TBR & Goals

October + Spookathon TBR

As you probably already know, this is Acqua’s No Free Time Fall, which means smaller TBRs, but I’d still love to (try to?) participate in this October’s Spookathon, since I never have before (readathon announcement here on Booksandlala’s youtube channel).


How September Went

From my September TBR I had:

  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – read, ★★½ (review)
  • Steel Crow Saga by Paul KruegerDNF, no rating, (short GR review)
  • A House of Rage and Sorrow by Sangu Mandanna – still to read
  • Escaping Exodus by Nicky Draydencurrently reading (70%) [might still finish it this evening]
  • Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist*read, ★★★★½ (RTC on this blog)
  • The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard – still to read

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to read much this month, and struggling with The Ten Thousand Doors of January for half of it certainly didn’t help. However, I still did manage to read a few books, and this isn’t everything I read this month, so everything went well.

*In my last TBR, Gideon the Ninth was in this book’s place, but I said that if I wasn’t able to get to it because of costs (as it happened), I could put another book I read in September in its place.


Spookathon TBR

This readathon has five challenges; these books should fulfill all of them. So, hopefully, I will be reading these between October 14th and October 20th.

After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott – I’ve been considering this thriller with a lesbian main character for a while now; queer adult thrillers don’t seem to be that common. It should fulfill the “read a thriller” and “read something you wouldn’t normally read” prompts, as this would be my first adult thriller.

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht – the secret to actually reading things is also choosing the right books, in this case really short books. This is a gothic horror novella with a queer male main character, I think. Anyway, I’m always here for, as Tor.com said, “gratuitous corpses”. This is great for the challenges “read a book with red on the cover” and “read a book with a spooky word in the title” (monster).

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling – lesbian cave horror! It should be really messed up and extremely creepy and I hope I’ll be there for both. This definitely goes for the “read a book with a spooky setting“, I really hope it won’t disappoint in that.


ARCs

The sad reality is that yes, at least for this year I will still have ARCs to read before the end of the month. Since I’m requesting less now, I hope that won’t often be the case in the future. I love ARCs! Having only one month left to read multiple of them, that’s what I don’t love.

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi – this could be a struggle because futuristic climate apocalypse stories aren’t something I want to read right now and probably ever, but I will give it a chance since I got an ARC and it looks like it has potential to be something apart from “depressing”.

The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh – I haven’t read anything by this author in years and I’m really interested in seeing how her writing feels like now! And I’m also so here for diverse takes on paranormal romance tropes. Even in the case I don’t end up liking it, I really hope publishing won’t stop at this one.

Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan – oh, am I bad at sequels. Anyway, this is out in early November, so I want to get to it now if possible. I loved the first book, but I know this is going to be a heavy read too and I’m not sure I will be in the right headspace? We’ll see.


Have you read or want to read any of these?

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Tag

🍁 Finally Fall Book Tag 🍂

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


The air is crisp and clear

name a book with a vivid setting!

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


Nature is beautiful… but also dying

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

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


Fall is back to school season

share a non-fiction book that taught you something new

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

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


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

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

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


The colourful leaves are piling up on the ground

show us a pile of fall-colored spines!

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


Storytelling by the fireside

share a book wherein somebody is telling a story.

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


The nights are getting darker

share a dark, creepy read

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


The days are getting colder

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

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


Fall returns every year

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

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


Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading nights

share your favorite cozy reading “accessories”!

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


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

Discussion

Out of My Comfort Zone #7

My seventh post in the Out of My Comfort Zone series! If you hadn’t heard about this before, it’s a series of posts in which I talk about my experiences with books/stories/formats I wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

This time, I did something a little different, and tried experiencing the same story in three different formats at the same time.


A Little History

For several month now, my twitter timeline has been full of people talking about a something called Mo Dao Zu Shi (or, as it usually is in tweets, mdzs). I didn’t pay that much attention to it, because most of what I saw was completely out of context and I had no idea of what it even was. I just assumed it was something movie/show/animation-related, and didn’t investigate further. (If you want to know about my history and relationships with things on screens: here. The TL;DR is that watching things on a screen and my anxiety don’t go along well.)

