TBR & Goals · Wrap-Up

An April Wrap-Up + Wyrd and Wonder Plans

To give you an idea of how confused I am and how much we are a joke to time itself, I first wrote “May Wrap-Up” and stared at the title of this post for a full ten seconds with the vague awareness that maybe something was off, just a little.


A Brief Life Update

April was exactly like March! Which means it was exactly like the second half of February, which means I haven’t been out of my house in more than two months. Well, there were some different flowers on my balcony, I guess, the prettiest one being this Anemone:

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April as a Reading Month

In April, I read 9 books:

  • 5 new novels, of which one I DNFed halfway through;
  • 2 novellas, of which one was a reread
  • 1 graphic novel
  • 1 anthology.

I also ended up reading 14 short stories (yes, this was one of those months) but I will talk about them in my next short fiction wrap-up and not here.

In terms of quantity, this month was average. In terms of quality, I went from not reading a five star novel for three months to finding five in just a month, so I think I can’t complain. I don’t write ratings in wrap-ups anymore, but I’m going to mark those with a 🐉.

What I Read

39855052 It didn’t start out too well: my first two reads were the Hungry Hearts anthology, that reminded me of how easily lack of cohesion can make an anthology fail (review to come soon), and Crier’s War by Nina Varela, which I DNFed halfway through (not for me).
I then finally read a sequel right after having reread the first book (yay), and read 🐉
The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty astonishingly quickly given how long books over 500 pages take me these days. I loved every moment of it, and wow, is fantasy amazing when the author knows how to build interesting and terribly tense interpersonal relationships along with a fascinating world.

48425575._sy475_Then I read an ARC of 🐉 Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee, a steampunk novel with folktale-like elements set in a country inspired by Korea under Japanese occupation. It’s easier to follow than Lee’s usual, and the portrayal of what it’s like to be an artist in a colonized country made it stand out (also, it was interesting to see Lee write from the PoV of someone who isn’t a genius, this time). You get all this with a non-binary main character, their pacifist mecha dragon best friend, and a female duelist the main character really shouldn’t be into, but is anyway. I could call this both “delightful and fun” and “bittersweet with some horrifying undertones”, and that’s always the best combination.

Then the Hugo Finalists were announced, and I decided to read some of them for a post I’m putting together with my opinions about this year’s line-up. The first of them was Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher, a cute but forgettable middle grade read about a boy who is a not-so-good mage and his armadillo familiar. I was luckier with my attempt at reading all the nominees in the Best Novel category, where I had only two books to get to:

  •  🐉 The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders wasn’t even on my TBR, but I ended up falling in love with it, which I would have never predicted – I didn’t like anything I tried by Anders before and this didn’t even have that many good reviews from people I follow! I thought it was an incredibly smart book, a story about the downfall of societies and what might work to save humanity on a hostile, tidally locked planet. At its heart is a toxic relationship between two women involving unrequited love and the differences brought by privileged upbringing. The writing and worldbuilding are wonderful, too. My review of this one is neverending because there’s so much to say and couldn’t bring myself to cut any of it out.
  • I finally stopped procrastinating on what was my most anticipated novel for the second half of last year, 🐉 Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and while I loved it deeply, it’s true that having expectations that high is never good (I wanted this to be an all-time favorite! As of now, it’s not). Still, it’s a really great read and just the kind of queer sci-fantasy mashup I love – with a mystery aspect thrown in the mix as well, because this book knows that you never have too many genres (or dated memes, or bones).

1684155061I also ended up reading a graphic novel, Eat and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo & Lilian Klepakowsky, told from the PoV of a woman with an eating disorder as she finds a magical chocolate bar that makes her relive some of the moments in her past that defined the negative relationship she has with herself and her body. It gets how much small, seemingly insignificant moments can have a impact on you as an adult; it explores  the long-term effects of bullying (books that do this are so rare!) and growing up in a casually fatphobic household. The art was great and everything was easy to follow despite the frequent flashbacks. Also, I loved the cat! More comics need to have cats in them.

43549397._sy475_Then I decided to reread Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Sometimes I get this feelings about books I read a few years ago – in this case, long enough that I was still a minor – that tells me that I might not have understood them. I had liked Binti back in 2017, but hadn’t thought about it often since. In 2019, it got translated in my country, and I had bought a copy of the trilogy because I like to support translations of diverse SFF, and since then I’ve had that feeling, maybe this book is better than I remembered. I don’t feel like that often, but when I do I’m usually right, and this time I was too. I feel like I got what this wanted to say so much more and I’m glad I reread it as an adult.

