Matching Books!

Hello! Today I’m writing a recommendation post that is somewhat unusual, at least by my standards. I started out with the idea to write a post in the vein of “if you liked this, try that”, but the issue with that kind of format is that one of the two books needs to be more well-known than the other.

For most comparisons I came up with, it wasn’t always easy to determine which of the two people would be more familiar with, so I came up with something a little different – books that match. They’re not necessarily similar, but they may have some elements in common, like atmosphere or character types or the general mood; they may work really well in a conversation with each other, or if read close together. Maybe it almost feels like they complete each other.

#1: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders and Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang
  • quiet, unhurried, introspective science fiction full of social commentary
  • focusing on the main characters’ loss of faith in the system
  • each explores the dynamics between two societies who both believe their way of living is the way of living
  • about the dangers of nationalism, cultural exceptionalism, and lack of open-mindedness

This is the pairing that inspired this post. I read Vagabonds not long after The City in the Middle of the Night, and I kind of felt like they were in a conversation with each other while not being similar at all. They both engage with what it means to be free by talking about different societies’ ideas about freedom, comparing individualism and collectivism, comparing societies where rules are taken to the extreme or disregarded, talking about the tyranny of the market or the tyranny of rush. They both follow characters who are not neatly part of one culture, giving insight into that as well. Despite all of this, they don’t focus on the exact same questions, and when they give answers they give very different ones: I feel like they complete each other.

The Differences:

  • The City in the Middle of the Night involves aliens later on, while Vagabonds feels more like an attempt at a prediction of the future
  • Vagabonds is set on Mars, while the other is set on a fictional, tidally locked planet (one half is always day, one half is always night)
  • The City in the Middle of the Night is queer and explores a toxic relationship blurring the boundaries between friendship and romance; Vagabonds is very much not but talks far more in depth about family

#2: Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist and The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake
  • contemp-set YA focusing on mental health & unfortunate family legacies
  • following a bisexual girl who has to solve a mystery while falling in love with a girl in the process; ghosts may or may not be present
  • about finding your people, if in different ways
  • also more of a coincidence than anything else but in both the main character has a shaved head

These are two of my favorite contemporary-set F/F books I’ve read in the last year, and thinking about it, they have a lot in common, especially in the way they talk about mental health, mental illness and trauma (also with a focus on what’s passed down from one generation to another). One is a paranormal mystery and one is a contemporary with a small mystery aspect, so the overall mood is different – on this list, this is probably the pairing with more differences between the books – but their heart isn’t. Both follow complicated queer girls who are allowed to be messy and “too much” and all the things a girl isn’t allowed to be while still being likable, and I appreciated them a lot for that.

The Differences:

  • The Last True Poets of the Sea is a story about found family, while Missing, Presumed Dead is about climbing out from isolation, in a way
  • while neither are light reads, Missing, Presumed Dead has a far gloomier atmosphere, also because of the paranormal aspect the other book doesn’t have (as much?)
  • The Last True Poets of the Sea has a beautiful, far more relaxed atmosphere and it’s set in a small town on the coast of Maine; Missing, Presumed Dead is set in Los Angeles and it’s… far from relaxed, just very exhausted

#3: Never-Contented Things and You Must Not Miss
  • stories about teenagers failed by the adults around them
  • dealing with abuse and sexual assault
  • contemporary-set, with a dark speculative twist involving a parallel world
  • following queer and trans characters

If we want to talk about books that felt as if they were in a conversation (…despite probably having nothing to do with each other), this is another example. In both of these, a teen is driven to their breaking point by the failures of the adults around them, by the lack of a support system; this breaking point involves a dark, maybe-not-so-fictional world that ends up interfering with their daily lives. However, the paths these books choose are completely different, one being about self-love in the face of deep self-loathing and years of abuse, the other being about escape and revenge fantasies. Completely different answers to a not-so-different premise.

The Differences:

  • Never-Contented Things is more firmly horror than You Must Not Miss, being dreamlike in a nightmarish way, and involving horribly cruel fairies; the second one feels like a YA contemporary for most of the story
  • Never-Contented Things is overall much darker but also has more of a romance than You Must Not Miss;
  • both involve sexual assault in the backstory, but Never-Contented Things deals with escaping incestuous abuse, while You Must Not Miss deals with having an alcoholic parent and being assaulted at a party while intoxicated.

#4: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas and The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett
  • YA fantasy heavy on the political intrigue, with a mystery subplot
  • following a reluctant, inexperienced, aspiring-scientist queen
  • with a good helping of murder!

These two very under-the-radar YA fantasy books are so similar in the beginning that when I started The Winter Duke I felt like I was having a flashback of Long May She Reign, but then they take completely different directions, which is perfect for this post. While both focus on the heroine’s attempt to rule while trying to solve the mystery that devastated her royal family, one is a story about growing into your role and turning your weaknesses into strengths, while the other is a story about disentangling from a thorny situation by trusting the people who care about you instead of following the trail of power, the legacy of violence of your family. They’re maybe not great to read back-to-back (too many similarities) but the experience of reading one is enriched by having read the other.

The differences:

  • Long May She Reign is a story with almost no magic and a lot of chemistry, while magic has an important role in The Winter Duke and science takes a backseat.
  • The first takes place in a country inspired by France, the other is set in a winter country over an icy, magical lake with a secret city in its depths
  • neither have a prominent romance, but The Winter Duke is F/F and Long May She Reign is an unnecessarily straight book.

#5: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust and The Never-Tilting World by Rin Chupeco
  • F/F YA fantasy set in a world inspired by ancient West Asia
  • main character trapped & manipulated by her mother because of her power
  • reaching towards the darkness and the forbidden to escape

These books aren’t similar at all, actually! That’s what happens when one is a quiet single-PoV fantasy and the other is a four-PoV book full of action, but I specifically want to draw a comparison between Soraya’s PoV in Girl, Serpent, Thorn and Odessa’s in The Never-Tilting World, as both feature an F/F romance and what looks like a set-up for a “descent into darkness” arc, but take completely different directions upon that; if one is about self-acceptance, the other is about the greed driven by insecurity, the addicting nature of power and righteous anger. In both cases, however, the weakness comes from the same place: the lies of a parent, and having endured growing up in forced isolation from the rest of the world.

The Differences:

  • as I said, The Never-Tilting World has at least two PoVs that have nothing to do with Odessa, so take that into account, and it has an unnecessary amount of action scenes
  • Girl, Serpent, Thorn is inspired by Zoroastrian beliefs and ancient Persia, The Never-Tilting World by ancient Mesopotamian religion
  • Girl, Serpent, Thorn is self-contained and fairytale-like; The Never-Tilting World is the beginning of a duology and feels bigger in scope.

Have you read any of these? Have you ever found that some books matched each other?

Adult · lists

Books That Will Cause Problems On Purpose

Have you ever gone through a stressful time in your life and then thought well, now that I have some free time, why don’t I create some problems for myself?

If so, don’t worry! I have just the right reading list for you.

Low-Level Problems


Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney: compared to a lot of other books on this list, Desdemona and the Deep is a really nice, straightforward, very queer novella involving humans just as much as fae or goblins. However, and I say this especially for ESL speakers like me, keep a vocabulary/some reliable internet translator at hand. Context won’t be enough; you’re going to need it.

  • Desdemona and the Deep, describing anything: …and they glowed with that gallimaufry of moonlight, twilight, and predatory flower-light…
  • me, a confused Italian: wtf is a gallimaufry??
  • Desdemona and the Deep, grinning up to its “festooned eyelids”: …and Chaz spared them a single glare from her alluvial larimar-on-scarlet eyes
  • me: oh sure. I know how that looks like

It’s intentionally over-the-top, and it’s a really fun time if that’s not too much for you. For me it wasn’t, because I like books that cause me problems and make me learn something, even if that something is a word I will never use, like “gallimaufry”.


Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: I’m ranking this in the low-level problems category even though, I will admit, I didn’t fully understand this book nor was able to fully follow the timeline, but I got enough and getting more than that wasn’t necessary, because this novel is a masterpiece in being deceptively simple. Making a definitely non-linear story in which time repeatedly rewinds on itself feel linear is an achievement most authors don’t have the skill for. This feels straightforward, if weird – but it’s the farthest thing from the first, while the second describes it perfectly. My dear philosophical alchemical book. Unlike most of the books on this list, Middlegame goes out of its way to be readable, and it will still confuse you a lot!