So, I went through months of being spoiled for basically everything, but in a way that was so out-of-context that it didn’t even matter or affect my following experience with mdzs. All I really knew was that it was a) gay in some way, at least in subtext and b) historical, maybe?

Then, I don’t remember how we got there, but I ended up talking about it with Silvia on twitter, and she recently got into it – so I finally understood that the thing that was everywhere on my timeline was a Chinese m/m adult fantasy novel involving necromancy that was adapted both as a donghua and as a live action show.

This combination of hype + recommendation from people I trust + vague but interesting premise meant that, at that point, I really wanted to try it. Since I had been wanting to try again and watch something on a screen for a while as well (in small doses, I can do that, if I can skim certain kinds of scenes), I did.

If you want more detailed information about what this story is and where to start, Silvia wrote a post about that!


Overall Thoughts

43188345._sx318_Someone should have told me that this had the very specific trope “the most hated person of the realm comes back from the dead, chaos ensues” sooner!

I realize that I’ve never talked about this because it’s an overly specific combination of things and because I had only seen it in another book before, but… it might be my favorite trope. (Even though these stories have nothing in common, Mo Dao Zu Shi opens with exactly the same trope as Raven Stratagem.) I love reading about hated undead. It might be the many years spent in Catholic school and the whole framing of resurrection as holy when actually it’s a terrifying concept, I don’t know.

Also: complicated family dynamics! Music as magic! Necromancy and blood magic! There were a lot of tropes I loved in here.

Anyway, the story overall was great, and this was such a good time. Far from flawless, and it’s definitely the kind of thing I would only recommend with disclaimers, but was it addicting.

Now I’m going to talk about what I liked about each format. Keep in mind that I have very little experience with two of them.


Mo Dao Zu Shi [Donghua]

I started from here. Season one has been completed, season two is ongoing, and there should be a season three but I’m not sure when.

Pros:

  • There is a lot to take in at first. Not only because it’s fantasy and we know how worldbuilding can be, but because it starts at a point in which the main characters already have a long, fraught history with each other, so you don’t really understand their reactions at first (after, there will be many flashbacks). However, I have to say that, as I was told, the donghua beginning is the easiest to follow – it doesn’t infodump you but it gives you most of the information you need.
  • Even before you get to appreciate the characters for who they are, this is funny just for how dramatic it is, and I loved that about it. The first scene involving the protagonist is one of the most dramatic things I have ever seen and I was there for it. (Might be typical of the format? I wouldn’t know.)

Cons:

  • So many scenes happen in the dark. Scenes set in tombs, in caves, dark buildings, woods at night – there’s a lot. Every time I got to one of those scenes, I couldn’t understand anything about what was happening, because of the terrible lighting/lack of contrast.
  • I kind of find it aesthetically unpleasant for a variety of choices.
  • It’s not finished yet.
  • The fight scenes are boring and proportionally longer than they are in the live action (at least they’re really dramatic, which makes them funny).
  • Of course, as usual, I need to skim some scenes, which means that I do lose some things.
  • The m/m relationship can only be heavily hinted at because censorship.

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation [Novel]

This one was a really interesting experience. You might already know that I have little to no patience for long books, especially ones longer than 600 pages. If I had known that this one was longer than 1000, maybe I wouldn’t even have started it. And it didn’t feel like something longer than 1000 pages, which made me think about what exactly I don’t like about long books – it’s not the length, not really. It’s the repetitive structure in a novel that just takes longer to get there.

A published American novel, unless it’s somehow experimenting with format, has a beginning in which the characters and world are introduced (or: new elements are introduced if it’s a sequel), a middle in which there might be a journey and there’s usually rising tension, and then a climax and an ending. It might be 100 or 500 pages, but it’s always that. If the story is really long, it gets broken up in two to three books, so you have to do this exact same thing three times. And from knowing this structure, you can more or less predict what’s going to happen next.

And it’s not that in this novel these elements are absent. There is a beginning, there is a main climax, there is an ending; however, it’s also a mess of incredibly long flashbacks sometimes following characters different from the main couple, and while it’s long it’s one story and not one broken and watered down to make three books, and all of this paradoxically makes it less boring.

