Weekly

T5W: Books featuring Mental Health

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Books featuring Mental Health.

What I look for in mental illness representation and books that talk about mental health, across genres, is mostly something that makes sense emotionally. Which is why I’m including novels that talk about mental illness/mental health that use the paranormal or sci-fantasy technology to make their point. If anything, those kinds of stories resonate with me more than a lot of “accurate” representation – many novels that try to be realistic while also having the main character still be likable (as most contemporaries do) feel toned down to me. If we have to get into paranormal or sci-fantasy territory to explain how terrifying it can get for the person experiencing it, how it sometimes seems to warp reality, then why not.


This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow

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This is one of the most underrated contemporary novels I’ve ever read, and if you trust what I say about contemporaries (which isn’t much, I know, this is mostly an SFF blog), please read this?

It’s a story about three girls who were once friends as they reconnect through music, and it talks about recovery in all its three PoVs:

  • Hannah is recovering from alcoholism;
  • Jules was in a toxic relationship and mentally is still dealing with the aftermath of that;
  • The boy Dia loved died unexpectedly, and this book talks about how grief can lead to magical thinking (as in, if I get close to someone else they’ll die too)

These are all heavy themes, but the way this book is written, the way it focuses on recovery more than anything, makes it… if not exactly a light read, certainly not a sad or difficult one either.


The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

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This novel’s representation of anxiety was so good that it made realize things about my own. It’s a story about the consequences of avoidance as a coping mechanism, and if you’re thinking, but it looks like a paranormal horror novel – it is. It uses a horror metaphor to explain what happens when one does that, and it’s not pretty, and I love that this book doesn’t try to to hide it.

It’s the only novel I’ve read so far in which not only the main character starts taking medication (antipsychotics, outside of a contemporary issue novel? yes), but also talks about having side effects while still presenting it in a mostly positive way.


For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

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For a Muse of Fire would be a pretty typical rebel-against-evil-people-in-power YA fantasy, but it would be wrong to describe anything with a queer Southeast Asian heroine with bipolar disorder as “typical”, wouldn’t it? And anyway, of all the novels with this kind of plot I’ve read, this is one of the best.

Heidi Heilig said that she chose to write this novel “the way being bipolar feels like“, and the way this is done both through the pacing and the mixed media format is amazing. Also, I always like to read about mentally ill people in YA who are heroes even though they have very little support system in their own world, because I didn’t have one when I was the main characters’ age either.


Final Draft by Riley Redgate

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I don’t know if there is (and which is) an English equivalent of this, but Italian literature classes spend a lot of time on Giacomo Leopardi. There’s very little I hated as much as the time we spent on Giacomo Leopardi, because it meant having to spend a lot of time listening to teachers say very insensitive things about suicide and talk about how suffering makes your art so much better. It’s not the poet’s fault, and it’s not the only time the “tormented artist” myth was presented as pure truth, but still, so many bad memories.

Reading a novel like Final Draft, a novel dedicated specifically to shatter that stereotype, a novel whose entire message is that the pursuit of art isn’t worth your mental health, was very refreshing.


Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee

One thing that somewhat annoys me about fantasy and science fiction as it is today is how a lot of it makes characters go through unimaginably horrible things without addressing the mental toll these kinds of things would have on a person.

And if it does, it usually does so in a very specific way – the main character is ok at the beginning, goes through bad things and is in a bad mental place, but once the obstacles are gone, recovery is… if not instant, at least quick and certain.

I was surprised when I realized that the Machineries of Empire series wasn’t that kind of story. Most characters these novels follow are dealing with mental illnesses and the consequences of trauma (and in some cases of abuse) – and they usually are already at the beginning of the novel, and more often than not still are by the end of it. A mentally ill character’s arc doesn’t have to be “gets ill then gets cured”; there’s so much more about a person that their illness or trauma.

(Also, most of them aren’t good people, and it might sound odd, but I actually really appreciate that.)


Other Books

These are novels I didn’t like as much as a whole, but in which I appreciated how some mental health-related topics were portrayed/discussed, so I want to talk about them.

  • Paris Adrift by E.J. Swift: this was the first time I ever saw panic attacks represented in a fantasy book, and this novel will always hold a special place in my heart because of that. Also, the more you read it the more it feels like a fever dream, which is exactly what I mean when I say that I look for “what makes sense emotionally” in books featuring topics related to mental health. A warped perception of reality, and it makes you feel that!
  • The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton: plot-wise, this book was a mess. However, the simple fact that it featured a main character who had to drop out of high school because of depression but is now recovering and isn’t shamed for any of this made me like it far more than Walton’s previous book. I did go very close to having to repeat a year in high school because of anxiety [I don’t know how it is in other countries but in Italy there’s a mandatory oral exam at the end of high school and if you don’t pass it it’s likely that you’ll have to repeat the last year], so it means a lot to me to see this.
  • Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall: this is an m/f romance/issue book, which is really not my thing, but I have to say that the mental illness representation in it – agoraphobia and OCD – was amazing. We rarely see main characters who are so deeply affected, we almost only see ones that manage to go to school and have friends, and… that’s not everyone’s experience and I’m glad this book exists.

