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

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?

Tag

Monthly Try A Chapter #7

Welcome to the seventh Try A Chapter post! As usual, this is a mix of new releases and backlist.


What I Tried

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown: I’ve mostly been avoiding YA fantasy this year because of my experiences with it last year, but the combination of the cover (seriously how is it so pretty) + hype-induced curiosity made it end up on this post. Anyway, this is West-African inspired YA fantasy!
The first chapter: this sets the atmosphere really well, and I already like the writing. I’m not completely sure this is my kind of fantasy (…when was the last time m/f enemies-to-lovers did anything for me? Or enemies-to-lovers in general to be honest), but a lot depends on execution. I also tried the audiobook and I can say that the narration is really good, so I think that’s how I’m going to read this; appreciated the inclusion of content warnings at the beginning too.
[bought, continuing as an audiobook in July]

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons: I didn’t even consider this one for a while because of a series of bad early reviews I saw, but it got translated in my country, so here I am! Always on board with dragons. Now I want to know if this is enough my style to actually buy it.
The first chapter: …oh well, looks like I agree with the early reviews? This is very infodump-y and it starts with a slave auction, and I find neither particularly interesting. At this point, I’m very picky about the adult fantasy I choose (I rarely reach for them to begin with, it has to be worth it), so this isn’t happening.
[removed from TBR]

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord: Unraveling ended up on my radar back when it was published, but I’ve since heard that one should read this one first, so that’s what I’m doing! I haven’t tried anything by Karen Lord yet, but heard good things; also, this is a retelling of a Senegalese folktale.
The first chapter: I’m on the fence about this one, mostly because I didn’t feel in any particular way about anything. It probably needs more reading time for that, so I’ll try more in the future. For now:
[keeping it on the maybe shelf]

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney: my interest in adult contemporary novels is generally low, but I saw this one in my city’s bookstore’s Pride display (very subtle, but they had one. Progress!), and you know how I feel about queer books that get translated in my language.
The first chapter: this was so boring I really couldn’t even get through three pages without skimming. It’s written – deliberately – in a style I can’t stand, that basically goes I did this, and then we did that, and then we did this and I thought that. I don’t get the appeal.
[removed from TBR]

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth: on one hand, contemporary F/F romance with the loveliest cover on earth! On the other hand, me and this genre are growing apart and I almost exclusively reach for it on audiobook, so let’s see what I think.
The first chapter: in a disappointing and surprising turn of events, I hate both the main character’s voice and the writing – it comes across as corny instead of quirky, as it’s clearly attempting to be. I’m sad because I always want to be there for anything F/F but this one just isn’t going to work
[removed from TBR]

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee: a fantasy novel with an Asian main character, creepy woods, and a magic system inspired by Hmong shamanism? Sounds really interesting, even though I’ve already seen several not-so-positive reviews.
The first chapter: and it even has wyverns! More fantasy needs to have magical creatures in it, that’s just the truth. I liked this enough that I felt the need to continue past the first chapter, so I’m definitely coming back to this (and apparently it has no romance, at least for the first book, which is unusual for YA fantasy. I’m curious).
[will continue in the future]


Have you read or want to read any of these?

Tag

Try A Chapter Tag #6

Welcome to the sixth Try A Chapter post! As usual, this is a mix of new releases and backlist, this time with some significantly old backlist.


What I Tried

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall: let’s start by saying that I tend to dislike pirate stories, even if queer, and don’t find 12€ to be a reasonable price for an ebook. However, every queer release that gets some buzz also gets at least a try from me.
The first chapter: I don’t think I could have read something I was more not into had I deliberately looked for it! The writing is choppy, there’s a murder even before I had a chance to understand who the main character is, and the dialogue feels fake. Not happening. (YA fantasy stop starting out with a murder challenge. Things aren’t interesting just because people die, there are no stakes yet and I don’t care.)
[not for me, not adding to TBR]

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The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin: the more I read adult SFF, the more I’m interested in knowing more about older authors who are constantly referenced – especially those who were writing books with queer themes decades ago. They’re the proof that the genre isn’t and, most importantly, has never been a homogeneous, bigoted white men’s club. This is the first book that comes to my mind when I think about that, as it was published back in 1969 (!), but so far I haven’t even tried it because of how much I didn’t care for LeGuin’s most loved fantasy, the Earthsea series. This, however, is sci-fi.
The first chapter: Oh, old books, remind me why I don’t read you! It’s probably the neverending chapters (thirty pages, seriously? I didn’t read all of it, because there’s no way I’d start a book and leave it after thirty pages for a challenge) full of exposition. Anyway, I’m curious, even with all the inevitable parts that will chafe, being – from publishing’s standard – basically from another era.
[will read at some point]