Pros:

  • Being a novel, you get more details and many thing that can’t be translated as well on a screen;
  • Comparing structure and tropes with the novels I usually read was really interesting, and there are some parallels as well as things that I’ve never seen a fantasy novel try, when they clearly should have. (Fake redemption arcs in a Shatter Me/A Court of Mist and Fury style are boring and always feel somewhat forced. What this book did is so much better when it comes to reversal of expectations, why don’t YA novels do [this spoilery thing] more often?)
  • Unlike the other two formats, this is explicitly gay and doesn’t only hint at things. This way, you get that it took the main character years to understand that he is gay while being clearly in love with another man.
  • If you’re interested in another of the two formats, this tells you the significance of certain symbols, so that the gay subtext of the adaptations becomes way closer to text in your head.

Cons:

  • This is messy at heart.
  • While the author is really good at writing pining and romantically oblivious characters, the same definitely isn’t true for actual romantic scenes. The amount of dubcon in the form of non-consensual kisses and drunk kisses and drunk sex was really uncomfortable. The love interest’s jealousy also made my skin crawl. Let’s say that while I liked the romance in theory, the execution was bad.
  • A person who values their own eyes should skip the sex scenes. I’ve never seen a fandom agree so strongly about the fact that these are terrible.
  • It’s true for all of the formats, but something that is even more glaring in the novel is that every single female character is either evil, dead or irrelevant, with usually a big emphasis on irrelevant. While the other formats at least attempt to develop the female characters who end up dying, especially the live action, the novel does not.

The Untamed [Live Action]

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Pros:

  • Listen. The aesthetic. I love everything about the way they chose to portray the setting and the costumes and everything looks so pretty on the screen
  • I thought the casting choices were really good! I mean, there is to say that even if the acting was mediocre, I wouldn’t know, but I thought the characters were portrayed really well on the screen
  • The romantic tension. This is such a good example of dancing around censorship. The longing, the loving gazes, the romantic songs… perfect. (This led to the weird phenomenon in which I like the romance in the live action, in which it can’t be explicit, far more than I do in the novel, because all the weird dubcon isn’t there. What a recipe for pain.)
  • Female characters have a more active and important role! It’s still very flawed but at least they do something.

Cons:

  • It’s completely impossible to take the fight scenes seriously. (Maybe that was the purpose, I’m not sure, but they’re kind of ridiculous).
  • It got rid of some of the moral ambiguity, which I have mixed feelings about.
  • Censorship, of course
  • Since this looks more realistic than the other two formats, I needed to skim a lot.
  • Even though this ended up being my favorite format (I know, I didn’t see that coming either), I don’t recommend starting from it because I think I would have found the beginning really confusing if I had.

So, How Was Following A Story in Three Formats?

It helped.

A problem I have with anything on a screen is that I have to skim. By skimming, I usually lose interest, because I lose details. Being able to switch from one format to another when it came to a point in which I started to lose interest in one was helpful, so that I ended up finishing all of them [well, the first one isn’t finished, but I saw all that was out]

It was really confusing, yes. These stories are similar enough to all feel the same story and different enough to cause confusion. I don’t separate them clearly in my head, but there’s also some good that comes from that – watching something that only heavily hints at the m/m relationship while reading the novel in which they’re explicitly gay (and what I said about the novel explaining the symbolism) ends up making you feel as if you are in fact watching something explicitly gay, because you mix them up in your head, everything feels like the same story. It never feels like baiting.

There are not many stories with which I could do this kind of thing – the stories that I’m interested in reading rarely get adapted, which is sad – but I would do it again if I had the chance.


Have you ever tried following a story in multiple formats at the same time?

TBR & Goals · Weekly

T10T: Books I’d Love To Read This Fall

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 Fall 2019 TBR.

I’m not writing an actual TBR I plan to follow, because I probably won’t have the time to actually do anything as ambitious as following a ten-books TBR this semester (yay university). But here are some books I might read during the next months! Let’s hope I get to them before next fall.


The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

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I know nothing about this book apart from the fact that it’s gay and that the cover looks like a really pretty kelp forest, and that’s enough for me to want to read it. I mean, technically I know that it’s an f/f Twelfth Night retelling, which would be more meaningful to me if I knew what Twelfth Night was apart from something something Shakespeare, or if I had least made the effort to look it up, but going into retellings knowing very little can be a fun experience in itself, so I don’t know if I will.


Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

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I promise that this TBR won’t all be me pointing at various books, telling you that I actually have no idea what they are, and then saying that they look cool and that’s why I’m going to read them – but I also don’t know what this one is. This time, I’ve actually heard it’s better to go into the book not knowing much, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do; it’s Seanan McGuire, creepy time of the year is approaching and from Into the Drowning Deep I know that she clearly knows how to do creepy. (If this isn’t in any way creepy, that cover is seriously bad marketing.)


The Beautiful

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I have an ARC of this YA historical fantasy involving vampires, so of course I hope to read this soon. My previous experiences with Reneé Ahdieh haven’t been the best (The Wrath and the Dawn was fine as a duology overall, but it did have its own problems, and I’ve heard mostly negative things about Flame in the Mist), but I’m here for a new, diverse YA vampire phase.


Reverie by Ryan La Sala

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I’ve been hearing such good things about this queer YA novel – of which I got an ARC, it was read now on netgalley for a day – and I’m really intrigued. It looks like it will be an unforgettable experience (I mean, evil drag queen sorceress. That has to be interesting), I hope I’m right.


Her Royal Highness

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I think that with how this semester is looking so far, I won’t have that much brain-energy to read, so I’m glad that I have some things on my TBR that look both easy to follow and still interesting to me – this is a royalty romance, which I usually wouldn’t read, but f/f, and that’s automatically more interesting to me.

I kind of have a taste for the unnecessarily convoluted and I will admit that, but this fall is not looking like the right time to read worldbuilding-heavy adult sci-fi. I love it and want to read more of it, but I wouldn’t do it justice right now, so this fall might have more contemporaries in it than usual.


The House of Sundering Flames by Aliette de Bodard

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The last book in one of my favorite series! This has been out for months and I still haven’t been able to read it, which is sad, but I really want to. It should have more Emmanuelle, which I’m always here for, and more Thuan, which is amazing.


A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig

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Will I ever not love stories about necromancers? The more I think about it lately, the more I feel like I seriously underestimated just how much I liked necromancy-related tropes.

Another anticipated sequel! I loved For a Muse of Fire last September and I really want to know what happens next. Also, I need more mixed media fantasy right now, and just look at that cover.


Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

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Another contemporary f/f romance, this time under 200 pages! The kind of thing that will probably be easy to read and not make me feel like a complete failure while also being, hopefully, cute. I haven’t had the best luck with this author so far, but I hope this one will be different.


The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

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I’ve mostly heard mixed things about this one, but I still want to give it a chance. I think it’s an atmospheric contemporary fantasy story with a mostly bisexual cast and creepy woods, which all sounds really interesting; fall is the right time for this kind of stories, but I’m still going into it with low expectations.

If this one ends up not working for me, I hope that I will at least be able to find some other creepy contemporary-set fantasy, I always love those.


Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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Am I worried because I haven’t seen the best reviews lately? Yes. But I’m still so intrigued and want to know how a contemporary-set adult Leigh Bardugo novel will look.

(…It can’t be worse than her Wonder Woman novel. I hate superheroes and still thought that was ok. So.)


Have you read or are you anticipating any of these? Also, I didn’t choose all blue and black covers on purpose, but it does look pretty this way.

Adult · Book review · Fantasy

Review: The Impossible Contract by K.A. Doore

43263188When I heard that The Perfect Assassin was going to get a companion sequel that was also about assassins but with a main f/f romance, The Impossible Contract instantly became one of my most anticipated books of the year. And it didn’t disappoint.

While reviewing a sequel, one of the first things I think about is how the sequel is in comparison to the first book. And in this case, I can say that I’ve never read two books in the same series that had such different strengths. Where The Perfect Assassin was a slow-burn mystery all set in the same city, The Impossible Contract is a fast-paced journey book involving necromancy. It’s darker and bloodier – and, in a way, also messier than the first book, not as clear in its direction or themes, but way funnier at the same time.
I can’t tell you if it’s better or worse, but what I can tell you it’s that it’s different, and that I enjoyed it a lot more.

This is the story of Thana, the daughter of the famous assassin known as “the Serpent of Ghadid”. Thana has always wanted to prove herself, to be seen as something more than “the daughter of someone famous”. She wants to be a legend herself, and this new assassination contract seems to be her chance… except it’s impossible, and she ends entangled into a web of political and magical machinations that reach as far as the capital of the empire.

