Weekly

T10T: Cover Change Opinions

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


The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

I don’t love this paperback redesign, but I don’t dislike it either. I prefer the original one because I’m really attached to it and because the color scheme is just better for the story, but the new one represents the content just as well – if it weren’t for the new tagline.
“Is it real or a nightmare” isn’t really meaningful to what the actual conflict is, in my opinion, especially considering that previous editions had “something is waiting to pull her under” and “something is waiting to pull you under” (my copy has this one. and I mean, it’s true), which are much better. Old cover or new cover [do tell me which one you prefer!], if you’re even marginally interested in emotional and introspective queer YA horror, you should try this.


Final Draft by Riley Redgate

I’m sorry. This is one of the most hideous paperback redesigns I’ve ever seen.

I mean, it’s not like the first cover actually tells you anything about the content of the book, but at least it doesn’t look like something you’d throw into the trash, with a cutesy background that doesn’t fit the atmosphere of the novel at all (it’s a story about mental illness, and it’s all but lighthearted.)


The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

This is a really interesting one, especially considering that both are meant to be paperback covers. The original one represents the content of the book really well, with the gloomy atmosphere, the ruined building, the unnatural-looking light of the wings – it’s exactly what this novel is. However, the second cover works better on something small, like a paperback, looks significantly less awkward, and still has a lot of interesting details. I might be biased because that’s the edition I own, but I prefer the second one, even though the first one is beautiful too.


Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Meh. The original cover has a lot of symbolism I really appreciate, because symbolism is… the backbone of this series, honestly, and all of that is lost in the second one. It is pretty, but while from the first one I can see “Russian-inspired fantasy involving magical shadows and something with antlers”, the second one doesn’t tell me anything but the fact that there might be something involving a deer.


Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé

This paperback redesign worked a lot better than the one of The Dark Beneath the Ice. The first cover is eye-catching and detailed and creepy and represents the book’s atmosphere perfectly; the second one is simpler and perfect for a smaller cover while also telling you that we’re talking about plant horror with skulls. Really good.


Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

I’m probably the only person on this planet who liked the old cover with the fake-looking snake. The second one is just boring, which is sadder when you consider how much of a wasted occasion it was – we could have had a cover with Xifeng looking beautiful and dangerous on it, and we got this instead. It’s not bad, it’s… it doesn’t tell me anything about the book apart from “vaguely Asian-inspired” and it’s not in any way memorable.


Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Yawn.

You had a quiet, dark cover that got the wintry atmosphere perfectly while also vaguely hinting at a crown without actually making it a generic YA fantasy cover – and you changed it for a generic YA fantasy cover with a crown on it that does nothing at all and has a bold “only one can be queen” tagline as if this were a competition for the throne story in a Three Dark Crowns style? This is bad.

(Yes, the misleading tagline is in the first one too, but at least it’s not in your face.)


Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

On one hand, the first cover represents the inside of the book better, as it’s literally a scene from it, but the second one is perfect for a paperback (striking, simple design? yes) and I like what they did with that theme in the sequels too. An effective cover change.


The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

This is really interesting, because as you can see from previous examples, the hardcover usually has illustrations/cover models on it, and the paperback has a simpler design meant to work on a smaller cover. Here, the opposite happened, and while I think the second cover is a little wasted on a paperback, I’m glad that it was changed, because the first one tells you nothing about the book and it’s not even that pretty.

Also, I love this trend of YA contemporary covers in pastel blue, pink and purple!


Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (UK Covers)

Just no.


Tell me your opinions about these cover changes!

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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?

Book review · contemporary · Young adult

Reviews: Two F/F Summer Romances

Today, I’m reviewing two f/f books with the word “summer” in the title. One of them I really liked, the other I liked less, but both delivered cute f/f couples and summer-y atmosphere.


31246717If you like Becky Albertalli’s books, you need to read The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding. It’s the same kind of happy queer book, with a similar sense of humor and characters who are just as charmingly messy and trying to figure things out, but in my opinion it’s even better, as it’s ownvoices and isn’t obsessed with pop culture references.

