TBR & Goals

October Try-A-Chapter TBR for the Uncanny & Scary Season!

Hi! Today’s post will be a TBR – one different from what I usually do.
It’s October, and I see October as a chance to explore genres I wouldn’t normally reach for, genres I have a complicated relationship with: horror and thrillers. I tried something of the sort last year and it didn’t pan out very well, but I think I would have been able to tell that those books weren’t actually my thing at all had I bothered to read a preview instead of jumping into them because of recommendations.

So, today, I’m combining the Try A Chapter tag with my TBR: I’ll try out most creepy and mysterious books I’ve marked as interesting on goodreads and choose what to read.


What I’m Trying

These Women by Ivy Pochoda: I first became interested in this purely because of the cover, then it stayed on my mind because it has been described as standing at the intersection between literary fiction and thriller, more a character study than something you’re supposed to “solve”, and maybe that’s more of my thing? Maybe the answer to being chronically disappointed by mystery reveals is to read books in which it’s not at all the point. Let’s try.
The preview: the first chapter is from the point of view of a sex worker, and I think she’s talking to someone in the hospital? I do like how this whole book seems to be about taking a completely different angle from most of the genre and centering the sex worker instead of making her a disposable victim (you don’t even have to have read or watched a lot of mysteries or thrillers to know that it’s a common thing because it is That Common). I think I like it, but I don’t know if it’s something I would reach for outside an “out of my comfort zone” challenge as this one. The writing is very unusual and deliberately choppy.

The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan: this is backlist and a favorite on US trans twitter, and I’m not sure I get what it is exactly, but hearing that is something both semi-autobiographical and with horror elements makes me really interested in it, given that the only other book I’ve read that walked the line between fiction and nonfiction is the masterpiece that was Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. I’m sure this will be completely different – books that can’t be pinned down in one genre tend to be! – but the point is that it sounds like it will be an Experience. Also, there’s very little I like as much as reading about haunted people. The main criticisms I saw of this one were that it’s pretentious (might be a problem depending on execution) and that it wanders a lot (I don’t think I’ll mind).
The preview: one thing I really like about this is that it doesn’t shy away from words like “crazy” and “insane”, deliberately. (If you’ve ever seen “ableist slur” discourse play out, well, you know why I’m saying this.) These are words I mostly avoid to not make others uncomfortable, but the thing is – living as the crazy one is much more than uncomfortable. Apart from that, this is thematically heavy but easily readable despite it not being in any hurry to make a point, possibly the best kind of combination. I still don’t have a clear idea of what this is going to be, but again, that is deliberate. I may never have one. It literally starts with “This is the book it is, which means it may not be the book you expect it to be.”

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power: let’s see if this is just like Wilder Girls, both in the sense that I thought it shouldn’t have been a YA book at all and in the sense that it’s not going to work for me. I hope I’m at least wrong about the second, and as I said once before, I want to see how the concept of “creepy cornfield” is executed. My opinion is that any huge monoculture is inherently creepy and so are a great number of plants if they get tall enough, but I don’t get why corn specifically is The Creepy Field in American culture.
The preview: I still don’t know about the corn, but the writing is breathtaking – even more than in Wilder Girls. The hints of “complicated mother-daughter relationship” are drawing me in already. I don’t know how credible my premise “I’m not into thrillers or horror” sounds now that I haven’t been able to exclude even one book yet, but that’s good news I guess? (Not necessarily, as many of them fail for me in the ending, but at least it won’t be like last year’s picks)

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson: this has one of the most striking covers I’ve ever set my eyes on, and it was the main reason this ended up on my TBR even though mysteries are not my genre at all. However, it’s high time I try something by this author, and the premise of this one sounds interesting – it’s about a Black girl who is accused of a murder she doesn’t remember committing, and I’ve heard its explores themes of misogynoir, abuse, and famous adult men exploiting teenage girls (don’t know the details because I want to avoid spoilers).
The preview: there are content warnings at the beginning, which is very considerate and that I really appreciate. As far as the story goes, it’s already setting up the tension effectively – only a few chapters into the flashback and I would be already worried for the main character even if I didn’t know the outcome. I think it’s going to be told mostly in flashbacks, though I’m not sure yet; I hope we gets more glimpses into the future timeline as well. The very short chapter make it feel like a tense, unputdownable read. If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t actually own this yet I’d be tempted to skim forward. The other thing that is holding me back is that this is going to be a necessarily heavy read – the kind I could only deal with on a day in which I’m not already doing badly, I think.

The Damned by Renée Ahdieh: I just want to go back to the decadent underworld of New Orleans and its secret societies in which the paranormal dwells (and marginalized people are accepted)! I’ve been seeing mostly negative reviews, but that was also true for the first book – slow-burn atmospheric paranormal isn’t for everyone nor is it trendy right now either – so I’m not that worried. Also this is one of my favorite covers to ever exist.
The preview: this is so dramatic, I love it already. I don’t know if I’ll like Bastien’s PoV as much as I liked Celine’s in the first book, but I hope so. Also Odette is there and it’s my obligation as a lesbian to read about her, if not now, at least soon. (I hope she gets a girlfriend…) My main worry at this point is that I won’t be able to remember all the names because the cast of characters only in the Court is neverending, but at least I have my e-copy of The Beautiful to search things in.

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall: a YA horror that apparently also has queer elements that was really hyped for being extremely creepy (at least by YA standards) last fall. It has to do with disappearances, a road that requires a toll, and it’s told in a mixed media format.
The preview: this isn’t bad – at all, at least from what I can tell – but it suffers here because it’s by far the book with the plainest writing on the list so far, and if there’s one thing I don’t like about writing it’s “plain”. Be weirder! I know many people’s idea of good writing is “writing that isn’t intrusive and gets the job done” but I don’t agree at all, I want to sink my teeth in it. I’m interested – the mixed media format is really intriguing – but it’s low priority.

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas: since I’m a fool, I’m going to give yet another chance to something that has been marketed as Dark Academia, and not even one that is getting good reviews. (Maybe that means I’ll like it? Who knows.) However: I recently saw Kayla/booksandlala liken its weirdness to some of my favorite weird & underrated books in one of her recent videosThe Gallery of Unfinished Girls, A Room Away from the Wolves, and even A Like in the Dark. I want to know why.
The preview: …the chapters in this one are neverending. Like, the preview ends and we’re not even finished with chapter one. I still think it seems easily readable, or maybe I just think that about everything this evening. I don’t know. The writing isn’t horribly pretentious and no one is quoting Shakespeare at me, which is already a significant improvement from the last time I tried this genre. Also, the feeling of being lost is already coming through and giving me vague A Room Away from the Wolves vibes. (That book is also set in a place named “Catherine House”. How.) I don’t have a definite impression yet but I’m curious.

She’s Too Pretty To Burn by Wendy Heard: queer book twitter made so much noise when the cover of this YA thriller was released, and for good reasons! It looks so fascinating, and as it has been described as “an electric romance that sparks lethal danger”, inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray… of course I want to try it. I have an ARC and I’m going to read it for sure, all this trying a chapter is going to accomplish is deciding whether I want to read it right now.
The first chapter: so, this is compelling enough and something I would have absolutely loved at 16, which is a good sign for a YA book but not necessarily for my current enjoyment – though it’s too soon to say for sure. I will say that I really like the writing and that it’s already setting the tone very well, even though I’m not yet sold on the characters.