36292242._sy475_I broke my ARC ban twice this month! For my two most anticipated releases of the year, which I read immediately after getting (my ARC ban exists to avoid accumulation of ARCs aka reading stress), so I’m not too annoyed at myself. The second ARC I got was 🐉 Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, a fairytale-like fantasy novel set in a country inspired by ancient Persia and Zoroastrian beliefs. I don’t want to say too much about it, because it’s the kind of book I think one should go into without knowing too much, but it was gorgeous and sapphic and maybe I even liked it more than Girls Made of Snow and Glass. Such an interesting twist on the “girl deadly to the touch” premise.


What to Expect in May


Decorative phoenix by Tanantachai Sirival 

May is Wyrd and Wonder month! Wyrd and Wonder is a month-long celebration of all things fantasy; if you haven’t heard of it yet, here’s the announcement post.

As I don’t write TBRs anymore, I thought I’d talk about what I’m planning for May here. I don’t know if I’ll actually be reading more fantasy than usual, as I’ve learned  – after trying to make monthly TBRs work for all of last year – that I can’t accurately predict what I’ll want to read, but I know that:

  • on May 6th, my review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (out on July 7th) will be up;
  • on May 11th, a post I’m really excited about, On Rules and Magic Systems, will be up (…with footnotes!) That one was really fun to write, and I hope you’ll find it fun to read as well.
Other Readathons

From May 18th to May 25th SapphicAThon will also be running – my attempt at a weekly TBR will be up sometimes later this month (yes, a weekly TBR sounds more manageable) and I might take Wyrd and Wonder and SapphicAThon as an opportunity to read more F/F fantasy.

May is also the time of both the Tome Topple Readathon (May 9th-22nd) and the Asian Readathon, and while I don’t know if I plan to participate in either (as far as making an actual TBR and following challenges) but that might just be the encouragement I need to read the 600-page tome Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang. Problem is, it wouldn’t count for either SapphicAThon or Wyrd and Wonder, being not sapphic sci-fi. We’ll see.


Have you read any of these? How was April for you? Will you participate in Wyrd and Wonder and/or SapphicAThon?

Wrap-Up

A March Wrap-Up

I officially haven’t been out of my house for over a month! Oh, what a lovely time this has been.


Life Update

What there is to say? Not much at all, and I hope it stays that way, because the only way I see Big Events happening right now would be if something turned worse. Still, since this is a space in which the only non-bookish things I focus on are nice things, I won’t talk about that and will instead tell you that March was an absolutely amazing month for the flowers on my balcony. My favorite picture I took was this one, because I’m really happy to see that I’m far from the only one who likes the muscari:

muscarbee

Armenian grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) with bumblebee

Bumblebees are the cutest insects (fuzzy!), but regular bees come here too sometimes – though for some reason I don’t see them as often on my balcony – and I love seeing all of them around.


What I Read

This month, I read 13 books, which is… the most I’ve read in a month this year, I think. Of them:

  • 5 were novels (not counting the 2 I DNFed), of which 1 was a reread
  • 2 were novellas
  • 3 were nonfiction
  • 2 were poetry collections
  • 1 was a short story collection.

Reading-wise, this was a pretty good month, but: the five star curse continues. I still haven’t rated a new novel five stars this whole year. Short stories, novellas, nonfiction, novels I reread? Yes, several. That isn’t happening with novels, for some obscure reason. Also, this month I gave out an unusual number of three stars.

The beginning of March was off to a bad start; I managed to DNF two books before I finally finished something. These two books were ARCs from before I stopped requesting them, so I’m not that surprised – I know I would have weeded out one of them had I tried a chapter of it. ARCs of full novels just aren’t worth it when I can’t even get a taste of what kind of book they’re going to be beforehand.