And help her meet a cute healer girl. I loved Mo so much, and her relationship with Thana. They are people with very different values and strengths and… they made it work anyway, but it wasn’t easy and seamless. Thana, who learns that she doesn’t have to be a copy of her mother; Mo, who learns to not deal in moral absolutes. And it’s so interesting to see how the romance storyline is a foil to the one in the first book.
(Also, Mo deserves the world and a hug.)

I can’t not mention the third relevant character, Heru, the man Thana has been hired to kill. He is a powerful en-marabi, a necromancer, and a really self-important, irritating man obsessed with researching magic. He ended up being the funniest character in the book – not by his intention – and ended up having all the best lines.
Also, he’s the reason me and Silvia keep making zombie camel jokes.

While I can’t talk about the villain without spoilers, I will say that for a character who got relatively little page time, they were really fascinating.

I talked about the worldbuilding in this series before, but can I just repeat how… not obvious and yet so logical it is to have a water-based magic system and economy in a desert fantasy book? And the repercussions that has on a world in which there’s also blood-based necromancy? This is how you do worldbuilding.

The only thing that didn’t work for me that much was the pacing. Journey books often have pacing problems, but in some places here it was clear that a scene had been cut and then summed up, so that sometimes we’re only told about things I would have liked to see – but that’s a minor complaint, and overall I really liked this.

My rating: ★★★★½

Tag

🍁 Pumpkin Spice Latte Book Tag

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

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


Pumpkin Spice Latte

a book everyone likes to hate on but is delicious

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

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

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


“Fall is my favorite season”

a cliche you cant get enough of

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

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


Sweater Weather to T-Shirt Weather

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

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

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


“Spoops”

do you have a spooky book on your tbr?

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


Tarot Reading

a five star prediction

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

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


Sephora Sage + Crystal Set

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

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


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

Adult · Book review · Fantasy

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

40794181I think that at its heart, The Ten Thousand Doors of January has a great message. It is based on some really clever and interesting ideas, especially the ones surrounding the role of doors, of magic and portal fantasy. I also thought that the writing was – usually, more on that later – beautiful without needing to draw that much attention to itself, every word chosen carefully. It had a harmony to it, as if it were made to be read out loud; I think it would sound amazing as an audiobook.

I was also going to say that this book had a solid portrayal of the psychological consequences of childhood abuse, but something that happened in the second half made me change my mind. One didn’t need that to make January’s struggle to talk back and disobey realistic. It kind of undermined the whole thing.
Anyway, abuse does have a relevant role in this story, as the biracial main character is raised by a racist white man and abused both by him and by her white maid; at one point the main character also experiences forced institutionalization and abuse at the hand of psychiatrists, which I wish I had known before reading.

The rest of the book is… fine. I don’t have much to say about it, because one of my problems with it was exactly how unremarkable it was. All the characters but January didn’t have any dimension to them. All the portal worlds but one are barely described.
Also, it took me more than two weeks only to get through the first 30%. It was partly my fault, but everything I have to say on the pacing isn’t good.

While I said that the author clearly put effort in choosing the right words, the same didn’t happen when it came to including Italian ones. This led to jarring sentences and weird moments, like the one in which the Italian-American love interest calls the main character a “strega”, as if that were a compliment. It does mean “witch”, yes, but not in the way the English word does. It doesn’t carry the same connotations, the aspect of the cool independent woman who saves herself. I asked the people around me, and it doesn’t make any of us think of mysterious, dangerous but alluring magic. A strega is an old woman with a pointy hat and warts. He basically called her a hag.

It might be that the character, having grown up in America, sees the word as just a translation – but then, why not use the word “witch”, if that’s what you mean. And why use Italian words at all, if you don’t even bother to get the plural right? Was that a sign of laziness, of not even caring that other languages don’t do plurals the way English does, or was it done to cater to monolingual anglophones who might be confused by an Italian plural but still want a sprinkle of ~exotic flavor~?
I don’t know, I don’t particularly care, but in a book that attempted to talk about exotification among other things, this struck me as hypocritical.

My rating: ★★½