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour: haunting stories! I think including this one on this list is more of a stretch, as I’ve heard it’s more “introspective contemporary with magical elements” than anything remotely horror, but it has ghosts in it and I say it counts.
The preview: this is very… muted? Faded? I expected a quiet book from Nina LaCour, and this has again that feeling of isolation and loss, but in a completely different way from We Are Okay. I think it would take me more time than a brief preview to truly get into it, as it’s intentionally removed. I appreciate the already ominous tone. Maybe it’s a little more creepy than I thought? We’ll see.

Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford: this is another weird genre-defying novel that has been described as “haunted” and compared to some of my favorite contemporary fantasy books; I have no idea what it is about but given this and the cover I don’t need much more to want to try it. I feel like it’s going to be way more ~literary than I’m used to but let’s see.
The preview: this is… really interesting and weird and the writing is gorgeous. I have no idea where it’s going but that’s both a good thing and something I imagine I’ll also feel after having finished the novel if I actually end up reading it (also not necessarily a bad thing? It depends). For something that is about taking body parts out of people, it isn’t even that gory, and I’m not yet sure about whether that’s a good thing or not.


Results!

I’ve been struggling with TBRs lately, so I’m not going to define one clearly; I’m going to give myself space to choose which books I’ll read as the month goes on instead of choosing them all now, which also gives me the chance to check out some that aren’t out yet (queer thriller They Never Learn by Layne Fargo) and even some self-published stuff that looks interesting if I have time.

For now, I will say that my priorities are:

  • Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power, which is the one that impressed me the most with its writing – Rory Power got even better in this aspect since Wilder Girls;
  • Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas, because of the possible parallels with some of my favorite books, and because of how difficult to pin down and yet so… effective in setting the mood that beginning was;
  • The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan, because the preview was promising and I’ve seen this recommended so many times by now that I can’t just drop it without going further;
  • I also really hope I’ll be able to fit The Damned by Renée Ahdieh in there, I just want to get back in this world.

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

Tag · Wrap-Up

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

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


Rules? On my blog?

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

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

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

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

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


The Liebster Award Questions and Their Answers

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

What is your favorite carbonated drink?

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

How has the pandemic affected your coping skills?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite fall (or spring) activity?

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

the only one of my cacti that has ever bloomed

What is your most paranormal experience?

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

Besides reading/blogging, what are your hobbies?

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

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

Which Chris is the best Chris?

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


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

Tag

Try A Chapter #8

The Try A Chapter Tag is back! A little longer than usual, as I’ve been away for a while – my goodreads TBR was getting too long after the new entries in the last few days…

As usual, these are not reviews and don’t say much about the quality of the work as a whole; there are just far too many books I want to read, and trying the first chapter of those I’m not completely sure about helps me understand what I want to prioritize.


Wicked Fox by Kat Cho: I plan to slowly go through most of the YA books on my TBR with the Try A Chapter Tag, just to be completely sure that I actually want to read them. Most of their premises sound great – I know this one does, as magical foxes in any form are my favorite creatures in fantasy and this is about a gumiho – but let’s see if I also think the same about the story itself.
The first chapter: apart from some slightly cheesy turns of phrase, I really liked this! The atmosphere is perfect, the conflict Miyoung is facing is intriguing, and I haven’t read an urban fantasy in so long. (Also, so many food mentions already… I haven’t had lunch yet this is an Attack)
[will read at some point]

The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer: listen I actually have no idea what this is and I’ve never even heard of the author, but the cover is an ELDRITCH TOOTH SWAN. I have to know why this was a choice that was made. I have so many questions.
The first chapter: I’m just not getting along with this, and I can’t even tell why – there’s nothing exactly wrong with it, but trying to get through the first chapter felt like wading through mud. I don’t want to be unfair to the book, so I’ll say that it’s about stage magicians and I just finished a book about the same topic (…with much better writing though), so maybe I just don’t feel like it.
[goodbye, eldritch tooth swan]

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena: to be honest, I added this for the cover only (just look at it), as the last two years had me slowly losing all the trust I had in YA fantasy, but A Song of Wraiths and Ruin singlehandedly reminded me that this genre can be great fun if you choose the right ones, so let’s try!
The first chapter: listen it’s not the book’s fault but why are maps always unreadable on ebook?? anyway, this didn’t catch my interest at all. There must be some terrible writing advice on the internet that says you have to start every YA fantasy with a scene of someone getting murdered, because I find this kind of thing in half of the ones I try. I don’t know how common of an opinion this is, but I honestly couldn’t think of a more off-putting opening – I haven’t even heard the main character speak once and you’re talking to me about arrows going through people’s heads. If I don’t know the characters, it just feels like yeah get some graphic violence, don’t you want more when actually I want to know about the characters and the world. Tell me why should I spend time here.
[removing from TBR]

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White: in theory, F/F sci-fantasy sounds like the best premise a story could ever have and exactly like the kind of book I could see going on my list of favorites of the year, but the fact that it has been on my TBR since 2018 tells me that maybe there’s a reason I don’t feel drawn to it. After the almost-all-correct Five Star Predictions post, I want to trust my gut feelings even when I don’t understand them.
The first chapter: it’s literally named D.N.F. Is this a joke? Anyway, I kind of hate the writing – listen, I’m the last one who will complain about everything being full of sci-fi-sounding words for the atmosphere™, but this has no grace to it – and couldn’t care less about race cars in space™, so I guess this is going. (I also skimmed the rest of the ebook preview and I’m just not feeling it.)
[removing from TBR]

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet: me, trying ~literary~ historical fiction? I know, unusual, but I do believe one can find something that works for them in pretty much every genre if they know where to look – and to know where to look, one has to try kind of randomly at first. This sounds interesting and everyone seems to love it, so why not? (Now, if only I were able to find an adult mystery/thriller that worked for me…)
The first chapter: this is fascinating and, as predicted, the writing is great. The fact that we’re going to be following different characters across history is encouraging, because I don’t know if I would be up for reading a whole book set in the sixties. I might check out the audiobook, because it does have the kind of writing that could work great aloud.
[will read at some point]

I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch: on one hand, it’s an F/F romance. On the other hand, it’s YA contemporary – which is very hit-or-miss for me – and got mixed reviews from my goodreads friends.
The first chapter: I guess it makes sense for an enemies-to-lovers book about fanfiction to read like mediocre enemies-to-lovers high school AU fanfiction of a pairing I don’t know, but that doesn’t mean it’s interesting. Remind me to never have high hopes for books that have anything to do with fandom.
[removing from TBR]

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He: I wanted to read this last year, then it just never happened for no reason, despite the positive hype and the lovely cover and the fact that the premise does sound interesting to me (court politics… yes).
The first chapter: now this is my kind of beginning. Carefully setting up the atmosphere, and in the meantime… let’s talk about treason. I’m intrigued but don’t want to go too far into the book before I actually pick it up. Sometimes you really do know you want to read something just from the first paragraphs.
[will read at some point]

“I felt like I was having a stroke”

goodreads review of The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel

The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel by Moe Bonneau: I removed this book from my TBR last year because it has almost overwhelmingly horrible reviews, all of them complaining about the writing. Which is interesting, because YA contemporary is possibly the genre in which I see authors take the least risks writing style-wise, so I’m curious – and also, it doesn’t feel right to not give a chance to a book about queer girls.
The first chapter: oh. The reviews all complained about the writing being overdone and weird and unreadable. They’re not wrong. It’s written half in slang I don’t fully understand and half in the way I think when I’ve just had a panic attack, by which I mean its writing is full of repetition, echolalia-like patterns and a kind of… rhythmic matching of words? To make some examples, this is a quote from the narration: glow little glowworm, glimmer, glimmer. I laugh and hum and pick up my marker and draw. Shine little glowworm, shimmer, shimmer. Or describing someone as everyday, every-guy, average hit hero. It’s all like that. In case it wasn’t clear, I love it and appreciate the neurodivergence of it all, intentional or not. It’s very cozy.
[will definitely read]


Have you read or want to read any of these?