  • My first DNF was Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: this one put me to sleep. It took 35% of the book to even get through the things mentioned in the synopsis, and as with… pretty much all adult thrillers I tried so far, I hated every single character (well, not the main character, I just didn’t care about her). I don’t know why it seems to be such a core part of adult thrillers to portray all characters in a way that makes the reader wish they would die as soon as possible, because I don’t get it – why would I want to spend 400 pages following the problems of people I hate? I just don’t care. The writing was really good, and for someone who likes this genre, this is probably a very solid-if-slow book with an amazing atmosphere. I’m not that person, and the only thing I found interesting were the details about shark fishing (marine ecology & fisheries management brain was really interested in that, far more than anything in the story). [I also skimmed to the ending and, still, *yawn*].
  • My second DNF was Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen: this time the Try A Chapter test failed me. I liked the beginning; it felt like a fun-if-overwhelmingly-heterosexual story, and it was up until the author introduced a Chinese-Italian side character who was a walking Italian stereotype (emotionally unstable aka the dark side of the “Italians are so passionate” lie, handsy, an accent the others won’t stop mentioning: can we not) and I quit. I also think that I’m… just not going to get much out of this kind of YA contemporary anymore, and that’s one of the reasons I’m (a little reluctantly) moving towards adult contemporary fiction.

40539165._sy475_Then I finally finished (and liked!) a book, Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. I reviewed it here, and I can say that it was an encouraging introduction to adult contemporary fiction, though so far the main thing that stands out to me about the adult contemporaries and litfict I’ve tried, compared to both YA and adult SFF, is the amount of uncomfortable/bad sex the main characters are having. So many examples of that are found also in Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, the collection I’ve read this month (which I surprisingly didn’t love).

I then made my first attempt at a fantasy audiobook, with mixed results – not only because The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett (review) was mostly an ok book, but also because I hadn’t understood how much not knowing how to write the name of everyone but the main character would have been a pain while writing the review. Luckily I found the names in other reviews, but before that, it mostly went like this:

the audiobook: EIRHAN and FARHOD
my brain: …Airhorn? Heron and Farrhad?

The Winter Duke took me half a month, but The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon took me even longer, and not only because of how long it was; mostly because it was utterly mediocre. It’s now been a few days since I finished it, and I keep coming back to how lazy the plotting was, especially by adult fantasy standards. It’s the kind of book I mostly enjoyed while reading, but that I never wanted to pick back up again – because when I wasn’t reading it, all the things I didn’t like about it came to me more vividly than what I actually liked (as in, it’s a relatively smooth-sailing adventure fantasy with not many surprises but a really nice setting and dragons). I was also reading a physical copy, which was physically uncomfortable. As with The Winter Duke, I had a lot of mixed feelings about it, I hope I’ll be able to post my review here soon.

Uncharacteristically for me, I also read a sequel I was anticipating! Stormsong by C.L. Polk, sequel to one of my favorite books, Witchmark. I really liked it, but not as much as the first book, and I wish it had spent more time developing the romance. Still, I’m really proud of myself for finally reading three new fantasy novels.

I also had another out-of-character moment when I went on a poetry-and-nonfiction reading spree due to the free scribd trial; you can read about those five books here in detail, but to sum up:

  • 41745412I started with Soft Science by Franny Choi, a poetry collection I’ve been wanting to read for a while because of how much I liked the cover, and it was really interesting but also really confusing; probably the kind of thing one should take more time with than I did
  • soft magic. by Upile Chisala was a heartwarming, sweet, straightforward poetry collection that was overall a complete miss for me;
  • I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom was an amazing collection of essays about dysfunctional dynamics in queer communities that I think would be really useful to anyone active on queer book twitter;
  • Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement, edited by Ejeris Dixon & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, is exactly what it claims to be, focusing on the how of a different kind of justice than the one we’re accustomed to, focused on healing instead of punishment, and I really liked it as well;
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Walls Kimmerer is a book by a Potawatomi environmental biologist that should be required reading for everyone who wants to talk about ecology and human’s relationship with the environment, because the amount of people who don’t realize are spreading ecofascist rhetoric is concerning.

After that, I decided to read two novellas; reviews of both will be hopefully up soon:

Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. I was interested in it because it was described as “for fans of JY Neon Yang’s Tensorate” and also some comparisons with Mo Dao Zu Shi characters were made – and I have to say, while I didn’t really see the latter, it did remind me of The Ascent to Godhood and I would definitely recommend it to Tensorate fans; it’s now one of my new favorite novellas. Such a wonderful, quiet book for something about an upheaval of an empire.
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho, which I didn’t feel as strongly about – maybe novellas just aren’t the right format for group casts, they almost never work for me (I remember River of Teeth failing for me for that reason) – but it was a fun adventure involving brigands and badass nuns. Zen Cho really nails it when it comes to humor.