What are your favorite books that talk about mental health?

Weekly

T5W: Things I’ve Changed My Mind About

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Bookish Things I’ve Changed My Mind About.

This can cover any bookish topic you want: tropes, characters, TBRs, genres, anything!


Science Fiction

When I started reviewing, I thought I hated sci-fi. In 2017, it became my favorite genre, and while it’s still not my most-read one (that will probably always be fantasy) it’s the one in which I find most books I love.

Why did I change my mind so drastically? Because I was reading the wrong books.

Here’s the thing: until 2017, I read almost only YA novels. And while YA fantasy convinced me that I needed to try adult fantasy at some point, I hated YA sci-fi, so why would I ever try its adult counterpart?

If you have been on this blog for a while, you might know that I still, for the most part, don’t like YA sci-fi, because YA sci-fi’s worldbuilding is usually weak, unoriginal and also falls apart into nonsense if you look at it twice (especially in the ones set in space). There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part…
Adult sci-fi, however, has been a revelation.

TheStatsAreLegionThere’s so much that you can do with space. Societies that have rules and norms completely different from our own and from every fake!historical fantasy setting you’ve ever read. Science that is so advanced that the book doesn’t even try to explain it, to us it looks like magic, but the characters talk about it like you’d talk about science (blurred lines between magic and science is one of my favorite tropes).
Space opera doesn’t have to feel like a story following characters that are clearly 21st century white American teenagers in space, and I love that. I love how complicated and dense and weird and alien (even without having aliens! I don’t really care about aliens) it can get.

The first book that made me realize how sci-fi had a lot more potential that “YA m/f romance set on some vaguely-described spaceship” was The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley, which is basically biopunk horror set in living world-ships following an f/f/f love triangle and featuring a villain romance. It has a lot of gore in it and I had no idea what I was going into when I started it but I’m so glad I did.


Love Triangles

We love to hate on them, don’t we? I did, but I don’t anymore. I actually want to read more of them.

In 2018, with the anthology Three Sides of a Heart, I realized that novels haven’t explored even half of the potential love triangles have, because so far, they’ve mostly been about straight white people (usually girls) choosing between two other straight, usually white people – usually boys, but it’s not like the “boy has to choose between two girls” combination is any more appealing.

26837046I want messy love triangles that end with no romance, love triangles that end in polyamory, same-gender (especially f/f/f, see The Stars Are Legion) love triangles, and love triangles following marginalized people in general. I have read a few of these, and it’s amazing how fresh and… not cliché it feels when the people at the heart of the story aren’t always from the exact same demographic.

This trope isn’t dead. This trope has the potential to be so much more, and the messier it gets, the happier I’ll be. Please give me feelings and complicated situations instead of the usual “person meets another person who is clearly the love interest and you know that from chapter two, watch me as I try to spin the most deeply uninteresting will-they-won’t-they in history as if we didn’t all know that they’re going to get their monogamous, romantic happily ever after”. (This, also, can be done well and there’s nothing wrong with it, I just want variety.)

Some recommendations:

  • Polyamory is the way: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (m/m/f), Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton (f/non-binary/m), some short stories in the Three Sides of a Heart [editor Natalie C. Parker] and Twisted Romance [editor Alex de Campi] anthologies.
  • Same-gender love triangle: A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (f/f/f), Empire of Light by Alex Harrow (m/m/m), the short story Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong (f/f/f) and of course The Stars Are Legion.
  • All three characters are people of color: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (f/f/m, all-latinx triangle), Odd One Out by Nic Stone (f/f/m, two of the characters are Black and one is East Asian). The aforementioned Alyssa Wong story is also an all-Asian love triangle.

The Way I Review and Read Reviews

We’ve all read those reviews. Those that, to make two examples, more or less say things like “this book had a love triangle, so it was bad” or “I loved this, but I can’t give it five stars because it was predictable“. I have, because I wrote them, on a blog that doesn’t exist anymore, and in my opinion, this is a really superficial way to review.

39897058Neither predictability nor love triangles make books inherently bad. I’ve already talked about love triangles, they can be bad but they aren’t always – and about predictability, I wrote a whole post about how penalizing books for being predictable often doesn’t make sense, “On Ratings and Being Critical“, of which the TL;DR is “sometimes a book is predictable because you wanted it to go in that direction, which is the most interesting one to you or even the only one that makes sense for the story, and that’s not a flaw” (basically what happened to me while reading The Fever King by Victoria Lee).

The more I read, the less I’m interested in hating on things – on throwing around buzzwords like “instalove” (this word is pretty much meaningless at this point) or “not like other girls” (oh do I love how we use a word created to criticize misogynistic portrayals of women to hate on gender-non-conforming women) where they do not apply. Because they usually don’t, and chances are that if a review of a book published in 2019 uses these words, I won’t trust the review.

