Wrap-Up

December 2018 + End-of-the-Year Wrap-Up

In December, I read 16 books:

  • 10 new novels, of which 2 were ARCs
  • 2 graphic novels, of which one was an anthology
  • 1 ARC of an anthology
  • 3 short stories, which I already reviewed here and won’t talk about in this wrap-up.

This was a good reading month for me in terms of quantity, but most books I read were in the three star range.


Didn’t Like

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – ★¼
I think the authors ran out of interesting ideas during book one and ended up writing Illuminae three times just with slightly different characters. Also, what about not writing children just to hurt them or kill them off to be edgy? It makes the book feel cheap.

The Girl King by Mimi Yu – ★★½
…when I decided which two-star books I was going to write in my list of “least favorite books of 2018”, this didn’t end up on it because I didn’t want a book that isn’t even published to end up on a “worst of the year” list already. But it could have been, because it’s an overall mediocre fantasy story with some really uncomfortable plot points – the evil girl seems to have anxiety and the only character who is even just implied to be queer is a rapist – and no sense of setting. I believe that formulaic diverse stories are important and this is an Asian-inspired fantasy by an Asian author, but I don’t think I can honestly recommend it.


Could Have Been Better

Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer – ★★★
Much better than its companion prequel, still not that good. While it’s great to read about a polyamorous woman and her diverse group of friends fighting bigots in prohibition-era Long Island, the pacing was all over the place and the writing could have been better.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore – ★★★¼
Anna-Marie McLemore got a lot better since her debut. I don’t have much else to say; the atmosphere and message were great, but everything about this pales in comparison to all her other books.

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi – ★★★¼
A very entertaining sequel about political intrigue in space and a forthcoming apocalypse; not much more. I liked that there was an f/f relationship but all the interpersonal relationships in this book are so flat, one-note and underdeveloped that I couldn’t really bring myself to care.

Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Treyman & Whitney Cogar – ★★★½
A fun slice-of-life graphic novel following three girls and their developing romances during their first months of college. There isn’t a true beginning nor a true ending, which makes sense for a slice-of-life story, but as the characters didn’t have much depth, having near to no plot was kind of disappointing.

Black Enough, edited by Ibi Zoboi – ★★★½
An anthology about being young and Black in America. As I’m neither Black nor American, I felt like I was missing the context sometimes, but I really appreciated the messages and the diversity of this anthology nonetheless. As usual for anthologies, not every story worked for me, but I still recommend it.

Moonshine by Jasmine Gower – ★★★½
Another book about a diverse group of friends fighting against bigots, this time in Soot City, a fantasy place inspired by prohibition-era Chicago. Bright, colorful and vibrant – just as its beautiful cover – this book captured my attention immediately. I loved how many queer characters there were here and I loved how this book talked about bigotry, but I have to say that there was almost no reason for the main character to be the main character, as she barely made any decision that influenced the plot.


Liked

Mirage by Somaiya Daud – ★★★¾
I loved the worldbuilding (Moroccan space fantasy!) both for the aesthetic and for the nuanced exploration of colonialism, but I have to say that I ended up not caring about the characters as much as I wanted to, and I did not like the ending.

Twisted Romance Vol. 1 edited by Alex de Campi – ★★★★
I loved this comic/short fiction anthology so much! It’s about unconventional romances and the aspects of relationships we don’t often talk about, and I loved almost all of it. There’s polyamory, there are fairytales about escaping abusive relationships, there are stories about bondage, weird paranormal romances, and almost all of it it’s queer and/or written by queer authors/authors of color. Again, not every story worked for me but most of them did. Some stayed with me in a way short fiction rarely does.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor – ★★★★½
Not quite as good as Strange the Dreamer because Lazlo and Sarai had close to no character or relationship development, but still stunning. The side characters are wonderful and developed, Thyon’s storyline was everything to me, and this book is still an example of gray morality as its best even though the main character isn’t morally gray. And the way it refuses to solve things through violence? One of the most subversive choices I’ve ever seen in YA fantasy.


Loved

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore – ★★★★¾
This retelling of Snow White and Rose Red meets Swan Lake was so beautiful. I don’t understand how McLemore keeps writing stories like this – they all have the same magical feeling and wonderful writing and yet they’re so different from each other. Like, this did remind me of The Weight of Feathers more than Wild Beauty or When the Moon Was Ours did, but it’s still its own story with a completely different message. It’s about the role of fairytales and stereotypes in people’s lives, and it features latinx, trans and disabled main characters. The Page/Blanca romance was everything to me.

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton – ★★★★¾
Polyamory in YA! Relevant creepy forest content! Beautiful descriptions and discussions about gender! Weird pacing that worked for me in every way! I loved this surreal, creepy book so much. Also, that romance is one of the best love stories published in 2018.