My pre-review of this book was “help I can’t stop smiling my face is stuck”, and it is true – every time I think of this book, especially of certain scenes, I smile. This is the kind of happy, summer-y f/f romance I would never have thought I could get a few years ago, and I can’t believe I almost didn’t read it because of the mixed reviews. The romance starts out with mutual pining and continues with really cute dates, some misunderstandings, and character growth. I loved Abby and Jordi as a couple so much – to give you an idea, I read it in less than an afternoon.

I’ve already mentioned that this book is f/f – both girls are lesbians – but it’s really diverse in other ways, since the love interest is Mexican-American and Abby is a fat fashion blogger who specifically talks about plus-size clothes. Fashion is a relevant part of this book, as the main characters meet during an internship at a local boutique, and the book makes you feel both Abby’s love for it and Jordi’s love for photography.

One of the things I liked the most about this novel was the message: at its heart, The Summer of Jordi Perez is a story about how you don’t need to be anyone else’s, and not even your, definition of perfect to find happiness, and about how the person you love doesn’t have to be perfect either for you to love them. Despite talking a lot about body positivity and fat acceptance in the fatphobic world of fashion, Abby is insecure about her body, she’s not quite comfortable with it yet – and that’s fine, she’s 17 and the world can truly be awful to fat girls. Even her mother wants her to change. In this story, Abby becomes more comfortable with herself, and learns that mistakes and imperfections – hers, or other people’s – don’t have to be the end of things. This is a really important message.

In this book, the main characters actually feel like teenagers. Which means that they make a big deal out of crushes and dating and not having kissed anyone yet. Immature? I prefer to say realistic. However, some parts of this were kind of alienating to read as an aromantic person (and some parts could be for asexual people, too). I mention this because, while this doesn’t hurt me now, know this would have been the kind of book that would have hurt me at 17, when I was still trying to understand my romantic orientation – reading about characters who thought that not having kissed anyone at 17 is clearly abnormal, that it must mean there’s something wrong with you, made me feel terrible. I felt pressured to date – specifically, I was told that at this age I had to have, or at least want to have, a boyfriend – even though I was not interested in boys and probably also not interested in dating.

What made me give this book a four stars instead of a five, apart from some not always developed side characters and what I mentioned in the earlier paragraphs, were the last fifty pages. Romcoms always have that part in which the main characters split up and get back together again, and in this book, Jordi and Abby get back together only right before the end. I would have liked to see them together again for a little longer.

But let’s get back to the things I liked: this book is set in LA, and it makes you feel the atmosphere, and since food is a relevant part of this book – Abby and her friend Jax (relevant platonic m/f friendship!) are trying to find the best burgers in the city, and there are some wonderful scenes in which Abby is cooking with Jordi’s family – I can also say that the food descriptions were great, and I always love those.
Anyway, I’m glad this book exists and I wish it were more well-known; it may not be flawless but there are never enough atmospheric lesbian romcoms.

My rating: ★★★★


35230420Summer of Salt is a slow-paced, atmospheric contemporary fantasy story with a dash of mystery. It follows Georgina, a Fernweh girl who, unlike the rest of the women in her family, hasn’t developed her powers yet. While I thought it was far from a perfect book, I can say that I liked the half that I read while on the beach immensely more than the other, so I do still kind of see it as a perfect summer book. It’s a quick, nostalgic novel to read while you have salt on your skin and waves in front of you.

What stood out the most to me about this book was the atmosphere. It kind of reminded me of The Price Guide to the Occult – a less creepy, summer-y version of it – and the flowery writing helped with that. Maybe it was a little overwritten at times, going from pretty to awkward really quickly, but for the most part, I liked it. Also, can I say how much I love that I can now easily pick up f/f atmospheric summer romances? And so many other kinds of f/f books that have nothing to do with homophobia? 2016 me would never have thought, but even if Georgina and Prue weren’t the most developed characters ever and even if the romance wasn’t the most well-developed or even the most interesting, their interactions made me so happy.