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender: I feel like YA contemporaries will become a common feature of these posts! They’re useful to weed out the ones I without any doubt don’t like. Anyway, this is about a black trans demiboy finding love, I think?
The first chapter: I like this! And I can’t believe I’ve now tried chapters from at least four of Kacen Callender’s books and somehow have managed not to reach for any of them (…part of it is that all their contemporaries have high prices on ebook for some reason, and this one is no exception at almost 10€). I am interested in reading it, though.
[will read at some point]

Look by Zan Romanoff: again, a book about a social media influencer doesn’t seem that interesting to me, especially a YA contemporary about one, but again: F/F romance! That’s the main category of books I prefer not to dismiss without a try.
The first chapter: I… actually really like this? It has just the right attention to detail, and yes, the main character does kind of seem the “self-absorbed teen on social media” stereotype, but I already see the path for growth in the first pages (I don’t think it’s not one of those books in which the main character is awful for 300 pages and in the last 20 she has a change of heart), and we’ve already met the love interest. I think I’m going to read this.
[will read at some point]

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi: I haven’t read anything by this author and had only heard of her because of… negative reviews of another book, but one of my mutuals on twitter says that she writes the kind of fiction categorized as “literary” but that has a lot of crossover appeal for adult SFF fans. I’m curious.
The first chapter: this isn’t happening, at least not at the moment, by which I mean that this is the kind of book I could maybe see myself being interested in as I get older, if that makes sense. With every year I’m more for the weird and apparently aimless, and this looks like both (the beginning is still too aimless for my current taste). I’m removing it – for me, a TBR is a list of books I could realistically see myself picking up now or in the next few months – but I’ll keep it in mind.
[not on TBR for now]

We Were Promised Spotlights by Lindsay Sproul: I have my own doubts about this sapphic YA contemporary mostly because of the comp titles – The Miseducation of Cameron Post meets Everything Leads to You? Did you just pick two lesbian titles at random? One is about conversion therapy and the other is a fluffy homophobia-free romance – and the reviews haven’t been encouraging either. Let’s see.
The first chapter: everything about this book feels really off-putting and I think a big part of it is on purpose (it even has a fly on that ugly cover) but I don’t get said purpose. Not for me, and the Everything Leads to You comp is a complete miss – do you want to compare the fluffy F/F romance with a focus on aesthetics and filmmaking to “closeted homecoming queen barfs in the bathroom”? Yeah, no, the only thing these books have in common is the sapphic characters.
[not interested, not adding]

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The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar: I’ve seen a lot of hype for this one on twitter lately, because it’s an ownvoices Bengali Muslim lesbian book, and we certainly need more of that. Also, it’s set in Ireland, which we also don’t get enough of – the majority of queer books is so American.
The first chapter: oh!! A cold, not dramatic but still negative reaction to coming out! I’ve been there. And I can’t believe how we keep saying we don’t need more coming out stories when the ones we have are a) so white & American, b) so often written by straight people, c) so often either about unconditional support or violent reactions. To be honest, I think the average homophobe’s immediate reaction is *awkward homophobic disappointment*, and I’m surprised I had never seen it before.
[will read at some point]

The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya: I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one, from people saying it’s a waste of time to people calling a revolutionary queer novel. I know nothing about what I like in adult fiction, but I do think I should try more diverse adult contemporary novels, and this is about a falling out in a friendship between two South Asian women, one of them trans.
The first chapter: ok, I take it back – I do know what I don’t like in adult fiction specifically, and it’s pretentious characters. If you can stand this better, I think this could be interesting, because the set up for a toxic friendship between two artist with one thinking she’s so clearly better than the other (and doing a favor to the other with her mere presence) has potential. I also know I would hate every moment of reading from her PoV, so I’m not doing it.
[not for me, removing]

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Ship of Smoke and Steel by Django Wexler: yes, this kind of looks like a Generic YA Fantasy and not one I’ve heard good things about (hard to do when you’ve heard absolutely nothing about it). Also the cover is a shameless Throne of Glass copycat, which ordinarily would be enough for me to lose a lot of interest, but guess what? Gay.
The first chapter: this does kind of feel like generic YA fantasy with a magically gifted fighter girl but I’m into it, mostly because I like the writing. The magic system tied to wells vaguely reminds me of another series, though I can’t exactly point out which one (was it the Witchlands? I don’t remember.)
[will read at some point]


Have you read or want to read any of these?

Tag

Monthly Try A Chapter #5

Welcome to the fifth monthly Try A Chapter! As usual, this will be a mix of backlist with some April releases thrown in.


