Tumbling Down‘s cover yet (I… think it’s my least favorite?) and I don’t know how I feel about the fact that it follows the character who two years ago was my least favorite (now I don’t know, because I don’t remember the story that clearly). We’ll see?
  • I don’t know how I feel about the new Anna-Marie McLemore cover for Dark and Deepest Red yet either – it’s not really my style but it makes sense for the story as far as I know – but of course I’m going to read it.
  • I’m not sure I’m going to read A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian because it’s a novella of a series I’m not interested in, but… just look at that cover. I’m.
  • Would it kill adult fiction designers to put together covers that actually look interesting? I’m interested in reading The Starless Sea because it’s Erin Morgenstern but the cover is really meh

I usually only talk about cover reveals, but this time there haven’t been a lot of them. But I want to talk about some bookish announcements:

  • A sequel to one of my favorite books of 2018, Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente, has been announced! It will be called Space Oddity. I didn’t see this coming but YES
  • Kameron Hurley has announced Losing Gravity, a space thriller that will be queer and will have female villains and… she can make me like things I hate like she did in The Light Brigade and she did write my favorite villain ever in The Stars Are Legion so I can’t wait, even though I have no idea what “Killing Eve meets Die Hard” might mean
  • Both of these will be out in 2021. It’s so far away… w h y

Also, the Hugo finalists were announced! I wrote a whole post about that.


Have you read or are you anticipating any of these? How was April for you?

Wrap-Up

March 2019 Highlights

Welcome back to the Monthly Highlights series, in which I talk about what books I read, what happened this month, and recent bookish news.


What I Read

This month I read 11 novels (of which one was a reread) and 9 short stories (reviewed here). It isn’t a lot, especially if I consider that in 2016-2017 I could effortlessly reach 17, but my life isn’t what it was when I was in high school and since in the last two months I read 4 and 5 novels respectively, this is an improvement.

Books I Loved

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↬ A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine is a political science fiction book about a space empire and an ambassador who is trying to understand in which circumstances her predecessor died in that space empire. Also, it’s f/f!

  • this is the kind of novel I know will end up on my “favorites of 2019” list, and I know I will never forget it, and I really hope I’m going to see it in the Nebula and Hugo shortlists
  • this is one of the best examples of political intrigue I’ve ever read. Smart, complex worldbuilding, a world you get invested in, and characters that stand out while hiding a lot. Everything you need, basically.
  • what it said about language, growing up on translated literature, and navigating two cultures when your neighbors are far more powerful that you are meant a lot to me (I explain this better in my review)
  • Complex female characters, both main and side! I loved Mahit Dzmare, a main character who changes history without ever needing a weapon or magic. And the romance? Lovely.
  • And if we’re talking about remarkable, really morally gray female side characters, ezuzuacat Nineteen Azde, “whose gracious presence illuminates the room like the edgeshine of a knife”, could stab me and I’d thank her

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The Fever King by Victoria Lee is a futuristic sci-fantasy novel featuring a main m/m romance and a Colombian Jewish main character.

  • it took over my head for a week and didn’t let go, and I still think about it multiple times a day. I almost ended up rereading it but I don’t have the time!
  • I love reading about training montages, superpowers that don’t remind me of superheroes (this book has technopathy in it and its magic system is based on knowledge and science, how cool is that) and teenagers trying their best to be heroes in a world that is made of difficult decisions
  • Noam and Dara deserve so much better!
  • I just want them to be ok, is that too much to ask
  • this was an unusual read because it’s the only book I know that worked because it was predictable and not despite its predictability, and I loved that a lot
  • we can’t talk about the villain because spoilers, but. Can we talk about the villain? He’s my favorite villain trope and he’s awful and I won’t act like that’s not the main reason this book isn’t leaving my head

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↬ Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan is a gothic Russian- and Polish-inspired YA fantasy novel about a girl who can commune with the gods and a magical war.

  • March was such a good month for villain reads. This one, if some of you don’t know that already, is a villain romance
  • this book was worth reading just because of the aesthetic and didn’t hold itself back in that aspect
  • all the characters were somewhat terrible – even if some were far more terrible than others – and I loved that
  • it was so much fun! Which I feel isn’t that easy to find in YA fantasy anymore, and I love when a book is dark but doesn’t take itself too seriously.
  • the banter! the tension! those dialogues!
  • Cosmic horror, discussions about theology, and heresy for everyone!

