Discussion

Two Years Of Blogging: Going Forward

This blog is two years old, and in this two years, something that has never changed is that I still don’t know how to start a post.


On What Is Happening

In these last two weeks I was rarely on here, not writing any new posts, and barely reading. Nothing unusual is happening, apart from two thankfully now-past exams – it’s just the anxiety.
That’s nothing new, but if I know I have anxiety and it manages to get in the way of a lot of things already, adding deadlines for something that is supposed to be fun is really not the best idea for me.

Acquadimore Books started as a way to talk about books with people who are interested in the same kind of content I am (books written in English); it did not start to exist in my life as another source of stress.

And I know I still want to be there. I love reading and talking about books with other people, and reading their blogs – my experience with the book blogging community overall has been really positive. Like every place, it does have its occasional problems (mostly plagiarism and bad discourse) but it is fun to be there, most of the time. I don’t want to ruin it for myself.


Going Forward

A few things that will change:

  • ARCs. Of course I’m still going to request and review some ARCs, but I’d like to start not requesting as many of them. It’s not that I have an overdue ARC problem (I don’t; I’m pretty reliable on that, at least) but I do feel the deadline pressure. And I don’t want that. I want to be able to read things at a pace that feels more natural for me, which I can easily achieve by requesting less ARCs.
  • TBRs. I think I’m going to keep making them, at least until the end of this year, but I think they’re going to be smaller than nine books – maybe six, like the last September TBR. They’re useful, but I want to have space to be a mood reader sometimes. In these two weeks, I’ve been reading something not for review or for a TBR, and it’s been so refreshing. It shouldn’t feel that way, which is why I want to change things a little.
  • Schedule. I might not be posting as often, or exactly on the same days. I’m not sure how much it will change – what matters to me is that, just I don’t want to push myself to read, I don’t push myself to write either.

What I’ve Been Up To

40794181I’m currently writing a new Out of My Comfort Zone post about what I’ve been reading lately, so I don’t want to spoil it, but it will be about the thing I’ve read not for review or for a TBR and it will, hopefully, be up soon.

I’ve also been slowly making my way through The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. Due to exams and getting really distracted by that other thing (though this book’s pacing didn’t help, there’s that), I haven’t made much progress, but now I feel like I finally got into the story, and I hope I’ll be able to post a review soonish. For now, I will tell you that the writing is beautiful without drawing that much attention to itself, and that it would probably sound amazing on audiobook.

My plans for September remain pretty much the same; I’d really like to get to most of the books on that short TBR, especially Steel Crow Saga (I have heard it’s Pokémon inspired, so, how could I not). The only exception might be Gideon the Ninth, because the universe seems to be conspiring against me on that. For the rest, I plan not to make any more plans for this second half, and go with what happens. If I end up not reading that much, I’ll try to not think of it as a problem.


How do you feel about ARC deadlines?

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Discussion

Recent [Disappointing] Reads

I read a few really good books at the end of July – you can see the highlights of July in this post – but so far, August hasn’t been the best reading-wise.

Today, I’m going to talk about two books I tried that didn’t work for me recently. I’m not going to give them a rating, but if I had to, they both would be around three stars.

These are not reviews – they’re more a discussion focusing on some specific aspects of the book or of my reading experience.


The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

I decided not to write a review of this one, because if there’s a thing that really bothers me about the book community, it’s the tendency to put books on pedestals and then be rude/condescending to those who don’t like them, because that of course meant they didn’t get it, or that they’re a bad person (especially if it’s a diverse book, because if you care about diversity, it must mean that you have to like every single diverse book that isn’t considered problematic™ – you’re not allowed to have preferences unless you can justify them with social justice-related language, and if you have them anyway, you’re problematic™ because you not liking a book must of course mean that you think the book should be cancelled™!). It happened last year with The Poppy War, and I have no interest in going through that again on goodreads.

But this is my blog, and the nice thing about my blog is that I can easily moderate the comment section (and that it isn’t read by as many people as the review section on goodreads’ page of a book).

So, what went wrong with me and The Fifth Season.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you might already know that I don’t do well with grim. And I knew this book was going to be grim, and even if I didn’t like that, I didn’t have a problem with that, because that’s what this book is and has every reason to be.

