TBR & Goals · Weekly

T10T: Books I’d Love To Read This Spring

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 On My Spring 2020 TBR.

I don’t do TBRs anymore, and since I stopped doing them, I got better at understanding which kind of books I actually want to read soon. After all, of the ten books mentioned in my “books I’d love to read this fall” post, I’ve read eight (of which one was a DNF); only two are still on my TBR (Ninth House, A Kingdom for a Stage), and that’s pretty good!

I’m already going to tell you that I could rename this post “Acqua, read that sapphic SFF book you think you’ll love and stop procrastinating” and I wouldn’t be too far off.


Stormsong by C.L. Polk

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I decided to reread Witchmark in occasion of the release of the sequel. Did I pick up the sequel? Of course not. Anyway, this is the F/F continuation to one of my favorite books, one I’ve been anticipating for more than a year, so I should move already.

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

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I was a little surprised to find out that the main character of this one was an orc, because we don’t see a lot of non-humans that aren’t fae lately. Which is really interesting! It’s F/F and it’s apparently also sci-fantasy/space fantasy in some way, which makes it look unlike everything I’ve ever read. The reviews have also been mostly positive, so I have high hopes and I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet. I own it.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

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This is the prettiest book on my shelves (the black pages are so gorgeous and this may be my favorite cover ever) and I can’t wait to get to the inside as well – I say, while carefully avoiding it as with all the books I’m sure I’ll like. It has lesbian necromancers and it’s so hyped and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. Just… look at it.

Splintegrate by Deborah Teramis Christian

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Another book I have mentioned multiple times on this blog that I’m really anticipating and happens to be sci-fi with a lesbian main character. I have very specific criteria for which books I choose to procrastinate on apparently!

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

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This one isn’t out yet, but it comes out this spring and I hope to get to it before… next year, so it belongs on this list. It’s about queer witches, and while I’m kind of outgrowing a lot of YA fantasy, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to give this at least a chance. It sounds amazing and the cover is really pretty.

Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly

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I don’t want to leave what has been one of my favorite series unfinished. The second book wasn’t as strong as the first, but I’m still really attached to the characters and I want to know where this series will bring us next. I hope I’ll finally find a sequel that doesn’t disappoint me!

A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig

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Concept: reading the second book of a series before the third comes out, maybe, possibly, have I done that ever in the last year? This is the sequel to For a Muse of Fire, one of the few m/f YA fantasy novels (but with a sapphic protagonist!) I’ve liked in the last few years. It deals with colonization and how it’s like to be mentally ill when the world is going to hell, which is, I feel, very relevant.

A Phoenix Must First Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell

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One of my most anticipated (and one of the prettiest) anthologies ever, A Phoenix First Must Burn is made of sixteen SFF stories by Black authors about Black girls and non-binary teens. It came out recently and I plan to read it as soon as I finish the collection I’m currently reading.

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

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Quarantine means that, if things keep going the way they’re going now, I’m going to have all the time I need to dedicate myself to something that will no doubt be weird and somewhat overwritten in the best possible way. So I will finally have the time and energy to read a Catherynne M. Valente book!

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

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It looks like I’m going to be stuck at home for a while, so I might as well try to tackle my physical TBR? This is one of the books that has been on it the longest, and it’s contemporary-set sci-fi.


Have you read any of these?

Weekly

T10T: Favorite “Romantic” Scenes

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 Love Freebie.

So I decided to talk about my favorite scenes involving romance, kissing, or romantic subplots. As a title, it was too long, but don’t let the actual title of the post mislead you, because not *all* of these scenes are actually romantic – that’s just who I am. After all, nothing amuses me as much as reading about horrible people making bad decisions.

They’ll be in chronological order (the order I read them in), just because.


The Winter Fete Kiss

in Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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The first time I read this series, I had just turned 16, and I inhaled it in less than a week, for mainly one reason: I didn’t know that one could write a fantasy book in which the heroine got to passionately make out with the villain – and since it was clearly possible, why weren’t more people doing that? I had spent a whole life making that sort of thing up for myself in the fantasy stories I read. To this day, this is obviously one of the most memorable kiss scenes I’ve ever read – it helps that it’s set in the most atmospheric and magical part of the book – and I still think writers don’t go there often enough. If the characters aren’t making the worst possible choices in their romantic lives, why am I even here?