I also don’t feel as much the need to justify everything, especially when it comes to my love for weird, for villains and for villain romances. I’m not interested in engaging in purity culture and describing how my reasons for liking villains are Healthy Ways To Like Villains and not like those other women who like villains the wrong way and are sinning, of course. I’m here to have fun, read about terrible people, and unfollow those who engage in the whole “if you like this characters it means that you endorse abuse”, because really, that’s not how I like to spend my free time.


Sometimes I Change My Mind About Books

…because sometimes I’m wrong, because my mood influences how I feel about a book significantly, and because sometimes I just read something at the wrong time.

  • I tried to pick up Jade City by Fonda Lee, couldn’t get into it no matter how many times I tried to reread those first few chapters, and DNFed it. I tried again at the end of the same month, still struggled with the writing at times, but ended up loving the characters so much that I rated it a strong 4 stars anyway.
  • I read The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi for the first time in summer 2016, and felt “meh” about most of it – I rated it 3 stars. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it stayed with me, and when I reread it in 2017, it became one of my favorite YA fantasy books (and, of course, I changed the rating to 5). That’s what happens when you try to read heavy books during a reading slump!
  • Something that has been true for both The Stars Are Legion and Monstress, is that I went into them without knowing they were horror, liked the story but felt so… disgusted by the end that I rated them 3.5 stars. Time and rereads raised the rating of both at a 5. Content warnings are important, especially when it comes to these levels of gore.

Horror

32941909I can’t watch horror movies, I don’t even like the idea of getting scared for fun as a concept (why… would I want that. I have anxiety. No thank you.), and yet there are some horror books I absolutely love.

Because that’s what good horror does for me: it makes me think about fear, not only feel it. I’m not here for the shock value, I’m here for what it says about human fears. It’s not a case that one of the novels that has been the most important to me, The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé, is horror – a horror book about anxiety that made me realize some things about my own.

But for the longest time, I thought horror was something that people read to get scared. Which in a way it can be, but that’s not all it is? I don’t like being scared for fun but I’ve discovered that’s not all I can get from horror, and so I reach for it a bit more often than “never”. (Still not often, because it is often emotionally exhausting, I have to say.)


Are there any genres you changed your mind about? Have ever tried to convince yourself you liked a book just because you felt like everyone else did?

Weekly

T5W: I Didn’t Think I’d Like It

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Books You Thought You’d Hate But Ended Up Loving.

As I never read books I think I’m going to hate – with one exception at the beginning of this list – I’m going to talk about books I thought I wouldn’t care about much that I ended up really liking.


Too Like the Lightning

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Maybe to say that I loved this is a stretch, but it definitely did surprise me.

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. I had to reread the first chapters ten times to even understand what was going on, it made me feel like I didn’t even know the language I was reading in, and I hated the narrator.
It’s objectively nearly unreadable.

But you know what? The excessive worldbuilding pays off, hating on the narrator was one of the best parts (how many paragraphs of this did I annotate with “shut up, Mycroft” or something like that?), and I honestly think this annoyingly slow-paced and disturbing trainwreck of a book is actually brilliant. I ended up giving it four stars.

As I said in my review a year ago, to properly review it and explain what exactly made it work like it did I’d need to reread it and there’s no way I’m ever doing that. But I still recommend it! (…I want to see what other people think of this, mostly. Feel free to hate me afterwards!)


Bruja Born

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I didn’t love the first book in this series, Labyrinth Lost. I didn’t love it, and it was queer, and I knew its sequel – which followed Lula, a character that in the first book didn’t do anything for me – wasn’t going to be. I read it anyway because it fulfilled a challenge in a readathon, and I’m so glad I did.

This is a novel about the dark side of the intensity of teenage love, about letting go, about dealing with grief, and it’s creepier, more introspective, and more mature than Labyrinth Lost. I think the “more mature” part helped a lot, because I definitely thought “I’m too old for this” when I was reading the first novel (…and I was 16 at the time; it felt like upper middle grade to me).


The Light Brigade

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I went into this book thinking I was going to like it, because it’s written by Kameron Hurley, and The Stars Are Legion is one of my favorite books (it got me into adult sci-fi, which is… my favorite genre, even though it’s not the one I read the most).

Then I read the first chapters, and realized immediately that I was actually going to hate this: it’s one of those very bleak books about war in which nothing good ever happens, which I hate reading – depressing fiction is not something I ever get anything from; I love dark books, but I hate when they’re also grim and bleak. (I’m here to have fun!)

I bought it anyway, because favorite author, and I trust my favorite authors. And… it turned out being a good idea? The ending was wonderful, and so was the message, and I didn’t leave this book just with a vague sense of dread and disgust towards humanity. I don’t know if I’d recommend it, because it’s still 300+ pages of Pure Ugly™, a confusing kind of Pure Ugly™ (…it features continuous time jumps), but I think it’s a really clever book.