This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone: when I say that this book feels like an overgrown short story, I mean that it’s written in a style you’re probably familiar with if you’ve read a lot of short SFF – evocative vague sci-fi with a lot of flowery thrown in. It’s… definitely not for those who don’t like poetry, despite not having any actual poetry in it. I will fully admit that I think this style works better in a shorter format, but this was still a remarkable book made out of very pretty confusion. It being epistolary time travel doesn’t help, but if you too are a simple gay who will persevere for the enemies-to-lovers spy F/F romance, you’ll reach an ending that is a delight.

Medium-Level Problems


The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley: I still have no idea what happened and hated almost every moment of reading this book (realistic and kind of apocalyptic near-future sci-fi about war… let’s just say it’s not my thing) but it was one of my favorites of last year and I think about it often. It has one of the best endings I’ve ever read, one that made reading a book I pretty much disliked everything about worth it, even though I’m still not sure anything about the book makes sense, because it’s one of those time travel books (those that make This Is How You Lose the Time War feel as if it made sense). What’s linear time, you ask? This book doesn’t seem to care.


Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: if it were up to me, this would go into the “low-level” tier, but it would be wrong to talk about Ninefox Gambit without taking consensus mechanics into account, and the crowd has spoken, mostly in the vein of Acqua, why does this read like a math textbook on acid. If you also happen to be completely immune to sciencespeak (I grew up around physicists, math space-fantasy cannot hurt me), I really recommend the mass murder magic math book! If not, you need the opposite ability than with Desdemona and the Deep: do not focus on the details. You’re not going to get them anyway, just like when your mother has decided she really, really needs to explain you that one math problem you didn’t get right now but you’re just trying to eat dinner: if the book tells you that “such a storm would scramble vectors”, just go with the idea that it’s something to avoid, whatever it might mean (if you have an overactive visual imagination like me, come up with your own very cool visual description of having your vectors scrambled! I recommend imagining a lot of fractals as you read this), and go on eating your scrambled eggs.


Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente: if The Light Brigade wins the award for best ending, Radiance wins the award for best prologue, as the prologue itself is a retro sci-fi meta commentary on prologues, and it only gets weirder from there. Making sense of something is infinitely more difficult when you’re not able to discern what’s fictional and what’s not inside the canon of the book, which is what happens with a meta narrative ever-rewriting itself through excerpts of nonexistent films in an alternate, decopunk fantasy version of our solar system. The best kind of trippy! And, as this “decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery” understands, you can never truly have too many genres.

High-Level Problems


Vita Nostra by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko: this is the only book on the list I can confidently say I didn’t get. It was ominous and metaphysical and overwhelming, and technically it’s about a magical school (but was it really?). My confusion is probably the result of a combination of symbolism being lost in translation, me not being familiar with the cultural context this was created in, and this book being generally, uh, obscure. It’s still an interesting experience, as long as you’re fine with the distinct possibility that you won’t understand three quarters of what you read – it pretty much makes as much sense as its cover does, which is to say, I don’t know what that is, but it sure gives me a certain feeling.


Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer: or, a compilation of things I’ve said about this book scattered around this blog and its comments

  • “It took me ten tries to get through the first chapter and I’m not even sure why I did this to myself, but I did it and now I feel accomplished”
  • “one of the most boring things I’ve ever read and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’ve also four-starred it because it’s great (it’s not. But it kind of is?)”
  • “I hate-read this book. I hate-read it because there was no way something as convoluted and heavy as this really got published and won awards”
  • “this is what happens when your novel is 90% worldbuilding and basically the book equivalent of a 18th century philosophy shitpost.”
  • “a terrible slog with cw: cannibalism levels of questionable content”
  • “if you want to read a story about the slow fall into chaos of a not-so-utopian utopia because of a heretical brothel, two deity children and a group of stabby celebrities, this may be for you!”
  • “I ended up giving this book four stars for the effort. The author’s or mine? I don’t know, but there sure was a lot of effort involved”
  • TL;DR: read it! Then judge me for recommending it to you.

The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar: adult SFF authors in an experimental mood scare me and this book is the reason why. What about a novel in which there’s technically no time travel and the timeline would be, could maybe have been linear but there’s pretty much a time jump in every paragraph, if you want to call it that, because this isn’t so much a story as a staircase of moments sliding in and out of focus as you go up and down in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of memories? And not all memories would conform to every definition of truth. Reading it feels like trying to hold onto smoke, it’s an authentic lyrical headache – one I loved deeply, and the part called The History of Music will always be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed.

Have you read any of these? Do you have any recommendations for this? [Also, why can’t “a problematic book” mean “a book that causes problems on purpose”. That would be way funnier]


Rating My Favorite Fantasy Palaces

What would fantasy be like without some nice murderous palaces?

In this post, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite palaces in the genre, and rate the beauty vs. corruption contrast.

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett


This post was inspired by The Winter Duke, which I recently finished listening. I have complicated feelings about it – full review here! – but what I don’t feel ambiguously about is the setting. This book was advertised as “lesbian political fantasy on ice” and it’s exactly that, down to being set in a castle made of ice and overrun by winter roses (Kylma Above), floating above an icy lake with a mysterious deepwater magical city below (Kylma Below). If you’re thinking well, that sounds incredibly impractical, it is! People have to be careful not to freeze, and a lot of things are kept together by magical pacts, which is really fun when most don’t understand how those magical pacts actually work.

Beauty: a solid 7/10; really pretty, but I appreciate practicality and this has none
Corruption: 8/10. Far from the most extreme on this list, but the way the succession line is established is pretty messed up, and there sure is a lot of betraying!

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin


Over the city called Sky is the royal palace, also called Sky (these people don’t have much imagination when it comes to names), standing on a column not visible for a distance. Defies physics and common sense purely for the aesthetic, but at least the characters don’t risk freezing their ass off if they get distracted, and I appreciate the pragmatism of having an execution method as effective as the flight on the way down. It’s also an easy way to trap your nephews in line for the throne so that they can’t easily escape the intrigue or the vengeful gods!
(By the way, I’m so glad this is getting some hype lately, since it’s my favorite thing I’ve read by N.K. Jemisin, and it’s really underappreciated.)

Beauty: absolutely gorgeous. 10/10
Corruption: it’s a colonialist, god-enslaving murder nightmare! 9/10.

In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard


You won’t risk getting murdered by the inhabitants of the palace this time – the shapeshifting dragon inhabiting it is actually a peaceful person, if really intimidating – but don’t worry! The palace will do its best to murder you itself.
It’s the palace of the Vanishers, the invaders who left behind a broken, twisted world, and it’s pretty much the building equivalent of an Escher painting, if Escher’s paintings were evil. A door (which you might find on the walls, ceilings, or pavement) might lead  you to a beautiful garden as well to a terrible death.

Beauty: I have a taste for the broken, weird and nonsensical, so this gets a solid 8/10
Corruption: it starts from horribly corrupted premises, but all in all, the result isn’t that bad! 6/10, not that cruel.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi


For another place with very unusual anatomy, we’ll have to visit the palace of Akaran, the mysterious reign Maya is led to after escaping her own world. It’s beautiful and full of secrets, and if atmosphere is an important component of fantasy for you, you definitely won’t be disappointed by Roshani Chokshi’s writing. (Akaran isn’t even the prettiest place in the book! That would be the Night Bazaar.)
I will always have a weakness for the kind of place where every rooms hides its own mystery and danger, so of course I fell in love with this from the beginning.

Beauty: the prettiest underworld one will ever have the chance to witness. 9/10
Corruption: not corrupted at all actually! Who knew a nice place could exist in this post. Of course, don’t get me wrong – there are dead people. 2/10

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


The Little Palace lies in the wood like something born of a fairytale, in the perfect location for the characters to take walks by the lake and ignore the garish Grand Palace. It’s just as pretty inside, finely and tastefully decorated, with a wonderful library and mysterious passages.
Something very wrong might be going on under the façade, but now, that’s just part of the fun!

Beauty: 8/10, great atmosphere, could use serious improvements on the food
Corruption: once one understands what’s actually going on, it’s… pretty high, I’d say an 8/10.

Tensorate by JY Yang


I fell in love with the Great High Palace of the Protectorate from the first pages of The Black Tides of Heaven, in which a minor character has to go up a never-ending staircase to reach a marvel of architecture and slackcraft (something between science and magic, favorite trope alert), which includes a floating goldfish pond enveloping part of the palace. I fell even more in love with it when I realized just how rotten the people living in it were.