The Books

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Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: she was my favorite author when I first started blogging, and… I haven’t read any of her books that came out in 2019? I’m not ever completely sure I’ll like this one, because while I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing, I’ve discovered that there’s no genre I’m as incompatible with as dark academia, aka “misleading name of the genre in which pretentious students murder people and them being insufferable is absolutely the point but I don’t know why I should care”. If there’s someone who could make it work for me, it may be her, and unlike the other Dark Academia books I tried this one has fantasy aspects, but it’s not like she managed to make me like superheroes with that Wonder Woman book. Let’s see.
The first chapter: *names, names, names, dates, names, vaguely interesting hook, names, dates, names, drugs, creepy latin, names, creepier latin, that looks like a cult, names, names*
I don’t think that’s going to work and the more I try dark academia and keep bouncing off the more I realize that it doesn’t work for me also because of how much of an American genre it is (elite college culture and all that), more than any other I’ve tried, which makes it very uninteresting to me.
[removed from TBR]

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The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco: I feel like me and YA fantasy don’t easily get along anymore, and even though this is F/F, I want to try a chapter before saying for sure that I’m going to read it. I love the cover, and I usually love stories that have to do with godhood, but I’m not sure about the climate change-related themes. I already have to deal enough with that outside of books. So far, all I’ve read by Rin Chupeco was in the three star range, so I’m curious.
The first chapter: so, the worldbuilding feels kind of like a mess (so many names, so much about trying to set up the magic) but I already love how gay it is. Upon reread, I’ll try to piece together better what is being said, because yes, I do want to reread this part now! More gay goddesses!

[currently reading as audiobook]

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Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke: back in 2018, The Boneless Mercies was the weird quiet fantasy I needed and ended up on my list of favorite books of the year. This is a companion sequel, one with a cover I love, and I usually like Tucholke’s writing, but I’m… still not sure I want to read this? I was fine with the first book as a standalone.
The first chapter: it starts out with a plague and that makes it for sure a book I don’t want to be reading now. I also have other doubts: while the writing is gorgeous and like The Boneless Mercies it feels like the kind of story one could imagine having been told around a fire for centuries and centuries, it’s the same old girl-goes-on-a-quest-to-rescue-sister kind of story, which I’m not into, and the reviews aren’t encouraging either. I think I’ll pass.
[removed from TBR]

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The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: this had been recommended by so many people I’ve followed since I started blogging, enough that I lost count, and yet I never glanced at it twice because I deeply hate the cover (I know, I know) and because it has been described in ways that don’t really spark my interest. But since so many people I’ve trusted through the years love this, and since I haven’t seen a single bad review, I should at least consider it.
The first chapter: I really don’t like the writing, or to be more specific, the dialogues. “Written specifically to sound distant” isn’t something I usually go for and the last time I found myself reading a book like that (The Priory of the Orange Tree) I couldn’t make it through without reading a translation, which mostly erased the distance because certain things don’t translate. I don’t have a translation of this.
[removed from TBR]

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Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang: relevant not-so-far-future sci-fi, with humanity split into two societies, one on Mars and one on Earth, written in Chinese and translated into English by Ken Liu. I don’t know a lot about this but a) I’m curious because I’m tired of only reading books written in English and b) this is something I could see ending up as some SFF award finalist next year.
The first chapter: the writing. AAAA the writing!! Do you know what it takes to make a translation flow this well? Both the author and the translator need to be amazing and this is… really impressive. Also it looks like it will be s l o w (and it’s 600+ pages… good luck Acqua!), so I’m unsure, but now I’m really curious.
[still on TBR but I might be lying to myself about this]

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The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: you know what’s the worst thing about book discourse? It covers up the book. This came out last year, and I know that at some point I read the premise, but now that it’s been a year, all I remember about this book is the way people talk about it: half the book community saying that it’s exactly like Six of Crows and the other half saying that they’re nothing alike and Six of Crows didn’t invent group casts. For now, let’s see if this is my kind of thing; I really liked the Star-Touched Queen duology, so I’m hopeful.
The first chapter: houses in Paris? Murder? This reminds me so much of The House of Shattered Wings already in the best way (after all, both deal with French colonialism) but the tone is completely different, of course, being YA. I’m not a fan of prologues in the perspective of a character who dies, but I’m really curious now.
[keeping it on TBR]

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The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker: I have no idea what this is, but there are dragons, and I’ve seen it in a few “best fantasy” lists lately. (Let’s say that it being 1,99€ on google play books helps with the “being interested” part.) Also, I should really be reading more adult fantasy.
The first chapter: I first thought this was going to be yet another book in which there’s a prologue from the point of view of an useless character who dies, and I was wrong! And pleasantly surprised by that. I’m not sure I understand anything about the world yet but the aesthetic of it is unbelievably cool. (Yes, there are literal ships made out of giant dragon skeletons, if I understood anything.) However, I’m not completely sold on the characters; so we’ll see.
[keeping it on the “maybe” shelf]


Have you read or want to read any of these?

Tag

Monthly Try A Chapter #4

Welcome to the fourth monthly Try A Chapter! This time I’m yet again going to try mostly older books, because I don’t have many March releases on my TBR (which is instead full of stuff that comes out in April and May, for some reason).