The Dark Beneath the Ice

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The Dark Beneath the Ice got a lot of lukewarm-to-bad reviews, so I didn’t think I was going to like it at all. I tried it just because I thought the cover was nice and because I had heard it was f/f – which it is. And I don’t even like horror that much! (Or: so I thought).

When I started reading it, I immediately started connecting with the main character on a level I never had before – because in my opinion this has the best representation of anxiety I’ve ever seen in a novel, even though it’s told through a paranormal metaphor – and I started worrying because everyone said the ending was weak.

I thought this wasn’t going to stick the landing, but it did. I’m just going to say this: I understand Marianne so much that I wish I didn’t, and if you’ve been through what this novel is about – avoidance of everything, including yourself if you can manage it – the ending will make a lot of sense to you. (Also, the romance was great.)


Temper

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I liked The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden, but I heard nothing about this one and I requested it just because the previous book by this author was great. And when I read the ARC, I ended up loving it.

This book is set in one of the most imaginative worlds I’ve ever read about (alternate history fantasy South Africa with demons, where gender isn’t a binary by default), it’s full of plot twist I could have never seen coming, it’s funny, and it often makes no sense, but I loved it. Publishers: acquire more funny, unusual diverse fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, please.

Also, the characters were walking disasters and they grew on me even though I hated them at the beginning.


Are there any books you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up liking? Have you read any of these?

Weekly

T5W: Favorite SFF Creatures

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Favorite SFF Creatures.

Discuss your favorite creatures from Science Fiction and Fantasy books!

…Dinosaurs!

Even though fantasy as a genre is full of dragons and even though a fantasy author can pretty much do whatever they want with their worldbuilding, I don’t know any fantasy bookd apart from JY Yang’s Tensorate series that feature dinosaurs. Specifically, this series features packs of trained raptors. And it works! I love this series a lot, it’s one of the most imaginative fantasy worlds I’ve ever read about (and it’s also queer-normative and isnpired by East and Southeast Asia).

It’s time I try some more short stories from the Uncanny Magazine Dinosaur Special Issue – I loved the two I read.

Borne

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I don’t think I can talk about sci-fi creatures without mentioning the maybe-animal-maybe-plant-maybe-more-than-human-but-does-it-really-matter creature called “Borne”, from Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. This colorful biopunk apocalypse book is set in a world where there are giant flying bears, so it was already weird, but Borne? I loved him as a sci-fi creature just as much as I loved him as a character and I know I will never read about another character like him.

Everything Fox, Really

From foxes in fantasy Russian-inspired fairytales (The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo) to gumihos in space (Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee), if a book has sentient foxes, pet foxes, or even fox-related symbology, I want to read it. It means that someone will likely be some kind of trickster and those stories are always fun. Also foxes in popular culture are usually that combination of lovable-but-morally-gray, untrustworthy and overdramatic, which is my favorite kind of character.

The Sci-fi Equivalent of a Ghost

…they won’t call it a ghost, of course, but when a dead person is attached to a living one and the two are kind of merged but not really? That’s pretty much a haunting in space, and I love this set up so much. The way it lends itself to discussion about memory and how it is related to personhood and identity, or the way it usually signals that a character will have arguments inside their own head? I love everything about it. To be specific, since both Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine share it, my favorite version of this trope is “lesbian who didn’t sign up for all of this gets the ghost of a dead disaster bisexual who has/had a Mysterious Agenda in her head”

Talking Spaceships

AIs are fun, but I especially like AIs who do not have a human-looking “body”. Which means that talking spaceships are often my favorite characters in the book they appear in.

Some of my favorite examples of talking spaceships are Titana from A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna, an invincible warship who really doesn’t like killing people, The Shadow’s Child from The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard, a spaceship who is really good at brewing tea and the Watson character in this Sherlock Holmes retelling, and the Revenant from Revenant Gun.


What are your favorite SFF creatures? Do you know any books featuring magical foxes?

Weekly

T5W: 2019 ARCs I’ve Read So Far

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is a Freebie.

I decided to talk about something that will never be a T5W topic, because not everyone can or wants to get ARCs: 2019 books I already read that aren’t out yet/have been out for very little, and what I thought of them.


The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

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  • this is: an f/f contemporary book with a mystery aspect.
  • publication date: March 6th 2019.
  • I would recommend it to: fans of We Are Okay, or to those who like quiet atmospheric stories and want to read about teenage girls who actually feel like teenage girls.
  • I would not recommend it to: those who want a fast-paced thrilling story, those who don’t want to read about grieving, angry girls, those who prefer plot-driven books.
  • additional notes: this is one of the most honest and raw portrayals of grief and associated unhealthy coping mechanisms I’ve ever found in a YA book. Also: the main character of this book is a white lesbian, and the love interest is a biracial bisexual girl.