Beauty: 8/10. Not many descriptions are given, but what I saw was absolutely unforgettable
Corruption: 9/10 just because of how much implied abuse goes on between the scenes; the royals are one worse than the other.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty


The whole of Daevabad would get a pretty high rating on both the beauty and the corruption scale, but today we’re going to talk about the most important part of it, the palace of the Nahid. I’m currently re-listening to this book (let’s thank scribd for being free the whole month without needing any credit card info, so that I can listen to a 19-hour-long, 25€-worth audiobook for free) and I had forgotten just how creepy it was. An ancient white ziggurat with impossibly beautiful, bejeweled gardens, fountains in which water turns into blood out of spite – the palace doesn’t approve its current inhabitants – and creepy murals that reappear out of nowhere on walls that didn’t exist before. Sadly, I’m listening to this and so probably missing half of the details, but it’s definitely haunted and glorious.

Beauty: 9/10. S.A. Chakraborty certainly doesn’t spare us the descriptions! It would have been an 8 for the details on the winged-lion throne alone.
Corruption: 9/10. Oh wow there’s so much horrible backstory I didn’t even remember from the first time around. This is going to be fun

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan


The Hidden Palace is the lair of the Demon King, the place where eight Paper Caste (human) girls are forced to become concubines every year. No book understands how much evil stands out on a beautiful background – and how much beauty shines if surrounded by evil – the way Girls of Paper and Fire does. In this place, you’ll find descriptions of beautiful dresses and food that will make you hungry and some of the best atmosphere you’ll ever see, paired with some of the most horrifying, deliberate violence I’ve ever found in a YA fantasy.

Beauty: 8/10, it’s breathtaking but you have an effort to ignore what’s actually going on in it to notice that;
Corruption: 10/10. No doubt about that, and it’s really not subtle about it either.

What are your favorite fantasy palaces?

lists · Short fiction

Pride Recommendations: Short Fiction

I recently said, in my post about unpopular opinions, that I think short fiction doesn’t get half the appreciation it deserves. So not why make a post about my favorite queer short fiction like the one I did for graphic novels?


  • the Tensorate series by JY Yang is my favorite novella series. It follows the rise of a revolution and the conflict between magic and technology in an Asian-inspired world, and part of the reason it’s one of my favorites is exactly the worldbuilding. This world’s concept of gender is completely different from our own, this series has multiple characters that we would consider to be trans, and there’s so much casual queerness.
  • I very recently read an ARC of This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone, and… while I thought it got somewhat pretentious at times, its premise is “epistolary f/f enemies to lovers with time travel” and the story itself is even better than it sounds. I loved the way this ended so much that words wouldn’t do it justice. A love born during war is a love that endures so much, and… just read this, ok?

  • If you’re here, you’ve probably already heard of the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, and you might also already know that I love it – and one of the things I love about it is the casual queerness (book one has an asexual protagonist, book two follows a girl who likes girls, and there’s a trans side character). Another reason this series means a lot to me is how it talks about being lost, about growing up feeling like you are in the wrong place, and it’s… bittersweet, overall.
  • One of my favorite f/f romances is Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole, a story about a second-chance romance between two black women set in New York. The atmosphere was everything I could have wanted and more. It’s tied to the Reluctant Royals series, which are m/f royalty romance novels with black women as protagonists,  but you don’t need to have read the novels to understand this.

Short Stories and Novelettes

All the ones that are free to read online are linked.


Paranormal. While finding queer vampires in traditionally published novels and novellas is difficult, finding them in short stories is surprisingly easy, probably because people are willing to take more risks – and publish stories in a “dead” trend (sigh) – with short stories.

  • 26849365Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong: an f/f/f love triangle in which two out of the three characters are vampire-like creatures that eat bad thoughts, all three women are Asian, and the story is about toxic relationships and hunger and I loved it so much. (I’m glad that for once I agree with the Nebula awards about which story deserved to win.)
  • Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. Szpara: horny trans vampires. Yes, I really do think it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read, with the parallels it drew between transition and vampirism.
  • Sucks (To Be You) by Katharine Duckett: a succubus becomes obsessed with a woman instead of the other way around, because, as she discovers, being a succubus in the age of social media is complicated. Anyway: the voice in this story. It has so much energy.

Dark fantasy, because you can never read enough weird, bloodthirsty and otherwise disturbing short stories.

  • 26837046The Lily and the Horn by Catherynne M. Valente: queer women who are poisoners! Beautiful writing! The most mouth-watering descriptions of poisoned food you will ever read! And war, you should know, is a dinner party.
  • I Built this City For You by Cassandra Khaw: Hello. Is this your city? This story starts in the weirdest way possible, and only gets better; I love everything about it. Stories about cities and people’s relationships with them, stories about toxic relationships, even f/f ones, stories about this specific kind of speculative elements – I will never stop loving them, and the writing got under my skin.
  • Before She Was Bloody by Tessa Gratton in Three Sides of a Heart: f/f/m polyamory, body doubles, court intrigue, a worldbuilding more interesting and complex than half the fantasy novels I read, and an unforgettable atmosphere (the descriptions!!). One of my favorites.
  • Super-Luminous Spiral by Cameron Van Sant: if you’ve ever wondered how hallucinating about literary fiction and the concept of the “muse” but with a magical trans character involved would feel like, well… this story exists.

Quiet, bittersweet and/or sad stories, because quiet stories are underrated – and because, about the sad ones, I might not be able to read most sad queer novels, but I love sad queer short stories (and will always believe in the right of queer creators to write what they want). The stories not being long 300+ pages makes all the difference.

  • 35395539All the Time We’ve Left to Spend by Alyssa Wong: the fact that this one wasn’t nominated for either a Hugo or a Nebula is a sign that things are going wrong. Anyway, this is about a Japanese girl visiting a hotel where the memories of dead members of a pop band are preserved, and it’s… queer and haunting.
  • Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang: this needs trigger warnings for being set in a homophobic world and for having a torture scene (not of a character who, as far as we know, is queer). It’s also one of my favorite short stories, about a forbidden f/f romance and magical songs in space. JY Yang’s descriptions are some of the best things I have ever read.
  • The Imitation Sea by Lora Gray: this is about grief and the aftermath of a suicide and it deals with homophobic religious abuse, so be careful. It’s also one of the most atmospheric and beautiful things I’ve ever read. I don’t know how I had not heard of this author before.
  • The Shadow Postulates by Yoon Ha Lee in Conservation of Shadows: this isn’t a sad story, just a quiet one, one that blends magic and mathematics, and the main character is a lesbian learning sword-dancing (sword lesbian!!). The worldbuilding in this one is everything to me (terrifying magical shadows tied to math? an university in which they study said math?) and I would read a whole book set there.

F/F. So far, I have talked about queer stories I wouldn’t really classify as love stories, as some of these were about toxic relationships and death or didn’t have a relationship in them at all. But here are my favorite f/f stories with a happy ending!

  • 43064429If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho: an imugi trying to became a dragon keeps failing and meets a woman in the process! Funny, romantic, and very gay.
  • The End of Love by Nina LaCour in Summer Days and Summer Nights: on the surface, this is a cute, happy story about a girl finding love after she stopped believing in it (because her parents divorced). Not on the surface, this is the first thing with f/f content I had ever read and it will always mean a lot to me.
  • Death and the Maiden by Tara Sim in Color Outside the Lines: an f/f retelling of Hades and Persephone with an Indian main character! The atmosphere has a Star-Touched Queen feeling but gay and that was everything I didn’t know I wanted.

M/M stories that don’t fit into the previous categories, relatively happy:

  • ExtracurricularActivitiesExtracurricular Activities by Yoon Ha Lee: this is technically tied to Ninefox Gambit, but as it’s set 300+ years before the trilogy, and as I read it before the book, I don’t think it’s an issue. It’s a story about a bisexual secret agent going on a mission in a neighboring space democracy (all the while flirting with a man he really shouldn’t be flirting with!) and it’s really fun.
  • Court of Birth, Court of Strength by Aliette de Bodard: this is also tied to the series Dominion of the Fallen, but again, it can be read without knowing anything about it and it’s set long before it. It’s about gay fallen angels and political intrigue, and the romance is… really well-written for something this short.
  • Unbound by Naomi Salman in Twisted Romance: contemporary romance about a mechanic and a mysterious neighbor, who is rumored of working in a sex club. It involves bondage and it’s one of my favorite short romances.

Do you have any queer short fiction recommendations? Have you read any of these?


Recommendation Time: A List Inspired by Shadow and Bone

In which I recommend books starting from a very well-known one I have reread recently.

Disclaimer: this is not a “books similar to Shadow and Bone” post. You don’t have to like Shadow and Bone to like any of these books!

I’m just using a well-known book to recommend things that deal with similar themes or have a similar aesthetic, but some of them aren’t similar to Shadow and Bone at all when seen as a whole.

↬ You liked the dark world of Shadow and Bone and want to read something that  is still set in/inspired by Eastern Europe but feels more adult and complex.


  • you like books that are somewhat challenging, great (if heavy) writing, toxic romances, magic that doesn’t answer to rules, and would love to read something that dealt with Russian history in the first half of the 20th century: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente.
  • you want something subtler, with just a touch of romance, and a more reckless-and-lovable heroine. Also, atmosphere is really important to you, you don’t mind slow pacing, and would love to read something about the conflict of Christianity and Paganism: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  • what if overdramatic wizards are exactly your thing but you’d like to read a book in which the overdramatic wizard isn’t great with people at all? If you’d like to read something about a Polish-inspired world and agree that plants can be really creepy,  I recommend Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

↬ Your favorite part of Shadow and Bone was without a doubt the villain, and you want to read a book that is specifically about whether the end ever justifies the means, of course featuring mass death and fascinating villainous characters.


  • Is “reading about immortal people being horrible” your favorite genre? Well. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee doesn’t have one nearly-immortal villainous character, it has two. Who are trying to get back at each other. This series is about very smart people doing horrible things and what drives them to do that, in space, with a lot of explosions and mass murder. (Also: all-queer cast!)
  • If you liked the whole “does the end ever justify the means” theme of Shadow and Bone regarding the situation of magical users, you need to read The Fever King by Victoria Lee. Especially if you like to read about gay teenagers just trying their best and side characters who are fascinating manipulative bastards. (Also: Jewish biracial main character, Jewish side characters, main m/m romance.)

↬ You want something like Shadow and Bone that has more court intrigue, more romance, and explores the religious themes more too.


  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin: could I not include the book I’ve seen described multiple times as a Shadow and Bone for adults, with both more romance and more political intrigue, about a polyamorous relationship between gods? Of course not.
  • Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan: do you want to read more fantasy books in which there’s a villain romance (although one that doesn’t have the same dynamic as the one in Shadow and Bone) and in which the magic system is tied to religion and also includes blood magic? This book exists and I love it. Also, the second half features deadly court intrigue!
  • Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge: if you liked the love triangle in Shadow and Bone and want to read one that is even better, with a more morally gray lead, I would recommend this. I don’t remember much about it because I read it in 2016, but I remember loving the atmosphere, the main character, and the French-inspired fantasy world.

↬ Your favorite part of Shadow and Bone was the “power corrupts/is addicting” theme, but you want to read something that takes it further.


  • if you like retellings and want to read one that deals with how the allure of power,  both in a magical and political sense, can corrupt people, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, an East Asian retelling of Snow White from the PoV of the Evil Queen, could be the book for you.
  • if you like complex magic systems that are perfectly integrated in the society of the fantasy world you’re reading about, you should try the adult fantasy book Jade City by Fonda Lee, a story about a fictional Asian-inspired society in which jade is magical and jade can be addicting.

↬ You liked the classic fantasy trope of the heroine who has to learn to use her powers (including many training montages), and you’d like a more diverse version of that.


  • the book with my favorite training montages ever is Red Sister by Mark Lawrence, a story about magical assassin nuns training in a monastery. The book is slow-paced because the main character (who is bisexual, by the way) spends most of the book learning and going to class, but I didn’t mind that at all, because this book’s training montages are wonderful and the worldbuilding even more so.
  • if you’re looking for a book that has a more maybe-villainous heroine than Shadow and Bone had, but really like training montages anyway and don’t mind a heavy, descriptive writing style, I recommend The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco.
  • And if we’re still talking about very morally gray heroines who end up attending magical school, I can’t not mention The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, in which a girl goes to a military academy and learns about magic not because she was the chosen one, but because she worked harder than everyone else. (I… didn’t like the rest of the book, the parts not set in the school, but my opinion is very unpopular; you’ll probably love it if you like grimdark. Look up the trigger warnings, though, if you haven’t heard about them.)

↬ You didn’t actually care for a certain villainous character much, but you really liked Alina and just want to read something about girls taking down evil, manipulative men, in a book that is not as overwhelmingly straight and white as Shadow and Bone.


  • Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan is a story about a girl who has been forced to become a concubine of the demon king in a Malaysian-inspired fantasy world. It’s about women finding a way to fight back in a world in which they’re just seen as objects, and it also features a beautiful forbidden f/f romance.
  • If you want something that is about women supporting each other and is beautifully written, gay, and very quiet, I recommend Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, another Snow White retelling that features women working together against the evil man who is trying to use them. And, just like Shadow and Bone, it has a beautiful wintry atmosphere.

↬ You want to read something fantasy written by authors who are Eastern European.


  • I sadly don’t know much about modern SFF by Eastern European authors, for various reasons, but I have read the Ukrainian novel Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, translated in English from Russian, and I can say that if you want something set in a magical school in modern Russia that will change all your ideas about how fantasy can be like, you really should try reading it.
  • I have recommended another book written by Naomi Novik on this list, but I also want to remind all of you that the Lithuanian-inspired fantasy Spinning Silver, a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin that explicitly challenges the antisemitism of the fairytale by centering a Jewish main character, exists. It’s an atmospheric, slow-paced story about women supporting each other against terrible men, and it includes some of the best romantic storylines in adult fantasy. The author is of Polish and Lithuanian Jewish descent.
  • If you want to read a story about sisters that combines fairytale-like atmosphere, Eastern European fairytales, and poetry (it’s a subversive retelling of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market), with wonderful food descriptions and writing that integrates seamlessly both Ukrainian and Yiddish words, I recommend The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner, an author who is Jewish and of Eastern European descent. I DNFed this book because I really didn’t like the parts written in verse (and the bad ARC formatting was giving me a headache), but I still recommend it because think it could work for someone who likes this kind of poetry more.

Are there any other books you’d recommend for these categories?


3-in-1 Recommendation Post

I wanted to write a recommendation list but didn’t know what to write about and that’s how we ended up with this. I hope you like my twist on the “if you like this, try that” recommendation posts!

Disclaimer: I in no way mean to imply that any of these books are alike/very similar. They’re not – especially in category 1 and 5, in which they’re all from different genres. I just feel like they can appeal to the same kind of reader.

So You Like A Challenge

read them! then judge me for recommending them to you

Have you ever felt like the books you’re currently reading aren’t challenging you enough? Do you want to read something that will consume you, surprise you, and leave you with the knowledge that you’ve never read anything quite like it and never will again? Are you ok with not understanding all of what you read?

Then I can recommend you these three unique and truly bizarre books, three of the most challenging novels I’ve ever read.

  • Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente is a “decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery” told through transcriptions of parts of fictional films. It’s a love letter to filmmaking and stories, with dizzyingly beautiful descriptions of sci-fantasy settings, and you won’t be able to keep straight what’s real and what’s fictional inside the book.
  • Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer: the 25th century from the point of view of someone who just really likes 17th century philosophy. It’s basically 90% worldbuilding, and if that sounds boring – oh, it is. It’s really boring, but that’s exactly how the extremely disturbing trainwreck in part two sneaks up on you! It totally pays off in the worst way, and this is the kind of futuristic story that feels at the same time possible, surprisingly alien, and horrifying. Is this an utopia, a dystopia or neither? I still don’t know the answer. Anyway, try this. It’s worth reading just to hate on the narrator.
  • Vita Nostra by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko: to give you an idea of how good this book is, I’m just going to tell you that this is the only novel I’ve ever really disliked that regularly makes it to my recommendation lists. It’s the kind of book in which the individual scenes make sense but the whole does not. I have no idea what the fuck I read, but was it An Experience. I really recommend it if you ever want a headache you are ok with not understanding most of it but want to read something that in a way is about growing up (which is confusing, like this book).

Emotional, Diverse Multi-PoV Contemporary

they will make you cry but they’re so wholesome

So you like pain? What about books that will smash your heart to pieces and then put it back together again, making you cry of happiness in the end? Those are the best kinds of contemporary novels. And today I’m recommending three books that deal with heavy topics like adoption, teen pregnancy, friendship break-ups, grief, and alcoholism with grace, heart and a lot of reader tears.

  • Far From the Tree by Robin Benway is the most well-known of these three – it won a National Book Award and it’s deserved – and it follows three biological siblings who were adopted by different families/are in foster care as they reconnect. It talks about adoption, teen pregnancy, and family. If you’re putting this off because, like I did, you think this is going to be a sappy story, I can tell you it isn’t.
  • This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow: I love this book so much? And it’s so underrated. I have yet to find another contemporary book which follows three characters who are all dealing with their own mental health issues – grief and anxiety, low self-esteem after a toxic relationship, recovery from addiction – and does all their journeys justice. This has two very sweet romances – one f/f and one m/f – and it’s about three girls who were once friends as they reconnect through music. Also, two of the three main characters are black (ownvoices rep). It’s the kind of contemporary that manages to be a light read even though its themes are heavy without ever feeling superficial. I know I’m talking a lot about it lately, but that’s because it deserves better than 250 ratings on goodreads!
  • The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk: another story about teenagers as they find each other through music! This follows an adopted Korean-American teen, a black girl, and a white gay boy who all have lost someone close to them – a friend, a sister, a boyfriend – as they work through their grief. It’s one of the first positive representations of a character going to therapy I’ve seen and that meant a lot to me. This is another really underrated novel, but it’s really good, the kind of good that hurts. It needs trigger warnings for biphobia (the gay main character has some internalized prejudice and I have mixed feelings about how the story dealt with that) but apart from that, I loved it.

Political Intrigue In Space

they’re so good and very gay, please read them

What’s better than political intrigue? Political intrigue in space following a mostly, if not all-queer cast!

Anyway. Many people mention that they like political intrigue, and they want to read more novels in which the intrigue is actually unpredictable. And here’s my list of novels set in space that deal with complex political situations! In all of them the complex worldbuilding paid off and all of them had twists I didn’t see coming.

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: a story about a vengeful AI and an evil space empire told through two timelines. It’s the kind of effortlessly compelling high-stakes sci-fi I would recommend to anyone who isn’t intimidated by complex worldbuilding and wants to read about politics, power dynamics in interactions between cultures, the nature of humanity and sentience – and who gets to decide who is human and sentient. And it’s set in an empire with a concept of gender and family very different from our own, which is really interesting to read.
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: this is a story about sieges. On the surface, it’s a story about a disgraced captain, Cheris, who is shackled to the ghost of Jedao – a general who was a tactical genius and also a mass murderer – to win an impossible siege. At the same time, it’s the story of Jedao’s siege of Cheris’ mind and beliefs, and the story of a space empire divided into bickering factions all threatened by an external enemy and held together by someone who might be even worse. It has an all-queer cast, math-inspired magic in space, no romance and plenty of explosions. It’s the best thing I’ve ever read.
  • A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine: I still haven’t fully recovered from this one. Many parts of it hit really close, it’s… personal. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that talks about what it’s like to grow up on literature not written for you or anyone from your country, written in a language that isn’t your own, because when your neighbors are far more powerful than your country is, they get to set the standards of what is good literature – and even which ways of living are modern and civilized. It’s a story about a woman who, after being thrown into political intrigue at court (she’s an ambassador), changes the history of an empire she both loves and hates. Also, it has a main f/f romance, a mostly-queer cast and possibly the best court intrigue I’ve ever read.

Monster Love

because monster romance is the best romance!

Romance storylines in fantasy often leave a lot to be desired. But you know which kind of romance rarely disappoints me? Monster romances. Give me all the weird and complicated and unusual romances in which the love interest has the best aesthetic – be it a chaos entity or a shapeshifter or an evil broody elf – and I will end up loving them.

  • In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard: a lesbian scholar and a bisexual shapeshifting dragon woman fall in love in this Vietnamese-inspired Beauty and the Beast retelling! It’s the only monster romance I know in which both main characters are women and it also has the best descriptions ever – do you like beautiful but dangerous palaces in which doors can lead to gardens and libraries as often as they can lead to death? Anyway, this was one of my favorite relationships of 2018, to see the dragon Vu Côn act like she’s totally not into the main character and then as she tries to flirt with fruits anyway…
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin: I’ve seen this book described as Shadow and Bone for adults and that’s… accurate. If you thought this book wouldn’t be a “let’s sleep with the chaos god amidst deadly political intrigue in a palace that is basically floating in the sky”, you were wrong. It’s that book, and the chaos god is also genderfluid (what is gender to a god) and the main character is a bisexual brown woman.
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: monster romance as a genre is by definition extra and really dramatic – which is what I love about it. Give me all the overdramatic monster love interests who are not as scary as they initially seemed – but nothing is as extra as this book. This book doesn’t have a monster romance, it has two. One between a Jewish daughter of a moneylender and what’s basically a broody ice elf and the other between the daughter of a duke and a possessed Tsar. And it’s a story about women supporting each other against terrible men as well! Pick up this slow-paced, wintry retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and get ready for the feelings.

Hard-Hitting SFF

I believe in exploring hard topics but I don’t believe in hopelessness

Some words like “relevant” and “important” are overused enough to be pretty much meaningless, like a lot of the words thrown around for buzz when it comes to book promotion. That’s why I never use them – well, almost. There are some books that – in my opinion – actually fit what those words mean. They’re not easy reads in any way, but I really think they’re worth it.

  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon: this is set in a generation spaceship whose social order is very similar to the society in the United States before the civil war. It’s a story about enslaved people enduring horrible things, about the ways they are affected by them, about the small ways they still find to fight back. It’s also a story that talks about how gender roles are imposed, taught, made up – and it really makes you look at them and at cisheteronormativity and think “was I really taught to think that was natural? And people still believe it?”. It talks about the many forms racism can take, from the outwardly violent parts to the ones that look like details but really aren’t. It also has a mostly-queer cast (the main character is intersex and maybe non-binary, and there are explicitly non-binary major characters) and the main character is autistic.
  • Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly: this is a story about the rise of a fascist government in a previously-accepting city from the point of view of marginalized characters – two queer men, one of which is a person of color, and a woman who is a sex worker. I still can’t think of any other book that balanced the fun – because yes, this was a fun read at times – with the darkness as effectively as this book does, and what it did haunts me. It has that tone of “it happened, and it can happen again, quickly” but it’s not hopeless, which would have made it unreadable. It’s… a lot and it is upsetting and it also should have more readers.
  • Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan: I often talk about this novel because it has one of my favorite romances ever – an f/f forbidden slow burn, the kind of romance that blooms in stolen moments and I love everything about it. But that’s not what this book is about. This is a story about being a rape survivor set in a Malaysian-inspired kingdom in which young girls are forced to become concubines of a demon king. It portrays the many reaction women have to assault and rape culture, including enduring, fighting back, starting to see it as normal and hurting other girls because they have been hurt themselves. It’s… an exploration of that and I thought it was very well-written (and, of course, hard to read).

Have you read or want to read any of these? Have you ever read three books you think would appeal to the same kind of reader even though they’re not really similar?



15 New Releases to Read Before the End of the Year

My favorite posts to write are the end-of-the-year lists, those in which I talk about my favorite and least favorite books of the year. They’re also some of my favorite posts to read.

When I write those lists, I always hope there are a lot of new releases that aren’t sequels on them – not because the backlist isn’t important to me, but because I want new books, especially debuts, to end up on my “favorite” lists the year they get published.

I don’t know if any of you care about this, but even if you don’t, here are 15 books that came out in 2018, some of which very underrated, that are worth reading and may even end up on your “favorites” list, if we have similar tastes! Some of them certainly made it to mine.

YA Contemporary

I think 2018 has been a great year for contemporary books. Not only this genre is years ahead of YA fantasy in terms of diversity, I also love how easy it is to find fun stories and really powerful ones at the same time.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (debut) – I feel like I don’t talk about this book enough. This is a poetry book, the only poetry book I’ve ever liked, and yes, it’s worth trying even if you don’t love poetry (I don’t, usually). It’s that good. It follows Xiomara Batista, an afro-latina girl, and her struggles with religion, sexuality as a woman growing up in a Catholic family, and body image.

This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow – a wonderful story about recovery (from trauma, from addiction and from a toxic relationship) following three girls who were once friends as they reconnect through music. It deals with teen pregnancy without sounding like a cautionary tale, and there’s a very cute f/f romance. It’s a very emotional book and I loved all of it; it also has really good mental illness representation.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo – this is the perfect summer contemporary, so I understand if people don’t want to read it in December, but I read it when it wasn’t summer and loved it anyways. It’s a story about family and friendship told from the point of view of Clara, a Korean-Brazilian girl living in Los Angeles who is known for being a prankster. It has the best food description (parts of it are set in a Korean-Brazilian food truck) and it’s the kind of fun, cute contemporary that doesn’t feel trite even though it’s predictable, the kind I can’t get enough of.

Unique Retellings

Retelling are everywhere these days, and not all of them are good or as original as I’d want them to be. But this year I found some that were both well-written and unique – because they were either a new take on a familiar story, or retellings of a story I had never seen retold before.

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna – this is a space fantasy retelling of the Mahabharata, and it’s both ownvoices and an awesome story full of well-written political intrigue. Also, the setting is unlike everything I had ever read before (I love genre-bending stories!) and this is the first book that made me actually like the lost princess trope. It’s great and really underrated (less than 200 ratings on goodreads!), if you like political fantasy and/or space operas, try this!

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke – genderbent Beowulf. That was enough for me to read it, but if that’s not enough for you, what about: a gang of norse female warriors + a witch + a soft healer boy who decide to leave mercy killing behind to go on a quest and slay a monster (not because they had to but because they can and they want to?) Also, no romance, sex positivity, and so much sapphic subtext. I loved every moment of this atmospheric, almost nostalgic story – it’s surprisingly quiet, but that’s what made it stand out from many other YA fantasy books.

In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard – my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling, and I’ve read many. This is an f/f version in which the “beast” is actually a shapeshifting dragon, and the whole cast is Vietnamese. I also loved the setting, this book takes place in a terrifying but beautiful palace in which every door can lead to danger. My favorite aspect was, of course, the romance – I had been looking for this kind of f/f content for a while and I’m so glad I read this novella.

Historical Fantasy

Fantasy books inspired by past real-world situations. I thought I didn’t like this kind of novels, but 2018 proved me wrong – there are so many great historical fantasy releases!

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark – an alternate history novel set in New Orleans in a world in which the American Civil War ended with a truce. It follows a young black girl who has been blessed by the orisha of storms, Oya, and it’s a short, atmospheric read. I want to know more about this world, I loved the main character and many of the side ones (especially the bisexual airship captain) and I also loved the steampunk aspects, of course.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk (debut) – this book is so many things. A paranormal m/m romance, a gaslamp mystery about class privilege, a story about the way society fails veterans set in a world inspired by Edwardian England. It’s so many things and it manages to explore all of these aspects, none of them fell flat. I love this book and I wish it were more hyped.

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig – this fantasy book is set in a fictional world inspired by Southeast Asia during French colonization. It’s a story about a bipolar girl trying to survive in a world in which people with her magical powers are hunted down and killed. She’s a necromancer, and this book has the most original portrayal of necromancy I’ve ever read – Jetta uses her powers to make shadow plays. Another really unique thing about For a Muse of Fire is that it’s told in a mixed media format, and I loved seeing this in a fantasy book. I don’t know why I haven’t heard many people talk about it, it’s a really good YA fantasy.

Miscellaneous Fantasy Releases

Other fantasy books I loved. This year there weren’t as many as I wanted them to be, which is sad but it also makes easier to write lists.

Temper by Nicky Drayden – an underhyped adult fantasy release set in an alternate-history Cape Town in which colonization never happened. It’s fast-paced, messy and fun in a way few adult fantasy books are, it doesn’t take itself seriously, and it’s also one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. The main characters are terrible people I’d normally hate, and yet this book makes it work. There are so many plot twists in here I didn’t see coming, and that happens more rarely than it should.

Paris Adrift by E.J. Swift – Time travel in Paris! There are many reasons I ended up liking it after the beginning didn’t convince me. One of them is the wonderful atmopshere, another is that this was the first time I saw explicit panic attacks in a fantasy book. I also loved Hallie. She is a very reserved person – I thought she was a flat character at the beginning of the book, and was I wrong (why do I like characters who hide from themselves so much?). To this day I remember the second half of this book vividly because of how unashamedly political (we love anti-fascist fiction) it was, and for how much it felt like a fever dream. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything similar.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan (debut) – one of the best YA fantasy books I’ve read in months, and I’m so glad it’s getting the recognition it deserves. It’s an f/f story set in a kingdom inspired by Malaysia (and written by a Malaysian author), and it’s about the ways women react to sexual violence, following two queer girls as they find the strength to fight back. It’s a  very dark, heavy read, but it’s worth it. The atmosphere and descriptions are beautiful, too, which somehow made the book an easier read.

Great Mental Health Rep

In 2018 I finally found some books whose anxiety/depression representation I actually liked!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (debut) – this. book. The Astonishing Color of After is a magical realism story about a biracial Taiwanese girl reconnecting with her culture and her mother’s side of her family after her mother died by suicide, and it has the most nuanced portrayal of a mentally ill parent I’ve ever seen in fiction. Also, part of this is set in Taiwan, and I always want to support contemporary-set books that take place outside the US.

The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé (debut) – this book has the best portrayal of mental illness I’ve ever read. Yes, it’s horror, anxiety horror, as it talks about anxiety and unhealthy coping mechanisms through horror metaphors. This book gets how hopeless and scary it’s like, but it doesn’t make you feel hopeless, which is a very difficult thing to achieve. If you’ve ever wanted to disappear, to fold yourself into nothing and let the world slide around your irrelevance, you’ll probably get this book. It also has a great f/f romance!

Final Draft by Riley Redgate – this contemporary book is a very honest, very heartbreaking portrayal of how anxiety affects hobbies, from the point of view of Laila, a pansexual Ecuadorian girl who is a writer. Difficult to read, but worth it – the romance is one of the best I’ve read this year, if not ever. Laila falls in love with her Korean-American best friend, Hannah, and this is the first time I’ve liked the friends to lovers trope since When the Moon Was Ours.

Have you read or want to read any of these? And if you have recommendations for underrated 2018 releases worth reading before the end of the year, I’d love to hear them!


T10T: Books to Pull You Out of a Reading Slump

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Books to Pull You Out of a Reading Slump.

Includes both books that actually pulled me out of one and books that I think would work well for that. Instead of a top 10, this will be a top 18, because I can.


One of my favorite ways to get out of a reading slump is to choose the shortest book I have on my TBR. Here are some very short novellas that I read very quickly.

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard (96 pages) – a Sherlock Holmes retelling in which Holmes is a woman and Watson is a sentient spaceship, set in a Vietnamese space empire. It’s very good, for something that you can read in one morning, and it was unlike everything I had read before. I loved the characters and I really like the Xuya universe/companion series.

A Song for Quiet by Cassandra Khaw (96 pages) – this is the second book in the Persons Non Grata novella series, but it can be read independently from the first. It’s short, it’s a story about grief and monsters, it’s Lovecraftian Southern Gothic written by a Malaysian author, and I have never seen another novella written so well. It almost reads like poetry.

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark (110 pages) – alternate history with steampunk aspects, set in New Orleans. The main character is a black girl who has been granted visions (…and maybe something more) by Oya, the Orisha of storms; this story also features a black bisexual airship captain and awesome nuns.

Mysterious Contemporary

I love books with a mystery aspect because I read them quickly – I want to know what happens.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (288 pages) – this is a very weird book, definitely polarizing, but I finished it in one day and couldn’t put it down. The first half is a dark, slice-of-life contemporary following a Chinese-American lesbian who gets caught up in an unhealthy f/f/f love triangle, the second half turns into a murder mystery (no dead lesbians!), and unlike the first, it’s told in third person. I love books that explore unhealthy relationships and stories about messy teenagers, especially if there are mysteries involved.

The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé (320 pages) – a f/f horror book I didn’t want to put down, with a mystery element, great symbolism and a main character I love. It’s a story about emptiness and lack of control and drowning. I loved the representation of mental illness, and I thought I would never say that about a horror book.

People Like Us by Dana Mele (384 pages) – just like A Line in the Dark, this is a mystery about queer girls being somewhat terrible, but in a compelling way. It’s a murder mystery with blackmail involved set in a boarding school, and while I found parts of it kind of trashy and predictable, I can say that I didn’t want to stop reading it.