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But then, I got to this quote. [highlights are mine]

“There passes a time of happiness in your life, which I will not describe to you. It is unimportant. Perhaps you think it wrong that I dwell so much on the horrors, the pain, but pain is what shapes us, after all.”

First: Unimportant? Really?

Second: to give you some context, this quote is talking about Syenite and the years she spent with the people living on an island, who value people with her powers. This book wants me to believe that she is exactly the same, with the same aims and the same way to see the world and nothing that could bee seen as character development, that she was before getting into her first relationship and having a child?

That’s… unrealistic, that’s what it is.

(I would also say that “pain is what shapes us” is an inaccurate generalization – personally, there’s a lot of stagnation in pain, more than there is when I’m not in pain, and trauma is… less of a source of growth that fiction would have one think, but this is my experience; if you feel differently, it’s not my intention to ever make you think you’re wrong.)

I feel like my main problems with this book are summed up really well by that quote, and have a lot to do with… the book community’s tendency to value pain over everything (in this, and in so many other aspects, including the creepiest ones like “you’re not allowed to write about trauma unless you disclose details about your own on social media”) and I don’t even feel like I’m the right person to talk about this because I can’t put together something that makes sense. I still think The Fifth Season is worth reading for other aspects, but I won’t be continuing with the series.


Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

I made a mistake, and that mistake was trying to listen to the audiobook. You might already know that my previous experience with audiobooks (with Sadie by Courtney Summers) wasn’t the best, but I absolutely loved listening to the novella In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire, and so I thought, why not try again?

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As it turns out, some stories really don’t work well on audiobook. This is a novel with many side characters, most of which are women, and something about the narration made them sound really similar. Was that Rosa’s mother? Her grandmother? Her best friend? One of the other women from her small town? I often didn’t know, and kept getting confused, and there were just… so many characters.

When I got around 40%, I realized that I kept zoning out and understanding nothing, so I quit, and I feel bad about it, because it’s not even really the book’s fault. This isn’t bad – it’s a perfectly fine contemporary story, and a really atmospheric one at that, and I loved what it said about how different generations in diaspora have different relationship with their culture – it’s just that I don’t feel strongly enough about it to purchase another copy and start it again.

TL;DR: if you like contemporary novels, it’s worth trying. Don’t listen to it on audiobook if that’s an option.


Have you ever had a bad experience with an audiobook narration? Have you read any of these?

Discussion

What I Don’t Like In Books, According To 5 Recent DNFs

I almost never read books I don’t like anymore. It would be nice to be able to say that it’s because I’m good at avoiding them, but that’s not true – the real reason is that I DNF a lot.

Today, I’m going to look at a few books I DNFed this year and try to determine why that happened; maybe this way I’ll discover some tropes/elements I might want to avoid in the future.


1. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa: a Japanese-inspired YA fantasy novel following a 16-year-old kitsune.

  • why I chose to read it: foxes! great atmosphere! And I might have heard that the plot is pretty cliché (typical straightforward m/f YA fantasy), but this is ownvoices Japanese-inspired YA fantasy and I wanted to try it.
  • how things started to go wrong: I decided to stop when, during a scene in which a jorogumo started telling the male main character that she was going to lay eggs in his body, I was kind of rooting for the jorogumo already and started thinking about ways to effectively incorporate parasitoidism in high fantasy. This wasn’t going to work.
  • why things started to go wrong: I might have accepted that this novel had given me two main characters who appeared very bland – that’s not terrible, the great thing about characters is that unlike worldbuilding, if they start out bland they can still change. However, giving me two very bland teenagers I have no reason to root for as main characters while giving not one but two evil, powerful adult women in three chapters? …can you not

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Well, here’s a trope I hate: innocent, young and beautiful main character vs. evil adult woman. In books, adult women aren’t allowed to be morally gray when in power the way male characters are allowed to – they are either pure or pure evil. But here’s the thing: the evil woman’s story always sounds more interesting to me than the bland girl’s.

[Also, the fact that stories in which women want to be in power are almost always villain origin stories or people push for them to be villain origin stories is disturbing to me]


2. Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat: I’m not even completely sure where to place this genre-wise, but the good thing is that you’ve already heard of this and you don’t need me to explain it to you. I think.