Stats, stats, stats

It’s time for the end-of-the-year wrap-up!

In 2018, I read 160 books. Which, if you ask me, is a bit much. One of my goals for 2019 is to read less – and focus on what I think I’m going to like over what I find on netgalley/edelweiss.

meta-chart

Of these 160 books, only 115 were novels (so I’m excluding novellas, short stories, anthologies and comics). Of these, 51 were adult books.

Considering that most short stories, novellas and comics I read are adult fiction, I read more adult fiction than YA in 2018, which I would never have done a few years ago. I predict that the amount of YA books I read is going to decrease every year because from 2020 I won’t be a teen anymore, but we’ll see.

Out of all 160 books, only 18 had a main character that wasn’t marginalized in any way. All the other 142 were diverse books or anthologies with a relevant number of stories by/about marginalized people.

meta-chart (1)

I’m so glad that this is how my reading year looks like even though I’m not reading books just because they are diverse anymore. This is what interests me, and this is such an improvement since 2016, during which the balance was the opposite (less than 20 diverse books out of more than a hundred). This isn’t just because of me, it’s because diverse books are finally getting the hype they deserve. There’s a reason most of the non-diverse books were backlist.

If we’re talking about ratings, I had more or less the same amount of five stars (45), four stars (43) and three stars (40). I had a lot less two stars and one stars, as it should be – it means that I didn’t have an awful reading year – but I want to see the number of two stars decrease in 2019.

meta-chart (2)


Was December a good reading month for you? How was 2018? Have you read any of these?

lists · Weekly

Favorite Books of 2018

It’s time for my favorite post of the year, about my favorite books of the year!

Favorite books of 2018” is also the Top Ten Tuesday topic for this week (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl), but since I read 160 books this year, I won’t stop myself to 10. Even with a list of 15 books, I’m not talking about some novels I read and loved that deserve at least a mention, like the wonderful sci-fantasy Mahabharata retelling A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna, the fast-paced urban fantasy story about the dark side of teenage love Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova, or the heartbreaking queer spy thriller Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly.
I already wrote my list of favorites that aren’t novels, here.

Anyway, this is my favorite post to write because it’s about what I did right, what I found that I loved, about what not only didn’t disappoint, but surprised me.

My favorite book of the year is at the end of the list.


The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

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I hadn’t realized how powerful it would be to read about a group of girls who decide to go on a quest to slay a monster because they want to, not because they have to, until I read The Boneless Mercies. Reading about active protagonists is so refreshing. Of course I loved the friendships, the chilling atmosphere and the reversal of typical gender roles (the girls are warriors, witches and monsters, the boy is a healer) but what made The Boneless Mercies a favorite for me is that it is a story about carving your place in a world that doesn’t want you, about deciding to not be small and quiet anymore, about being a woman and seeking glory. And it’s epic, as it should be.

Temper by Nicky Drayden

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I haven’t read anything similar to Nicky Drayden’s Temper and I don’t think I will ever find it. This is a very unusual genre-defying story set in a place inspired by South Africa in which everyone has a twin, and vices and virtues are split between them. This is a story about siblings, messy families, a very unique fictional school, and demonic possessions, with so many plot twists I could have never seen coming that made sense nonetheless – as much as everything in here made sense, but this is the way my favorite kind of fun, lovable weird stories are.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

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Into the Drowning Deep is a sci-fi horror novel about scientists going on an expedition to find mermaids in the Mariana Trench. It’s a story about environmentalism, about the relationship humans have with the ocean, and it had the marine horror content I had been looking for. To see a story that not only gets that the sea is beautiful and the sea is scary, but follows these themes also from the point of view of a diverse cast which includes a queer marine biologist meant a lot to me. The f/f relationship in here – Tory, the bisexual biologist, and Olivia, an autistic lesbian who is a camera operator – was one of my favorite romances of the year. I also really liked the people-eating mermaids, but that was not a surprise.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

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Spinning Silver is a subversive retelling of Rumpelstiltskin set in a Lithuanian-inspired magical country in which the winter seems to never end, there are cruel creatures living in the snowy forests – the Staryk – and the reluctant Tsar may or may not be possessed. It’s a story about women supporting each other, about marriage, about being a daughter, following many point of views – including the daughter of a Jewish moneylender, an abuse survivor working to repay her debts and for freedom, and a not-so-beautiful but very clever daughter of a duke. It follows so many storylines, slowly, but does so in a way that feels effortless, and it’s one of the most beautiful fantasy books I’ve read this year.

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Blanca & Roja is a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red meets Swan Lake featuring latinx, trans and disabled people as main characters. It’s a story about defying binaries, not letting yourself be defined by stereotypes, and giving yourself the space to be different from what you thought you had to be. As usual for McLemore’s books, the writing is gorgeous and the romances are perfect – this book has two of them! Also, I love how her books always feel so real and close just as much as they feel like timeless fairytales.