Here are some sci-fi books that I didn’t want to put down while reading.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (336 pages) – I need to reread this book, but the one thing I remember about it is that it’s so much fun. To this day it’s one of the most entertaining adult sci-fi books I know. Also, it’s on the lighter side of adult sci-fi, so you do not have to endure very weird worldbuilding (I love very weird worldbuilding, but I don’t need every book to be that way).

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (376 pages) – Near-future sci-fi with gay and bisexual latinx main characters. I was surprised by how hopeful and not that sad I found this book, just as I was surprised by how fast I read it. The fact that it follows only a day in the main characters’ lives helped. If you do not mind somewhat sad books, this is a really good choice for something to read quickly.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (386 pages) – I think the best word to describe this book, or the Imperial Radch series as a whole, is “effortless”. I was thrown into a very complex world, and yet I was never confused, I never wanted to stop reading it, and it’s not even that fast-paced or suspenseful. It’s just very compelling and I love it. [I recommend this as a book against reading slumps only to those who like complex worldbuilding done well. Those who are in a slump and don’t care about worldbuilding probably won’t care about the fact that it’s done really well and will find it boring anyway].

Adult Fantasy

Books that break the stereotype that adult fantasy is intimidating and slow.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk (272 pages) – this book is short for an adult fantasy novel, but there are so many things happening that I didn’t want to put it down and it didn’t lack depth. It’s a m/m murder mystery with paranormal and steampunk aspects, but it reads just like a romance book. A trope-y one, but that didn’t make the story any less enjoyable or the themes of agency and privilege any less interesting to read.

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard (402 pages) – Dominion of the Fallen is a genre-bending historical paranormal series set in post-apocalyptic Paris, featuring feuding Houses of fallen angels and a kingdom of Vietnamese Dragons in the Seine, with many queer characters. I really liked the first book – it’s the kind of story I read quickly because of the pacing and the mystery aspect – but the second book is even better and has a cast of characters I love.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin (427 pages) – the first book in a series about polyamorous gods, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is one of the best adult fantasy books I’ve read, with the right balance of court intrigue and romance. I read it because it had been recommended “for people who liked Shadow and Bone and want to get into adult fantasy” and I can say that it is accurate. I didn’t want to stop reading it, and it’s not even short.

Addicting Romance

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (279 pages) – I read this book almost two years ago and it’s still one of my favorite romances. It’s a f/f story in which the main character is realizing she’s a lesbian, and yet this is not framed as a coming out story. I loved it, it’s short and it’s the perfect YA/NA crossover.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo (336 pages) – a cute contemporary romance that felt unlike every other I had read before, because Clara is not your typical YA protagonist. Reading about a main character who was a prankster was new to me, as much as reading a contemporary book that was mostly about friendship and family while still having a romance. Also, the main character’s dad is possibly the best dad in YA and owns a Korean-Brazilian food truck (…the best food descriptions).

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (355 pages) – everyone is talking about this book recently because of the adaptation, and I can say that it’s one of the best books I’ve read in its genre: even if I didn’t think the sequels were necessary, I devoured them, because they are addicting and I love the Song girls.

Miscellaneous Slump Killers

Some books that got me out of reading slumps.

Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda (192 pages) – the only graphic novel I’ve ever really liked. Complex worldbuilding, beautiful art I want to stare at for hours, and compelling plot. Also, gay steampunk Asian matriarchy!

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (305 pages) – this is a very short, very weird book. If reading weird things helps you get out of slumps (it helps me), I do recommend this one. Also, it’s a m/m/f (polyamorous) story that focuses on the m/m side of the relationship.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (469 pages) – this book got me out of the worst reading slump I’ve had since I started reviewing. It’s urban fantasy/paranormal with a dystopian twist, and a story about being human (or not). It’s very fast-paced, and I loved the main characters and their friendship (no romance!).

Have you read any of these?


T(5)W: Pride Recommendations

…this will be a long post.

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Favorite LGBTQ+ Books That Don’t Feature Cis M/M Relationships.

In honor of Pride being this month, I wanted to have a topic to celebrate LGBTQ+ books. But, the book community tends to, when given the chance, lift up cis m/m pairings the most. And while those books are still important and valued, I wanted to shine the spotlight on some of those lesser known, recognized, and celebrated books. 

This post will contain all queer books I love that aren’t only about a allo (=not-aromantic, not-asexual) cis m/m couple. They may contain a m/m couple, but they will have other queer PoV characters that aren’t allo cis men in a monogamous relationship.

Most books I read these days are queer. There’s no way I could choose only five, so I will fit in this list as many as I want. This will be both my Top not-so-5 Wednesday that my Recommendations for Pride Month post.

High fantasy

Queer high fantasy novels aren’t as common as they should be; here are some of my favorites.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust: this quiet, slow retelling of Snow White has one of the cutest f/f couples in fantasy. It reads like an atmospheric feminist fairytale.

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K Jemisin: I know The Fifth Season – which I haven’t read yet – has also many queer characters and polyamory, but I feel like many people don’t know that Jemisin’s first series is literally about three polyamorous (m/genderfluid/f) gods. I’ve seen people say the first book a Shadow and Bone-like book but for adults, and I agree. Many of the main characters are also people of color.

Book of the Ancestor by Mark Lawrence: this is a fantasy story set in a convent of assassin nuns, and many of them are queer. While the main character, who is implied to be bisexual, isn’t in a relationship as of the second book, in Grey Sister one of the PoV characters is an assassin nun in a f/f relationship.

All-Queer Sci-fi

All-queer space operas are my favorite genre.

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley: this is all-queer sci-fi since literally everyone in this universe is a lesbian, and it’s one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. The Stars Are Legion is set inside of rotting, living, woman-eating shipworlds, and it has a f/f/f love triangle with a glorious antiheroine/villain ship. One of my favorite books of all times. Not for those who hate biopunk horror.

Machineries of Empire series by Yoon Ha Lee: my all time favorite series. It’s set in an all-queer space empire and it has an all-poc cast; polyamory is common. I usually describe it as the “mass murder magic math books”. The worldbuilding isn’t exactly easy to follow but it’s great once you get into it.
Every book is told from different PoVs:

  • Ninefox Gambit: the PoVs are a lesbian and a bisexual man;
  • Raven Stratagem: the PoVs are an aroace man, a bisexual woman, and a trans man; there are non-binary and transfeminine side characters.
  • Revenant Gun: the PoVs are a bisexual man, a trans man and a woman with multiple wives.
  • (It’s a heavy series; if you need trigger warnings, they’re in the reviews I linked)

Imperial Radch by Ann Leckie: this is also set in a mostly evil space empire, the Radch, which is a society where everyone is agender. While there are other space places outside the Radch where gender is a thing, in the Radch nothing is gendered (including language; the main character “translates” this in English using always she/her pronouns). It’s a really interesting read.

Mostly Queer Sci-Fi

Really weird books. Both for the worldbuilding and plot-wise. I warned you.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon: I’m currently reading this! It’s told from the PoV of a black, autistic, intersex main character, with a mostly queer and black cast. It’s set on an intergenerational spaceship which is organized in a way similar to the pre-war South of the USA. The main characters – who live on the lower decks of the ship – are looking for a way to escape.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente: when I got to know that this book was a comedy and that its (human) main character described himself as omnisexual gendersplat, I feared this book would make fun of that. It did not. Decibel Jones just is who he is, and also space is non-binary and makes fun of racists and transphobes instead. Anyway, it’s one of the weirdest things ever written and it’s about alien Eurovision. It makes no sense. It also does. Read it, there’s weird aliens.

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden: set in futuristic South Africa, this book is the definition of bizarre and there’s no way I could describe it in so little space. Anyway, it’s a sci-fantasy book about reawakening gods and an AI uprising; one of the main characters realizes during the book she’s a trans woman, and another PoV character is in a m/m relationship.

Steampunk, Gaslamp and Friends

I never quite understand the exact genre but you get what I mean.

Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda: the only graphic novel I found so far that I actually like. It’s set in a gay steampunk Asian matriarchy, with some monsters from Japanese mythology. There’s a lot of graphic violence and no romance, but the main character is a woman who likes women (also, she’s missing an arm) and there are other side queer characters.

Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault: this book follows a fat aromantic bigender witch who is a baker by day (and goes by Claude) and a thief by night (and goes by Claire). The other PoV character is Adèle, a biromantic demisexual woman who has asthma. She is a police officer who really likes Claude-the-baker, but wants to arrest Claire-the-thief. Not only the cast is mostly if not all queer, there are also side disabled characters and side characters of color, and I loved how this book used romance tropes to build a non-romantic relationship.

Tensorate by JY Yang: in this fantasy series inspired by East and Southeast Asia, children are considered genderless until they choose to be confirmed as a gender. I love trans-inclusive worldbuilding in my fantasy, but that’s far from the only cool aspect of this (there are dinosaurs! beautiful writing! the best magic system ever!)
This series will be four books long. Only two are out so far:

  • The Black Tides of Heaven, which follows a m/m relationship
  • The Read Threads of Fortune, which has a f/non-binary romance and the main character is a bisexual woman.

Urban Fantasy

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova: an urban fantasy series which follows a family of Brujas (latinx witches); in the first book the main character is a bisexual girl and there’s a f/f/m love triangle. This series has great atmosphere, flawed but likable characters and a focus on family I love.

Darkling by Brooklyn Ray: a witch-y m/m romance with a trans main character! Novellas are my favorite format for romance and this one is really good. There’s blood magic and necromancy involved, but it was a light read with great character dynamics.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: the main character of this novel is a bisexual Aztec vampire (Tlāhuihpochtli) and I love her. My favorite thing about this urban fantasy noir was seeing the many different types of vampires (and, of course, our main character Atl, she was amazing). Also, it’s set in Mexico City! The main relationship is m/f.

Magical realism, Fabulism, Contemporary Fantasy & Friends

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore: one of my favorite YA books ever, this magical realism novel follows two teens, Miel, a latina girl who grows roses out of her wrists, and Sam, an Italian-Pakistani trans boy. The themes of self-acceptance and reclaiming what’s yours were as beautiful as the writing. The main relationship is m/f.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: the main character of this novella is Nancy, an asexual girl. It’s both a very original twist on portal fantasy and a story about not fitting in. I love this series a lot, and while I don’t think it’s flawless, it’s very queer – there is trans boy side character and the MC of book two is a lesbian.

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz: one of the most underrated YA books ever and also one I won’t stop screaming about anytime soon, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls follows a Puerto Rican bisexual girl. It’s an atmospheric story set during the summer, about art, creative block and growing up. While the main character has an unrequited crush on her Italian-American best friend, there’s no romance.

Murder Mystery

Across fantasy and contemporary but with zero dead queer girls.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo: this is a very weird contemporary story about a f/f/f triangle between three lesbians, with a Chinese-American main character. Half of it is a quiet, slightly creepy at times slice of life story, and in the second half the mystery element is introduced. No lesbians die. I’ve never read anything like it, and I loved how it focused on the lines between friendship, love and obsession.

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard: I have no idea what genre is this book. I can only describe it as a post-apocalyptic paranormal murder mystery with fallen angels and some influences from Vietnamese mythology, set in Paris and full of political intrigue. There’s little to no romance and it’s a very dark story, but one of the PoV characters is a woman in an established f/f relationship. She’s also the head of House Silver Spires, and I love powerful gay fallen angels.

People Like Us by Dana Mele: sapphic murder mystery set in an all-girls boarding school! There’s no romance but most of the main characters are queer girls, even if no labels are used. Very creepy. I thought it was predictable, but it’s so addicting I didn’t mind that too much.

Contemporary f/f Romance

Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour: a very cute f/f romance set in Los Angeles, with the best atmosphere, and the main character is a set designer. There is a light mystery element at the beginning, and I loved the portrayals of friendships.

Style by Chelsea M. Cameron: this is a cute, cliché cheerleader/nerd romance, but with two lesbians. It’s one of the fluffiest books ever written: even though it’s a coming out novel, there’s no bullying and there are only mentions of homophobia. It’s very low-conflict and also sex-positive.

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler: this book follows Vanessa, a Korean-American actress who is discovering she is a lesbian and falling in love with a bisexual girl. The other PoV is a straight guy I hated at the beginning of the novel, but I really liked his development, and anyway Vanessa’s PoV is one of my favorite portrayals of a character discovering they’re queer.



10 Books I Love But Rarely Mention on this Blog

Today it’s Wednesday, and I’d post a T5W, but I don’t have answers for this and next week’s topic.

There are some favorites I don’t talk about often enough.
Sometimes there’s a reason, sometimes they just don’t come up in T5W topics, sometimes there’s no excuse. I’m pretty sure I never mentioned at least two of these.

Persons Non Grata by Cassandra Khaw


I have talked about the Persons Non Grata series on this blog before, but it’s on this list because I don’t talk about it as much as I should – and I love the second book in the series. Hammers on Bone is an interesting look at the noir genre and it deals with domestic abuse; A Song for Quiet is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, a lovecraftian southern gothic novella about grief. I have loved everything I’ve read by Cassandra Khaw so far (I recommend I Built This City for You, free online, if you want to see how she writes), and she’s one of the most underrated SFF authors.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee


This is one of my favorite historical fiction books, which is a genre I rarely reach for, but Stacey Lee’s writing style draws me in. Outrun the Moon is about a Chinese-American girl who gets into an all-white boarding school in San Francisco right before the earthquake of 1906. I don’t talk about this one often because I haven’t read it in almost two years and I rarely talk about historical fiction, but it’s still a very good book and a perfect middle grade/YA crossover. I definitely should mention it more.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


This is one of those books I really liked but never talk about. Why? Because The Hate U Give doesn’t need my hype. If you’re here, you’re likely a YA blogger, and if you are, you’ve heard of this and not because of me. The top 5 Wednesday lists are short, and I try to prioritize books that are underhyped – that’s the reason you’re more likely to see me scream about Under the Pendulum Sun or the Tensorate series rather than The Hate U Give or Six of Crows, even if I liked all of them.

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović


I don’t talk about this one often because I had mixed feelings on it: I didn’t like the characters for reasons I’m not going to get into now, but this book is really important to me because of its setting – it felt like home. I never get to experience this: all* YA books are either set in the US or in some fantasy place/space. Wicked Like a Wildfire is set on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and that’s where I live too. I’m Italian, not Montenegrin, but where I live doesn’t look so different.

*but why don’t you read Italian books then? Almost all YA books (especially SFF) are translated, so yes, I want to see these things in American books or I’ll never get them.

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer


Borne is probably the one I talked about the most on this list, but for a book that almost made it to my top 15 of last year, I don’t talk about it enough. It’s a biopunk colorful apocalypse about a woman and the weird plant-animal-whatever-monster she adopted, who is the perfect combination of cute and dangerous. Also, there are flying bears and humans being humans, which sometimes means disaster and sometimes means good things.

The Falconer by Elizabeth May


If you like historical fantasy/steampunk, Scotland, fairies or revenge storylines, you need to read this. It was one of my favorite books before I started blogging, and I loved the sequel (which I read last year, so I don’t think my opinion on this has changed that much). It’s about a girl who is a debutante by day and a fairy hunter/steampunk scientist by night. There’s also a romance plotline, but it isn’t the focus of the story.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater


I really liked this series, but it doesn’t need my hype and its fandom is nearly as toxic as SJM’s lately. (All I see is people dragging the author – you’re aware you can’t have the book without the author, right…? The Raven Cycle wouldn’t be great if taken away from Maggie Stiefvater because it doesn’t exist without Maggie Stiefvater. You’re allowed to like problematic stuff, stop acting like the author is 100% bad and the books are 100% pure, untainted material!)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


This book is beautiful, but I don’t feel strongly about it. It’s one of those books I consider favorites but almost never think about – the setting and the writing were so beautiful I focused on them instead of the characters and plot. That’s also why I want to reread this.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson


I almost never talk about this because I loved the first book but the series went downhill and I’m sad. The first book is a quiet, atmospheric story about friendship and romance, there was a lot of character development and an irritating love triangle I didn’t hate just because of the mystery element. In the second and third book there isn’t a mystery element anymore and the series just wasn’t that interesting, but the first one remains one of my favorite fantasy books.

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate


I really liked this contemporary book – I loved the main character’s voice (…this book is about a group of a cappella singers and this sounds like a pun now), but this had a crossdressing plotline and while I didn’t think it handled it terribly (at least it mentioned trans and non-binary people!), I don’t like how so many books with this trope get published when there are almost none about trans characters. And I’m always hesitant to recommend something that had a naked reveal scene in it.

Are there any books you love(d) but rarely mention?