I haven’t been doing TBRs this year, but I have plans around reading and blogging, so I thought I’d talk about them and what I’ve been reading this month (spoiler: not a lot, and in a way not as much as I’d like, though I’m trying to get over that).
After all, even in the current best case scenario, I’m going to have a lot of free time this week – I live in Northern Italy, and while I’m not in one of the outright quarantined towns, university lessons have been cancelled and we’ve been recommended to move as little as possible.
↬ I’ve been slowly trying to get into audiobooks, just as I’ve been slowly trying to learn how to cook. The two things go really well together, as it turns out.
I still struggle a lot, probably for a combination of difficulties with processing sounds (how do people listen to things on 2x speed? That sounds like a squirrel blabbing in a dead language from another galaxy) and my English just being Not That Good. I posted my review of You Must Not Miss yesterday, and in the next few days I should post the one of The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake. For now, I reach only for contemporary and contemporary fantasy, but I don’t know, maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to change that.
When I’m not “cooking” (90% of the cooking I do time-wise is peeling and cutting vegetables. It doesn’t require that much attention), I’m finding that coloring books are also a good way to keep myself occupied so that I don’t drift off.
↬ I’ve also tried out the excerpts of a few audiobooks to listen to next:
- The Deep by Rivers Solomon: I struggled with the excerpt a little at first (I’m not used to men narrating) but I got used to it fairly quickly, so I think I’m going to make it work in some way. I think this will be one of the next books I try, and it will probably be my first non-contemporary audiobook.
- We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia: an f/f release from last year I haven’t been able to get to yet! And the sequel is already there, so this is perfect. I really liked the narrator.
- The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: this is an UK audiobook, which means the narrator’s accent is going to give me some trouble at first (I don’t know why American book characters seem so obsessed with British accents, they sound like they’re chewing on their words), but I tried an excerpt and it feels doable. I’m really excited for the vampire lesbians.
↬ while I said in my “what to expect from February” that hopefully I’d post a review of Machina, I ended up DNFing it
I don’t know how many of you have been following Serial Box originals – they’re collaborative serial novels (the authors involved this time were Fran Wilde, Martha Wells, Malka Older and Curtis C. Chen), and I think they’re just not for me. I had the same problems with Machina that I had with The Vela last year: it feels like the people writing it have been given an outline and are just trying to make it work, moving the characters to point A to point B while disregarding everything that would feel natural. The result feels… soulless, there’s no heart in it, and after a few chapters, the characters start feeling like puppets. Which is a shame, because I did like the premise (robot competition! going to Mars!) and the first chapters.
↬ I’ve been putting together a new Short Fiction Time post (read the last one here), in which:
- I’ll review four short stories, two of which Nebula-nominated. Yes, Nebula awards finalists have been announced! I’m glad to see a lot of books I loved on here and I hope I’ll be able to read most of the short story/novelette categories before the winners are announced.
- I’ll talk about what it has meant for me to read fiction from people I disagree with, what the benefits of that might be, and which kind of diverging points of view I seek out.
My goal with this series of post is to have a space to talk specifically about short fiction and associated topics, as I feel that is missing.
↬ I’m getting through rereads to get to some anticipated sequels
While sequels seem to have the habit of disappointing me as often as they can (see what happened with Girls of Storm and Shadow last year and now with The House of Sundering Flames), there are still some I really want to read. I’ve been rereading Witchmark by C.L. Polk – which, by the way, is turning out to be as good as it was the first time around – because, after all, Stormsong is already out. I’d also love to get to The Fever King by Victoria Lee again before The Electric Heir is released, but I might not, as I’m not exactly in the right place to read about pandemics, even magical ones.
↬ In the next weeks, three books I’m anticipating that aren’t sequels are going to be out:
While this year so far I’ve been terrible at keeping up with new releases (you know how many I read? One. And it was a novella), I’m still going to talk about them, because why not. I’m not sure I’ll actually be able to read these in March, but who knows:
- Among novellas, the only thing I’ve been marginally decent at keeping up with, I’m really looking forward to The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. The comparisons to one of my favorite series, the Tensorate, make me really anticipate this.
- If you’re in any way involved in adult SFF circles or circles dedicated to queer releases, I’m sure you’ll have already heard of Docile by K.M. Szpara, a story about capitalism, consent, and sexual slavery. It might be too much for me, I won’t know until I try (the comparisons with Captive Prince do not bode well, but then, I DNFed that one because I wasn’t invested enough to get through that much sexual violence, not because of the violence itself), but K.M. Szpara has been one of my favorite short fiction authors for a while. [If you want to start from his short fiction, I recommend the trans vampire novelette Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time]
- The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett is going to be out in March as well. It’s on my TBR because it’s F/F fantasy, and while me and YA fantasy don’t get along that well anymore, I’m going to give it a chance.
↬ I’ve been getting through N.K. Jemisin’s collection How Long ‘Til Black Future Month, and it has convinced me to give another try to her novels:
As of the writing of this post, there’s only one short story left. This was overall a mixed bag for me, even more than the average collection/anthology, which reflects my experiences with Jemisin’s novels so far as well (loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, didn’t care at all for The Fifth Season). I’ll talk more in detail about which stories didn’t work for me and why in my next Short Fiction Time post.
However, two of my favorite short stories in here were The City Born Great and The Narcomancer, respectively set in the worlds of the upcoming The City We Became and her backlist Dreamblood duology. Maybe The Fifth Season really was the fluke for me, which seems partially confirmed by me not caring for Stone Hunger, the short set in that world. If I can explain what went wrong with The Fifth Season for me – that book is a lot like a rock. A solid read for sure! Also dull, a pain to bite into, and emotionally flat.
I might try The Killing Moon in the next Try A Chapter post; the short story I read really made me fall in love with that world.
↬ I’ve been putting together a list of adult contemporary fiction I want to try. Have I actually tried any of it yet? Of course not
Apart from some more ~literary~ adult stuff I want to try that I’ve already talked about, like Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, I’m also looking for contemporary adult fiction that should more or less be as easy to follow as YA contemporary is but doesn’t actually follow teens. So far, some interesting titles to me are Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (I’m not sure what the story is about exactly but it follows a Jamaican-British woman and deals with mental health issues) and In at the Deep End by Kate Davies (about an abusive lesbian relationship). I’ve also been looking for adult fiction set in countries that aren’t the US or UK, and so far If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha and The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao, respectively set in Korea and Indonesia, look interesting to me. I’m not sure when I’ll actually get to any of these but they might be featured in upcoming Try A Chapter posts.
As I’m starting to move away from YA more seriously (not completely, of course; it’s just that I’m 20 and I don’t want that to be most of what I read anymore), I also want a contemporary counterpart to the amazing adult SFF I’ve been reading lately. It might take a while for me to find my niche but I hope I love it just as much.
↬ I’ve also been looking at memoirs that could be interesting to me.
I’ve already talked multiple times about In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, which I just finished yesterday (and absolutely loved; I hope to have a review up soon). However, that’s not the only memoir I’ve been interested in: I’ve also found Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown, a YA memoir (I didn’t even know they really existed) and two graphic novels, My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Kabi Nagata and Spinning by Tillie Walden. Both are queer and have been translated in Italian, which means I have physical copies – my favorite format to read graphic novels, of course. As usual, only the graphic novel section of the Italian book industry cares about diversity. [If by chance you’re another Italian, I have some recommendations here.] Memoirs still feel kind of intimidating to me and I hope I’ll be able to get through them easily in this format.
Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?