The Girl King by Mimi Yu

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  • this is: an f/m YA fantasy book about a rebellious princess trying to take back the throne from her cousin, who inherited it just because he was a man.
  • publication date: January 8th 2019
  • I would recommend it to: those who are looking for an ownvoices Asian-inspired fantasy, and to those who like tropey princess stories, plot-driven fantasy, and want to read a royalty fantasy book that for once openly criticizes imperialism.
  • I would not recommend it to: those who are looking for an atmospheric story or detailed and vivid worldbuilding, those who dislike travel fantasy book, those who want their YA fantasy to be fast-paced or unpredictable.
  • additional notes: while this is being advertised as a book about rivalry between sisters, the two don’t interact that much for most of the book – just like with Three Dark Crowns, the actual rivalry will be in the sequel. There’s also a scene that really didn’t sit well with me – the only time something like same-sex attraction appears in this book it’s because a character is trying to rape the male protagonist. I think that books with an all-straight cast should stay away from that sort of scene.

Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter

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  • this is: a dark contemporary book with a paranormal/almost horror aspect following queer characters
  • publication date: March 19th 2019
  • I would recommend it to: those who are interested in messed up, ugly stories with a great message, those who like character-driven YA, those who want to read a story about a queer person getting out of an abusive and codependent relationship and into a healthier one, those who like to read stories with great character development.
  • I wouldn’t recommend it to: those who are looking for an urban fantasy in the vein of The Cruel Prince, those who are easily disturbed, those who do not want to read about messed up teenagers in messed up relationships.
  • Additional notes: It’s not really a faerie book, even if it’s being advertised as such. There are fairies, but they’re not the focus of the story and this book doesn’t really take place in a fairy court. But when there are fairies, they’re really creepy. Under the Pendulum Sun levels of creepy, if you know what I mean. The fae girl on the cover is named Unselle and she’s awful, I love her.

The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown

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  • this is: a contemporary story about a girl who unexpectedly lost her girlfriend and is struggling with her grief and anger.
  • publication date: April 16th 2019
  • I would recommend it to: those who really like stories told through alternating timelines, those who like to read about grieving queer teenagers and are fine with reading a subplot in which a lesbian tries to turn herself straight
  • I do not recommend it to: those who don’t like stories in which the side characters aren’t really developed, those who don’t like slow-paced books
  • Additional notes: I thought this book’s portrayal of grief was well-written, but the book itself was too messy – and I’m someone who thinks books about grieving teenagers should be messy. I’m fine with teens doing and saying the wrong things, but I’m not fine with casual transphobia, fatshaming, and other casually uncomfortable stuff that was in this book either for no reason or for drama. Those kind of things need to either be challenged or to have a really good reason to be there in the first place.

The Bird King

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  • this is: a slow-paced historical book following a Circassian concubine in the royal court of Granada.
  • publication date: March 12th 2019
  • I would recommend it to: those who really like well-written, well-researched and somewhat dense historical fiction with a hint of magic, those who are interested in Muslim and European history.
  • I do not recommend it to: those who don’t like slow-paced, detailed adult fiction, those easily bored.
  • Additional notes: I DNFed this book because I unfortunately fall into the “easily bored” category at the moment, university isn’t helping my attention span at all and I can’t read anything heavy, but I think that if its blurb appeals to you, you should try it – I really think it’s a good book, and maybe I will like it too if I try it in the future.

Which 2019 releases (ARCs and not) have been your favorites so far, if you’ve read any?

Weekly

T5W: Top of Your TBR

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Top of Your TBR.

For “top of my TBR“, I  all mean books I hope to read and review soon, but I haven’t yet. Knowing how good I am at TBRs, I’ll probably end up not reading any of them for months.


The Traitor Baru Cormorant

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I want to read this book because:

  • It’s an adult fantasy series that features extreme gray morality and queer characters, and many people I trust like it
  • I’m sure I won’t forget it, even if I don’t end up liking it
  • I have an ARC of the sequel, which came out in 2018.

I haven’t read it yet because:

  • university means that I’m tired all the time and I don’t have the energy for adult fantasy right now
  • I find this book really intimidating
  • I need to have the time and… the emotional stability to start an adult high fantasy book with a considerable amount of homophobia in it.

Dragon Pearl

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I want to read this book because:

  • my favorite author wrote it
  • the premise sounds so interesting (Korean-inspired middle grade space opera with fox spirits!) and I always love the setting in Lee’s books
  • I can’t wait

I haven’t read it yet because:

  • …my copy isn’t here yet and I’m sad

Our Lady of the Ice

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I want to read this book because:

  • Me, reading books I own: a revolutionary concept
  • this should be an alt-history sci-fi thriller set in Antarctica featuring lesbians
  • how cool is that
  • [insert some bad pun like “Antartica is more cold than cool”]
  • I need to read this book for a ~secret~ post I’ve been planning since August.