32718027The last thing I finished in March was my audiobook reread of The City of Brass, which I started the day I discovered scribd was giving everyone a free trial for which they didn’t ask credit card information (…there was no way I’d ever reread this on ebook, too long, and the audiobook would have been 25€). I keep returning to how easily this wouldn’t have happened: I was ready to give up on the series. And then, I loved it even more the second time around – it helped that I remembered everything about setup and worldbuilding and very little about the plot twists, for some very lucky reason – and now I’m ready to finally continue the series.


How was your reading month?

Wrap-Up

A February Wrap-Up

February has been a really odd month for me, both in term of reading and in real life. Not necessarily in the best way, but we do what we can.


How Life Is Going

Going from having to worry about exams – which I passed, everything is fine, even the marine botany nightmare – to worrying because half of this country is going through a partial quarantine because of an epidemic has not been a fun time.

Still, because here I like to focus on the nice things: February has been a great month for the plants on my balcony.

  • First row: yellow Crocus, wild tulip (some species of Tulipa)
  • second row: martinette daffodil, Armenian grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

I think all of them have been early – the only flowers that haven’t opened yet are the anemone and one of the varieties of daffodil – and I was really glad to see that the grape hyacinth has been really appreciated by local bees.


How Reading Is Going

I ended up reading ten books, which isn’t bad all things considered; what bothers me is that so far this year I haven’t rated any novel five stars (novellas, nonfiction, short stories? Yes. Just no new favorite novels). For the first half of the month, I was still in exam hell, so I didn’t have as much time to read – which is why my reading was mostly audiobooks I read while cooking.

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There were exception to this, like the artbook by Loputyn (Italian artist Jessica Cioffi) which I read on my balcony. It was perfect for that kind of atmosphere, and I’m always glad to find Italian books with some sapphic content. (This book is also bilingual – there’s very little text but it’s both in Italian and English – so it’s accessible to English speakers as well!)
As far as the audiobooks, I got through Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (review) and You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno (review); I really liked both more than I expected to, and I’m finally convinced I can listen to audiobooks as long as there’s a good narrator.

I also spent a lot of time trying to get through The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar, a non-linear tangle of beautiful writing that seemed to be doing its best to cause problems to the reader on purpose (review). I ended up loving most of it, but adult SFF authors in an experimental mood scare me. (To give you some frame of reference, this book makes This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone feel linear.)

42188604._sy475_Then I finally got out of exam hell and had the time to read a lot more. I reread Witchmark by C.L. Polk, and loved it just as much as I did the first time around (here’s my review), finished How Long ’til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin and other miscellaneous short stories (reviews of all of them should be up next week; I read some new favorites and some great disappointments), and found out that sometimes memoirs are amazing enough for me to consider them favorites with In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (review). I definitely want to get to Her Body and Other Parties soon now.

Since I ended up reading a lot of books in the last week of February (…I was forced to stay home, nothing to do), some of this month’s reviews aren’t up on here yet.

  • The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake, which I read as an audiobook. I kind of regret that because the narrator wasn’t the right one for this story at all – everyone sounded like a middle-aged woman, when the main character and most of her friends are 16 – but I still really liked this. It deals with mental health in a way I haven’t seen often in YA contemporaries and it had a really original plotline as well.
  • Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney, the weird and very queer fae novella of my dreams, with a writing style that I can only see as “hallucinatory rococo” because of how weird and excessive it was (the story itself is mainly inspired by the second industrial revolution and related social issues, though). One of the most original takes on parallel universes and portal fantasy; an overall hidden gem.
  • The Deep by Rivers Solomon (collaborating with the group clipping.), a story about merpeople descending from enslaved pregnant African women who were thrown overboard, dealing with inherited trauma and healing. I wanted more from the underwater world (I am that person, always) but overall I really liked it. It’s so short and yet it has so much to say.

How was February for you? Have you read any of these?

Wrap-Up

A January Wrap-Up

Hi! I temporarily decided to not write wrap-ups in the last two months of 2019 – I wasn’t reading much anyway – and here they come back, just a little different from before.


How Reading Is Going

I’m still not reading much anyway! It’s exam hell time, that hasn’t changed and won’t change at least for a few weeks either. At the moment, I’m getting most of my reading done through audiobooks, which I would have never thought possible, but then in January of last year I wouldn’t have thought I’d be able to cook either, and that’s when I listen to audiobooks. Can’t feel guilty about reading if I wouldn’t be studying anyway!  Somehow, doing two things at the same time helps me focus on both.