Fantasy · Tag

Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag

I was tagged by Jess @ Jessticulates (thank you!). Bree Hill originally created this tag as the Get to Know the Romance Reader Tag, and The Book Pusher adapted it for fantasy readers.


1. What is your fantasy origin story? (The first fantasy novel you read)

Well, if we don’t count children’s books about talking animals as “fantasy”, I think it was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, and I was around… eight? Seven? I don’t remember. I really liked it and was obsessed with the elves, which by the way are kind of antagonists in this book. I’ve always liked that about characters, apparently?

2. If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

…can I decline? 😬 Being anywhere in the story of a fantasy novels sounds like a terrible time, and all my favorite authors are not nice to their characters, so I don’t really have an answer. As far as tropes go: friendly ghosts and animal companions sound nice, so maybe that?

3. What is a fantasy you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?

40939087._sy475_Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney! I mostly haven’t had the best luck with fantasy novels so far this year, but I loved this novella so much, and I wish more people would reach for this hallucinatory rococo fae book with a deep love for weirdness.

4. What is your favourite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?

My favorite subgenres are sci-fantasy and contemporary fantasy, because I like fantasy more when it overlaps with other genres. Subgenres I rarely reach for are grimdark, because a lot of it has a weird set of priorities (there are a lot of people there who believe only trauma can shape people and so write accordingly) and historical fantasy, because the whole genre seems to have a pacing problem (though I do like it anyway sometimes; an example is Renée Ahdieh’s The Beautiful).

5. Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

I think that not until a long time ago I would have said Leigh Bardugo, but I still haven’t bought Ninth House and I’m not sure I will, so I’m not sure if I have an auto-buy author who writes primarily fantasy? I will for sure say that if Leigh Bardugo, Aliette de Bodard, C.L. Polk, S.A. Chakraborty, Seanan McGuire, or JY Neon Yang write a book, it will very easily end up on my radar, and they’re all primarily fantasy authors, but I’m not sure I consider any of them auto-buy.

[Editing!Acqua comment: love how this asked for one auto-buy fantasy author and I gave six that aren’t.]

6. How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram..)

Goodreads, twitter, other blogs, occasionally booktube (though I don’t watch it as often as I did once).

7. What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee is my most anticipated release of the year, so that! It’s a Korean-inspired fantasy with a non-binary main character and… mecha dragons? Maybe? I haven’t read the synopsis because I don’t want to know too much. I broke my “no ARCs of novels” ban for it, and I got it.
[Editing Acqua: as of today, I’m currently reading it! And yes, it has a steampunk mechanical dragon and it’s my favorite character]

For something I don’t own yet, I’m really anticipating Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, since I really liked Girls Made of Snow and Glass back in 2017.

8. What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

That fantasy and science fiction have nothing in common. I thought that too until I started reading science fiction, and look, most of the sci-fi that gets a lot of attention right now is basically fantasy with a magical science hat. (That’s why I love it.)

9. If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

I… don’t know? It really depends on the person and what they want, fantasy is an enormous genre. Some books that have a chance to work for this, however, are:

  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin: this is my recommendation if they like romance. I remember that it was easy to get through, full of surprises, and had a romance that was kind of addicting.
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: some people like to start with a challenge, and this is a book that is challenging and deceptively easy to get through despite that;
  • It’s not my favorite but I think A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab has the potential to draw in a lot of fantasy skepticals, because it has a really interesting set up and it’s just fun. Maybe not for people who are mostly for character-driven stuff, though.

These are all adult books with crossover appeal in the YA age range, so they could work for both categories. I’m sure that if I thought about it more I could find some that are even better for this but this specifically asked not to think too much about it, so I won’t.

10. Who is the most recent fantasy reading content creator you came across that you’d like to shoutout?

…this is probably a sign I should blog-hop more, because I really can’t think of any newly-discovered bloggers for this. I semi-recently (I think it was February? Oh am I losing track of time) started following StarlahReads on youtube, and while she is far from a fantasy-only reviewer, she does talk about fantasy and I really like her channel.


Do you also never have any idea what to answer when people ask for recommendations despite having an entire blog dedicated to books?

Tag

The Blogger Recognition Award + Awesome Blogger Award

I get nominated for things, I want to answer, and then I procrastinate.


Blogger Recognition Award Rules

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select up to fifteen bloggers you want to give this award to (not tagging people for this one, I will for the one under)
  6. Comment (or pingback) on each blog to let them know that you’ve nominated them and provide a link to the post you’ve created.

I was nominated for this by E. @localbeehuntersnook (Thank you so much!) I’ve started following E. recently and I already love her blog.


The Acqua di more Beginning

I started blogging in Italian in December 2015. I had just started reading books in English in September, I was 15, and I had no one to talk about English books with. I soon realized it didn’t make much sense to review English books in Italian, so I started trying to write in English. I began writing a few sentences on goodreads every time I finished a book somewhere around March 2017 and finally created a blog in September of the same year, when I could put some paragraphs together. (My first reviews were still really awkward; as with everything, it takes time.)

Fun facts about acquadimore as a blogging entity:

  • I don’t remember why I chose to call myself “Acqua” (water) or “Acqua di more” (literally, “water of blackberries”). I think I chose a random object in my room – a perfume I never used – and went with that, but I don’t know if there was a reason and I just forgot it. 15-year-old me was odd and I’m just happy I didn’t do the usual and try to name myself after a bobbit worm or something of the sort
  • The owl pendant I use as my image across platforms is a gift from one of my grandmothers. As with the blog name, I think I just chose a random thing that looked cute to avoid using my face and name.
  • I don’t think either my blog name (a perfume) or my picture (a pendant) accurately represent who I am as a person (basically a rat) but I also don’t care. I don’t think it even occurred to me at 15 that people try to have a brand that reflects how they present themselves online. That would mean doing things with some kind of purpose and was very much beyond me.

That was not brief. Anyway, onto the advice part! I still don’t feel like I’m qualified to give advice to bloggers because I don’t know what I’m doing either, but here are two things I learned that might be useful to others:

1. ARCs aren’t worth the stress.

I get it, it’s free books. But unless that’s the only way you can legally access the books you want to read – and I know that for some things can be like that; there were moments in my life that were this way for me – I really don’t recommend them. You’ll end up feeling like you have to force yourself to read books you’ve lost interest in to keep up your feedback ratio, or you’ll make your way through some horribly formatted/not even edited material, and sometimes no reviews are out when you start a book, so you don’t have the chance to have any content warnings. Your blog doesn’t have to revolve around ARCs; new releases get more engagement but that doesn’t mean backlist gets none.

things in ARCs I had the unhappy experience of stumbling on after the synopsis didn’t even hint at them:

fraternal incest as a main plotline, a relationship between a 17-year-old and her 28-year-old employer painted in a positive light as a main plotline, an entire book masquerading as a contemporary mystery when it was mostly historical fiction about reproductive rights involving forced pregnancy and child rape.