The Books

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The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: I want to be honest with myself and say that I’m never going to read this unless I make an effort to reach for it, because I’m bad at long books. I hope reading the first chapter will convince this is worth doing at some point!
The first chapter: fine fine fine I’m reading this, the writing is too nice for me to say no, and it also looks easy to get through! (I say, while also having the distinct impression of having understood nothing of what was happening.) I might try the audiobook but I’m not sure, I feel like I’d miss a lot. We’ll see.
[will definitely continue]

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A Pale Light in the Black by K.B. Wagers: F/F sci-fi, which of course appeals to me, but I’ve never read anything by this author before despite the fact that she has a significant backlist.
The first chapter: looks like this is the kind of sci-fi that thinks throwing acronyms at you is worldbuilding (…my opinion is that all sci-fi could stand to have less acronyms), and while usually I’m not worried when I understand nothing in this genre, this also didn’t hint at anything that sounded interesting. And I know it might… not sound believable given what my favorite book is, but I usually don’t like to read about the military. I don’t think this is for me.
[removed from TBR]

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You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce: several reviewers I talk with often loved this! It’s a mystery (I think?) that blurs the line between real and paranormal, and it could either be something I find amazing or something that is incredibly not for me, as anything with mystery elements often is.
The first chapter: I mean, I think it would be lovely if the mixed media parts were readable on ebook, but what do I know about formatting. Apart from that, it’s… really weird and I’m not sure if that’s my kind of weird. The writing is really good, though, and I’m curious about a lot of things already. I’ll see if I’m ever in the mood for it in the next few months, else I’ll remove it – anything mystery/thriller disappoints me more often than not, so there’s no need to let them on my TBR to stratify.
[keeping it on the maybe shelf]

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Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw: I keep hearing that this is a weird book about monsters and there’s some queerness in it and both things really appeal to me! On the other hand, I’m shallow and… this is probably one of the ugliest covers I know.
The first chapter: monster doctor! monster doctor! “treating the differently alive”, oh wow, isn’t that a realistic-sounding euphemism. I really like the writing already and overall it sounds really interesting, I want to read it.
[will continue at some point]

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Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone: another apparently-it’s-sapphic novel from last year, this time adult SFF. I haven’t even tried it, for no reason at all. It sounds like it could be very fun, as I think it’s set between near future and far (maybe parallel universe) future.
The first chapter: oh, I really liked this! At least, I really like the narration and what it’s saying about how a surveillance state is like, and I’m intrigued. It looks like the kind of book that manages to balance lightness and humor with that kind of background.
[will definitely continue]

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Carnival by Elizabeth Bear: if I don’t remember wrong, this is Bear’s debut novel, apparently a queer (I think m/m but I’m not at all sure) sci-fi published in 2006. Queer books have always been around in the genre. Elizabeth Bear is the author of one of my favorite books of last year, and yet I haven’t tried anything else by her since – I should change that. Will this book be the right place to start from?
The first chapter: I love how Elizabeth Bear writes about space! Though it does feel really dated – I mean, if I read a queer sci-fi that had a homophobic society (or, as far as I understand? Sci-fi beginnings are always a little weird) published in 2020, I’d be annoyed; space is gay and we know that. But I get why something published 15 years ago would do this. Still, this sounds really interesting and I do want to read it.
[will continue at some point]


Have you read or want to read any of these?

Tag

Monthly Try A Chapter #3

Welcome to the third monthly Try A Chapter! This one will be mostly backlist, as there aren’t many February releases I was on the fence about.


The Books

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The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso: I’ve been hearing a lot about this for a while, and the reviews so far have been mixed – most seem to agree the way this was marketed was kind of misleading – but I am interested in a fantasy story focusing on a failed marriage, we don’t get a lot about the developments of established relationships in fantasy. Also, Kameron Hurley recommended it on twitter.
The first chapter: every time I see the words “bitch queen” I get a flashback to the Throne of Glass fandom when Queen of Shadows came out. That quote was everywhere and I hated it. Anyway, I don’t think I love the writing – it feels really dry so far – but I’m intrigued. Since I haven’t had the best luck with fantasy lately, I’m not sure I want to read this, but I’m not ruling it out either.
[keeping it on the “maybe” shelf]

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If, Then by Kate Hope Day: I’ve seen this appear on some queer SFF list last year, and it should be sapphic, but it’s also in that “literary sci-fi” niche I have no experience with and many doubts about (I hope it doesn’t mean “sci-fi, but boring”).
The first chapter: just like I’m too old for most middle grade and a good portion of YA fantasy, I’m too young for married adults regretting their life choices and boring lives. I wouldn’t be too surprised if that continued to be true even as I get older, but you never know. Anyway, next.
[removed from TBR]

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The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin: after not loving The Fifth Season, I kind of lost interest in N.K. Jemisin’s books, until I tried almost by chance her collection How Long ’til Black Future Month, in which the story The Narcomancer made me understand that I absolutely need to try this.
The first chapter: can I just say that I love this a lot? The world and the magic system are what’s drawing me in the first place – as it was for The Fifth Season, but this time I think this will be more of my kind of story and less… that. I hope I like the characters, because everything else seems gorgeous.
[will definitely continue]

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My Education by Susan Choi: dark academia is that genre that keeps drawing me in in theory and so far doesn’t work in practice (I… didn’t even get what one could like about If We Were Villains, for example) but this is about a queer woman so maybe?
The first chapter: yeah, no! I quit a paragraph in. You can just feel the pretentiousness radiating from the writing, which is going out of its way to purposefully sound like that. I think I keep hoping for dark academia to mean something different than it actually does – probably because most of it is inspired by The Secret History. But why does “dark academia” have to mean people being pretentious about things I don’t care about when you could do so many other things with it? What a waste of a name.
[removed from TBR]

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Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland: on one hand, asexual representation! villain romance! On the other hand, it’s an m/f one, and the way gender roles are tied into those kind of turn me off and I’ve been slowly losing interest in YA fantasy as time goes on, so I’m not completely sure about this one.
The first chapter: I don’t love the tendency to infodump – the prologue of this was basically an enormous infodump masked as a lesson – but this was intriguing enough. I want to know more about this world and its mythology, though I have to admit I still have some doubts (…as someone who isn’t much for romance and has gone on and off identifying as aromantic but is definitely not asexual, I like villain “romances” because of the sexual tension and don’t really actually care about the romance. So. We’ll see?)
[will probably continue]

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Rebelwing by Andrea Tang: this has been getting some hype on twitter since it just came out, and it does look sufficiently weird (sci-fi dragons?). However, it was compared to The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, which I hated (it’s not bad. It’s deeply not my thing), so I want to try first.
The first chapter: I think I like this? It’s absurd and over-the-top, as it means to be, and the opening scene is really funny. However, I feel like it’s the kind of thing that might wear off quickly. I’ll see if I’m ever in the mood for it in the next few months, if not, I’ll remove it.
[keeping it on the “maybe” shelf]

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Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: an award-nominated contemporary adult novel following a British Jamaican woman and her struggles with mental health and everyday microaggressions. I’m not familiar with this genre at all, I’m just trying to venture in the adult contemporary spaces, but I’m curious.
The first chapter: awkward, feels real, and I already really like the voice of the main character. Funny and sad at the same time. Does it make sense to say that I’d probably love this more in a few years? The only thing that holds me back is that I kind of feel that “adults doing boring adult things” detachment, but at the same time I am an adult, just… still young enough for this to feel that kind of distance. I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a problem, though.
[will definitely continue]

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The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao: Might this be the one time I actually like an adult contemporary mystery? I’m always looking for something that might work for me in this genre, so far everything I’ve tried has disappointed me. Anyway, this one *starts* with a mass poisoning, so maybe I won’t spend 30% of the book wondering when people will begin to die? (Looking at you, Untamed Shore & If We Were Villains)
The first chapter: of course it has a loooong flashback right after that is all about rich people life details I don’t care about. And it’s just… going from a long, drawn out description of the death of an entire large family to rich people problems is a weird shift in tone and I’m probably not interested in this one either. I really don’t like the idea of not liking a whole genre, but so far… I don’t know why adult thrillers are all so unreadable to me. They always sound amazing until I actually try them.
[removed from TBR]

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Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: the thing is, you see, that I don’t care that much about ultrarich/famous people’s everyday life. So I thought to go through my TBR and remove all the ones dealing with that. Then I remembered that this is probably last year’s most hyped book, and that I should at least give it a chance.
The first chapter: a romance book that starts with an infodump? I don’t want to know what’s in the room of a main character I haven’t even met! The first dialogues are about the characters talking about tabloid coverage of themselves, and the main character has a rivalry with the prince of England. While I might be interested in the author’s next book – the writing is fine, once you get through the beginning – I realize that I deeply don’t care about any of this. Please don’t kill me.
[removed from TBR]


Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?

Tag

Monthly Try A Chapter #2

Welcome to the second monthly Try A Chapter! These posts will replace monthly TBRs this year.

Each post will be mostly focused on recent releases I’m on the fence about (the ones I’m sure I want to read at some point, like Dark and Deepest Red, won’t be here), but there will be some backlist books as well. My goal is, of course, to keep my TBR small, which will allow me to focus only on things I’m really interested in – I won’t have that much time for reading this year and I want to make the most of it.