Which is why it hurt even more when I started realizing that the aromantic representation in this book was pretty terrible. At first, I was liking it, as the side character Vira didn’t just say that she was “asexual and didn’t care about dating”, she specifically said she was aroace. Yes, she wasn’t the most interesting character ever, as she had exactly the same personality as all the aromantic best friends (is this a new trend?) I have seen in YA so far – cold-but-soft-on-the-inside, tries hard to be edgy and dresses unconventionally. That was fine, if boring.
But then, it came up that her hobby was taxidermy. That was when I started worrying, because aroace characters being associated with death is actually a common stereotype in fiction, and not one with positive implications. Summer of Salt didn’t go into that direction, not really; in my opinion, it did worse.
There’s a scene in which Vira shows her new kitten to Georgina and then says, unprompted, that when it will die, she’ll make a lamp out of it.

Now.
I don’t know how many people know what the most common aromantic stereotype is, but it’s exactly that we are “sociopaths”. It comes from the ugly idea that romantic love is the only thing that makes humans… well, human, and so aromanticism is inherently evil and creepy. And more people probably know how cruelty against animals/obsession with animal death has been traditionally associated with “sociopathy”.
I like to think that these things aren’t well-known, and that’s why no one thought to mention that in this book the aromantic character collects roadkill and makes flippant remarks about her pet dying and what she will do with its body. The idea that aromantic people don’t feel romantic love and then that must mean that they don’t get attached to anything is more widespread that one would think, and it’s horrible, damaging and false.

And like… Vira isn’t evil. She’s mostly portrayed as a loyal friend, but really, this isn’t the ~quirky hobby~ you should give your aromantic character (by the way: flippant remarks about pet death are generally unwelcome no matter the romantic orientation of the character) and in any case, I shouldn’t have to settle for bad representation just because it doesn’t try to outright tell me that aromantic people are evil, just weird and obsessed with death and corpses.
(To give you some context: she is the only aromantic character I’ve met in a book so far this year, and I almost only read queer books.)

But let’s get back to the book as a whole. Another problem I had with Summer of Salt is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. For the first half, it looks like a summer-y romance, then it becomes a mystery about a missing, magical bird, then in the last third it’s a story about rape, but not from the point of view of the person who is directly affected by it. While having “lighter” stories that deal specifically with that topic but in which the characters are supportive and no one ever victim-blames is important – books that deal with heavy topics but that go out of their way to not be triggering are necessary – I felt like this was completely aimless for at least half the story.

My rating: ★★★¼

TBR & Goals

August TBR

Technically, August hasn’t begun yet and I have already read parts of several of these books, but what can you expect from a Ninefox Gambit fan but calendrical heresy?


How Did July Go?

Not that well, if I look at my TBR; pretty well, if I consider that this isn’t all I read:

  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – still to read
  • The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding read, ★★★★ (RTC on this blog tomorrow)
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas read, ★★★★ (review)
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia  read, ★★★★ (review)
  • Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe – still to read
  • Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – read, ★★★¾ (review)
  • Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno – still to read
  • The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos – still to read
  • Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear – read, ★★★★★ (RTC on this blog)

For a month during which I had exams and didn’t have a stable connection for a week – which prevented me from buying new ebooks, which is why With the Fire on High and Don’t Date Rosa Santos had to wait – this is pretty good, especially since I changed my plans halfway through for a read-a-thon. What is less good is that I’m falling behind on ARCs, and I can already tell that September will be problematic (however: I’ll try to not let that stress me, I’m not going to feel stressed because of books of all things.)


Emotionally Difficult Reads

The first third of August should be stable (no exams, no university, finally) – which is more than I can ask for the rest of the year. It’s a small window of time, so I don’t know if I will actually be able to read much, but… I waited a whole year for the perfect moment to read these emotionally difficult books, which this time are my priority instead of ARCs.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – usually, if I end up quitting a book because it feels too depressing, I don’t pick it up again. But this is the most critically acclaimed fantasy trilogy of this decade, so not even giving it another chance would just feel wrong.

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi – this is YA, which means it could be marginally less exhausting than the other two in this category, but I’m just going to say that if I had known that it prominently featured climate change, I wouldn’t have requested an ARC of it. The ecology course was enough for an entire year.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – I am voluntarily walking into something I know could seriously hurt me (and not in a good way), because I’m definitely not smart, and what can we do about it?