2. Some people will make your life worse. Block them.

This goes for blogging and even more so for twitter and goodreads.
Some ugly sides of the book community don’t show themselves until you’re in it. For some unfathomable reason, review plagiarism isn’t that uncommon (why do people even have a blog if they post someone else’s opinions? Oh, I don’t know either). Some people are also on here only to stir up controversy, or act like their review is a chance to write a point-by-point response of your own in which they also call you stupid/boring/illiterate. You can block them. You don’t owe them an explanation or any of your time and blocking isn’t a defeat. Feel free to report the plagiarists if you want to. You’ll have a much happier online life without any of these people. Also, some more advanced advice: if there’s someone (be them an author or a blogger) who, for some reason – even one that looks perfectly acceptable – is always, and I mean every single time, somehow involved in the controversy of the day, you can go ahead and assume they’re bad news. Or at least be cautious. Every time I noticed this about a person I ended up hating that I didn’t trust my gut.

This wasn’t brief either! I’m… not good at brief when I feel strongly about something. Sorry.


Awesome Blogger Award Rules

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you
  • Credit the creator (Maggie @ Dreaming of Guatemala)
  • Tag this post with #AwesomeBloggerAward
  • Answer all the questions given to you
  • Nominate some people
  • Write 10 questions for them to answer

I was nominated for this by laurel @thesuspectedbibliophile. Thank you!

I think I started following her on goodreads first and then on her blog, which you also should do, as she writes amazing reviews.


The Questions

What is your favorite genre?

Sci-fi! I think. Or, I feel like a fraud when saying this, because I don’t like a lot of sci-fi subgenres. I don’t think I’ve ever read hard sci-fi in my life (real physics? I’m already full of textbooks at home, I don’t want that for fun. Real environmental science? If the author doesn’t do their research, I’ll notice and be annoyingly nitpicky) and I will go out of my way to avoid anything cyberpunk. Maybe it would be more correct to say that my favorite genre is… sci-fantasy? All the books that aren’t clearly recognizable as either science fiction or fantasy but are instead some weird hybrid are my favorites. Especially if set in space.

Do you have any go-to recommendations for someone looking to get into reading or in the middle of a book slump?

  1. looking to get into reading: I think I’d have to know the person;
  2. in the middle of a book slump: if they’re a reviewer, my #1 recommendation would be to stop requesting or worrying about review copies, as that was usually the cause for me.

Let’s talk about underrated books! What are your top five books no one is talking about?

The only books I can think of which I love but never actually see anyone talk about are three of my favorite illustrated works. This might also be caused by the fact that I don’t follow a lot of graphic novel/comic readers. They are:

  • Twisted Romance, edited by Alex de Campi: this has the bad luck of sitting exactly at the intersection of two formats the book community doesn’t care about, “anthology” and “comic”. Which is a shame, because this was such a remarkable experience for me. A really queer anthology about romance and love and the many forms they can take, with both short stories and short comics? It was amazing.
  • Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn & Claire Roe: I don’t even like adult thrillers or noir and this is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Dark graphic novel about a highly unethical journalism intern trying to investigate even more unethical people, with a mostly-queer cast! So many queer women, and everything is written and illustrated with… the queer female gaze, so clearly? I can’t even describe it but I could feel it.
  • Sol by Loputyn: a collection of illustrations; it reads like the graphic novel version of a poetry collection. Almost no text, so even though it’s by an Italian artist, it can be read by everyone, and it’s about toxic relationships, monster love, and the monsters inside ourselves. Gothic and creepy and beautiful; not afraid to be dark and gross. To give you an idea of the atmosphere: look at the cover. It’s pretty and kind of sad, right? Look closer. The pavement is covered in bugs.

As far as “novels I almost never see mentioned anywhere” that deserve your attention, these are two good examples:

  • This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow, one of my favorite F/F contemporaries that somehow I almost never see anyone talk about. It’s one of the stories I know that handles mental health and recovery better, it has so much heart, the relationships (romantic and platonic) in it are so sweet, and I recommend it even if you don’t actually care for musical band plotlines (I don’t). Just… if you like YA contemporary dealing with heavy themes in a non-depressing way, this should be on your radar.
  • Temper by Nicky Drayden: I get why this isn’t so popular; it’s weird and trippy and the main characters are inappropriate and kind of insufferable. But they managed to grow on me, and this was just… so funny? If you like fantasy that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, stories about really unusual magical schools, or want something set in alt-history South Africa (with no colonization!), I really recommend this. It has some of the most imaginative worldbuilding I’ve ever read.

If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who is it and what’s the meal?

I don’t think I have an answer for this! It’s mostly because I don’t want authors to know what I thought of their books. Most of the time, I don’t want them to know I exist at all. (I know they can see my reviews of their books if they want. If they do, I still don’t want to know they have read them.)

What pulls you into a story? World-building? Characters? Plot? Tone?

My first impression, especially in circumstances in which I’m not going to give the author a lot of time to pull me in (so, with short stories and try-a-chapter challenges), is mostly made up of writing (does it flow well? Do I like it?), tone (if it’s something that appeals to me or if it’s something too bleak/pretentious) and subject (is anything happening, is it setting the atmosphere, or did it start with an infodump?). I usually don’t have the time to notice if the worldbuilding or characters are well-written or not, but I can see if there are any red/green flags in those aspects.

Do you DNF books?

Yes, often, and I’d love to say “without remorse”, but I also often give second tries when I previously thought I wouldn’t, and when I’m motivated enough to do that, it usually works out.

How long is your TBR? I mean, really—not just the books you own physically or electronically. How big is that list?

Currently, adding all the books from the “to read”, “maybe” and “collection TBR” shelves on my goodreads account, it’s 150. I try to keep this number as small as I possibly can to stay sane, and 150 might still be too much – I don’t read that many books even in a year.

Who is your favorite audiobook narrator?

38244358Of the ones I tried so far, I really liked Cynthia Hopkins from Every Heart a Doorway and In an Absent Dream – she convinced me I could, in fact, listen to an audiobook – and Cassandra Morris from You Must Not Miss, she sounded like an actual young teen and was so easy to follow.

Do you use your library? Why or why not?

No, because it doesn’t have books in English and its YA/SFF section is like 10 books all older than five years. I don’t really have a choice.

What three things do you want to accomplish in 2020?

Me? Having goals? Oh we can’t do that. Making them up right now:

  • Getting through the Italian lockdown time with my sanity and everything else intact.
  • Spend less time on twitter (it doesn’t make sense that I’m even there if 90% of what I do is complain about it elsewhere). That’s probably the main one, but I’m not sure I can do it
  • Find a five star novel. I still haven’t rated one novel five stars this year and it’s making me sad. No, rereads don’t count.

My Questions

  1. Favorite novella?
  2. Favorite cover of a 2020 book?
  3. Have you ever completely changed your mind about a novel you were reading because of its ending?
  4. What is the last book you DNFed/wished you had DNFed?
  5. What was the last book you rated four stars, and why?
  6. Something you removed from your TBR?
  7. What’s the book that has been on your TBR the longest?
  8. Are there any subgenres of your favorite genre you don’t often reach for?
  9. Have you ever given a second chance to an author after disliking one of their books? If so, what happened?
  10. Are there any books you don’t get to talk about as often as you’d like?

For the awesome blogger award, I nominate:

[don’t feel obligated to do it!]