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

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The Astonishing Color of After follows Leigh, a Taiwanese-American teenager who goes to Taiwan to reconnect with her mother’s side of the family after her mother dies by suicide. It’s a beautiful story about the importance of mental health awareness, about grief and moving on. There was something magical about it, and I don’t mean that just because it’s a contemporary story with speculative aspects, but something about the writing, about seeing different generations interact through the language barrier, about Leigh’s feelings for her family and her art, stayed with me. Also, while YA books have wonderful representation of mentally ill teens, their portrayal of mentally ill adults is often one-dimensional, especially if they’re parents. The Astonishing Color of After, however, is a book that gets it. It gets that someone may love their partner and their children and still be suicidal, because while having people who love and support you can help, it’s not in any way a cure.

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

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Even though YA books were full of love triangles until 2015, there are very few stories following polyamorous relationships in this age range, and Strange Grace is one of these (m/nb/f). It’s a story about a magical town in which nothing bad ever happens, but this bargain has an ugly side, as it requires human sacrifice. I loved its atmosphere, I loved its magic, I loved the detailed, macabre descriptions of the creepy forest, I loved the way the three main characters interacted and their relationship. It’s also a story about dismantling gender essentialism, which was interesting to read, and I know I won’t forget this book.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk

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Witchmark is a sweet m/m paranormal romance, a fun murder mystery, a historical fantasy novel about PTSD and the aftermath of war inspired by Edwardian England, and a gaslamp story that explores class privilege – all in one book. One book that is just a bit longer than 300 pages, and yet it’s such a multilayered story in which not one of the aspects I listed is neglected, the characters are well-developed, and the romance is amazing. I can’t wait for the sequel, which is also going to be f/f.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

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If someone had told me two years ago that a YA fantasy book that not only had a main f/f relationship, but also had a Malaysian-inspired world and talked about sexual assault, would have been a NYT bestseller, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m so glad this book exists, and I think I needed it when I was in high school – it says some things about recognizing attraction and navigating women’s spaces when you’re queer that would have helped me a lot – even though it’s a really heavy read (there is pet death, rape and outing in this book). This is a beautiful, necessary book that gets that being a victim doesn’t make you helpless, just like it doesn’t make you a good person, as victims themselves sometimes turn against other victims. It’s one of the few novels I’ve read in which the portrayal of “girl-on-girl hate” was not only everything but a lazy device to have tension, but actually made the book better.

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

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In a world in which the “tormented artist” stereotype is often romanticized, I think YA books like Final Draft, books that explicitly tell you that the pursuit of art isn’t worth your sanity, are really important. This is a story about perfectionism and dealing with academic pressure when you’re mentally ill, and some parts of it were very close to things that I experienced myself – like anxiety ruining what was once just a fun hobby for you. But it’s also a hopeful story, with one of my favorite romances ever – I loved Laila (who is biracial Ecuadorian and pansexual) and Hannah (Korean lesbian) so much.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

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I read this book in a hospital, right after a surgery, during one of the most stressful times of my life – and it made me really happy even then. I should probably reread it because I was definitely not at my best, but this book helped me go through those days. It’s a story about… Eurovision in space, involving aliens, in which if humans lose, they’re all going to die. It’s over-the-top and weird in the best way, it’s very queer, it’s political and unapologetic and against fascism without ever feeling preachy, it features a flamingo/anglerfish hybrid-looking alien and a hyperactive time-traveling red panda. It’s beautifully written, as Valente’s books always are – it may even be my favorite of all of them (I have to reread it to be sure).

The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard

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The House of Binding Thorns is one of the best sequels I’ve ever read, in a series that is now one of my all-time favorites. It’s a Gothic fantasy story set in a post-apocalyptic historical version of Paris in which there are fallen angels and Vietnamese dragons, and it’s also very queer. There’s an m/m arranged marriage in this book, and a main f/f couple in which one of the character is trans! It also features some things I love but don’t find as often as I want in fantasy, like quality villain content and very creepy descriptions of trees. It’s a dark series in the way post-apocalyptic stories usually are, but it’s about characters surviving and finding ways to support each other in a ruined world, so it doesn’t have the hopelessness that often keeps me away from this genre. Also, the lost, vaguely creepy atmosphere is perfect.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

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Do I always love the books about people taking down the evil space empires? It seems so.
Ancillary Justice is the first book in an imaginative sci-fi series that deserved all the awards it got. I mean, it’s basically about a character who claims to be a person from outside the evil space empire but she’s actually a spaceship in a trench coat, a lost human captain who should have died a thousand years ago, and a disaster villain engaged in a surprisingly complex scheme of self-backstabbing. It’s great.