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↬ The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley is a military sci-fi novel following a bisexual main character in a world in which corporations own everything.

  • this was such a weird reading experience
  • I was really confused, because time travel does that to me. And this kind of novels about war is not something I enjoy reading, or so I thought for most of the book
  • However. The ending. That ending!!!!
  • This will stay with me for a long time and I think that among all of those books that try to talk about the horrors of war this is one that I feel I can recommend
  • the more I think about it the more I like it and I thought I didn’t like it at all while I was reading it
  • It’s very violent and gory (it wouldn’t be Kameron Hurley without gore?) but you don’t get out of it feeling like you hate existing and that’s something these books always fail at
  • Describing a book like this as hopeful feels weird to me because I still haven’t fully processed the ending but yes, that’s what it is
  • The Stars Are Legion is still my personal favorite – …it did get me into sci-fi – but this is book is just as (if not even more) clever
Other Reads

Some books that I didn’t feel as strongly about but still recommend:

  • The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie: a very interesting if slow-paced novel narrated in second person by a god who lives inside a rock to the main character Eolo, who is a trans man. A lot of great concepts and ideas, and an execution I found flawed. It’s Hamlet-inspired, so you might get more out of it than I did if you are familiar with that story.
  • Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite: mixed media contemporary novel! The eARC formatting gave me a headache and the plot was somewhat messy, but this is worth reading just because of the main character, he voice was amazing. Also, it’s the story about a Haitian-American girl visiting Haiti for the first time and if you liked the “reconnecting with my family and culture” theme of The Astonishing Color of After (I love this kind of stories and I’m always looking for contemporaries set outside the US), you should read this. It will be out on September 5th.
  • Ruse by Cindy Pon: I didn’t love this as much as I loved Want but it’s still a sequel worth reading. It’s set in Shanghai, which I really liked, but, unlike what the cover might make you think, it’s still mostly narrated by Zhou.
  • All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle: a really heavy contemporary fantasy novel about a lesbian who lives in a strict, Catholic Irish family. Like Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, it deals with getting to know more about your family’s history and what may or may not be a family curse, but it’s mostly about the crimes of the Catholic Church. If you agree with the idea that there’s nothing as terrible as a story untold, I really recommend this book, because it talks about historical erasure and the way institutions try to bury the tragedies they caused. Don’t go into this if you’re looking for a strong narrative voice or well-developed characters. It will be out on August 1st.

I also found the first two two stars of the year this month (The Waking Forest and The Nowhere Girls). Disappointing, but it had to happen eventually.


Life Update

My life in March:

  • In botany news, this is the season in which all the Wisteria trees (or, as we call it, “glicine”) in my city are blooming and there are some places that are so beautiful right now. However, a lot of plants bloomed in January/February and right now the weather feels as if it were June (and it has rained twice in a month and a half), which is worrying me.
  • Blooming wisterias means that it’s Carpenter Bee Time. I love my Xylocopa friends. So fuzzy.
  • On a more bookish and biopunk horror note, The Stars Are Legion was translated into Italian! I broke my “only one copy per book” rule because I couldn’t not support something like this.

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I’m not a bookstagrammer and it shows


Some Cover Reveals I Want To Talk About

  • The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco – I am not sure what this is supposed to represent but it’s one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen, so I had to talk about it here. I know nothing about the premise but I usually like Rin Chupeco’s books and this one is queer, so…
  • Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron – this is giving me a “The Library of Fates but darker” impression and I’m so here for this. It does look somewhat unnatural because of the lighting, but I don’t mind that, it’s wonderful.
  • Crier’s War by Nina Varela – f/f fantasy!! And the cover looks amazing. At first I thought it was a boring brown but the amount of details and the perfect lighting changed my mind. I hope the inside is as good.
  • A House of Rage and Sorrow by Sangu Mandanna got a cover! I can’t wait for the book but I actually hate how this looks like. The first cover was great, but this looks like a blurry mess.

Then we have Queen of Nothing by Holly BlackNinth House by Leigh Bardugo, and Queen of the Conquered by Kheryn Callender (technically revealed in April, but I want to talk about it now), which, if they look vaguely similar, it’s exactly because they’re using the same stock photo. Which most  of the book community is finding pretty funny, and I agree, and I’m just going to link you this.


How was March for you?