Silvia @silviareadsbooks  | Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky | Sahi @My World of Books| Evelyn @evelynreads


Do you prefer your TBR to be small or to have all the books you could possibly be interested on it?

Tag

Two Books, One Stone Book Tag

I missed yesterday’s Top Ten Tuesday because the topic (Books I’ve Read That I’d Like In My Personal Library) wasn’t something I had answers for, so this time you get a tag.

This tag was created by Shawn The Book Maniac. I wasn’t tagged by anyone.


1. The second-last book you read

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Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall. I really liked it, for what it was – a somewhat fanfiction-y short novel about an f/f vampire romance that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Since it’s a self-aware book whose humor kind of relies on the reader’s ability to recognize all the urban fantasy clichés and references, it gave me a lot of flashbacks to the old urban fantasy books I read, and wow, did I not want to remember the Fever series. (I read it at 16. It was addicting, but I don’t think I’ve ever hated a main couple as much as in here – especially Jericho Barrons, he was so gross. Gay urban fantasy is so much better.)

Anyway, this spends a lot of time making fun of urban fantasy tropes, but not in a “I’m superior to this” way, and it’s so refreshing. I can’t wait to read more from this author, especially since I had The Affair of the Mysterious Letter on my TBR. The review of this one should be up in a few days!

2. The second book from the top of your TBR

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I don’t have a numbered TBR list, so I’m going to talk about a book I’m hoping to read soon that still won’t be the next book I read, and that’s Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney. I first heard of this novella because of Kathy (her review) and since then I haven’t had as much time to read as I hoped, but I really, really want to get to it after what I’ve heard about it. It sounds so magical and unique.

(Well, I just said I want to read it soon! That means it probably won’t get read until next August.)

3. Two 2-star reads

I only rated three books two stars this year, and out of them I’m going to talk about The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees and The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, because I’ve talked about Here There Are Monsters multiple times recently.

  • The Waking Forest was, more than anything, overwritten and unnecessary. The author probably wanted to write something with a prose reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s and Catherynne M. Valente, but the result was a condensation of pretentious and often nonsensical descriptions; the plot was unnecessarily convoluted for something that turned out to be one of the most cliché YA fantasy stories I had ever read. I still really enjoyed the atmosphere and part of the first half.
  • The Nowhere Girls is another book that tried to do way more than it could – it tried to be an universal story about teenage girls, but some parts came across as… “let’s mention this for shock value or token points”? Which is not something you would expect from a book that handles well another very difficult topic (rape). I also thought the portrayal of sensory issues had some very glaring problems. I still really appreciated the goal, but it didn’t get there for me.

4. Two great books by the same author

There’s no way around this: Sarah Porter’s books are weird and uncomfortable reads, but once you get past that – they’re beautifully written, and have a beautiful message as well. My favorite is Vassa in the Night, this macabre modern fairytale, but Never-Contented Things is even more mature as a book, and certainly intense*.

I think that a lot of writing advice and even a lot of people’s ideas of what makes “good writing” are mostly useful advice to get a solid-but-very-bland writing, but I want authors to go further, to learn the rules and then take risks. I really appreciate when I’m able to open a book and immediately know that yes, it’s [author], that’s unmistakable because no one else writes this very specific kind of weird. Sarah Porter is one of those authors – no one else will ever tell you that the bridge is sweating birds wet as fresh-washed socks, after all.

[*I really recommend looking up the content warnings if you’re interested in these, they’re as dark as YA gets, especially NCT.]

5. Two bails or two books you wish you’d bailed on or two books you hated

I’m going to talk about two recent DNFs I haven’t really talked about yet on this blog.

  • The Plus One by Natasha West: it’s probably not great of me, but I tend to be wary of indie/self-published books – most of my experiences with them haven’t been the best. However, I’m always willing to give a chance to f/f content that is recommended to me, and after seeing multiple people I follow hype up books by Natasha West, I thought, why not? Well. I don’t know if it was the fact that at the same time I was reading a book by Aliette de Bodard, who tends to go for really long sentences, but this book had the most awkward and stilted writing I had read in… months if not years? It was all really short sentences, and the first chapter wasn’t an introduction to the main character and her life, it was a page-long infodump about her relationship, all awkward exposition. If fantasy authors can manage to introduce a new world without needing to do this, contemporary ones really should do better. To explain what I mean when I say it’s all short sentences, I’m going to quote the beginning of chapter one, because it really is all like this:

Charlie Black was sleeping deeply when her phone rang. She was incensed at the interruption. She’d been in the midst of quite the dream about Lucy. Lucy naked, to be more precise. In real life, she’d seen Lucy undressed many times.

  • All of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil: so, this is about a 17-year-old girl in a relationship with a 28-year-old man. There is nothing that even hinted at the content in the ARC (also needed CWs for rape of a minor and drug use), and while this was  one of the most beautifully written things I had ever read, it really wasn’t something I wanted to spend my free time on. Especially not when the first reviews saying that this book promoted unhealthy age gaps and power imbalances were appearing. On one hand, for how the whole thing was and felt (as if you were hallucinating), I don’t think it’s that likely that someone could read this and think “this looks like life advice, I should do that”. On the other hand, this book went out of its way to make excuses for the male character (in the part I read), which, without considering whether or not someone could look at this and see a relationship one should aspire to, I just really didn’t like to read. But at the same time, this is clearly a really personal story, and I didn’t want to be the person who was like “your lived experience, which is very different from mine, is wrong”. So I DNFed it.

6. Two favorite reads so far this year

I feel like I talk about my favorites constantly, so I’m going to try and talk about two I haven’t talked about as much in the last few weeks:

  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark: I recently said that I don’t love reading stories about haunted houses, but I sure do love reading stories about haunted tram cars, apparently. This is exactly what the title tells you, except the tram car is from this alternate version of Cairo’s aerial trams – this is set in a city where steampunk meeting and blending with the paranormal is everyday life, after all. I also thought the dynamic between the two main characters (basically experience detective and newbie detective) was really funny.
  • Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali: this one was such a surprise. I liked Saints and Misfits, but I didn’t love it. This one, however? So much emotion. I felt for Zayneb and for Adam and for Adam’s family and the romance was so, so cute and real. “Fierce girl and soft, quiet boy” really are the best m/f contemporary dynamic. And this is the kind of novel that balances dealing with bigotry (Islamophobia) while also being a really romantic read perfectly. Books usually focus more on one of the two aspects, but I thought that in this one, both were perfect.

7. Two new favorite BookTubers

I don’t try to look for new ones often enough, and all the ones I watch are ones I’ve been subscribed to for months? If you have recommendations, especially for small creators and/or people who talk about diverse books, I’d love to know them!

8. A book you’ve read twice

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I just finished my reread of The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard – and I have to say, being already invested in the characters (in Philippe and Madeleine because they grew on me during the second book, in Selene because of short stories) helped. One of my main problems with this first book, after all, was the fact that I couldn’t get attached to the characters, but I still ended up really liking it even the first time around.

Anyway, I still think the second book is infinitely better, let’s see if my reread confirms that.

9. Two fabulous quotes from books you’ve read recently

“The storm dragon replied that, above all things, a dragon is a state of mind, and it, like the storm dragon, had been born of their welcome.”

The Dragon Festival by Yoon Ha Lee, in The Fox Tower and Other Tales

“You can’t build an emotionless, rational, decision-making machine, because emotionality and rationality aren’t actually separate—and all those people who spent literally millennians arguing that they were, were relying on their emotions to tell them that emotions weren’t doing them any good.”

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

About the Yoon Ha Lee quote, I love this idea with all my heart as a concept, and about the Elizabeth Bear one, Ancestral Night is exactly the kind of book that keeps throwing ideas at you, and it will make you think about how we see AIs are just as much as it will make you think about how we see about democracy and government and capitalism and fairness. It’s such a smart book, and so much fun to read.


Have you read or want to read any of these? What is the most trope-y and cringe-inducing urban fantasy book you’ve read?

Tag

The Wasted-Potential Tag

This tag was created by Elise @thebookishactress, and I was tagged by her (thank you!)

This is about all the books that were great… in theory; the result, not so much. And since negativity is fun sometimes, why not?


a book that tried but failed to tackle an issue?

I can’t think of any issue books I’ve read that I can honestly say failed, and I can only think of books in which the “issue” was an afterthought at most (but in that case, I can’t even really say books like The Selection really tried with social commentary, you know?) so I’m going to talk about something that is slightly different: books that tried to subvert a harmful trope and played it straight instead. One of the most well-known examples being:

I’ve never seen a meme describe a group of standalone books so well. I’m talking about the “connect two dots” meme:

These books: I’ve subverted the tropes!
Everyone else: you didn’t subvert shit

Let’s talk about Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, that are, supposedly, asubversion of the manic pixie dream girl trope“, and why these books are a perfect example of why, when a trope is known to be problematic, the group affected by it should be the one subverting it in fiction (outsiders don’t Get It).
The mpdg trope is an energetic and quirky woman whose only purpose in the story is to teach the male main character lessons about himself, or the world, or life. She’s not a character, she’s an exciting, attractive plot device with a message tied. The problem is that, especially in Paper Towns – which I also remember better than Looking for Alaska – the girl who the main character discovers is not going to change his life and be “his miracle”… only exists to teach him that lesson (and has no other character traits other than “rebellious, quirky and a little troubled”). Oh, maybe girls don’t exist to develop men! They have their own inner lives! Which we never see in the book, and Margo still exists to develop a man.

The Fault In Our Stars is a slightly different example – a story that tried to show that there’s nothing romantic about illness, and that tragic cancer romances are bullshit… but the reason people like it is still that it’s a tragic cancer romance that made them cry? That kind of defeats the purpose.


an intriguing series that didn’t pay off?

I don’t often talk about this series on this blog because I don’t like hyping up series that go this downhill, but the first book was good! The Queen of Blood is an interesting fantasy story about a girl training at a magical school built on trees, and I loved the worldbuilding. Except… the more I went on with the series, the more I realized I was reading about a matriarchy in which somehow all women were heterosexual, and then the second book turned out to be one of the most boring things I had ever read – in it, the main character needed a hundred pages to even decide to start training. Nothing happened. I skimmed most of it, because it was 2017 and I didn’t believe in DNFing books yet. I’m glad that has changed.


a great beginning with a mediocre ending?

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Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno started out so well. It’s set on an atmospheric island, it follows two twin sisters who don’t easily get along, and during the first half, there’s a really cute f/f romance developing with a tourist girl.

Then the second half happened. The book really felt that it needed to take a darker turn, and we barely see the love interest again. Since that wasn’t enough, the book also decided to ruin the aromantic representation by making the aromantic character obsessed with animal corpses (if you want to know why that’s a problem, I wrote more about that in my review). And then it becomes a story about a something that happened halfway through the book, something that didn’t even involve the main character, making the first half feel completely aimless. The protagonist’s development is rushed and feels weirdly disconnected from the plot – she felt like a guest in her own story.

Other spoiler-y thing I felt iffy about (TW: rape)

The main character’s sister is raped halfway through the book, which… the more I think about it, if you want to write a story about rape, you really shouldn’t insert it in the story halfway through as a surprise – I know this book tries to go out of its way to not be triggering, and it is never graphic, but you still risk triggering the people you want to reach? Everything about this looked like a cute summer romance for the entire first half, and it’s not, in a way that is misleading.


a last-minute twist that ruined it all?

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Wilder Girls by Rory Power. This plot twist was just as out of place as the “a god fixed it” twist would be in hard sci-fi books. It suddenly tries to talk about science in something that had nothing scientific in it, and failed horribly, with a topic you really shouldn’t throw around for shock value.

What happened, and why it was bad (spoiler-y)

This book: and it was… GLOBAL WARMING
Me: oh really
This book: because… you hear it… resurrected PARASITES
Me: do you really want to go there
This book: that infected EVERYTHING
Me: this is not how any of this works

And yes, there are ways to incorporate climate change in a book as a metaphor, but this book failed. In Annihilation, for example, you can see that at least parts of it are inspired by climate anxiety; it doesn’t need to tell you, this is about global warming, because in-universe, that’s not the cause of the horror, no one knows the cause – but you, as a reader, know why we’re talking about an environment that is suddenly terrifying and twisted. It is, in a way, a metaphor.

Another way would have been to take a mixed approach to the question from the beginning: a book that does it really well, that talks about a paranormal creature from scientific lens, is Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant. All Wilder Girls needed to do was not to throw in the science in the last 10% after never, not once, mentioning anything ecology-related for the whole book. And the magic wasn’t inspired by anything ecology-related either; if it wanted to be a metaphor for increased selective pressure, well, it was a really bad one? The body horror made the girls’ bodies less adapted to their own environment (for example, blinding them from one eye), so that made no sense at all.

Also: if a parasite is going to be able to be a mammal’s endoparasite, it’s never going to be able to also be a plant’s endoparasite. There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s this.

And the thing is, there would have been so many better ways to make a body-and-environmental horror book about this topic, and the author would have known that too, had she picked up an ecology textbook once. I’m not an ecologist, I’m a first year student, and even I can see that there are so many interesting ecology-related concepts that can be adapted into horror. This was such a mess of wasted potential.


a great plot with some boring characters?

The opposite – interesting characters, weak plot – is far more common, so it took me a while to find the answer, but: The Interdependency by John Scalzi. This is a series that uses a natural disaster in space as a metaphor for climate change and our attitudes towards climate change really well! It’s just that the characters… eh. I’ve never seen such flat characters in an award-winning novel. The romances are so flat that they feel nonsensical, even the f/f one in the second book; one of the three PoV’s characters’ main trait is – I’m not joking – swearing a lot, and anything about this story is embarrassingly surface-level. Which is sad, because it is fast-paced and fun, and the potential is all there, but it gets boring really quickly.


a character death that ruined a book?

OurDarkDuet

I thought of many books that had the bury your gays trope, but not one of those was in any way good even before that trope came around. So, let’s talk about Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, and why this was my last Schwab novel.

I am not going to tell you who dies, but if there’s one thing I noticed about Victoria Schwab’s novel, is that for someone who talks on twitter about fridging a lot, she sure tends to kill off most of her relevant female characters. There was one side character’s death in here that I hated, because like the chaos eater plotline around it, it came completely out of nowhere and served very little purpose apart from making the reader and the male main character sad. This whole book was at the same time beautifully written on a sentence-to-sentence level and a complete mess on a structure level.


a romance that ruined a book for you?

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The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson: I was loving this book. It was gorgeous and weird and queer, and then… the romance. I never understood why Elena liked Freddie. Freddie was a manipulative girl who constantly threw tantrums because she could, and Elena just… let her. She never seemed to have a problem with that – she got upset and then always forgave Freddie. And the book just acts like Freddie’s is the normal behavior of a person with depression.

A big part of why I had such a strong response to parts of this book was absolutely personal baggage. Let’s say that books dealing with depression set in the US were likely to get that reaction out of me back then, and this got that in many places – for the way it talked about suicidal ideation, for example, I hated those parts, and I remember thinking something like this too about the whole Elena-Freddie dynamic:

This book: but see, Freddie acts this way because she’s struggling! She is depressed and goes to therapy twice a week!
Me, a teenage girl who back then had no access to therapy: shut the fuck up

I probably wouldn’t take it as personally if I read it today, but this and the author’s tweets (only straight girls complain about Freddie’s behavior in The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza according to him) have kind of ruined the book in my memory.


a romance you wanted to happen?

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Clara/Rose from The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo. I love this contemporary book, but it’s just the objective truth that it would have been so much better if it had been an f/f hate-to-love romance instead of a story about a hate-to-friendships between two girls in which the main character gets a (cute, but bland) male love interest. The boy could have just become Clara and Rose’s friend! That would have been a more interesting story.


a scene you have a petty beef with?

At first I didn’t know how to answer, then I saw this part of Elise’s post that said:

(I can’t be the only one who sometimes just gets so so mad about this one specific choice made that I straight up can’t like the book anymore. Anyway.)

And I immediately realized that yes, that has happened to me as well.

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Welcome to the Main Reason Acqua hated The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and that main reason is one of the first scenes.

So, in said scene at the beginning, one of the major characters – Sissix, who ends up being the love interest – steals another character’s sci-fi toothbrush. Said character, who is characterized as a “complete asshole” and a snob and a whiny bigot, starts complaining because the other versions of toothbrushes hurt him.

And this is just seen as him being oversensitive. It’s just a toothbrush! No wonder no one can stand you, Corbin!

I have sensory issues which, especially from late elementary school to early high school, made it really difficult for me to brush my teeth with normal toothbrushes. If you don’t know, and I hope you don’t, not brushing your teeth for a while makes trying again even more painful, and that… I think you can guess what that leads to, and what I thought when I saw this scene.

I went into this angry. I never really stopped, because this books continued to try and convince me that Sissix was so good to disabled people, actually (in one scene, a disabled alien is introduced just to show you that Sissix Is A Good, which, no thank you – if Corbin can get called out for saying a specieist slur, she can get called out for stealing assistive devices from a disabled person), so it never ended up being anything like a heartwarming read for me, just boring.


I’m not tagging anyone, but if you like these questions, don’t let that stop you

TBR & Goals

TBR Cleaning + Try A Chapter Time!

I’m not in my third year of high school anymore. I currently can’t read 20 books in a month, I don’t see that happening again anytime soon, and I want to keep that in mind. I want to be honest with myself.

Which means, I want to reduce my TBR, which is currently more than 170 books.


Sequels

This is a category I struggle to get to. The year gap between a book and its sequel often makes me forget the details that make reading the sequel enjoyable, which is why I try to reread the first book before getting into them… but I’m a very slow rereader, and I’m not going to dedicate so much time to a book that wasn’t a favorite. So, the “being honest with myself” part one has to be “get rid of some sequels“.

It’s just that – I don’t want to read them, but I feel weird recommending the first book, even when I loved it, when I consciously decide not to finish the series. I need to get over this.

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao – this is a sequel of a book I gave four stars to, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. However, it follows a character I’m not as interested into, and the main character was what made me love the first one. I’m going to remove this for now, and let Song of the Crimson Flower (an unrelated book by Julie C. Dao I have an ARC of) be the book that will make me decide if I like this author’s books even when they’re not about villains.

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden – I loved the first book, but the more I think about it, the more I dislike the second one. However, I don’t remember nearly enough about it to get into the third. I think I have to admit to myself that this isn’t happening, since I have so many books on my TBR I actually want to read instead of rereading The Girl in the Tower. Removed, even though it makes me sad

All the Wandering Light by Heather Fawcett – I might have read this, hadn’t this come out a year after the first one, when I had already lost interest and forgotten everything about the first. I skimmed a preview, and I really don’t care – but I’m glad to see that a certain something that bothered me about the ending of book one wasn’t there! That’s all the closure I need. Removed.


Try A Chapter Time!

A Matter of Oaths by Helen S. Wrightremove
On one hand, I kind of wanted to read the queer space opera novel that came out in 1988 (!). On the other hand, I’ve tried this first chapter two times already and it’s not working, I don’t think I like the writing. (Also, I’m glad it’s 2019 and we don’t open books with two chapters of non-stop infodumps anymore.)

How It Feels to Float by Elena Fox – keep for now
I wasn’t sure about the writing at first, since it’s kind of stream-of-consciunsness-like and that doesn’t always work for me, but I think it could. I’m kind of hesitant because of it but I’ll give this book more of a chance in the future.

This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callenderremove
I’ve been on the fence about this one for a long time, since it’s a story about a queer black boy written by a queer black person, but all the people I trust who have read it rated it from one to three stars, and I… I have a lot of contemporaries on my TBR, I’m never going to get to this realistically. Or that’s what I try to tell myself – the most common complaint is the casual cheating, which might not be a bookish dealbreaker for me. However, while I can’t claim to understand romantic jealousy, it’s still characters breaking other people’s trust and that could be not fun to read anyway?

Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer – remove
The promise of gray morality almost made me keep it. Almost. It’s just… the first chapters are so boring. You can only go on with “and by the way, did I tell you my main character likes to dissect bodies??” so much before I get bored. The writing is also boring. The cover is more boring than both the writing and the content. I’m tired.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – remove
I said many times that I was going to read this, and it has been recommended to me by… so many people? However, the impression I always get from Jay Kristoff’s writing is one of someone who is desperately trying to be edgy, and this excerpt was no exception. Some say that you get used to the writing, and I kind of want to read this because there’s f/f content in the sequel, but seriously, there are so many f/f books on my TBR that aren’t written by someone whose writing voice I can’t stand.
(Also, it’s a fake!Italy setting. No thank you.)

The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt – remove
I had this on my TBR because queer sci-fi, but I can already tell it’s not going to be my kind of book – it’s that kind of space opera with aliens I tend to hate. Then I saw the reviews and they’re comparing this to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, so. Definitely not reading this one.


Stats Right Now

After removing these books + some novels that sound good but will come out in 2022 (I… don’t need to keep them on my TBR right now), I have a TBR of 154 books. Of these, more than 30 won’t come out until 2020 or later, and less than 70 are out right now. Not bad!


Do you struggle with continuing series too?

Tag

The Pancake Book Tag

This tag was created by Becky @beckysblogs. I wasn’t tagged and I’ve never eaten a pancake in my life, but I saw this tag because of Marie @drizzleandhurricanebooks and I thought it looked really cute, so why not.


The Rules

  • Link back to the original creator in your post.
  • Feel free to use any of my pancake graphics in your post, or create your own!
  • Tag 5 other people at the end of your post, and let them know you’ve tagged them. (I won’t because I wasn’t tagged and because I’m lazy)

The Questions

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398213121. Since we’re talking about beautiful descriptions and about food, I can’t not talk about The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, as one of my favorite parts of the book were the food descriptions. So much food, from so many different cultures (if you like reading about multicultural fantasy cities, you need to read this book), and detailed writing = the perfect combination.

And I mean, there isn’t one thing about this book that isn’t beautiful, starting from the cover (just look at it). The writing isn’t exactly easy to get into but it was so worth it for me. I especially recommend this book to those who like Roshani Chokshi and desert fantasy books in general.

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377941492. A sharp character? What’s sharper than a blade? I’m so glad this question was there, I get to talk again about ezuzuacat Nineteen Adze, “whose gracious presence illuminates the room like the edgeshine of a knife”, who could stab me and I’d thank her, from A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine.

She’s the best non-PoV female character I’ve ever read. She’s exactly what I mean when I say that I want to see more competent, seriously morally gray women who know what they’re doing when it comes to political intrigue. While she isn’t a villain, the way I like her is similar to the reasons I like many of my favorite villains. She’s so fascinating.

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TheGalleryofUnfinishedGirls3. The thing is, I don’t really like “comforting”? Or, it’s not something I will go back to and reread. The closest thing I can think of is The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz, which is a low-conflict atmospheric novel I like to read/reread during August.

However, calling it comforting is a stretch – this is about perfectionism and death and unrequited feelings and wanting to retreat inside your head and never live outside again. But it’s not depressing in any way? I once said it was “the happiest sad book you’ll ever read” and I stand by that description. This is such a gorgeous novel following a bisexual Puerto Rican girl and I still can’t believe how underrated it is.

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398970584. There have been many, but the most recent and strongest book hangover since Ninefox Gambit has been The Fever King by Victoria Lee.

For more than two weeks, I could barely think about anything else. Maybe I was even reading other books, but I was still thinking about this one, its morally gray characters, its really original magic system based on science and knowledge, its complex exploration of trauma and how people respond to it, and the questions it raised about ends justifying or not the means. This really is dystopian done right (finally, with a villain that is actually really interesting.)

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361186825. I’m not sure what “indulgent feels” means exactly, but I feel like it’s a good description for what Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan felt like: a Gothic book that was unapologetically just there for the aesthetic but that still had a solid, interesting plot, characters I loved, and quite disturbing undertones.

Maybe saying that it’s just there for the aesthetic is an exaggeration, because the book is also clearly there for the disaster villain romance unfolding, but for something that was so purposefully dark and morally messed up by YA standard, it was also… a really fun read? I loved that it didn’t take itself too seriously.

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315562356. When I saw this question, I immediately thought of Runa, the archer from The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke. She’s grumpy and abrasive and a pessimist and doesn’t really want to be there, but… she’s also so much more than that? And she ended up being my favorite character in the whole book, for how much I loved Frey and Juniper.

And I wouldn’t even say that the characters are the strongest point of this book – the main reasons I loved it were the themes of agency and heroism for women (finally a story in which the main characters end up on a quest because they want to and not because they were forced to!) and the lost, distant atmosphere.

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409390447. I’ve never read a book as “slippery” as Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan. In theory, this novella is about lesbians and cave horror. In practice, it’s not at all (but it is gay), and I felt like I was reading an oddly coherent transcription of a bad dream. Which was probably the goal, but it was such a weird experience that I still don’t really know how I feel about it.

If the narrator had suddenly stopped, declared a part of the book “all just a dream” and turned it into a a cute romcom, I wouldn’t even have been that surprised (it’s not what happened), because it felt so much like it was going to come apart and become something else from one moment to the next.

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414500818. Lei and Wren from Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. I didn’t really feel it at first, but that’s how it is with slow-burn romances. It ended up being one of my favorite romances ever in one of my favorite books of the year. It means so much to me that f/f couples – following two Asian girls, too – are finally getting the development that is usually dedicated to m/f ones and getting they hype they deserve. Also, I’ve finally found a “forbidden court romance” novel I actually like.

I can’t wait to see how Lei and Wren are doing in the sequel, even though I’m also worried, because the world they live in is all but kind.

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NinefoxGambit9. I’ve never eaten peanut butter, so I don’t know if it would make me recoil, but a character who does is Kujen from the Machineries of Empire series by Yoon Ha Lee. It’s just… there are so many terrible people in these books that I can’t even really tell if some of them are villains or not, but Kujen gets to some unparalleled levels of fucked up – especially in Revenant Gun. It takes a lot to write such an interesting character considering that he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Spoiler-free explanation for those who haven’t met him: he kind of feels like the sci-fi version of a sadistic immortal fae, but like, very into math and gayer (…like everyone here).

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4014814610. I don’t know what to answer, because so many books I know would fit (…as do most books I’ve mentioned on this post) and I don’t want to be the person who is like “this book does diversity better than any other”, because that’s not how diversity works, and I know I’m just overthinking this, but I don’t know which one to choose?

I’m just going to tell you about the most recent I haven’t already talked about  here, which is Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali, a love story between two Muslims set in Qatar which features multiracial main characters and also talks about disability and women’s rights.


I’m not tagging anyone, but I’d love to see other people’s answers to this! Also: have you read any of these? Do you have “comfort” reads?

 

Tag

Books I WANT To Read, But Don’t Want To READ

This tag was created by Jamieson @jamishelves. I was tagged by Ngọc @readwithngọc (thank you!)


A book that you feel you need to read because everyone talks about it

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The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin.
I want to read this book. I want to read what’s probably the most loved and critically acclaimed SFF series that was published in these last five years.
But. When I tried it, I had to stop, because… I don’t like to hurt myself on purpose and that’s what reading this was like. I plan to try it again but I’m not sure it will work the next time either.

A really long book

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The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon.
Can Samantha Shannon write something that isn’t either 7+ books or 700+ pages? Probably not. I want to read this because gay and dragons but I don’t want to spend weeks on a book, so I don’t know if this will ever happen.

A book you’ve owned / had on your TBR for too long

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The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May.
This is going to happen. Eventually. I own it! But I’d need to reread the second book and will I ever get to that if I almost never get to physical books?

A book that is ‘required’ reading (eg, school text, really popular classic – something you feel obligated to read!)

I’m in university and I’m not studying anything lit-related so I hope I never have to think about required fiction reading ever again. There isn’t anything I feel obligated to read either, not really.

A book that intimidates you

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The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. Will this:

  • be too sad for me
  • make me angry
  • be something awesome and hard-hitting I will love with all my heart?

I won’t know until I read it, I guess.

A book that you think might be slow

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer. It has a beautiful cover, it sounds like a beautiful fantasy story, but… everyone says it’s slow and will I ever pick a slow adult book up when I don’t have much time to read? I don’t know, but I want to – I own it.

Also Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke – I want to read it because it’s a thriller set in Antarctica featuring lesbians, but what I’ve heard about the pacing makes me hesitant.

A book you need to be in the right mood for

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I’m sure I’m going to love A Thousand Beginnings and Endings when I get to it, since it has stories by Alyssa Wong (one of the best short fiction authors ever), Aliette de Bodard (everything she writes is great), Roshani Chokshi (her writing!!! gorgeous), Cindy Pon (she’s the author of Want and I know she writes great short fiction too), Lori M. Lee (her short story in Color Outside the Lines almost made me cry), and so many other authors I love. However, I need to be in a really specific mood to enjoy anthologies, so I’m not sure when this is going to happen.

A book you’re unsure if you will like

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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. I have one rule: if it’s queer, it’s not Call Me By Your Name, and gets translated in my country, I’m going to buy and read it – and that’s exactly what I did for this one. However, I don’t think it’s my kind of book at all, so I’m not sure how this will end.


Have you read any of these?