The Night Kiss

in Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

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In this book, Night is as much as a character as it is an entity and a time between sunset and sunrise. Yes, Vassa in the Night is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read, and in it every Night (as in the time) gets longer and longer, because Night (as in the entity) has been trapped by a witch, and… the main character Vassa actually gets to kiss the Night? More books in which the main character ends up kissing an abstract entity, please. It’s would be one of the most memorable kiss scenes I’ve ever read just because of the imagery, just because of how beautiful it is – after all this is the book where Night lands on the main character’s arms “like a pair of star-flecked falcons and enfolds both hands up to the wrists”. The book of Night sees you, Vassa. It speaks to me on a level I can’t explain and do I need to reread it.


The Kiss in the Tree

in The End of Love by Nina LaCour, short story in Summer Days & Summer Nights

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Another thing I didn’t think people could or would do: have queer girls be the main characters of something. This is the first time I ever saw a story center an f/f pairing, and it was… life-changing? It’s a story about two girls finding each other during the summer, while the main character Flora’s parents are separating, and I didn’t know just how much a summer romance short story could do, how much Flora and Mimi would stay with me. They kiss! After climbing on a tree! And they were happy and they were the main characters and it was 2016, when I couldn’t find much of that at all.


Marriage Night

in The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

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Combining two of the previous entries! 2017, when books about queer female main characters were starting to become more common, but still mostly limited to contemporary, until I tried and looked into adult sci-fi, and… well. What’s better than a antiheroine/villainess post-arranged marriage sex scene in the context of an F/F/F love triangle (or all-female love square depending on interpretation)? It was horrible and it was everything and I’ve never been happier to know that a book got translated into my country as I was when I saw this one (Il destino della legione, and yes, I bought it just to support it and reread that scene in my first language). This is usually a dynamic that is limited to heterosexual pairings when it is there at all, which is boring.


The Comb Scene on the “Beneath the Orchid”

in Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

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I mean, pretty much every scene set on the Beneath the Orchid could fit this because Brezan/Tseya is one of my favorite romances ever, being an antagonistic-but-not-really-or-maybe-so relationship between a soldier and a spy who are on a secret mission together but have very different values (…and possibly, aims). But the comb scene? “I’m clearly not distracting enough”? AAAAAAA. I love Tseya so much and I’ve never felt this strongly about the lead up to a sex scene.


Dancing in the Estate

in The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

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In this contemporary fantasy book, the Red Mangrove Estate is a building with its own very specific brand of magic. The main character Mercedes finally dances and kisses her best friend and crush Victoria in its red room, her room, and everything is perfect, like a moment suspended in a teardrop of amber – and you know what they say about perfection and its disagreements with reality: things come crashing down. This is one of the most emotional things I’ve ever read and really personal to me as well. The yearning! As I said many times, this is the happiest sad book I’ve ever read. This sequence of scenes is the best example of why.


The First Thuan/Asmodeus Kiss

in House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard

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Is it even a romance if they don’t want to kill each other? This is one of the most explosive moments in a plotline that is basically an m/m enemies-to-lovers arranged marriage between a shapeshifting dragon prince and a fallen angel, and the sexual tension was absolutely off the charts. Still surprised that there are so many fantasy romantic plotlines that, unlike this one, do not in any way involve stabbing. Sometimes authors are no fun.


A lot of things (and especially Unbound by Naomi Salman)

in Twisted Romance, edited by Alex de Campi

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Would it be cheating to point out a whole story? Or a whole collection, really, because Twisted Romance is all about the many forms romance can take – all its beautiful weirdness and lack of care for norms. It’s really queer and polyamorous, and the story Unbound was what stood out the most. It’s only a few scenes long, and it’s a contemporary among a lot of paranormal and fantasy, but it’s about queer outcasts finding each other, and I loved it for how… not sensational it felt? It’s about having survived homelessness, and it’s about kink as something some people do and not “something weird and freaky I wanted to include in my book to be edgy”, which was just really nice to see. Also, being able to establish a romance in barely three scenes takes serious skill. This romance-focused collection of short stories and short comics convinced me that I really could like both comics and romance, so it’s really important to me.