I haven’t read it yet because:

  • there are few things I like to do as much as ignoring backlist titles
  • I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, which isn’t exactly encouraging.

The Gilded Wolves

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I want to read this book because:

  • I love diverse ensemble casts!
  • historical France! The other fantasy book I’ve read that was set in historical france (The House of Shattered Wings) was awesome and I’m sure that the atmosphere here will be just as good
  • Roshani Chokshi! I’m going to love this like I loved the Star-Touched Queen duology, if not even more.

I haven’t read it yet because:

  • I’m currently ignoring everything but ARCs I don’t even like that much, because priorities, of course I don’t end up reading the things I actually like
  • It’s a series and I don’t want to start new series when the next book won’t be out in a year

The Wicked King

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I want to read this book because:

  • I thought the first book had potential; let’s see if that’s actually true.
  • I want to know what happens as long as I’m still even only marginally invested in this.
  • The Hype, even though I really should know better

I haven’t read it yet because:

  • I’m not sure about whether I need to reread book one to read this
  • if that’s the case I’ll probably never get around to it – I’m bad at rereading things I loved, and I didn’t love The Cruel Prince – but I’ll try not doing that first.

What are the books you want to get to as soon as possible?

Weekly

T5W: Hyped 2019 Releases I Don’t Care About

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Hyped 2019 Releases You Don’t Care About.

If you dare, now is your time to get shady. 

There are so many 2019 releases I’m looking forward to – I talked about them yesterday – but there are also many I don’t care about. Let’s talk about why!

Two disclaimers first:

  • This list doesn’t include sequels, for obvious reasons.
  • I haven’t read these books. What I say about them could be completely wrong, but I don’t have enough interest in them to see if that’s the case.

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

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Why I’m not interested in Four Dead Queens:

  • As I said in my post about covers I don’t like, crowns on covers of YA books are an obvious, overdone symbol that just screams “mediocre, formulaic YA fantasy”. I have read a lot of mediocre, formulaic YA fantasy already. Also, the crowns here look very fake – and all the details reinforce that, giving them a “dead crustaceans” look instead of looking realistic.
  • “Let’s copy Hunger Games and divide our magical world in districts reigns that only care about one thing and have one defining characteristic” was already a tired trope in 2014.
  • Snow Like Ashes already did this and it wasn’t good, why should I want to read something similar?
  • The premise itself doesn’t work. A society in which there’s the “region of scientists” and the “region that cares about agriculture” doesn’t work (and that’s not how people work either), that society would collapse immediately. Everyone needs agriculture and everyone needs technology. Why are they separated? Is this a dystopia masquerading as fantasy mystery?

White Stag by Kara Barbieri

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Why I’m not interested in reading White Stag:

  • Everything I’ve read that was traditionally published after being written on wattpad had terrible writing and was all-around low-quality, and I have no reason to think this got the editing those other books really needed.
  • Is this a slave romance? It really sounds like a slave romance. And from the early reviews I already see some trigger warnings for rape and torture. This… doesn’t look good
  • Now, I’m not opposed to reading books that have rape or torture in them – some of my favorite books need similar trigger warnings – but it really has to be worth it/handled well. I just… don’t trust this book to do that
  • Hot goblins? Really?

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

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Why I’m not interested in Two Can Keep a Secret:

  • I think I don’t like mystery as a genre
  • And if there are exceptions, they’re either the weird genre-bending ones or the very gay ones, and this book seems to be neither
  • I haven’t read One Of Us Is Lying but I was spoiled for the plot twist and… I don’t think I’m interested in reading a book by an author who thought that was a good idea

The Cerulean by Amy Ewing

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Why I’m not interested in reading The Cerulean:

  • According to early reviews, this is a book following the only straight, monogamous girl in a world in which everyone is a polyamorous lesbian
  • With a “straight girl oppressed by gay people” plotline
  • Also it apparently has evil muslim caricatures
  • If this is really what early reviews say… why did it get published. Why would I want to read that. Why
  • And why did it get such a gorgeous cover?

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

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Why I’m not interested in reading Bloodleaf:

  • Before reading the synopsis and the early reviews, I thought this cover looked interesting
  • After reading the synopsis and the early reviews, the cover is still the only thing about this book that looks interesting
  • Everything else looks so generic it’s painful. It seems just yet another book about a persecuted princess, forbidden magic, and a forbidden m/f romance. The synopsis doesn’t say anything that could make this book stand out, and the early reviews aren’t encouraging either.

What 2019 hyped releases are you not interested in reading? And, if you’ve read any of these and think I’m very wrong, tell me! (After all, what I know about these books comes from a synopsis and reviews of people I don’t follow, so it could be inaccurate.)

TBR & Goals · Weekly

T5W: Books You Didn’t Get to in 2018

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Books You Didn’t Get to in 2018.

Discuss the books you didn’t quite get around to this year but are at the top of your list for 2019! 

There are so many! I divided them into five main categories, but they are far more than fifteen.


I Said I Would, and I Will

I have no idea whether I’m going to like any of these! In one of these cases, I’m pretty sure that I won’t. Anyway, I love giving a chance to things people I trust like, so I’m at least going to try.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – I… have a lot of mixed feelings about this book and I haven’t even read it. Anyway, I didn’t know whether I wanted to read it, so I decided to request an ARC of the sequel and see if they approved me. They did. I love you, Tor, and according to them I should read this, so I will.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – there are a lot of things about this book that make me kind of uncomfortable and the writing is so over-the-top it could really go either way. But I like assassin schools! We’ll see.

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat – a really polarizing one! Everyone I know who has read it has strong opinions about this. It could end up being a disaster, but some people I trust like it. (Yes, I know about the triggering content, don’t worry.)


Backlist I Was Totally Going to Read in 2018

I said I would get to them in 2018! And with one of these, I did try, but had to put it down because of circumstances. But I will make it this time. I know.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – one day, I will write a list of books that I want to read that I can’t believe I haven’t read yet, and this book won’t be on it. Or so I like to think.

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi – I own this, I haven’t read one good review of it, but I’m going to give it a chance. I mean, the cover is pretty and the first chapter was interesting, so maybe it will work if I go into it with very low expectations? (It probably won’t! But I have it now, so.)

In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente – another book I wanted to get to in 2017 which I didn’t read in 2018 either. I’m so good at this, you won’t believe it.


2018 Releases I Didn’t Get To

…there are so many books published in 2018 I wanted to get to that I haven’t read yet!

Furyborn by Claire Legrand – I thought about reading this in 2018 but then I realized that I wanted to read it closer to Kingsbane‘s release date… and so here we are. I have a really good feeling about this, I hope I’m right.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White – I want some f/f fun space operas and this sounds like it’s going to be one of them. I should have already read it by now but no, I always procrastinate on the things I think I’m going to like.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi – I loved American Street, I can’t believe I still haven’t read this even though I own it. I really should get to it this year.


Physical TBR

I mostly read ebooks, so I often forget I also have physical (translated) books I want to read.

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed – if it’s gay and it gets translated in Italian, I’m reading it. Yes, that’s the only reason.

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar – I have no idea what this is but I recognized the cover and I want to support adult SFF that gets translated in my country I can find in bookstores. Publishers here don’t translate much adult SFF.

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – see what I said about The Nowhere Girls. But also, this sounds great? I can’t wait, if it had been an ebook I would have already read this by now.


Sequels

My main goal for 2018? To read more sequels, since I always procrastinate.

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May (which means: reread The Vanishing Throne) – I started this series in 2015. In 2019, I still haven’t read the third book, despite the fact that I own it and that I gave five stars to the first two.

The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco (which means: reread The Bone Witch) – I don’t remember anything about the first book but I didn’t dislike it and this looks great, so I’m at least going to try and continue.

Fierce Like a Firestorm by Lana Popović (which means: reread Wicked Like a Wildfire) – the first book in this series wasn’t flawless but the fact that it exists means so much to me. That’s why I really want to read this one – I want to know whether I recommend this series as a whole or not.


Have you read any of these? What are some books you should have already read but haven’t because yay procrastination?

Weekly

T5W: Anticipated 2019 Sequels

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Most Anticipated 2019 Releases.

If you can’t narrow it down, give your selections for only the first half of the year or even just for winter 2019.

I will write a list about my most anticipated new releases for 2019 in January, because there are too many; today I’m only going to talk about sequels.


Sequels of Favorites

Stormsong by C.L. PolkWitchmark is getting an f/f sequel. I can’t. I want this now. I didn’t even love Grace that much in the first book but I want to read this now, I loved Witchmark so much. If you don’t know, Witchmark is a gorgeous m/m mystery fantasy book that is very underrated and you should read it.

The House of Sundering Flames by Aliette de Bodard – this series gets gayer with every book, I love it. I don’t know exactly what this will be about because it’s a companion series and every book follows a different House – I think it’s Harrier this time – but anyway: fallen angels and Vietnamese dragons in post-apocalyptic historical Paris! It’s my most anticipated sequel for 2019, and after reading The House of Binding Thorns, how could it not be.

Ruse by Cindy Pon – one of the best YA sci-fi books I’ve ever read is getting an f/f sequel! I loved Want in 2017. More Lingyi, more Iris, more Daiyu (…I love Daiyu) and also I’ve heard this is set in Shanghai. I love Cindy Pon’s descriptions, she makes me feel as if I were there with the characters.


More Fantasy Sequels

The Wicked King by Holly Black – If you follow this blog, you know I didn’t love The Cruel Prince. I think it was a combination of it having a bully romance, which is something I really don’t like (I can’t believe I forgot to talk about it in my anti-buzzwords post) and the hype ruining it for me. However, I actually think I’m going to like this sequel? There shouldn’t be much bullying anymore and I love evil faeries. I hope.