The Books

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Spellhacker by M.K. England [January new release; sci-fi]: I haven’t tried anything by this author before, but they write queer YA SFF that seem to be more or less well-liked? I have my biases against YA sci-fi but I’m always ready to be proven wrong.
The first chapter: Instant quit. I hated the magic system at first sight – there’s Maz (magic, I presume) of which some strains are, I kid you not, “Obscuraz, Songaz, Sunnaz, Scentaz and Formaz”, because certain authors have neither imagination nor sense of grace when it comes to naming things – and the way the characters interacted in the first chapters gave me Illuminae flashbacks. Not for me.
[removed from TBR]

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The Outside by Ada Hoffmann [backlist; sci-fi]: this should be… cosmic horror in space with a queer autistic protagonist. And it should be weird. I’m not sure it will work for me because cult-related plotlines are very hit-or-miss, but I’m curious, even though most reviews I’ve seen weren’t positive.
The first chapter: Oh, this opens with a quote from the Inferno, and it’s a really peculiar choice for an Inferno quote. Maybe out of context it speaks of fanatism? But it’s about love in context, so I don’t know. We’ll see. And I really liked what I saw of the first chapter – physicists in space! Creeping dread! This is going to be fun.
[will definitely continue]

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Prosper’s Demon by K.J. Parker [January new release; fantasy novella]: so, I’m in love with this cover, I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews, and apparently there’s something about bronze statues in here? Because of a running joke in my family, this might be relevant to my interests. However, I’ve never read anything by this author before.
The first chapter: the writing is great, the voice stands out from the beginning, and I guess this is a very effective way to open a book and give you a feel of both the world and of the main character. I can’t fault that. However, there’s quite nothing that will annoy me in a few pages as starting a book with graphic details of the death of a nameless woman – a sex worker, since that’s fantasy’s favorite victim – especially if the author is a man and the male main character makes it about himself. Please don’t take this as a meaning that this book is bad, because I have no way of knowing that – I just realize that I deeply do not care about knowing what happens next, and that’s fine.
[removed from TBR]

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We Used To Be Friends by Amy Spalding [January new release; contemporary]: I liked The Summer of Jordi Perez well enough, but it was neither a life-changing nor perfectly written story, so I’m not sure about this. It’s a story about a friendship breakup in which one of the main characters is queer, and we do need more stories about friendship.
The first chapter: This was… boring. I don’t know if it’s the book or me – I find myself less and less interested in YA contemporary as time goes on – but I don’t think I’m going to get to this one.
[removed from TBR]

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Blood Countess by Lana Popović [January release; historical fantasy]: this is an Elizabeth Bathory retelling focusing on a toxic f/f relationship between the countess and the girl who will become her servant. It sounds horrible and I’m so here for it.
The first chapter: starting a book about Elizabeth Bathory with a kitten had me worried about the worst immediately, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case (…so far). Still, here’s the thing: I have already read another novel by this author, Wicked Like a Wildfire, which also had everything I could ever want from a book – and I liked it but didn’t love it, because me and her writing don’t get along much, and the same might be happening here. I find the dialogue a bit clunky here too, so I’m not sure.
[will probably wait for reviews]


This was more “to remove” than I ever found in a Try A Chapter Tag! I guess it’s successful? Having a big TBR stresses me out, and while this was not a great day for first chapters, now at least there are four less books.


Do you like having a small TBR as well?

Tag

Monthly Try A Chapter #1

You might already know that I’m not writing TBRs anymore, and for now I don’t really feel like doing wrap-ups either (though they might return, one day).

One thing I plan to do monthly, however, is trying a chapter of all the new releases of the previous month that interest me but I haven’t reached for yet, to see if I want to read them soon, and to keep my TBR slim. After all, my main goal is learning how to prioritize books that I like; I’m not sure this will work but it’s worth a try.


The Books

Since I would have only one new release for December while January has so many, I’m going to include in this post upcoming novels of which I have ARCs + a backlist title, so that I have something to say in here and next month’s post won’t be too long. (As I’m never going to use netgalley or edelweiss again apart from occasionally downloading “read now” titles that I won’t review in time anyway, I don’t feel bad about removing ARCs from my TBR).

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Splintegrate by Deborah Teramis Christian [December 31st]
So, this is the only December release I have on my radar, and one I was immediately intrigued by because of several circumstances – a book that comes out from Tor on December 31st? A book that comes out during the holidays, the very last day of the year, and is a supposedly standalone sequel to a book that came out before I was born, more than twenty years ago? What even.
This should be… a queer sci-fi novel involving a professional dominatrix? This is going to be either really good or incredibly bad. I want to know more.
The first chapter: oh, this was intense. The world confuses me so we’re up to a good start (if I get what’s going on in an adult sci-fi early, it’s a bad sign) and yes, this is really fascinating and well-written and I love everything about this setup. The main character is a lesbian who was, as far as I understand, kind of forced into her job (didn’t fully get why yet but it probably becomes clearer later on) but her feelings about her situation are more complicated than the “I hate this”/”this is the job I want” dychotomy, which is interesting, and so is the psychology behind what she does.
[will definitely continue]

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Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen [January 7th]
This looks like a fun, diverse YA read of the type I like, with just the right amount of romantic drama and a non-US setting (contemporaries outside Western English-speaking countries are uncommon). It’s a story about East Asian-American kids traveling to Taipei for a cultural program, which is also their first time in a different country without parental supervision. It sounds great, but it also sounds overwhelmingly heterosexual and I want to know whether I feel like putting up with that.
The first chapter: short! And I do really like the writing – sharp and defined, easy to follow, but not dry – even though I don’t feel like I really got a sense of what the story is going to be like. I’m not completely sure it’s going to be my kind of thing, but I will give it a longer try someday.
[will probably continue]

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Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton [January 7th]
I had mixed feelings about The Queens of Innis Lear, and almost two years later, the one I feel more strongly is “it shouldn’t have been that long”. Lady Hotspur isn’t as long, and it’s about lesbians, but it is set in the same place and it’s still almost 600 pages. Also, it already has a startingly low average rating (3.22): all reviews on the first goodreads page ar DNFs. This really doesn’t look good.
The first chapter: I mean, starting a book this long with such a shameless, dry infodump full of names, names, names that lasts several pages is a bold move. I couldn’t find the desire to get through it. Thank you for showing me who you are from the beginning, I guess?
[removed from TBR]

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Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller [February 4th]
This was read now on netgalley for a day and I donwloaded it, but I’m not sure I actually want to read it. On one hand, f/f fantasy. On the other hand, Linsey Miller’s previous book Mask of Shadows was really forgettable, with a writing I didn’t love, and I’m not that into fake French settings. Also, I haven’t read a YA fantasy I actually like in a long time (this genre is so repetitive). Let’s see.
The first chapter: this was interesting! I think I like the magic system based on day/night and the false identity plotline. I’m still not completely sure about the writing, though; while the descriptions are pretty, it’s still not good at laying down a sense of setting/atmosphere (as I remembered from Mask of Shadows) and it’s more unsubtle than I’d like. Also, it’s the same old “uncomfortable corsets and sexism” kind of fantasy. We’ll see.
[will probably continue]

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Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall [2019 release]
So, being predictable, I had zero interest in this until I heard it was queer. This should be a horror story about a girl who went missing and a magical creepy road with its own very odd, demanding rules? I think?
The first chapter: it begins with transcripts, and the beginning gave me a really cliché feel, and then jumps into the past – the part in the past was significantly more interesting, if not for it having my #1 writing peeve (referring to hair or eyes as “mousy”/”dull” when they have no reason to be that, and it’s often used to mean/describe brown hair and eyes). I think I’m going to keep this for the appropriate season, it looks like it will be a thrilling creepy read.
[will probably continue]

 


Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?

Tag

Try A Chapter

I’m going to try the first chapters of a few books and choose my next read that way, with the side effect of possibly shortening my TBR, as some (hopefully not too many?) books sound really promising only until I actually try them.


The Books

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Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron: YA fantasy, which I’m more and more hesitant about. I really love this cover, so I hope the inside feels just as magical. Anyway, it looks like it will involve a non-magical main character in a magical world, one who will have to make ugly bargains, and that does sound interesting.
The first chapter: I loved this one! The descriptions of the magic are fascinating and beautiful, and the atmosphere is perfect – I felt as if I were there with Arrah. I’m definitely going to try actually reading this one someday, when I’m more in the mood for fantasy.
[Will continue at some point]

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A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy: I’m not sure I’m interested in this one, as all of the books I’ve read that have been pitched as being about rival sisters disappointed me at least a little (Three Dark Crowns, The Queens of Innis Lear, The Girl King); maybe that’s just a trope I don’t enjoy much in practice. However, I’ve heard good things? Let’s see what I think of the first chapter.
The first chapter: ok, this is one of those YA fantasy books in which everything is capitalized or spelled in a different way to make it sound Specyal, because somehow that makes it Wyrd’building. I got to “Harkenings—the spells cast by Sorceryn to name the magick” and quit. Not for me.
[Removed from TBR]

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We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal: I’ve heard mixed things about this one, and as usual, me and YA fantasy don’t get along anymore. I’m also wary of crossdressing plotlines, but I still feel drawn to this. Let’s see how it goes.
The first chapter: I love the writing in this one so much. It has a rhythm that completely sets it apart from the other novels I’ve tried so far, and the atmosphere is amazing already. I have to say that I’m not sure whether this is one of the stories with seasonal kingdoms, but if so, I’m usually not a fan of that trope. Anyway, I’ll try to read more someday.
[Will continue at some point]

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Furyborn by Claire Legrand: on one hand, the fact that I kept this book on my TBR for more than a year now without ever really trying to pick it up and the fact that I read the excerpt of Sawkill Girls and then put down the book without thinking about it ever again doesn’t mean I have the highest of expectations. On the other hand, villain romance? Maybe?
The first chapter: well, this was not great and I don’t think I’m interested. Childbirth, confusing magic system, no sense of setting, characters who didn’t give me that much reason to stay there – I think I’ll pass, especially since I’ve seen many people say the prologue was the best part. (It really wasn’t.)
[Removed from TBR]