I also spent a significant part of the month trying to get through two non-audiobook tomes I struggled with: House of Sundering Flames and Tiān Guān Cì Fú. I won’t be posting a full review of either on this blog – I don’t feel like it’s needed – but I will talk about them a little on here.

It’s really sad when the finale of a series is disappointing, but the more I go on, the more I find that – especially when it comes to fantasy – it’s unusual for me to not end up deeply disappointed by sequels. In House of Sundering Flames, the problems were a combination of inflated length (…if a final book is over 500 pages when the rest of the trilogy was far shorter, one has to start worrying), lack of subtlety in the delivery of the message (this book feels really strongly about a lot of things and is not afraid to sacrifice anything as long as it gets to preach at you) and it being more action-focused than the rest of the series (action scenes have never been this author’s strength). I still don’t think it’s a bad book, and for a more in-depth discussion of the themes, I will point you to my goodreads review, as we need more fantasy that interrogates power structures as this one does. I just don’t think it succeeded in the delivery.

I had the opposite experience with Tiān Guān Cì Fú, and with that I mean that for the first time in a long while, I found a story in which my interest grew as it continued instead of declining. To give you some context, this is a Chinese fantasy novel that puts the “epic” in “epic fantasy”, and with that I mean that it has incredibly high stakes as the story progresses and it’s longer than 1500 pages. I did struggle with the length and feel like some parts of it were unnecessary – yes, I skimmed – but on a mental level, it still felt a lot shorter than House of Sundering Flames, which doesn’t get to 600 pages. Its bright sense of humor, the intricacies in the relationships, the sheer scope of this kind of story, the amount of foreshadowing – I’m in awe, even though there were times in which I just wanted it to be over. To know a little more, I have a goodreads review of this one too.


How Life Is Going

Apart from books and exams, I’m now mostly doing ok. This was a really weird month for me – after all, it’s the month in which the lessons of my marine ecology class ended, and it hardly gets weirder than having to witness a very detailed and very enthusiastic shark dissection (I guess they really had to end the class in the most memorable way possible).

It kind of went like this: [CW: animal death, decomposition, all that]

“It’s a mackerel!”, the prof cheerily proclaims, as if announcing a newborn’s assigned gender, while taking out the half-digested fish corpse from inside the stomach of the rotting shark carcass. “Look at what it ate!”

Just another day as a natural sciences student! I will spare you the pictures. The good news is that I’ll never be grossed out again while cleaning fish in the kitchen, it’s… a great way to build up tolerance? I’m still disgusted by some of the things I saw.

In significantly less gross news, January has been warmer than it should have been. Sad, yes, but at least you get flowers!

A dwarf Iris (Iris reticulata hybrid) and hyacinths!

No, it’s not normal for them to bloom in January, and probably the rest of my balcony will be done with blooming by the end of February when that should happen in April. However, pretty pictures? And there’ll probably be even more in the February Wrap-Up.


What to Expect from February

Maybe! Maybe I’ll be so busy I won’t be able to do anything.

I won’t be doing TBRs, but that doesn’t mean I have no plans! They’re just not chained to netgalley anymore, which is so freeing. Some things I already know I want to do in February are:

↬ I’ll complete my audiobook reread of the Wayward Children series.

27366528So far, this is all I’ve been (re)reading on audiobook, which is easier to me than reading a completely new book – I don’t have to wonder about the spelling of any name if I’ve already read them. And it’s going really well! This fairytale-like series works a lot better when it’s told to the reader instead of read. It made me reevaluate Down Among the Sticks and Bones, confirmed that Come Tumbling Down was a great addition, and strengthened my love for Every Heart a Doorway (review upcoming!). I have already listened to In an Absent Dream through audiobooks in May, so I don’t feel the need to do that again, but I really want to get to Beneath the Sugar Sky. At the moment, I consider it my least favorite in the series; I want to know whether that will change.

↬ A new series of posts involving short fiction will begin this month

I don’t want to say too much yet because everything will be in an upcoming post, but expect my short-story-reviewing self to be back soon! A small and mostly secret-post-unrelated spoiler is that in February, among other things, I’ll be for sure reading How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin, but that won’t be the only short stories to be reviewed on here if everything goes according to plan.

↬ Hopefully, a review of Machina?