I like it enough that I’m currently making my dad read it, and he usually doesn’t read genre fiction. I hope he likes it too?

The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

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I don’t know if I can explain what The Dark Beneath the Ice means to me. Have you ever read a book and thought this gets me or I have done that, I am doing that, I have thought that? That’s me with this YA horror novel. And no, I’ve never been haunted, but as I see it, this isn’t really a haunting – for me, it’s more… anxiety horror, avoidance horror, because it talks about the ways using avoidance as a coping mechanism for anxiety hurts you, but it describes it with a paranormal twist. As I’m often skeptical of the way paranormal and horror stories portray mental illness (I really don’t like the she’s not ill, she’s magic! trope), I was really surprised by how clever this set up was and how much I loved it. The f/f romance in this was also wonderful, and it’s always great to read YA books that talk explicitly about characters taking medication for their illnesses.

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

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Revenant Gun is the third book in the sci-fi trilogy Machineries of Empire, also known on this blog as “the mass murder magic math books” or, also, “my favorite books”.
This series has so many things that I like in SFF – villains who are the worst and own it, “heroes” who aren’t good people either (all the characters are kind of horrible. I love all of them), an all-queer cast, almost no romance, magical science, and characters making bad decisions because sometimes there aren’t good options. Also, the message about surviving an ugly world through hobbies? There’s one conversation in which Mikodez (he’s probably my favorite character) and Brezan talk about that, and I think I found it at the right time.
My favorite kind of stories are the ones that manage to be really dark and never a chore to read at the same time – and Revenant Gun was this for me. I love reading about all versions of Jedao, but teen Jedao’s PoV is, in a way, exactly the kind of thing I like the most about this series: it’s a combination of really sad and hilarious, and it works.


What were your favorite books of 2018?

 

lists

Least Favorite Books of 2018

Let me be negative for a moment. It’s time for the worst book of 2018, according to Acqua!

I said that I wanted to get better at DNFing as a goal for 2018, and I can say that I did. I don’t have enough completed books I didn’t like to write this list! So I’m going to talk about completed books and some DNFs that I truly disliked (so, not the ones that were just not my kind of thing). Which means that maybe I would have liked some of these more had I finished reading, and while I doubt that, those mini reviews only cover the parts I actually read.

From the one I “liked” the most to the one I liked the least:


#15: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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Maybe I would have liked this more had I not been spoiled for every single detail and had I not seen all the Meaningful Quotes repeated to the point of nausea, so much that they lost all their meaning when I actually saw them. I’m not sure, though, because I also deeply not care about Hollywood, American history, or realistic adult fiction, don’t like time jumps, and didn’t want to read something with this amount of (realistic, challenged) homophobia. And Celia St. James got on my nerves in every scene she appeared.
I probably shouldn’t have even read this because I kind of knew I wasn’t going to care about it much, but everyone was loving it and sometimes I like trusting people. To this day, I still haven’t seen a bad review.

#14: Radio Silence

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Another case of me really not getting the hype. My main problems with this were the generic setting/complete lack of atmosphere and how this book was desperately trying to be relatable. It reminded me of Rowell’s Fangirl in that aspect, another book I didn’t like for similar reasons. Also, this book seemed to believe that Frances was so socially awkward, when in reality… she didn’t seem to be, not much? Some scenes did give me an unpleasant amount of secondhand embarrassment, but that wasn’t necessarily because of Frances or tied to a social interaction.

#13: Nice Try, Jane Sinner

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This book follows a girl with depression who ends up in a reality show, and while I loved the main character’s narration, it never made up for the boring plot and underwhelming second half. It’s one of those novel that start out well but don’t deliver, it’s monotonous, and I just wanted it to end. This probably had to do with the fact that all main characters but Jane were as interesting as cardboard cutouts.

#12: The Poppy War

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I don’t get it.
Ok, the first half of this was fun if not that well-paced. The second half? Dragged, spoiled itself multiple times and then tried to act like its developments were plot twists, was monotonous both in plot and in tone, relied on the violence to be interesting, and that wasn’t even worth it to me – I was just left with a sense of unease, wondering why I did this to myself. And because people are great, some decided to tell me that since I don’t like this book, it must mean that I don’t understand how war is actually like, which of course made me like this book so much more.

#11: The Unbinding of Mary Reade

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This f/f story about historical pirates sounded great; the result wasn’t. There was barely any adventure, which I think pirate stories should have; the romance was weak at best; the story was so full of queerphobic violence that I didn’t want to read it anymore (there were naked gender reveal scenes of crossdressing characters, character executed for being queer, casual homophobia…) Also, the writing just wasn’t that great.