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence – The third and final book in Red Sister‘s series! I loved the first book, liked the second and now the third is coming and I can’t wait. Also, I love this cover (I hate the other one and I like to pretend it doesn’t exist). I’m afraid it will have a forced m/f romance in it and also disappoint me because that’s what third books tend to do, but I try not to expect the worst.

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty – more political intrigue in Daevabad! After the ending of The City of Brass, I need to know more. I don’t know if I will read it soon – probably not, maybe I’ll wait until the third book is closer because these books are so long – but I’m invested now.


Some Miscellaneous Sequels I Also Care About

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – I have rated all books in this series differently. Every Heart a Doorway was a five, Down Among the Sticks and Bones was a two, Beneath the Sugar Sky was a four. Will this follow the trend and be a three? I really hope it won’t be an one.

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum – m/f and m/m books I loved in 2017-2018 getting f/f sequels in 2019 is my favorite trend of the year. Anyway, this is a companion sequel to The Wicker King, and I hope it’s just as weird. Who doesn’t want gays in space? I certainly do.

Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly – the first two books destroyed me and I need an ending! One that isn’t hopeless! The first book haunts me, I deserve happiness.


Sequels I’m on the Fence About

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden – I really want to know how this series ends because I loved the first book, but the second one was disappointing and I don’t know how I’ll feel about this. Maybe I’ll wait and see what reviews say?

Jade War by Fonda Lee – I love the characters and I want to know more about this world but this is going to be even more stressful, the mafia similarities will continue to make me uncomfortable, and I didn’t even like Jade City‘s ending. I don’t know. I’ll probably try it and see how it goes.

Song of the Dead by Sarah Glenn MarshReign of the Fallen was a good book whose writing I didn’t love. I don’t know if I want to read the sequel, but I want to support f/f fantasy, so maybe I will.


What are your most anticipated sequels for 2019?

Weekly

T5W: If You Liked This, Try That

Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This week’s topic is Books to Give as Gifts.

Create a recommendations guide for a person. Be creative with this. It can be simple such as “books for parents” […]. You can even take out the category completely and have all 5 be suggestions for different types of people!

I decided to write a list of recommendations based on well-known books and more underrated ones! It’s not exactly a holiday gift guide but it was the closest thing I could think of.


If you liked Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, read This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow

I love well-written emotional contemporary, and that’s what these books are. While Far From the Tree by Robin Benway follows three siblings reconnecting after being in foster care/being adopted by different families, This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow follows three girls becoming friends again through music after circumstances drew them apart. Both books follow three different PoVs, have heartwarming f/f romances, and deal with teen pregnancy without sounding like cautionary tales. They also have beautiful mental health representation and deal with the theme of recognizing that you deserve the good things that happen to you.


If you liked Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, read For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

Both of these books follow girls of color fighting back against their oppressors and learning to use the magic they’re hated for, a power that influences the boundary between life and death. If you liked the romance and the plotline of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, I think you’re also going to like For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig, a book inspired by Southeast Asia during French colonization, following a bipolar girl who is a necromancer. It’s also a mixed media fantasy book, which was really interesting to read.


If you liked The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, read In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

Do you like lush, romantic stories set in dangerous palaces in which nothing is what it seems and doors can lead to magical gardens as easily as they lead to death? Do you want to read a retelling of a well-known western story that is inspired by non-western cultures? The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, a retelling of Hades and Persephone inspired by Hindu mythology, and In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with an all-Vietnamese cast, are the books I would recommend. The second one has an f/f romance in which the love interest is a shapeshifting dragon!


If you liked The Reader by Traci Chee, read The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

What about magical, slow-paced YA fantasy? The Reader by Traci Chee, a fantasy book about books, and The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana, a fantasy book about a princess going on a quest to save her kingdom from colonization, have many things in common. One of them is the beautiful writing (some of the best descriptions in YA fantasy), another the unique way their plotlines come together in the end. If you prefer plot-driven stories with a great atmosphere to character-driven ones, these are for you.


If you liked The Mortal Instrumens by Cassandra Clare, read Brooklyn Brujas by Zoraida Córdova

The Shadowhunter Chronicles is the kind of saga full of urban fantasy tropes that often manages to feel fresh anyway. I love the mythology and how many secrets there are in that world, which is something I also love about the Brooklyn Brujas series. It follows a family of brujas, but they are not the only magical people – as we see in the second book, Bruja Born (my favorite so far), there are also vampires and walking dead people (casimuertos). Many of the aspects of it are inspired by latinx traditions, it’s a wonderful multicultural series with a focus on family, and the first book, Labyrinth Lost, also has a bisexual f/f/m love triangle. I feel like Labyrinth Lost will especially appeal to the younger fans of TMI who want to see an interesting spin on the chosen one trope and a creepy but not too scary portal fantasy world. The Brooklyn Brujas series is very tropey like Shadowhunters, but it’s one of the things that make it work.


Have you read any of these?