I’ve started the Serial Box original Machina by Fran Wilde, Malka Older, Curtis C. Chen & Martha Wells and I’m currently following the first episode both on audio and on text. Serial Box was kind enough to reach out and ask me if I wanted to review it, so here I am. [Yes, ARC I don’t request don’t count towards my ban, as that almost never happens.]


How was January for you? Do you have any plans for February? Have you read any of these?

 

Wrap-Up

September 2019 Highlights

Welcome to a new post in the Monthly Highlights series, in which I talk about the books I read this month, what happened, and some book-related news.


What I Read

In September, I read five books, which is probably my lowest number ever. This is somewhat less concerning if we consider that all of them were novels and one of them was longer than 1000 pages, but, well: this month was what it was. As there are only five of them, I can take the time to talk about all of them a little.

I spent the first half of the month reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Mo Dao Zu Shi (the >1000 novel, of which I also watched two adaptations, see my “out of my comfort zone” post). While the second one definitely took up a lot of my time, together with having to study for the zoology exam, I struggled more with the first; the more I think about it, the more I realize that the only thing I liked about January’s book was the beautiful writing and the parallels I kept drawing in my head between the book’s magic system (doors as bringers of change, instability seen as necessary for the worlds to thrive) and the intermediate disturbance hypothesis (wikipedia page) in ecology. I wish there were more books that talked about the theme of stability as stagnation or atrophy, because I find it really interesting, and that was definitely my favorite aspect of the book.
If you want to know what went wrong (pretty much everything else), my review of this one is already up.

About Mo Dao Zu Shi, all I wanted to say has already been said in the post I linked above, but one more thing I didn’t mention is that I’m not used to reading things that have a big fandom anymore – what happens when you read a lot of ARCs – and being able to consume it while also seeing fan content was a refreshing experience. (Also, it might look like I’m over it? I’m not. You don’t know how much I need more gay necromancer fantasy in my life now.)

I ended the month with Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden. It was even weirder than I expected, which is of course a fault on my part, because I should have known better after reading Temper and The Prey of Gods. But I really didn’t expect the plot-relevant alien tentacle sex scene, and now that I’ve read this book, all I have to say is that I greatly admire The Stars Are Legion‘s restraint in setting a book on a cephalopod-like world-ship like Escaping Exodus did, but not putting any actual tentacle sex in it.
For a more serious review, in which I talk about how much I loved the environmentalist message, what I thought of the f/f romance, and what really didn’t work for me: it should be up tomorrow.

Now, to the books I loved this month. Surprisingly – or maybe not much so, as I’m going through a stressful time and these are always easy to follow – they’re both contemporary-set YA with a magical twist. I have yet to post reviews for both, because I’m bad at scheduling, but I am going to soon.

Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist surprised me because of how addicting it was. I’m struggling to read books in a few sittings lately, and when I read them quickly it’s usually a bad sign (it probably means I’m skimming), but not here. It still took me a few days because real life, but every time I had the time to read, I flew through it. I love ghost stories so much, and stories about gay haunted girls, and I think this would be a great spooky October read for YA readers. I mean, paranormal murder mystery with a dash of romance and lots of angst? Perfect recipe.

And since we’re talking about recipes, With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – my favorite book of the month – managed not only to make me hungry with its food descriptions, it also made me want to learn how to cook again. I don’t think a book has ever done something like that to me before? This is about an Afro-Puerto Rican teen mother who cooks so well her food is almost (kind of?) magical, and this is the story of how she figures out what she wants in life and how she could get there. Acevedo’s writing is amazing and there was so much heart in this story, just like in The Poet X. I can’t wait to see what she does next.


Life Update

There’s not much to say about my non-bookish life apart from the fact that university started again and… *sigh*.

I spent the first half of the month watching things on a screen (see the Mo Dao Zu Shi post), which is unusual for me, and spent a significant amount of time having a lot of feelings about the Fleet Foxes’ newer album, Crack Up, which I got around to listening only now – because if it’s not a book, I’m bad at it. (I don’t even know what I like in music. I have nothing resembling musical taste or something like that; I just kind of stumble on things and come back if I feel like it.) For someone who doesn’t understand the lyrics of the songs she listens to, I appreciated that at some point (I think?) this talks about ossified roses on the oceanside. Maybe it would make more sense in context, but that would make it less weird and that would be no fun, so I don’t want to know.

Also: the botany course started again. You might start getting plant updates again soon! