Tag · Wrap-Up

Half a Wrap-Up, but Also Not, and Half an Award Post

What is today’s post? I don’t know either, and in any case, categories are overrated.

Rules? On my blog?

In theory, this started out as a Liebster Award post, which has its own rules, but you know what? I don’t feel like coming up with facts about myself or questions to tag other people for, but I do feel like writing something and this is what you get.

The good news is, a review of Over the Woodward Wall should be here this week, because yes, I finally started something again after taking another unintentional break during September’s exam season. However, there won’t be a specific wrap-up post coming this month, because I read exactly two novellas and nothing else. No, the wrap-up will be right here because no one can stop me.

September was mostly a month of me using every opportunity to get out of the house as often as possible, because getting some practice in existing outside is a good idea when you had to spend the first months of the year leaning into your agoraphobia due to pandemic reasons. Also, I’m still making friends with the cats, and the outside in itself is a really beautiful place sometimes:

After exam season ended, (online) lessons have started again, so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do this in the next months. Another unrelated things that has changed is that I’m learning how to cook fish more by myself now! I’m now the designated fish buyer and cleaner in the house (can do both completely on my own), because that’s what a marine ecology course is good for, and the shark dissection we did in class back in January means that certain things don’t faze me much anymore.

As far as books, I read two novellas, Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling and Over the Woodward Wall by Seanan McGuire. Of the first, I already have a review up, and I mostly thought it was fine but not that memorable – maybe I didn’t understand it fully – but I did appreciate how messed up it was. About the second one, I was again not sure of what it was trying to achieve or what it was even trying to be target audience-wise, but finding the parallels between it and Middlegame was a fun experience.

The Liebster Award Questions and Their Answers

I was tagged by laurel @ the suspected bibliophile. Thank you!

What is your favorite carbonated drink?

Water, I guess? That’s pretty much all I drink, and sparkling water doesn’t bother me – which on the US-dominated internet seems to be an unpopular opinion. At least, I’ve seen a lot of people talk about it as if it were Water From Hell, when to me it’s perfectly fine; I just won’t seek it out deliberately.
(Well, we also make banana + cocoa smoothies after dinner sometimes here, but that’s more of a dessert than a drink. Now that would be a nightmare if carbonated.)

How has the pandemic affected your coping skills?

There would be a lot to say, but I don’t feel like writing it down. Something relevant to this blog is that I find it more difficult to get into books, which was one of the reasons I had to put down Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston earlier this week even though I was liking it – I’m finding it difficult to read adult SFF at all. I hope that changes soon.

Do you have a library card? And do you use it?

No. Local libraries’ concept of a “fantasy section” is made up of three beaten up copies of an Italian fantasy series from around 2005, the entirety of Twilight, and either an old edition of The Lord of the Rings or a random A Song of Ice and Fire novel (probably not the first one, you won’t be that lucky). It’s not very useful.

What are the top five books you’ve read so far in 2020?

I don’t feel like ranking them, so I’m going to say them in the order I read them: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (I don’t think I’ve ever annotated a book this much), The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (the way this was written just Gets Me), The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders (unforgettable, rightly monstrous), the short story Always the Harvest by Yoon Ha Lee (well-intentioned body horror… best romance), and Night Shine by Tessa Gratton (also unforgettable and rightly monstrous, because I have a type). Only two of them are novels, because I don’t want to spoil the whole “favorite novel of the year” post! That’s my favorite post to write.

What are the five books you cannot stop recommending to people?

I think I’ve recommended Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong to all people asking me about queer short fiction over the years and I stand by it – it’s about murderous Asian vampire-like creatures in a messed up F/F/F love triangle and it’s one of the most memorable short stories I’ve ever read.

Other than that, I can’t really think of anything I’ve recommended to many people? I know several people have read Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter because of me, but I wasn’t actively recommending these books to them – it’s just that I talked about both a lot on my blog. Also, I convinced people IRL to read Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (and back when I was in high school, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente), and not much else…

Do you write? If so, what’s your current work in progress?

No. But I’d like to – I have a work in progress which will most definitely never get written. So far, it exists as a prologue (I think they’re nice actually) and a piece of a first chapter. As for what it is about: what happens when the quintessential magical YA heroine, after completing the quintessential girl power YA novel arc (minus the romance) and defeating evil, decides that she and her devout following have to create an all-girl utopia in the woods? Yes, this is about cults. (And religious trauma, and reactionary conformist thought masquerading as “feminism”, but let’s not get too into that yet.)

The YA-heroine-type character isn’t the PoV character, that would be boring, and I wouldn’t describe this idea as YA – they’re already older and I didn’t make it up with teens as a main audience in mind. I love this story and where it goes, but I don’t think that of my English, so I don’t know if I’ll ever actually finish even a first draft.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled? Was it for yourself or someone else?

Sometimes I look up unusual or even straight up cursed-sounding food combinations to see if there’s anyone who has ever actually tried that, or if it isn’t even as unusual or cursed-sounding of a combination as it actually seems to me. One of my favorites can be translated as (I look them up in Italian) “clam profiterole“. I didn’t find a result for that, but I did find recipes by looking up the variant “clam chowder cream puffs“, so!

The clam cream puffs from the recipe I found weren’t meant to be sweets, but my idea of “clam profiterole”, or to be an Italian, “bignè alle vongole”, was absolutely meant to be a sweet pastry – what if you bit into a regular cream puff and there was a whole clam inside the cream? Without the shell, because of course I’m not a monster 🙂

What is your favorite fall (or spring) activity?

Last year it was impulse-buying cacti, the year before it was [depressive episode static noise], who knows what this year will bring?

the only one of my cacti that has ever bloomed

What is your most paranormal experience?

There’s no experience that stands out. However, being surrounded by [phobia trigger] can do really weird things to my perception of reality. I wouldn’t call it paranormal but it sure feels like it.

Besides reading/blogging, what are your hobbies?

Before the pandemic it was “underwater photography” – by which I mean snorkeling with a waterproof camera near underwater rocks; I can’t scuba dive, but there’s a surprising amount of interesting stuff one can find near the surface, including morays. This year, I haven’t been able to go to the beach at all. Now, it’s… Pokémon Go. Which is fun but also makes me sad because real fish were better.

Serranus scriba (“painted comber”), one of my favorites to photograph – it turns to stare at you instead of fleeing when followed. Also, look at the patterns on its head!

Which Chris is the best Chris?

The actors? I don’t know anything about their personalities or what they do, because I… watch approximately one movie a year and usually don’t even know the names of the actors in it. One of the many ways I live under a rock! As far as looks, I don’t find them interesting.

How was this month for you? Have you read any of these books? Do you also have an Overly Specific Role if you live together with other people? And, most importantly, would you eat the clam profiterole?


Sunshine Blogger Award + Liebster Award

I was tagged by Silvia @silviareadsbooks and Ashley @bookishtales. Thank you!

Sunshine Blogger Award

What was your favorite book as a child?

The Scions of Shannara quartet. Better than the original trilogy, and gave me “Walker Boh”, also called “the Dark Uncle”. (According to en.wikitionary, “dunno” is the closest translation of the Italian word boh. 10-year-old me found it really funny.)

Do you get reading slumps? How do you get out of them?

I get one every summer, and I don’t get out of it until the heat goes away. One thing that helps me is to never read too many books of the same genre back to back.

What’s the one book or series that made you fall in love with reading?

I don’t have one; most of my reading until middle school was nonfiction about animals. I still have far too many books about dinosaurs.

What are your thoughts on ebooks?

Without them, I wouldn’t have a blog.

Are you more of a fantasy or a contemporary person?

Fantasy, but lately I’m not liking YA fantasy that much anymore (have I read too much of it or am I just unlucky?). My feelings on contemporary haven’t changed, but I didn’t love the genre to begin with.

Who’s your all time favorite author?

Yoon Ha Lee. Mass murder magic math in space is what I didn’t know I always wanted. I own a copy of Conservation of Shadows, and I haven’t read it yet because I’m the worst.

Do you read audiobooks? Why or why not?

No. Because:

  • my attention span for listening is terrible. (“Listening” includes both audiobooks and whatever the teacher is saying when I’m in class. It’s bad.)
  • my English just isn’t that good.
  • I have grapheme-color synesthesia. I don’t have sound-color synesthesia. I remember character names by their colors.

First person or third person?

I like both – it depends on the book, but if you want to use something the main character already knows as a plot twist [e.g: MC was the killer all along], use third person. Hiding this kind of things when you’re in first person (= in the character head) is cheating your reader.

Plot or characters?

Characters, but if you’re not writing magical realism, slice-of-life contemporary (*) or something that is intentionally weird, you should also have a solid plot.

(*) All the slice-of-life SFF stories I found were very, very boring.

Heroes or antiheroes?

Antiheroes – all my faves are murderers.

Single point of view or double/multiple POV?

Depends on the story! But while I almost never think “this story needed more points of view” (Want by Cindy Pon did, though), I think that nearly every Victoria Schwab book needed less PoVs. I really didn’t need to spend so much time in Osaron’s head.

Liebster Award

Has there ever been a book that you DNF’d right away? And which one?

Many of them. I usually read the first chapter/the ebook preview before buying a book. If I don’t like the preview, I stop reading and remove the book from my TBR. I did this recently with Everless by Sarah Holland (felt really generic) and The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale (just wasn’t into it).

Does the cover of a book strongly influence whether or not you will buy the book?

Buy? No, I have very few physical books and the cover doesn’t matter that much, but it does influence whether or not I will even give a chance to the preview (if a book has a generic cover, I’m less likely to check out the synopsis and add it to my TBR…).

What is one book that you wish you could reread for the first time?

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. I don’t know what I would think of it if I read it today without the influence of nostalgia (it’s one of my favorites since 2015) and knowing what will happen next (I want to reread it, but I remember too much of it, so I probably won’t).

What book do you wish to be turned into a movie?

None, but I want to know how a well-done adaptation of Catherynne M. Valente’s Radiance would look like (answer: really meta. It would be a film adaptation of a book about filmmaking?).

What is your current favorite TV show? And why?

I don’t have one (I don’t watch them).

How many books have you read so far this year

Around 20.

Has there ever been a book in which you immediately knew was going to be a favorite?

I knew my favorite book was going to be a favorite before I read it.
I read two short stories set in the Ninefox Gambit universe and I couldn’t stop thinking about them for two weeks. Then I read the book despite all the reviews that told me it was too complicated, and to this day I still don’t get why people think this is complicated (also: it’s basically fantasy in space and it does not become hard sci-fi just because you found it hard to read!).
If you want some far more unreadable sci-fi, I recommend Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (90% worldbuilding and infodumps) and Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (what happened? Don’t ask me), for different reasons.

What has been your favorite read of 2018 so far?

If I don’t count rereads, I don’t have one. It’s a tie between Darkling by Brooklyn Ray and American Panda by Gloria Chao, but neither of them was a full five star, so I can’t really call them “favorites”. If I count rereads, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

What book trope do you love? And why?

Any kind of trope or situation which forces the book and its main character to walk on really morally questionable ground. Well-intentioned extremists (Warcross), when the villain is kind of right but also not (Shadow and Bone), when both sides are wrong in different ways (Strange the Dreamer). Because “the heroes are good but use questionable means and the villain is certainly wrong” (Six of Crows) gets boring sometimes.

What book would you recommend everyone to read?

I don’t have one. Everyone looks for different things. Also, the “important” issue books are all US-centric and while I think they can be interesting to read anyway, they’re not actually that important when your country deals with said issues in a different, still not good way.