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Tarnished Are The Stars by Rosiee Thor: queer sci-fi! Steampunk in space! However, I don’t have the best experiences with YA sci-fi, so I’m not sure about this, and I haven’t heard the best things about the worldbuilding.
The first chapter: it was… fine? I more or less wanted to read this almost only for the queer representation, but if the rest is mediocre, I’m not that interested. So far, I’m kind of skeptical about the worldbuilding and I’m not that into stories in which people are completely against something as big as “technology” or “magic”, it doesn’t make any sense on a human standpoint.
[Not a priority, still on TBR]

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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green: this one has been on my TBR for a while and I’m not even really sure what it is about. To be honest, I haven’t removed it (yet) because I own it and it’s queer, but what I know doesn’t really draw me in. (Also I’m shallow and the cover is so ugly.) Let’s see?
The first chapter: I actually really like this? It’s atmospheric and intriguing and if it had just a tiny sprinkle of “woman written by a man”, it’s something easily ignored. Oh well, I’m glad 2018!me made a good decision when she impulse-bought it just because it was queer.
[Will continue at some point]

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Salt Slow by Julia Armfield: I’m not sure what counts as trying one chapter of a short story collection. I’m going to read a story (after all, it’s all in the google play excerpt) and tell you what I think of it. I added this collection just because I saw a review (I think? It’s been a while) and the way it was described really appealed to me. This isn’t something I would have reached for on my own at all, so I’m really curious.
The first story: Oh, interesting! The writing is good, and I want to say that the story is as well, but while I liked what it did, where it went, there are a few things that stood out to me that I didn’t love as much, the main one being that it’s always weird to read English writers’ concept of Catholic school. I don’t know if the author went there or if Catholic schools in other countries are really like this but… let’s say that there are a lot of things about Italian Catholic school that were toxic and have long-term ugly repercussions on me, but they’re never the things English-speaking authors focus on, so it’s always odd. Also, the resolution of this one is obvious from the title of the story itself; while unpredictability is overrated, I wish it hadn’t been so blatant? I could follow what it was doing paragraph for paragraph with no surprises, and that’s boring. And then, there’s the fact that a lot of English authors’ stories on this specific theme feel exactly the same, and I’m sure you can find a more interesting way to reframe this kind of metamorphosis – not to say that this first story is step-by-step the story arc of Byatt from Wilder Girls but it is really similar and the theme is the same. (I do recommend this to Wilder Girls fans.)
However, you know what? I’m intrigued and there’s a lot to say about these for sure. If I had a book club, I would pick this as a book to discuss, it looks like the kind of thing that would work great for that.
[Will continue at some point]

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The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos: I had mixed feelings about Podos’ Like Water last year, but she does write really well and the premise of this contemporary fantasy sounded interesting (witches!). I’m hesitant because I’ve heard mixed things, especially about the ending, but I hope it’s my kind of weird.
The first chapter: I love this so much. Russian-American family, written by an author who is also of Russian descent, with a really intriguing magical element tied to death, and I’ve also heard it’s queer… I want to read this so badly and almost don’t want to try the last two books, but I will.
[Will continue at some point]

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All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell: I’ve heard very little about this one; I happen to know that it’s queer, about rape survivors (I think?) and it’s maybe something like a mystery. I haven’t actually read any reviews or anything by this author, so I don’t know how this is going to be.
Thefirst chapter: oh does this start heavy. I’m really glad this book made the responsible decision to include content warnings at the beginning, as it starts with the assault of the main character as she was a kid. Intense without being graphic, well-written, heartbreaking, maybe too heavy for me? I still want to try and continue, though.
[Will continue at some point]

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The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee: I hope this one works for me, as Stacey Lee wrote some of my favorite standalones, like Outrun the Moon. I don’t know much about this apart from it being historical fiction about journalism and racism; the cover is everything.
The first chapter: I love the main character already! Stacey Lee’s protagonists are always as driven as they’re lovely and I hope to get to this soon. Not right now as I realized I’m not in the mood for historical fiction (old-style English is more difficult to follow for me, and “difficult” is really not what I need right now, cue the lack of adult SFF on this list), but soon.
[Will continue at some point]


I’m going to read…

The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos!

And just because I like ranking things, from most to least interesting to me right now:

  1. The Wise and the Wicked
  2. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
  3. Salt Slow (didn’t love it! I’m also so intrigued now, though.)
  4. Kingdom of Souls
  5. We Hunt the Flame
  6. All the Things We Do in the Dark
  7. The Downstairs Girl
  8. Tarnished Are the Stars
  9. A River of Royal Blood
  10. Furyborn

Have you read or want to read any of these?