  • why I chose to read it: curiosity! It’s impossible to escape the discourse, or, at least it was a few years ago, and I believe in giving a chance to things.
  • how things started to go wrong: my main thoughts while reading were “why, exactly, am I doing this to myself” and “I don’t care about men this much”
  • why things started to go wrong: for something that stirred up so much discourse, it was very… bland? Apart from the violence, I found it unremarkable. From the beginning to the middle (I think that’s where I quit), I didn’t find one reason to keep reading – not the characters, not the world, not the plot – and when it started getting into lovingly detailed descriptions of sexual violence multiple times, I decided that I didn’t really care about intent or what the author was going for, I wasn’t going to continue

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I don’t have anything against various types of violence being portrayed in fiction, and while I did have some issues with how this book was doing it, I don’t feel comfortable with taking apart something I haven’t even finished. No – the thing is, everyone has their own limits to what they can read for entertainment, and mine drastically lowers when I don’t find any reason to get through it.

[Also, I really don’t care about men enough for many m/m novels, but that’s not only this book’s problem.]


3. A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole: a royalty romance and the third book in a series I previously enjoyed.

  • why I chose to read it: sometimes I like to go out of my comfort zone and the Reluctant Royals series was one of these attempts.
  • how things started to go wrong: I started thinking about languages – about how English is considered the default and pushed on everyone, while other languages are seen as interchangeable, and about how my ability to speak the language(s) I’m actually supposed to be speaking is not what it used to be and about… a lot of other language-related things I don’t want to think about while reading romance
  • why things started to go wrong: the male main character kept saying and thinking random words in another language (which is apparently a made-up mix of French and German? I’m not sure, but if that’s the case, who thought that was a good idea) in totally random places and I’m sorry, no, that’s not how bilingualism works

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Next time I see reviews complaining about how a book portrayed bilingualism, I’ll listen to them and not read the book.

Also, another least favorite trope: “how sexy, they can speak another language while we’re in bed“. I don’t know if this book had this trope, since I DNFed it really early, but it reminded me of it. Even though I had never really thought about this trope before, it does bother me. I have no time for English native speakers’ weird language fetishes and I have a really complicated relationship with the language I’m supposed to be speaking to begin with, so this really isn’t something I ever like to see.


4. A Hidden Hope by Laura Lam: an f/f friends-to-enemies-to-lovers novella set at a convention.

  • why I chose to read it: have you seen the premise?
  • how things started to go wrong: when two character met, “squeaked” in excitement, hugged each other and both said “I can’t believe I’m hugging [other character’s name]!”, I decided that I had better things to do with my time.
  • why things started to go wrong: I was dying of secondhand embarrassment, but the book didn’t even see what was happening as embarrassing. Also, the writing was… really something

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don’t like books involving fandoms or conventions. I didn’t care about Fangirl, DNFed Queens of Geek and disliked Radio Silence, so I should remember that I just don’t want to read about this topic. Maybe it’s because I don’t like the idea of partecipating in fandom that much to begin with – I’ve never seen one that was both inhabited by more than four people and not currently self-destroying through ship wars.


5. In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente: a book about stories within stories within stories, a nesting doll of fairytales.

  • why I chose to read it: she’s one of my favorite authors and this is one of the most well-known and loved books she has written.
  • how things started to go wrong: I just really wanted it to end and I wasn’t even 100 pages into it.
  • why things started to go wrong: there was no tension whatsoever. As there wasn’t a real main character nor a real main storyline, I didn’t feel any urgency to continue reading and wasn’t rooting for anyone. I’m not even sure there was any real conflict, and constantly jumping from one story into another without any kind of resolution was annoying me.

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I like stories with stories inside of them. However, I don’t like when the stories inside the story become the story itself; I prefer to have a clear main storyline with some other things incorporated into it. I had this problem also with The Waking Forest, even though it was far from the only problem I had with that book.


Is there any element in books that most people seem to have no issues with but that you just don’t like? Is there any trope/element/something that recurs often in your least favorite books? What makes you DNF a novel?

Discussion

On Second Chances

While liking a book pretty much guarantees that I will at least consider reading the author’s future work – and I often end up reading it, if its premise doesn’t sound completely uninteresting – me not liking a book usually doesn’t influence whether I’ll pick up another novel by that author.

There are, of course, exceptions, as there are some bookish grudges I hold (I will never read another book by Katharine McGee), but overall, not liking one book doesn’t have consequences: if the author’s next book sounds interesting to me, I’ll try it.

I want to see how often this works in my favor.

Note: for this post, I will only count novels – liking a short story by an author but not another is the rule and not the exception (even thought there are short fiction authors I’ve failed to get into and will probably avoid in the future). I won’t count non-companion sequels as second chances – it has to be something unrelated.


It Worked

These are authors who wrote a book I disliked/didn’t feel strongly about and then wrote one that I really liked. I love when that happens.

Becky Albertalli

I gave one star to the first book I read by Becky Albertalli, The Upside of Unrequited, but decided to try Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda a year later and really liked it. I also liked her collaboration with Adam Silvera, What If It’s Us, though not as much as Simon vs (or even as They Both Die at the End).

This probably had to do with the fact that I started with her only straight book (which also gave me so much secondhand embarrassment and to this day it’s still the most aro-unfriendly book I’ve ever read). I mean to read Leah on the Offbeat this summer and see how I feel about it, as f/f is the pairing I’m most likely to like.

Amy Rose Capetta

She actually inspired this post.

I read Echo After Echo two years ago, and while it had an amazing premise and some really good ideas in it, the execution fell flat and I found it really forgettable overall. Then The Brilliant Death came out, and… that’s a book I’m never going to try, as I’m uncomfortable with its existence (the mafia is a real thing that hurts real people today – the news talking about them/the damage they’re doing/the people they have murdered/their role in human trafficking is at least a weekly occurrence here – and writing a book with a mafiosa as a main character strikes me as really bad taste).

However, I believe in giving second chances to queer authors writing queer stories, so I decided to read her new novel The Lost Coast, and it was amazing – just the kind of queer witch-y story with forest magic I needed. Now I’ll definitely consider reading everything she writes and has written outside the TBD universe, including Once & Future, which she co-wrote with Cori McCarthy.

S.K. Ali

This isn’t really about giving a second chance to an author whose previous book I disliked, since I actually quite liked Saints and Misfits – it’s just that while some aspects of it really stuck with me, most of the book didn’t (the fact that I couldn’t visualize the setting at all didn’t help), and it was overall a three star read: good, but not something I felt so strongly about.

So, I didn’t know whether I wanted to read her next book Love From A to Z, but I’m so glad I decided to try it – it’s one of the best contemporary novels I have ever read, and everything I didn’t like about the first book wasn’t an issue here, setting included. I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.

Heidi Heilig

I didn’t like Heidi Heilig’s debut duology The Girl From Everywhere. Or, I really liked the first book’s setting, but didn’t feel strongly about the characters or the plot. When the setting changed with the second book, I realized I didn’t care about anything, and ended up skim-reading most of The Ship Beyond Time (I hated it at the time, but I can’t tell you why, as I remember nothing).

However, For a Muse of Fire? I loved the main character Jetta, I loved her family, I loved some of the side characters (Cheeky!), and I can’t wait for the sequel. Heidi Heilig still hasn’t written a romance I care about, but who knows, maybe in this series it will grow on me.


It Didn’t Work

Sometimes, the second chance has even worse results. (I don’t think I will try another book by these authors in the future.)

Emily Skrutskie

I was surprised when I read The Abyss Surrounds Us and thought it was mostly mediocre, as at the time there was basically no f/f content outside of contemporary YA – I would have read anything. And this was still… nothing surprising or that memorable.

Then I tried her sci-fi novel Hullmetal Girls, and it was even blander – it straight up felt like a 2012-era YA dystopian, in space. More diverse, yes, but as a good part of it felt tokenistic, I can’t say I cared that much.

Claudia Gray

She always writes novels that have a very interesting concept in theory and end up being a poor excuse for a very bland m/f romance instead. Also, she portrays scientists as if they were weird, incomprehensible, almost alien creatures who are not like normal relatable humans (who are artists or fighters, of course) and talk almost only about science, and this annoys me a lot.

I gave her a second chance with Defy the Stars, but it had the same problems as A Thousand Pieces of You and also had the worst example of single-purpose planet worldbduilding I’ve ever read.

Kristin Cashore

Graceling might have felt like something new when it was published ten years ago. Today, it’s not really worth reading – and not even that well-written. But Kristin Cashore had written another book, Jane Unlimited, one that had also a main bisexual character and other queer characters in it! I had to read it!

Well. What is about Americans not being able to write about Italians without talking about the mafia? I don’t know. I just know that this book seemed endlessly fascinated by its own cleverness and humor while putting together lackluster plotlines sprinkled with xenophobia.


Authors I’m Considering

These are authors I really want to read another book from, even though I didn’t love the first one I read by them.

Zen Cho

I don’t know if I have talked about it on this blog before, but Sorcerer to the Crown is the book I struggled the most to read in all of my time spent reading books in English. People complain about adult sci-fi novels like Ancillary Justice or Ninefox Gambit being too complicated, but this is what was unreadable to me. I know, it sounds weird, but: keep in mind that English isn’t my first language, and when it comes to a more “antiquated” vocabulary, I struggle a lot, because where should I have learned those words – it’s not like you find them on the internet, and they won’t come up in Italian English classes.

However, it was a good book, and since then, I’ve really liked Zen Cho’s novelette If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again, so I want to try her novel The True Queen, which should also be f/f.

E.K. Johnston

So, That Inevitable Victorian Thing was a mess. I wonder whether I misinterpreted it entirely, because there were so many things about the worldbuilding that made me uncomfortable that… I want to believe it was on purpose? I don’t know.

Anyway, it seems to be the popular opinion that it’s her worst novel, so I want to try another one, The Afterward, which is f/f and also seems to have a worldbuilding with less unfortunate implications.


Are there any authors you’re considering giving a second chance to?

Discussion

What I Think of “Instalove” As A Trope

While I try, overall, to keep this blog positive outside of reviews, I love reading snarky and negative posts from time to time. I especially like reading people’s negative opinions on common tropes, whether I agree with them or not.

However, finding posts that aren’t about the same five tropes over and over is difficult. And one of the tropes these posts are always talking about is instalove, which, according to many, is the worst trope.

But is it really?


What Instalove Is

According to TvTropes, Instalove, or “Love at First Sight“:

Two characters meet, and fall deeply, madly, passionately in love with each other immediately.

Sounds bad, right? It’s forced, lazy storytelling, and while it could make sense in something intentionally cheesy, it’s not what you want in your average novel.

However: I’ve never read a book like this.

No, wait. Technically I have, but it’s not an American YA novel. It’s an Italian YA novel I won’t mention – bad hype, still hype, and anyway, I don’t like to trash books no one has ever heard of, there’s no point to it. In said Italian paranormal YA novel, the main character saw the male love interest, was struck by his beauty so much that she felt like the world had stopped, and felt an instant connection (without talking to him). He felt the same way (without talking to her), and they almost immediately start to act like a couple.

This is instalove.

33797105Another thing I could say is instalove are the one-day romances like The Sun Is Also a Star and They Both Die at the End. While I didn’t think they were unrealistic – some people do fall in love that quickly – one-day romances, love or hate them, are very uncommon and definitely don’t explain how much hate the “instalove trope” gets.

(Another uncommon thing that is often accused of instalove are reincarnation-related tropes, but then, that’s not first sight, is it?)

But in the average, post-2015* YA SFF novel that has a major romantic subplot and isn’t about reincarnation?

  • I have never read one that had actual instalove in it
  • I have never read a popular one that wasn’t said to have instalove in it, no matter how absurd the “accusation” was
  • read the bad reviews of a relatively well-known post-2015 YA SFF novel with a relevant romantic storyline: chances are there’s someone who says the romance is instalove. There’s almost always someone saying it’s instalove, even when the romance is slow-burn.

*[I haven’t read enough (and don’t remember well enough) pre-2015 YA stuff to know if there’s actual instalove in it often]


A Small Experiment

I’m going to sort the goodreads reviews to only see the 1-star ones for some popular post-2015 YA SFF books that have an unambiguously romantic storyline, and I’m going to CTRL+F instalove/insta-love and see how many times it comes up (only counting one per review).

  • Warcross by Marie Lu [2 reviews mention instalove]
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber [9 reviews mention instalove]
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor [3 reviews mention instalove]
  • Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan [3 reviews mention instalove]
  • An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson [8 reviews mention instalove]
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi [4 reviews mention instalove]
  • Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young [2 reviews mention instalove]
  • Mirage by Somaiya Daud [4 reviews mention instalove]
  • Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan [1 review mentions instalove. This is specifically a slow-burn romance that develops over months. Lovely.]

I’ve read all of these, and I can say none of them employed love at first sight as a storytelling device (well, you could argue about Strange the Dreamer on some level, but it’s not the one with the most instalove points!), and that many people who claim to hate instalove like many of these books. However, some people think they’re instalove. Why?


What I Think Has Happened

Instalove has become a synonym for “I didn’t feel the romance”. Which isn’t a trope: that’s like saying that romances you don’t believe in are your least favorite trope. Of course you don’t like if you find it badly written, rushed or unbelievable – that’s kind of a tautology.

I think instalove accusations aren’t actually about how much time the main characters spend together. They’re about how much time every single reader perceives the characters have spent together, and about how much every single reader believes they have chemistry. It doesn’t matter if they spend months together: to a reader, it might still feel rushed (I’ve felt this way too – sometimes you just don’t feel the passage of time) and so they might mistake it for instalove.

But this is subjective, and not a trope – I might argue on the execution being good or bad, but if a book has a love triangle or a lost princess or an evil queen, most of the time it is a matter of fact and not of opinion. Which doesn’t seem to be the case at all for instalove.

Since nothing ever works for everyone, and since “instalove” became a synonym for “romance that in my opinion was rushed or lacked chemistry or that just annoyed me” [the way I used the word too, when I still used it], the majority of YA books that have been read by a reasonable amount of people will get bad reviews mentioning “instalove”.

And even if a romance is objectively, unrealistically rushed: that’s usually a flaw in the writing/plotting, not a device an author consciously decided to use to tell a story, and to me, it really doesn’t make sense to talk about it as a trope.

It’s not that I think “instalove” as a trope doesn’t exist (again: that one Italian YA book in which the characters literally fall in love at first sight without talking, what in Italian we call “colpo di fulmine”), it’s that it has been used so much to mean other things – from bad pacing to a perceived lack of chemistry – that at this point, this word is pretty much meaningless.


Do you see instalove as a trope?

Discussion

Should You Trust Goodreads? – Reading the Lowest-Rated Books on my TBR

Some of my favorite books, like A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo or The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, have an average rating on goodreads that is lower than 3.5. Will that ever happen again?

If you’re wondering: yes, I did start writing this post in 2018. Low-rated backlist isn’t a priority for me, and that’s how it took me months to read five books.


The Books

Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns: 3.18 avg

  • expectations: it probably won’t be the best thing ever and the writing won’t be that good but it will be entertaining anyway because can you get f/f space pirates wrong (and both women are space engineers! Who become pirates because of student loans!)
  • reality: you can get f/f in space wrong! It was boring and dull and badly-written. The two PoV characters felt like the same person and the side characters didn’t feel like people at all. I DNFed this out of boredom.
  • my rating: 2.5 stars, and I was feeling generous.

Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke: 3.42 avg

  • expectations: a sci-fi book set in Antarctica. How cool is that. I’ve heard there are also lesbians! The pacing is probably not going to be great (…I think I’m going to be somewhat bored) and I have no idea how the worldbuilding will be, but I hope it will work. Also, I thought the writing in the first chapter was pretty?
  • reality: It was fine. And since I currently don’t have the time for books that are just fine and this didn’t feel like it was going to do anything more – also, one of the PoVs had an uncomfortable amount of subtle misogyny in it – I DNFed it
  • my rating: no rating, but it was probably going to be a 2.5-3 (lower than the average).

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi: 3.24 avg

  • expectations: slow-paced, but it’s very short non-western (Nigerian-inspired) fantasy. While I won’t go into it with high expectations, I don’t think I’ll hate it (or it wouldn’t be on my TBR). Also, when I read the first chapter I thought the worldbuilding was really cool, it can’t ruin that. I hope. If it does, I’ve never been this wrong about worldbuilding before.
  • reality: It did end up being a slow-paced non-western fantasy with a very interesting worldbuilding and very uninteresting/poorly-written everything else. The main character wasn’t too annoying, but this story has the messiest pacing ever and the side characters’ motivation often didn’t make sense (of course, all the girls are in some way fascinated by the male main character, in case you thought it wasn’t going to be that kind of book), but I loved the world and its magic system.
  • my rating: 3.25 stars. Which is the average rating.

Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter: 2.97 avg (!! It was 3.35 when I read it in January, and it keeps going down)

  • expectations: reading the reviews of this one will be… fun. Many people want to read it because the synopsis reminds them of The Cruel Prince, but I know Sarah Porter is very much not the kind of here-for-the-aesthetic fun that Holly Black is (…so many people are going to hate this book). The question, for me, is: will this be whimsy, pretty, macabre nonsense I love like Vassa in the Night or creepy, make-you-sick and DNF like When I Cast Your Shadow?
  • reality: I was right, this book is getting all the bad reviews – the rating keeps lowering so quickly! I’ve never seen such low ratings before publication. This is the kind of creepy, ugly, so-disturbing-it-makes-you-feel-sick story like WICYS – and now I think I could like that book too, maybe. Never-Contented Things is an ugly story with a beautiful message about trauma and getting out of a toxic relationship, with incidental creepy faeries. It’s… not fun, definitely not the kind of entertaining here-for-the-aesthetic fun TCP is (I knew it wasn’t going to be), but I think it’s very important in its own way. And well-written, if weird as fuck. [I recommend reading the trigger warnings here before trying it if you’re interested]
  • my rating: 4 stars, this book deserves better and better marketing.

I don’t know what it was exactly about my review of this book that people liked so much, but scattered between posts on here and on goodreads, more people have told me that they were going to read it because of me than for any other books, including the ones I regularly rave about. I appreciate your trust, but what am I doing wrong in my normal positive reviews, and if people are going to read a book because of me, does it really have to be this one
(I hope those of you who want to read it end up liking it, but I’d totally understand if you didn’t. I think its message is in the right place but it is unpleasant and weird, there’s no other way around that)

Moonshine by Jasmine Gower: 3.48 avg

  • expectations: the writing won’t be that great but I will at least like the queer rep (there’s a lot of it) and prohibition-era fantasy has a lot of potential as a concept. Also, it looks very bright and fun and I hope it’s not just a misleading cover.
  • reality: the writing wasn’t great, but I liked the world and the queer representation.  It was bright and fun and there were so many magical party scenes, weird gay faeries, and other magical shenanigans. Weirdly, the main character had no reason at all to be the main character – she didn’t make any decisions that impacted the plot until the very end, and I don’t really get why this book was her story at all. But I got this one completely right!
  • my rating: 3.5 stars, which is the average rating.

Should You Trust Goodread Ratings?

So, out of five books, I only cared about three enough to finish them, and out of those three, the only one I felt strongly (but not favorite-strongly) about was Never-Contented Things, which is also the one with the lowest rating. I think the answer to this question is “mostly, but not when it comes to really weird books, since you like them, Acqua”.

But let’s see how much this is true with books I’ve already read.

The Lowest-Rated Books I’ve Read

I’m only going to include books that I read since the second half of 2016, because I don’t remember enough about the ones before/my tastes have changed too drastically since.

Three Sides of a Heart by Natalie C. Parker (3.15 avg): I disagree, so much. This anthology actually taught me that love triangles have a lot of potential and can be great, especially if they’re queer, but I know that many people think love triangles mean that a book is bad quality, so… I’m not surprised by the ratings.

Twisted Romance by Alex de Campi (3.19 avg): this is my favorite anthology, since it’s weird and very queer and also diverse in other ways and about unusual romances (in both comic and prose). I love it a lot and I don’t understand the bad ratings.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston (3.22 avg): I mean, yes, this book had probably the most nonsensical and inconsistent worldbuilding I have ever read, so…

Web of Frost by Lindsay Smith (3.25 avg): I agree. This was such a waste of a good concept. Read Shadow and Bone or Wicked Saints instead, they have very similar themes, worldbuilding and romance, but Web of Frost is the cheap and badly-written version.

The Highest-Rated Books I’ve Read

I’m going to exclude books that aren’t out for months because not enough people have read them and I’m going to exclude sequels because sequels always have a higher average rating since those who hated the first book don’t read them, usually.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (5.45 avg): deserved, of course.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (4.47 avg): still one of the best YA fantasy books out there. I think the hype is somewhat exaggerated at times, but I think it mostly deserves it.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (4.45 avg): I think this book has a major infodump problem and that so many parts of it should have been cut, so I don’t really agree, but I still think it’s Clare’s best one.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (4.45 avg): exactly what this book deserves. I loved Xiomara’s story so much and I’m so glad it’s not an underrated read anymore. It’s such a gem.


The Complete Answer

So, do I trust goodreads’ average ratings? Mostly, but not with sequels, not with books that won’t come out for months, not with anthologies, and not with really weird books.


Do you trust goodreads ratings?

contemporary · Discussion · Young adult

Out Of My Comfort Zone #5

My fifth 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.

The last post was about middle grade, the next one will likely be about full-length adult contemporary romance.

This post will be about movie adaptations of YA contemporaries.


My History With Movies, and Specifically YA Contemporary Adaptations

I don’t watch them. As a general rule, if it’s on a screen, it’s not for me.

Not because I think movies are bad or that I’m above them or that books are just so much better – it’s that they give me so much anxiety (and often secondhand embarrassment) that watching them isn’t even fun.

Anyway. If we’re talking specifically about YA contemporary adaptations, I think I’ve only seen two, both without really wanting to – one American (The Fault In Our Stars) and one Italian (Bianca il latte, rossa come il sangue). I didn’t like either of them and I watched them just because of friends/classmates, but they basically had the same usual sicklit plot and I never like those.

This time, I’m going to try adaptations of books I liked.


What I Watched

mv5bntmyzddimzutzjcxns00mjc3ltljy2utyji4ymy5nzjlyjc1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymta5otkwntc40._v1_sy1000_cr006771000_al_Love, Simon (2018) an adaptation of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli [book review here]

I mostly like this because I’m glad it exists.

So. It wasn’t bad, but I had already seen so many gifs of this movie that I felt like I was rewatching it, and it still gave me so much secondhand embarrassment. I liked it, mostly, because I like the plot and characters, and I think it’s a pretty faithful adaptation while working perfectly even if you haven’t read/don’t remember the book.

I can say that the biggest thing I didn’t like about the book – the overwhelming pop culture references and complete lack of atmosphere – weren’t a problem here, so I think I would have liked it more than the book… if I ignored my inherent problems with this format. But those inherent problems take away a lot. I wish I could have found it cute and funny, but that’s just not how my brain works.

However, it did make me want to read Leah on the Offbeat, so…

ivb5-ps35vaTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018), an adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

Again, I mostly liked this because it exists and because of the aesthetic. I’m glad this cute romance with an Asian-American main character got adapted, and the settings are beautiful.

However, this was emotionally exhausting. First, the secondhand embarrassment? So much of it. Not because this movie is more cringe-y than the average romcom – it didn’t feel like that to me, I can’t watch most of them and I did finish this, even though I just wanted it to end – but again, my brain just can’t with many things on a screen.

Also, there’s something about straight romances – or, to be specific, the tropes associated with straight romances – that tires me so quickly, and it’s true for many books, but for movies it becomes unbearable. The whole “I take away your hair tie because I prefer your hair down”, the drama with exes, it’s just… hhnng. And I really think it’s a genre thing and not this movie’s problem, so this is a reminder that I shouldn’t get swept up into the hype.


Will I Watch Other YA Contemporary Adaptations?

…maybe? I mean, I can’t say this went well, but it was still an interesting experience. One I don’t want to repeat anytime soon, but I could do it again, eventually. (Because when something gets hyped, I want to know!)

Things I learned from this attempt:

  • I think the reason I never get invested in movies is that the feelings of anxiety and/or secondhand embarrassment are so strong that they overpower everything else I might have felt about the storyline or the characters
  • I can’t imagine people doing things like these to themselves often and for fun but I guess that’s the beauty of human diversity and human brains
  • In both of these cases I preferred the books for the reason above, but I’ve noticed that YA contemporary adaptations tend to be more accurate than the YA SFF ones, or at least it feels like that to me
  • I still liked them more than the old sicklit ones! But it’s mostly because the overall quality of contemporary has improved so much in my opinion
  • not exactly “learned”, but it reminded me of how alien America feels to me. With books, it’s easier to ignore because I make up the setting in my own head, as contemporary books usually don’t bother to describe it.

Anyway! If you want to recommend me or just tell me about your favorite YA adaptations (both contemporary and SFF), I’d really appreciate that, because I’m curious – even thouhg I’m not sure I’ll watch them. Also, while I do know people who have Netflix, I don’t have it myself (it wouldn’t make sense, I watched more things for this post than I did in all of 2018), so I’m usually not in the condition to watch things that are only on it.


Have you watched/liked any of these?