#10: Web of Frost

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This was just a case of me thoroughly disliking Lindsay Smith’s writing style and finding the character development both forced (in the case of the main character) and lacking (for the side characters). Also, no atmosphere, which is really a shame since this could have been an interesting wintry read. But at least I liked the magic system?

#9: Song of Blood and Stone

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This book simply had no idea of what it was doing. And I don’t mean what I said just because of the writing, which was at times atrocious (this really does describes consensual sex as “the invasion of the heroine’s body”. What is your love interest, a bacterium?). I mean that because this book tried to be both a cute, tropey romance with all the clichés royalty romances are made of, a high fantasy story about mythology and discrimination, and a gritty dieselpunk story about war involving graphic sexual assault. It was like three different books put together and the mood and tone were a mess.

Also, I know it’s not the book’s fault, but my review of this was the one that got plagiarized and that was not a fun time.

#8: The Sisters of the Winter Wood [DNF]

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I don’t think I’ve ever disliked the writing of a book so much. I couldn’t continue even though I was interested in the story and liked the atmosphere. The writing prevented me from getting into the story, from getting to know the characters, from going anywhere. Also, The Sisters of the Winter Wood contains the least poetic poetry ever written. Many reviewers say that modern poets who became famous on social media can’t write poetry, but they wouldn’t complain about Rupi Kaur had they read this.

#7: Obsidio

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I described this book as a “twice-reheated soup” in my goodreads review and I don’t have much to add to that. I’ve already seen all the beats and twists this book has in the first two, the format isn’t that interesting anymore, the two new characters barely had any personality… So much here happens just for shock value, but as they were things I had already seen before, they just felt cheap.

#6: Sky in the Deep [DNF]

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This was… the definition of generic.
Not only it had no atmosphere and worldbuilding, it was also boring. Books that start with several chapters of non-stop, very dull action before you manage to get invested in the characters and then have no action whatsoever for the following fifty pages are not a good idea. What about the other way around?

#5: Rosewater [DNF]

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This book is about a very peculiar “alien invasion” set in Nigeria from the point of view of a mediocre, self-serving misogynist who the narrative acknowledges as a mediocre, self-serving misogynist. Sadly, this book never made me understand why ever should I want to read about a mediocre, self-serving misogynist. Lampshading that your main character is the worst does not make him any more compelling! Anyway, if I’m 30% into a book and I know more about various female characters’ breasts than I do about the plot, I’m probably not going to continue.

#4: That Inevitable Victorian Thing [DNF]

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And this is what happens when you don’t pay attention to your worldbuilding.
This was such a white North American attempt at inclusivity. It failed because it didn’t understand how discrimination, culture and assimilation worked. Which meant that the worldbuilding didn’t make sense. And it’s supposedly a book set in Canada about a less terrible version of colonialism… in which there isn’t one Native character in the first 40% of the book (which is the part I read). I just. Who thought this was a good idea.
Also, this book had some very weird priorities. Why have detailed discussions about theology in your world when the premise itself doesn’t make sense?

#3: Creatures of Will and Temper [DNF]

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I love how the reviews of this book neglected to mention that the main relationship in this book is between a seventeen-year-old girl and a woman in her late thirties. This was so creepy to read, especially since I’m just slightly older than the protagonist, and I’m not sure it was meant to be creepy (I want to think it was, but the reviews seem to hint that they end up together and… I hope not, why would I ever want to read that?)

#2: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

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This book made me discover that I really can’t read books about religious abuse and forced religion, because of eleven years of bad memories. I would have loved to discover that with a book that didn’t downplay their consequences and kind of excuse those things. Also, there’s an autistic character here who exists just to be abused.

#1: This Darkness Mine

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The most disturbing thing about this book is that it exists. The more I read, the more I realized that it had no point, or, its point was to make the reader gawk at this girl with delusions who is completely evil. You’re supposed to be entertained by how crazy!! she is. What about no.
I’ll be honest – this book has better writing that most of the books on this list, Mindy McGinnis knows how to write (that’s the main reason I didn’t DNF) but I won’t place this higher anyway.


Which were your least favorite books of 2018?

Wrap-Up

April 2018 Wrap-Up

In April I read 9 books:

  • 7 new novels (4 of them were ARCs, one DNFed)
  • 1 reread
  • 1 novella

Nine isn’t a lot for me, but from now to July I will be reading a bit less than usual because of exams (…I had three of them last week and I’m tired), so I’m not disappointed.


Didn’t Like

Sky In the Deep by Adrienne Young – ★¾ DNF

I don’t have a lot to say about this, as I read only 100 pages, but nothing in those 100 pages managed to hold my interest. Why start a book with five chapters of non-stop fight scenes? I don’t even know the characters yet, I won’t care that much if they get hurt.

Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope – ★★

This book should have chosen a path between high fantasy with rich mythology, tropey royalty romance and gritty fantasy story about racism. It failed at all of them, and also had the worst sex scenes I’ve read in a while.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke – ★★½

Funny but boring. The portrayal of depression and Jane’s narration are the only things I liked about this. The side characters were all stereotypes and the plot left a lot to be desired; not my kind of contemporary.


Could Have Been Better

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy – ★★★¼

I can’t really say this was flawed, it was mostly a solid beginning for the series, I just thought that for a book with such an interesting premise, it delivered a somewhat forgettable, subdued story (yes, even with the three-antlered-murderous-deer-thing). I may raise the rating in the future if this proves to be less forgettable than I initially thought.

The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk – ★★★½

This is closer to my kind of contemporary. It’s a story about grief told through the PoVs of three teenagers who all recently lost someone close. A quick (but not easy) read with a beautiful message, but I could have done without the unchallenged biphobia.


Liked

Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence – ★★★★

Not as good as the first book, but still a solid sequel. I can’t wait for Holy Sister, even though I’m worried it won’t go in the direction I want it to. Also, this book made me love Zole, which I didn’t think possible.

Syncopation by Anna Zabo – ★★★★½

The only book with an allosexual (= not asexual) aromantic character I’ve found so far. I read it only for that, this isn’t my genre at all. Romance has a big amatonormativity (= the assumption that romance is for everyone or that romantic love makes us human) problem, and for me Syncopation is as subversive as the genre can get – it has well-written main aro rep and doesn’t revolve around a romantic relationship.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo – ★★★★½

This is one of the best contemporary books I’ve read in a while. I loved almost everything about it, from the atmosphere to the characters (especially the main character’s voice) and their development. I even liked the romance, but I would have preferred a f/f one since the potential was totally there with Rose.


Loved

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Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – ★★★★¾

This was one of my favorite books of last year, and I loved it even more with this reread, which made me notice all the foreshadowing (really well-written) and how interesting the worldbuilding is (with the first read, I had missed some details).

Wrap-Up

February 2018 Wrap-Up

February wasn’t as bad as January, and while I haven’t found any new novels I love, I haven’t hated anything and I reread a favorite.
I read 13 books:

  • 8 new novels, 3 of them were ARCs
  • 1 new short story
  • 2 rereads, one was a short story
  • 2 novellas, one of them was an ARC I DNFed

I also DNFed two books before the 40% mark. They were Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler and Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann. I put them down when I realized I wasn’t liking them and there was nothing wrong with them apart from the fact that they were romance books and I really didn’t want to read romance.


Didn’t Like


Take Your Medicine by Hannah Carmack – ★★, DNF 50%

I DNFed this novella because I didn’t like the writing and when I was halfway through there was basically no plot. It’s a Southern Gothic f/f retelling of Alice in Wonderland, which sounded like a really good idea, but ultimately wasn’t.

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara – ★★

Historical fiction about bi pirates also seemed a good idea, but the author decided to write a pirate book in which the sources of all the conflict (yes, all of it) were homophobia and sexism. There was no adventure whatsoever, not even a subplot, and what’s the point of pirates when they don’t actually do anything?


Could have been better

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh – ★★★¼

This was f/f necromancers instead, and this time the book actually delivered! It wasn’t flawless and the writing could have been better, but I really liked the characters and I feel like this series has potential.

The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin – ★★★¼

A fantasy romance book about the relationship between two princesses, and also one of the cutest things I’ve ever read. I loved the romance, but I wanted the side characters and the world to be more developed.

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden – ★★★½

This books gets bizarre right and the plot wrong, as at times it was so weird nothing made any sense anymore (and not always in a good way), but I still really liked it! It’s one of those books you can’t forget. It also subverts the Bury Your Gays trope and there is a PoV trans character.


Liked


The Price’s Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton – ★★★¾

The plot may have been really cliché and the love triangle was frankly unnecessary, but this book had the best atmosphere and writing. I also loved the main character and her gay grandmothers. Heavy TWs for self-ham and parental abuse.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer – ★★★★

I don’t know how to summarize my feelings on this, I’ll just send you to my review instead; it’s linked above if you want to know what I thought of this mess. Anyway, the more I think about it, the more I find it disturbing.

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson – ★★★★

This was weird in a very good way. Everyday life at the end of the apocalypse, but it’s about free will and choices of all things? I may prefer my weird less… explicitly meaningful (did the author beat me over the head with the message? yes) because it’s more fun and I don’t feel like I’m being talked down to, but this was still very interesting. It would have been a five star if I hadn’t hated the romance.

American Panda by Gloria Chao – ★★★★½

A contemporary book about a Taiwanese-American girl at MIT who is there just because her strict parents want her to be a doctor. I loved how many layers the main character had and the mysophobia rep. Also, really cute romance.

Darkling by Brooklyn Ray – ★★★★½

This was a nice, very short, not stressful m/m witchy romance with a trans main character, and it was really good at what it was supposed to be. I want to see more of these characters now.


Loved

The Quiet Like a Homecoming by Cassandra Khaw (short story) – ★★★★¾

I can’t recommend this author enough. There’s something about Khaw’s writing that is so unique and evocative it makes all her stories stand out. The Quiet Like a Homecoming is a short story that was published in Lightspeed, Issue 39 (free online, link above); it’s a new twist on selkie/shapeshifter wife stories in which the main character is a cat-woman shifter, set in Sweden. It’s beautiful and angry and what can I say, her writing has claws.

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley (reread) – ★★★★¾

The Stars Are Legion is my gross space biopunk fave with the best worldbuilding and a cast I love (they’re a mess. They’re also kind of scary but I really do love Zan.) Everyone is a lesbian, there’s a lot of body horror and weird cephalopods, there’s the most unhealthy love triangle ever and people try to kill each other often. Do not recommend if you aren’t interested in the genre, don’t like body horror or just really hate cephalopods.

The Knight of Chains, the Deuce of Stars by Yoon Ha Lee (short story) – ★★★★★

I don’t reread short stories often, but this is one of my favorites ever and I wanted to revisit it. This is the most flower-y writing I’ve seen from Lee so far, even more than in Ninefox Gambit. I have loved his writing in every form, but this might be my favorite – it feels like a fairytale set in the Machineries of Empire universe. I love how he uses math in the descriptions: I can’t exactly tell how everything looks, but I get the feeling and that’s what really matters to me. Also, I’ve always loved game/war metaphors and this story is about that.


What were your favorite books in February? Have you read any of these?

lists

Least Favorite Books of 2017

I love writing lists and I love unpopular opinions, but I didn’t love being disappointed by more than 15 books in 2017.

The ones I liked the least are at the end of the list.


The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a magical realism family saga. I was expecting to love it, but what I got was… a manipulative sad story. It’s written to make readers cry, and it has some very descriptive violent and sad scenes that felt exploitative to me.
But, at least, the writing was beautiful.


The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a really hyped adult sci-fi book. I didn’t like it because of its lazy worldbuilding, heavy-handed writing and lack of plot. Also, I really didn’t like that it portrayed the only character with sensory issues as whiny (we get enough of that already).
While I did have many problems with it, I didn’t hate it – I liked the friendships, even if I wanted more from the characters themselves.


Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

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Mysteries shouldn’t be boring, but this book had both pacing problems and bland characters. The book is built around the predatory character, who is the source of all the conflict: for most of the book no one is investigating the two deaths that happened at the beginning. This was really unpleasant to read because it wasn’t what I expected or wanted. Also, casual unchallenged xenophobia.


Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

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You might want to go into this without knowing anything. I don’t recommend going into this at all, but while I won’t spoil anything, you may guess something by reading the paragraph below. You’re warned.
This is the most overrated contemporary book I’ve ever read. I guessed what the supposedly mind-blowing ending was when I was reading the first chapter, and reading the whole book knowing/suspecting that was going to happen, I noticed how manipulative the writing was. Yes, doing that with a first person narration is cheating. The characters were flat, almost caricatures. Also, that ending had a lot of unfortunate implications and I didn’t like it at all.


Timekeeper by Tara Sim

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I didn’t have any problems with this. I just thought it was really bland and boring. The romance was rushed. I’ve heard the sequel is better, but I’m not going to read it.


Graceling by Kristin Cashore

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If you haven’t already read this, it’s not worth your time – I think most of its hype comes from nostalgia. I read it for the first time this year and it was mediocre. It was probably something different a few years ago, but now it isn’t.


The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin

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I loved the first book in this companion trilogy, the second one was good but nothing special, and the third… The Kingdom of Gods follows Sieh, the immortal god of childhood, and reading from the point of view of a grown-up child is uncomfortable. Also, 600+ pages are too many, and the plot was messy.


Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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I don’t have any strong feelings about this. Nothing about it stood out to me – not the premise, not the writing, not the characters. I didn’t like the romance, I didn’t understand why the characters liked each other at all.


The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

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This started out funny and became annoying really quickly. It’s one of the books I should have DNFed the moment I understood it wasn’t for me. I just don’t like this kind of comedic, over-the-top writing – it was supposed to be funny, but I hated almost every moment of it.


The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

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I liked the first book in the series. This one? I don’t remember anything about it. It was too long, I didn’t care about the love triangle, and I just wanted it to end. From now on, all the books on this list are ones I should have DNFed.


Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

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I didn’t think sci-fi could be so boring. The plot is so simple (see: find one macguffin after another) it felt repetitive halfway through, and it was quickly overshadowed by the romance – an AI romance that totally falls in the romantic-love-makes-you-human trope. The worldbuilding is lazy; there’s nothing interesting or new about the technology here, and every planet has only one climate and one distinctive feature.
But, more than anything, this didn’t need to be 500+ pages.


The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

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I liked the first book in the series, but this was just boring. I mean, the main character doesn’t even decide to start training until around page 100, and nothing happens until the ending.


The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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I appreciate what the author was trying to do – a really diverse contemporary with a fat protagonist who isn’t shamed for her body size – and I know this book is important for many people.
But I really don’t want to read 300+ pages of a straight girl making marriage equality about herself and complaining that while her moms are getting married and her sister has found a girlfriend, she is alone. I just… don’t do that.
That wasn’t my only problem with this. This book equates having a happy ending with being in a romantic relationship, and the writing made me cringe a lot. The main strength of this book is being “relatable” and to me it wasn’t.


A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

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After highlighting more than ten quotes for bad writing in the first 200 pages, I DNFed it. I consider it a win.


Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

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This is the only book that managed to make me angry.
It’s set in a mansion made up of pieces of other houses around the world, including the true Venetian courtyard, taken from a true “demolished” Venetian house. You know we don’t demolish our historical buildings and give away pieces…? Do you know that rich foreigners paying people to steal pieces of our art/buildings/parks (where I live, they stole seven ancient Dwarf Cycads from the botanical garden…) is a thing that actually happens because people think anything Italian is cool but they hate Italians?
Just like this book, which uses a xenophobic stereotype as a plot device. This isn’t acknowledged at all – one of the character says “it’s not fair to Italians, but it’s effective” (actual quote). Yes, xenophobia is effective, and so are racism and homophobia, but you shouldn’t use them as a plot device in your book without dealing with them.
These weren’t the only problems I had with this (bad writing!), but I don’t want to write six paragraphs to explain what I didn’t like. I have a review.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What were your least favorite books of 2017?

TBR & Goals

2018 Goals

2017 is ending. Time for 2018 goals!


2017 Goals Wrap-Up

I won’t link the goal post because it’s in Italian.

I wanted to read at least 95 books.
I read more than 150! But I decided not to set numeric goals for 2018.

I wanted to read all the book on this list:

  • The Archived by Victoria Schwab – haven’t read
  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – read, 4 stars
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – read, 4 stars
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson – haven’t read
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton – read, 2 stars.

Will I ever get to those two? Who knows.

I wanted to reread at least two of these: The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.
I completely failed, but it’s not a problem. I reread City of Bones, hated it, and decided not to continue. Now I don’t know if I ever want to reread the books from this list (they’re books I liked before I started blogging).


Goals for 2018

Read more adult SFF
I haven’t posted my list of favorites yet, but at least seven out of the 15 books are adult SFF. And I read mostly YA. But YA just isn’t as good, or maybe I’m not exactly the target audience anymore (but it’s not like I’m the target audience for books with main characters who are 25+).
Also, I find that adult sci-fi is more diverse. I often see people on twitter who say that adult SFF isn’t as diverse as YA and… I mean, if all you’re reading is A Song of Ice and Fire, The Name of the Wind and Brandon Sanderson…

Be more selective with YA books
My list of least favorites of 2017 is mostly YA SFF, so I don’t think that’s the genre I should read the most from anymore. And I don’t usually hate contemporary, I just don’t care about it – most of the genre’s appeal is being “relatable” and to someone who has never been in America or in a romantic relationship it’s just not. So in 2018 I will be reading only YA books I truly care about.

Don’t read books just because they’re hyped
Most YA titles receive a lot of hype, and then they get mixed reviews and sometimes they become polarizing and I want to know my opinion about them. Or maybe everyone seems to love them and I want to read them even though I couldn’t care less about the premise. I usually end up not caring about them at all. (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue! Caraval!). In 2018, I want to read only books whose premise interests me.
I also don’t want to read books just because they’re f/f anymore. If I don’t like the premise – especially if it’s contemporary – I’m not going to read them, because then I feel terrible when I don’t like them.

Learn to DNF more often
I need to learn how to do this. I only DNF-ed two books in 2018, but I should have done that more often. I should have DNF-ed all my 1-star books, it’s not like the ending changed anything. What I hated about them halfway through, I hated in the end.
And next time I encounter a sentence that is xenophobic against Italians or someone who implies an Italian character is tied to the mafia, I’m DNF-ing the book. I don’t care if it’s subverted later. Because it usually isn’t and I’m tired.

If by the end of the year I haven’t read A Torch Against the Night, The Darkest Minds, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Burn for Burn and You Know Me Well, I’ll remove them from my TBR. Sometimes I just don’t care to read hyped books or their sequels, and that’s not a problem.


 Do you DNF books/series often? What are your 2018 Goals?