I Should Read Some Sequels…

…but I’m not sure which ones yet. I will be starting two new high fantasy series (see previous category), and if I like those first books, I give myself permission to temporarily ignore Jade War and AHoRaS and read The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky and/or The Monster Baru Cormorant instead, or any other sequel. Everything is fine, as long as these three are sequels (note for future Acqua: no, novellas don’t count).

Jade War by Fonda Lee – I’m cheating, because technically this is an overdue ARC that I’m already 40% through, but I know this is going to take me weeks (I’d love this series a lot more, if going through three chapters didn’t take me a day and if Jade War weren’t a 600-page-tome), so I need to motivate myself.

A House of Rage and Sorrow by Sangu Mandanna – this is out at the beginning of September, and I’d love to read it before release date, but I don’t know how realistic that is as an idea. I might have to skim through/reread A Spark of White Fire first, too, so we’ll see.

The Impossible Contract by K.A. Doore – if everything goes according to plan, this is a buddyread with Silvia! Can’t wait to be back in Ghadid and see other gay assassins. (Yes, this is an f/f assassin book, and isn’t that the best concept?)


Other Priorities

Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe – I know. I didn’t get to this one last month because I ran out of time, but this needs to happen, it was out in June. Also, it looks great?

Of Wars, Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard – I’ve also already started this short story collection, and I will be slowly reading it over the course of the month. I hate reading collections all together, but a little every day? I loved doing that with Conservation of Shadows and The Fox’s Tower and Other Tales, I hope it works for this one too. (I’ve already read two stories and they were amazing.)

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard (reread) – I will be rereading this one to eventually get to The House of Sundering Flames, which came out a few days ago. I can’t wait to get back into this world, and it would mean a lot to me if some of you tried it as well? I get that the first book isn’t the best thing ever, but I really do think this series is underrated.


TBR Add Ban

Right now, my TBR is at 159 books. It might not look like a lot – I know that many people have goodreads TBRs of more than 500 books, and my “owned” (ebooks/eARCs + a few finished physical copies) TBR is actually around 30 – but I really don’t want it to reach 200 again. So I’m giving myself a rule: I can only add a book for every book I remove. Let’s see if it works?


Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?

 

Weekly

T10T: Recently Added to TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is a freebie, so I decided to talk about the books I recently added to my TBR, and what I expect from them.

I think it would be interesting to go back to this post in a year and see how many of these I have read (and what I thought of them), how many of them I have removed from my TBR, and how many of them are still on my TBR.


1. I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

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I’ve been on the fence about this one for a while. On one hand, it’s an ownvoices non-binary novel, which is rare, especially in the YA age range; on the other hand, I don’t do well with stories involving bigoted parents, so I’m not sure how this will go, or if I will end up changing my mind and not reading it.

2. After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott

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Lesbian adult thriller! It sounds amazing as an idea, but I’m also aware that adult thrillers might not be my thing at all, so while I’m pretty sure that I’m going to try this, I have no idea what to expect. This would be my first adult thriller – unless I decide to read If We Were Villains first.

3. Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

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I have read two books by Adam Silvera so far, and really liked both of them, especially They Both Die at the End, so I’m really looking forward to this – I wonder how his writing style will look in a fantasy novel, and it’s not like ownvoices m/m YA fantasy is that common, too. I hope I love this.

4. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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This is another case of “I have absolutely no idea what to expect”, because my experiences with this author have been opposites, since I loved her short story Do Not Look Back, My Lion (fantasy matriarchal society! gay!) and hated A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies (I can’t explain exactly why and it’s been months, but the tone of this specific kind of story gets on my nerves). Also, I’ve had mixed experiences with portal fantasy too, so I truly don’t know what to think, but I know I’m going to read it because I have an ARC.

5. The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar

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If I don’t love this, I’m going to be very upset. I mean, non-linear, beautifully-written f/f fantasy novel that should make me feel a lot, from an author I already know because of her short fiction… I have a physical copy of this one and I hope I can get to it before the year ends.

6. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

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A Mongolian-inspired fantasy story written by Elizabeth Bear, the author of one of my favorite books of this year! Most reviews of this are mediocre, which isn’t encouraging, but that was also true for Ancestral Night, and look how that one turned out (I don’t think I’ve talked about it on this blog yet? But that book. I’m still not over it.) Also, I liked the excerpt when I read it, and this cover is gorgeous.

7. The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

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I love this cover, I love the idea of a fantasy following a main character who – I think – is two-spirit, and it comes highly recommended by multiple people. I’m not sure it’s my kind of fantasy story and if/when I’ll be in the mood for it (and I’m also somewhat hesitant with – as far as I know – non-ownvoices books about indigenous cultures, but it’s not like I’ve seen anything that says it’s bad), but I did like the excerpt, so I’ll try reading all of it someday.

8. We Were Promised Spotlights by Lindsay Sproul

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I’m not hearing the best things about this but it was free to download on edelweiss and will I ever not give a chance to an f/f book? I hope the inside is better than the cover, because really, that’s… kind of hideous.

9. Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather

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I actually really don’t like reading about nuns unless they’re the murderous, basically not-religious kind like in Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister, but this… can you guess what made me add it to my TBR? Well, it’s a gay novella. I never claimed to be unpredictable. I haven’t heard anything about it yet, so I’m not actually sure I will read it, but we’ll see.

10. Call Down the Hawk

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Another one I’m not sure about. The Raven Cycle was a 4-star series for me overall, and I didn’t feel that strongly about any of the boys (Blue was my favorite character, and my favorite aspects of the book were her relationship with her family and the creepy magic), so I don’t know if I want a whole book about Ronan and Adam. At the same time, I’m intrigued, so there’s that.


Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?

Adult · Book review · Fantasy · historical fiction

Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

36510722Gods of Jade and Shadow is a fantasy story set in the 1920s. It follows Casiopea Tun, a young woman from a small town in Yucatán, as she travels through Mexico with Hun-Kamé, a Maya god. Hun-Kamé is trying to regain his throne as the god of death, but his closeness with Casiopea makes him more human every day; Casiopea is escaping her abusive and racist family for a free life, but being tied to the god of death might kill her.

This is a journey book. One of the main things I look for in journey books is atmosphere, and here it was amazing: from Uukumil to Mérida to Mexico City, I could visualize everything, and I always love reading fantasy novels that aren’t set in a stereotyped Englishland. It’s not like you can find books set in Mexico and based on Maya mythology every day, after all.
However, the setting wasn’t always enough to keep my attention, and if I had to point out what I struggled with the most while reading this book, I’d say that it was the fact that I couldn’t get invested in the relationship between Casiopea and Hun-Kamé, even though I really liked them as individuals and also liked them as a couple as an idea. Something got lost in the execution, but as I’m not sure what that something is, I can’t say if it’s more on me or on the book.
Also, I didn’t need so many chapters following Martín. Every time I got to his chapters, I put the book down and started doing something else. I kind of get why they were there, but sometimes they felt redundant, and Martín was a combination of unlikable and uninteresting that never works well as a main character.

As most of this novel is about Casiopea and Hun-Kamé going around Mexico and meeting various other paranormal creatures, some definitely less friendly than others, not getting really invested in them did make this journey not always that interesting to read about. But I can say that it was worth it, without a doubt – this book had one of the best endings I’ve read in a fantasy book this year, not because it was surprising, not really, but because it made sense in a way that made it powerful, it fit the story perfectly. It helps that I love when books go in that direction.

Another thing I loved about this book? The level of detail that the author put into everything, from the setting to the characterization to the parts talking about history – I recognized myself in Casiopea at times, for what this book said about what it’s like on a mental level to live in a strict Catholic environment and then finally leave, but what I really didn’t expect was to recognize pieces of the story of my own (Italian) family.

For example, the name Casiopea in itself. It’s a Greek name, which her town’s priest calls “Greek nonsense”, and… I have several ancestors who were named after “Greek nonsense” themselves and who were born around the time Casiopea was born. I never thought I would see characters deliberately not giving their children names of saints in a fantasy book, but I guess the Catholic church being awful around the world also meant that people tried to do the same things around the world to defy it in their everyday life.

I have more mixed feelings about the writing. Gods of Jade and Shadow is written in a way that should resemble a myth, but it didn’t work for me. It felt more removed than the average fantasy book, but it didn’t feel like a myth either, it felt like a halfway thing, and… I got used to it, but I can’t say I liked it.

My rating: ★★★★

Adult · Sci-fi · Short fiction

Review: Meet Me in the Future by Kameron Hurley

43801821._sy475_I could sum up my thoughts about Meet Me in the Future by saying that all the stories were, if not always good, at least solid, but not one of them was memorable on its own the way I find short stories can be.
These stories are not pretty. They’re not necessarily satisfying. They would, however, be really interesting to discuss, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the whole purpose of how some of these were written. They’re meant to be shared and talked about, not read and put down, I think.

As you’d expect from something Kameron Hurley wrote, many of them are about war. War is an element in the past, still casting a shadow on the main character (Elephants and Corpses), it’s something that is seen as inevitable by a society, but is also a direct danger to it (The Red Secretary, oh had this story a lot to say), or something that is paradoxically seen by some as “bringing civilization” even as it actually destroys it (The War of Heroes), something that is always inherently tied to the dehumanization of someone (When We Fall) and horror, horror, horror as much as an instrument to keep the attention away from the actual enemy (The Light Brigade – I recommend skipping this one if you want to read the book, however), something that needs to end (The Improbable War).
Not all of these were anything remarkable when read on their own. Inside the collection, it’s a running thread, and there is for sure a lot to discuss.

There’s also, of course, a lot of queerness and discussions about gender. The collection starts with a body-hopping mercenary who happens to be a trans man (Elephants and Corpses), and presents gender as something not tied to bodies, even though still relevant to the person, and continues with stories about violent matriarchies (The Women of Our Occupation, possibly my least favorite story, I’m not that interested in reading about speculative reverse sexism), stories in which gender is never stated (The Light Brigade), stories in which there’s only one gender (Warped Passages), and stories in which there are at least four different genders recognized by the society (The Plague Givers, my favorite story). In these stories, women are allowed to be ugly, to be dirty – queer, disabled, brown women are allowed to be all of these things without ever be seen as anything but wholly human, the way a man could be portrayed. The idea that women have to be beautiful is so woven into everything, even everything fictional, that these stories almost feel jarring.
And, since we’re talking about women and imperfections, here women are allowed to be evil or morally gray, humans with the capacity to experience a full spectrum of emotions. I will always be there for portrayals of queer women that are all but soft and unproblematic; in Garda we get a woman who is divorcing from her two wives (if the story had been about that, instead of becoming about a mystery with a main character who wasn’t Nyx but felt exactly like Nyx from the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, I would have liked it a lot more), and in The Plague Givers we get a story about the consequences of a very toxic f/f relationship in a world where magic can bring plague (I loved this one so much).

There are a couple stories that felt like filler (notably, The Fisherman and the Pig was a completely unnecessary sequel to Elephants and Corpses), but overall, this is a collection with a lot of things to say; the average rating might be a weak 3.5 stars, but the whole is more than a sum of its parts.

My overall rating: ★★★★

Individual ratings:

  • Elephants and Corpses – 4 stars
  • When We Fall – 4 stars
  • The Red Secretary – 4 stars
  • The Sinners and the Sea – 3.5 stars
  • The Women of Our Occupation – 2 stars
  • The Fisherman and the Pig – 2 stars
  • Garda – 3 stars
  • The Plague Givers – 4.5 stars
  • Tumbledown – 4 stars
  • Warped Passages – 4 stars
  • Our Faces, Radiant Sisters, Our Faces Full of Light – 2.5 stars
  • Enyo-Enyo – 3 stars
  • The Corpse Archives – 2.5 stars
  • The War of Heroes – 3.5 stars
  • The Light Brigade – 4.5 stars
  • The Improbable War – 3 stars

Do you rate anthologies with the average rating of the stories or do you have another system?