The Kiss on the “I Rise From Ancestral Night”

in Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

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Apart from this being the moment in which the very repressed lesbian main character ends up kissing the evil & very hot space pirate lady, which of course is everything I want from a sci-fi book (I have priorities), it’s also really important for character development reasons! Do I love when something I’ve been waiting for a whole book to happen finally happens and ends up having a pivotal role in the main character’s arc in a way that isn’t even tied to a romantic plotline (this is very much not a romance book).


The Bonfire (and many other scenes)

in The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos

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And after a whole post of me mostly pointing out villain romances and related plotlines, I’m ending on a nicer note, because Ruby/Dov might be the first time a very sweet romance actually has made a lasting impact on me.
It was just… how much these two enjoy each other’s company, more than anything. How Dov is really understanding of Ruby’s jagged edges, how Ruby believes she doesn’t deserve it but just feels so happy when he’s around – they have so much chemistry that I still remember their scenes vividly, and the bonfire was probably my favorite. They have just the slightest awkwardness, so everything feels true, but I never got a whisper of secondhand embarrassment. The author’s attention to detail also helped; I could always see their surroundings very clearly, and she managed to make their scenes dynamic – they interact not only with each other but with their environment as well. How often in kiss scenes characters just… stand there and internally purple-prose-monologue about what’s happening? The kiss after the bonfire is the opposite of that, and that’s why the romantic scenes in this book are actually engaging. Everything felt so real in a way that hit me.


Do you also have favorite scenes in romantic subplots more than favorite couples? Have you read any of these?

Weekly

T10T: 5 Star Predictions

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 On My TBR I Predict Will Be 5-Star Reads.


Were They Five Stars?

As it’s tradition for my 5 star prediction posts, I’ll wrap up the previous one first. My last post about 5 star predictions was in July of 2019. I haven’t read all of them since, but I have read three of them:

  • Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden: a wonderful, futuristic F/F book full of great ideas; sadly, the execution was really messy at times. 3 stars (review)
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: a genre-bending masterpiece from someone who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. 5 stars (review)
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo: slice-of-life about an Afrolatinx teen mother and her love for cooking. Changed my life.  5 stars (review)

Two out of three! Not bad; it means I can actually predict this kind of thing at least a little.

Still Have To Read:

  • The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar: currently reading! It’s really difficult to follow and also one of the most lyrical and confusing things I’ve ever read in my life.
  • Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi, a dislike-to-love contemporary romance following two girls; I’ve seen mixed reviews around this but I do tend to like stories about girls who make terrible decisions and dislike people for almost no reason. I’ve been that teenager.

The New Ones

Now, onto the new 5 star predictions. I will only list seven of them (five novels, two novellas), as I already have two left over and ten would be too much anyway.

Just one rule: sequels aren’t allowed. That would be too easy (to choose) and too difficult (despite my high hopes, I rarely like sequels).

The Empress of Salt and Fortune

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I’m starting with this, as I’m pretty confident I’ll like it. While I haven’t read anything by Nghi Vo before, this is a Tor.com novella and those almost never disappoint me – I really appreciate how high-quality this imprint is – and has also been compared to the Tensorate novellas, my favorite novella series together with Wayward Children.

Phoenix Extravagant

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My favorite author is back and he’s back with one of the weirdest covers I’ve seen in the fantasy genre! I don’t know who chooses his covers – or which is the weirdest between this and the Ninefox Gambit space urchin – but I hope they continue with this style. Anyway, this is Korean-inspired fantasy dealing with colonization, following a non-binary protagonist. I can’t wait.

In the Dream House

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I’ve since read the first chapter of this and can officially say I love both Carmen Maria Machado’s writing style and what she has to say. I took notes while only reading the prologue (it talks about the violence that is perpetrated on queer people through erasure and gatekeeping) and can already tell this is going to be a great experience.

Freshwater

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Akwaeke Emezi is the author of Pet, one of my favorite books of last year, so I’m really interested in reading this one; I think I’ll really like it as well. I don’t have a lot of experience with adult magical realism/literary stuff, so it should be interesting. I also already know that Akwaeke Emezi’s writing is stunning.

The Unspoken Name

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I was already anticipating this one, because anything F/F ends up on my radar, and this is F/F; however, the more I hear about this, the more it seems just… perfect. Not only it’s fantasy, space is somehow involved, and apparently the main character describes herself as an atheist? Can’t wait to get to it; I have an ARC from when I was still requesting them.

Desdemona and the Deep

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Again with the novellas! As I said, I trust Tor.com, and I trust all my friends who reviewed this and without one exception rated it five stars. I’m not even completely sure what it is about; I just know it’s queer and that there are the faerie involved. It should be interesting in any case.

Palimpsest

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This is the one I’m least sure about – mostly because I’ve had mixed experiences with Catherynne M. Valente’s older works – but I own it, and want to convince myself to read it. After all, I really do think I’ll like it once I get to it. I just need to get over the fact that I’m always intimidated by her books because getting into them isn’t easy. (Also I’m shallow and hate this cover.)


Have you read any of these?

Weekly

T10T: Some Pretty Covers I Discovered In the Last Few Months

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

I decided to talk about some beautiful covers I discovered in the last few months that I haven’t talked much about yet. Not all of these are recently revealed, some of them are just from lesser-known books or from genres I don’t usually follow.


Soft Science

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I’m tempted to read this poetry collection (here’s a genre I really never reach for!) just because I’m that in love with the cover. It’s just… the geometry? The soft but unusual color scheme? I really want to know what all of this means.

A Wicked Magic

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I really like purple. Also, this is about witches, and it really is true that YA witchy stories often end up wasting their potential for a vaguely-creepy, really pretty cover like this one. (Both the original cover of Undead Girl Gang and the one of These Witches Don’t Burn really disappointed me, and the only thing I loved about The Lost Coast was the rainbow color scheme.)

The Scapegracers

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Here’s another YA witch book that gets the aesthetic (and the purple) right! I like when books get it. Also, you know what’s better than a YA book about a witch? One about a lesbian witch. Yes, this is on my TBR, I hope it’s good.

Splintegrate

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I have since bought this mysterious book (I’ve talked about the weird circumstances around its release here, but the TL;DR is that it was published on the 31st of December by Tor and got no attention at all from pretty much every place. Weird.) and the main reason I was drawn to it in the first place was the cover, it has… such a harmony? I love this illustration style.

What If a Fish

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It’s really true that no one gets pretty illustrated covers like middle grade books. I’m not sure I’ll read it because I don’t often reach for middle grade, but this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. 12 year-old-me would have asked someone to buy it for her without even thinking about it.

The Book of Koli

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I will never stop loving plant horror, and this is probably one of the creepiest depictions of fiddleheads (young fern fronds) we will ever see. I love it a lot. It looks like they’re ready to reach for everything! I don’t know if I’ll read it but the presence of plant horror is tempting.

The Afterward Cover Change

I read this book in May of last year and had mixed feelings about it (review), but this paperback cover is a great improvement compared to the original one for me! It portrays the two main characters perfectly, and explains “knight/thief f/f romance” far more clearly. It’s one of the best cover changes I’ve seen in a while.

In the Dream House

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I could pretend I became interested in this because I still haven’t seen a review that wasn’t raving about it, but in reality it was about the cover first for me. (I didn’t think there would be a time I would think a memoir’s cover is pretty, much less be interested in one! How things change.)

Trouble the Saints

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A recently revealed cover that follows a really interesting scheme – cards! I wonder what that means – from Alaya Dawn Johnson, the author of one of the most vibrant and colorful short stories I have ever read (A Hundred Thousand Threads, in Three Sides of a Heart). I’m really looking forward to this even though I don’t really know what it is.

The Deathless Girls

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Not only this is a gay vampire novel with a gorgeous cover, I’ve also been told the details are symbols and direct references to things that appear in the story, and now I want to know what they mean. It has such a dark fairytale look.


Have you seen any interesting new covers lately?
 

Weekly

T10T: The Ten Most Recent Additions to My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is The Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf.

I’m pretty sure this meant to be things I added to my physical bookshelf, but as I buy very few physical books and have already posted a book haul in December, this would be repetitive, so I’m going to talk about recent additions to my TBR (or the “maybe” shelf of my TBR, as I’m on the fence about many of these).


Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

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I didn’t love Wilder Girls, but I might like this more? Maybe? I had two main problems with that book, one being the disconnection for various factors (which could still be an issue) and its failed attempt at being ecological-based horror (which shouldn’t be a problem here). Horror is hit-or-miss in any circumstance anyway, but Rory Power does write really well, so… I’m intrigued. Also, I’ve never understood American’s relationship with corn fields, and I hope this books will make me see it in the most upsetting way possible.

Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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So far, I’ve disliked all the adult thrillers I’ve read and liked all the Silvia Moreno-Garcia books I’ve tried. Let’s see what wins!
Jokes aside, I’ve seen a few reviews lately that made me really think I’m going to enjoy this and I do trust this author.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

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I loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and didn’t care for The Fifth Season, which according to many probably makes me someone with terrible taste in fantasy, but what’s undeniable regardless of my preferences is Jemisin’s skill. I really want to know how her short fiction is like, as I’ve also heard there are stories involving cooking in here.

The Devourers by Indra Das

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I’ve been hearing nothing but amazing things about this novel, and as I haven’t read anything involving werewolf folklore in… years, I think, I’m really curious. I’ve also heard it goes into really dark territory, so there’s that. (A recurrent theme in this list: books dealing with dark themes and me not knowing whether that’s something I can read at all.)

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker

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This is Seanan McGuire writing the book that was at the center of the magic system in her own novel Middlegame, using as a pseudonym the name of the fictional author who wrote that book inside of Middlegame. Between this and Or What You Will by Jo Walton, it’s going to be such a year for extremely meta content in SFF. I can’t wait.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

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This is 100% a cover add and I’m never going to pretend otherwise. Just… look at it?
Apart from that, this is an West African-Inspired YA fantasy story, and all I know is that there’s a girl who bleeds gold, and that’s a sign of something that might be powerful and might be horrible, and possibly intrigue. I’m not sure and it’s too early for reviews, but we’ll see – you know how picky I can get with fantasy these times.

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

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I wasn’t interested in this one until I heard of the levels of horrible the main character gets. Now I’m tentatively interested, because this might be too brutal/depressing for me (I’ve discovered I should do my best to avoid fantasy novels closely inspired by real tragedies) but reading about truly morally gray people is something I love, so. I’m not sure I’ll read it but I might include it in a try a chapter post and see how I feel.

Patsy by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

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A story about a queer Jamaican woman who was forced to have a child and then chooses to emigrate to the US leaving her child behind. It’s told in both Patsy’s PoV and the PoV of the child, and yes this is completely outside the genres I usually reach for, but that’s exactly why I’m interested. I want to read more queer literature across genres and this could be a place to start from. Or maybe not, because I never know when heavy topics get unreadable for me. I don’t know my limits for sure but I’m here to try new things.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

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I… just really love this cover and want to know more. It’s on my “keep an eye on it/maybe” shelf so far, then we’ll see. I’m not sure what this is about exactly but I know it’s a paranormal/urban fantasy novel that follows a friendships and deals with misogynoir.

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

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Despite loving pretty much everything I’ve read by Kameron Hurley, many short stories included, I’ve always stayed away from the Worldbreaker Saga, the main reason for that being length and bad reviews. Then I remembered that pretty much everything negative I had heard about this series came down to it being “confusing”, and at this point I should pretty much see that as a buzzword when it comes to adult SFF.


Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?

lists · Weekly

Favorite Books of 2019

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

Favorite books of 2019” is also the Top Ten Tuesday topic for this week (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl), and since in 2019 I’ve read aroung 100 books instead of 150 as I did in 2018 and 2017, I’m actually going to stop myself at ten, with five honorable mentions at the end. My list of favorites that aren’t novels (so, from novellas and graphic novels to TV shows and poetry) will be in a different post, hopefully coming soon.

I chose the order in a way that wouldn’t only count how much I liked the story – as I liked all of these, and putting them in order basing myself only on that was going to be difficult – but also how much they affected me after I read them.

My favorite book is at the end of the list.


The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

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The best books about space are always the ones that manage to make you feel small while reminding you that life is beautiful, and how we can thrive on this spinning rock of a planet. And there’s something about the way K. Ancrum writes that is perfect for that: the short chapters and the mixed media format combined make you fly through the story quickly, but the feeling of wonder and hope stays with you.
This is also a story about queer found family and star-spanning sapphic love, and what more could one want?

The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta

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The Lost Coast is a love letter to the communities queer people form and the power of queer love, wrapped in a wonderfully atmospheric contemporary-fantasy package. This is one of those books that is queer to its essence while not being about tragedy, because there’s more that is unique about our experiences than pain and trauma; it’s a story about finding and recognizing your own power in the context of a group, and the importance of having people to ground you as well. I hope I’ll get to spend more time with Danny, Rush and the other witches in the Californian redwoods.

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

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Among all the impactful, stare-at-the-sky-in-wonder, weird, and challenging reads, sometimes I forget that reading can be, you know, fun. Fun doesn’t mean mindless or forgettable: sometimes you want to remind yourself what it was like to be a tween who wants to go on an adventure, and sometimes you want to get emotional about fox ghosts, in a book that has the same feel as the ones from your childhood – but that, unlike them, has the existence of queer/trans/polyamorous people built in its very worldbuilding and is based in a non-western culture, being Korean-inspired sci-fi. If I could give one book to tween Acqua, it would be this one; that doesn’t mean it was any less valuable as an adult.

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

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At this point, I know I will always fall in love with the kind of stories whose point is to ask, does the end really justify these means, all over again. I’m predictable, and so is this book, but sometimes it doesn’t matter because the execution is that good. The Fever King is a story about trauma, intergenerational and not, and what it means to live as a survivor; it also has one of the most interesting sci-fantasy magic systems I’ve ever read, directly based on learning. I can’t wait to see where this story will bring me with The Electric Heir next year, and whether Noam and Dara will get to be something resembling happy and in love.
Also, if you like reading about villains, please, read this book. I hadn’t had such an intense book hangover since 2017.

The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos

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I don’t know if I get what it means to be in love with a person, but I know this book does.
The Wise and the Wicked is a story about looking at the future while dealing with intergenerational trauma, following a magical Russian-American family, and it has what’s my favorite m/f romance of the year. It felt so real, and sweet, and sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of how a romance can be all of these things while being what makes a book shine. (I’m usually more here for tense, possibly evil stuff.)
Everything about this felt so vibrant and alive, just as bright and unforgettable as its cover. Because of its kind of magical weirdness, its attention to detail, and the major queer characters and trans love interest, I’d recommend this book to everyone who likes Anna-Marie McLemore’s novels.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

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Sometimes a book can change your life.
I’m not a different person than I was when I read With the Fire on High, a story about an Afro-Puerto Rican teen mother who wants to become a chef, but it did set my life on a different path than the one it would have taken otherwise. It’s as much about finding the strenght to make difficult decisions about your own future as it is about the link between food and culture, and I really needed to think about both things. There are many ways books have affected me – this is not the only novel I’ve read that has made see my life in a different way – but “literally pick up a hobby” was not one of them. I’m not almost-magical like Emoni, but I can do more by myself than hard-boil an egg now, and that’s progress.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

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Let’s start this by saying that the main character is named Jam and her parents are Bitter and Aloe, “bitter Aloe jam”, and any book that includes a blatant Aloe ferox reference has to end up on a list of favorites. (That is, after all, my favorite plant.)
Not only Pet is a near-future utopian story and the closest I’ve ever seen to a middle grade-YA crossover, it’s one following a black trans girl with selective mutism in which not one of these three things is ever seen as a problem by anyone or the narrative, and it’s also one of the stories with the most relevant commentary on complacency and the nature of evil I’ve ever read. It’s probably the only book I’d really recommend to everyone.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

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By now, I think it’s obvious that if you’re writing adult SFF, the one way to my heart is to build something that feels like a puzzle to read, one that requires effort while feeling effortless, one that won’t let me stop thinking about its content for a moment while I’m not reading it.
This is about science and philosophy, about superpowers and alchemy, about power and balance, it’s a mindfuck and a masterpiece, and over all of that, it’s about an ascent to godhood.

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

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I have condensed many times this book down to “space archeology, with pirates”, and it is that, and it also has F/F hero/villain sexual tension, and horrible cults, and wonderful, vaguely terrifying alien artifacts.
It is all of these things, but what stood out to me the most about it was the scale on which it operated. From it being something as small as the story of someone learning to cope with her traumatic past and finding a sense of self, to it being a story about systems of government and sentience’s neverending search for fairness, and to it being about something as incomprehensible to the human mind as what’s written in the scaffolding of the universe – there were so many levels to this, and as I said before, the best books about space are the ones that get how impossibly enormous this everything is, while reminding you that the personal still matters.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

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“Court intrigue set in the heart of a space empire, featuring a main F/F romance and an unforgettable cast in which you’ll see other powerful, active, competent women apart from the main character and her love interest” was already a perfect premise, but I was still not ready for this. A Memory Called Empire is about navigating two different cultures when the one you weren’t born into is devouring the one you were, and about living as a bilingual person; I usually don’t get to see what I deal with in my daily life reflected in a novel, much less in SFF involving queer characters. There’s even a subplot involving a sci-fi-induced haunting, and the court intrigue is the best court intrigue I’ve read in years if not ever, and with all of these things, there was no way this wouldn’t end up being my favorite book of the year.


Honorable Mentions

I haven’t read enough books to have 15 favorites exactly like last year, but I have five more books that were really important to me, so here they are!

Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali, that didn’t end up on the “favorites” list just because I don’t particularly like the number eleven, for showing me how beautiful the YA contemporary romance genre is in the hands of a skilled author and making me believe in it again.

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh, for reminding me that popular disdain towards a trope doesn’t necessarily mean the book has nothing to say, and for its unapologetic portrayal of a heroine navigating Catholic self-loathing. Bring love triangles back, thank you.

Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter, as I’ve never been told by so many people that they’ve read a book because of me as with this one, is important to me both for the way it talks about messed up people’s twisty path to hope and healing, and for reminding me that sometimes good reviews do matter.

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante, for showing me that stories about bilingual ESL main characters can get published (the main character is a Salvadorian lesbian), for being the most heartrending YA book of the year, and for having the softest romance born from horrible circumstances.

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley, for being the book I’ve thought about the most this year, probably, and for being a masterpiece I deeply appreciated despite it including so many things I theoretically hate. It’s not my favorite book by Kameron Hurley, but it is her best one.


What were your favorite books of 2019?

Weekly

T10T: Changes In My Reading Life

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 Changes In My Reading Life.

Maybe you like different genres or topics, maybe you read faster than you used to, maybe you only like standalones now.

This is a topic I’ve talked about a little in various posts, which I’ll be linking where relevant.


I’m Reading Less Fantasy

29774026This is probably the main one. I’ve talked more in-depth about it in my post “Am I Falling Out of Love With Fantasy?“, but the TL;DR is that I’ve probably read too much of it, especially in the YA section, and that it’s really hard to surprise me at the moment. However, I’m still really liking contemporary fantasy, weird speculative fiction with fantasy elements, and urban fantasy a lot. It’s just high/second-world fantasy I’m struggling with, as I went from reading almost only that (in 2016) to reading not a lot of it this year and not loving most of what I read.

I’m of course all for recommendations if you think there’s something really unique out there that I’m ignoring – like I’m ignoring The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon when I probably really shouldn’t, it sounds exactly like the kind of book I’d love, length aside. (Please don’t recommend me Brandon Sanderson.) I want to go back to loving this genre.

My favorite fantasy books are basically everything in the Grishaverse (except King of Scars because I haven’t read it yet), Uprooted, Strange the Dreamer, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Red Sister (only the first book).


Adult Sci-fi Might Be My Favorite Genre

2016 me would think this was a joke. I thought I hated sci-fi, and the only book I liked in that genre was Illuminae, because of the format and not because of the actual story, which if told like a normal novel would have been just ok. Then I tried adult sci-fi, and  discovered that everything I thought about sci-fi as a whole was wrong. It has so much potential and it’s often as weird and unnecessarily complicated as I like it.

Is it weird to have a favorite genre you almost never reach for? Because most of the time, I don’t have the energy to keep up with this kind of books – but when I do, I love them so much that since 2017, they always end up taking up the first spots in my lists of favorite books of the year, without exceptions.

My favorite adult sci-fi books are Ninefox Gambit (my favorite book), A Memory Called Empire, Ancestral Night, The Stars Are Legion and Ancillary Justice.


I’m Less and More Picky at the Same Time

As my reading taste evolve, so does the way I review; I once might have minded not having a well-defined magic system, but as of now, if a fantasy story (especially a contemporary fantasy story) doesn’t need one, I probably won’t care. For example, the worldbuilding and magic system in The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh was messy and not well-explained, but the story mattered to me for completely other reasons, so I gave it five stars anyway. I’m also less annoyed by predictable stories if I liked the direction they went in, didn’t completely rely on the twist, and if everything in the story was interesting anyway.

At the same time, I’m far more likely to find a story completely uninteresting because I’ve seen it all already and it was better before, and I’m far more likely to notice if a book doesn’t seem to know where it’s going; I have higher standards for the writing as well. I also have a lot less patience for badly written straight romances and I DNF easily.

I’ve talked a little more about how the way I see and review books has changed during the years in my post On Ratings and Being Critical.


I Don’t Mind Popularly Hated Tropes

26837046When I started reviewing, in 2015, love triangles were everywhere in YA, and pretty much everyone hated them and also acted like that somehow was an unpopular opinion. I hated them too; I thought that love triangles and the “instalove trope” and the chosen one had to be a sign of bad writing if everyone hated them… right?

I understood nothing, but I was also 15.

I’ve since discovered that just because YA overused the “straight white girl falls in love with two boys who hate each other” version of the love triangle, it doesn’t mean that this trope is dead; it has so much potential, and I love when I find same-gender love triangles (The Stars Are Legion, A Line in the Dark), all-PoC love triangles (The Beautiful), love triangles that end in polyamory (Strange Grace) and all kind of unusual configurations (Three Sides of a Heart); and they’re usually there for a reason that isn’t “it’s popular in YA right now”.

About the chosen one trope, I don’t mind it, especially diverse takes on it, and about instalove, I don’t think it’s a trope at all; it’s not a trope if people can’t even agree if it’s actually there. Most of the time, the reviewer just didn’t connect with the romance. I talk more about it in “What I Think of Instalove as a Trope“.


I’m a Slower Reader Than Before

I’m not in high school anymore and it shows.

This kind of makes me sad, because I feel like I’m missing out sometimes, but at the same time, it is what it is and I can’t do much to change it. More than anything, I should get better at prioritizing which kinds of books I actually want to read, and I’m not quite there yet.


I Prefer Standalones

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I mostly don’t have the patience for series, and I often don’t feel like books that are series needed to be series at all; most series I’ve liked in the last two years have been companion series. I just… there are very few books for which I care enough to read the sequel, and the sequels of those books often disappoint me (as Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan did, very recently), so what’s the point?

Some sequels on my TBR I’m hesitantly hopeful about are The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee, Wayward Witch by Zoraida Córdova (companion series are the best), The Unconquered City by K.A. Doore (companions for the win), Stormsong by C.L. Polk (guess what this one is? Yes again) and The Damned by Renée Ahdieh.


I Avoid Anthologies

The more time goes on, the less I’m interested in them. Not because I don’t like them – some anthologies are really important to me and some changed my life – but because I can’t justify buying them to myself when there is so much great free short fiction online already. Then I don’t read that short fiction either because I barely have time to read anymore and I want to spend that time reading books.

I know, it doesn’t really make sense, and this is actually something I’d love to change. I’ll keep being picky about anthologies but I do want to read them.


I Try to Branch Out More

I even have a series of post dedicated to this, “Out of My Comfort Zone“, to make myself read genres (or formats) I wouldn’t otherwise read. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s great.

This way, I discovered that I do like graphic novels (and I reach for them a little more), that I probably don’t care that much for adult contemporary thrillers, and that I can love historical romance if it’s gay.

Some genres I want to try next are memoirs, adult contemporary fiction, and contemporary middle grade, all of which will probably happen next year.


I’m Trying to Read Less ARCs

32970644I don’t know when I will put this one into motion, as I still have overdue ARCs and ARCs coming out in the next few months from before I decided I didn’t want to read so many of them.

It’s just that reading with a deadline can be really unenjoyable, and I don’t want that for me, as I read to have fun, and a lot of books I request as ARCs are books I’m curious about that aren’t actually priorities for me and I don’t even want to prioritize them. (No wonder I end up DNFing so many of them.)

Some ARCs I’m going to read before next year (if everything goes according to plan) are Loveboat, Taipei and Lady Hostpur; I’m really excited about both, even though the second one is really intimidating. Pulp by Robin Talley is one of my overdue ARCs, and I kind of lost interest in this one.


I’m Not Sure What’s To Come

I once thought there was no way my favorite genre could change. Now I know that wasn’t true, and I don’t know how my reading habits will look like in a few years (will I still be reviewing then?)

I’m not sure if I will still be reading YA; that’s probably going to be less and less common as the years go on, but I might be wrong. I’m not sure if I will be still reading primarily SFF; maybe I’ll prefer contemporary fiction, or even nonfiction, which looks absurd to me now, but so was sci-fi a few years ago.

Anyway, I hope I’m able to keep finding many books I love.


Have you had similar experiences?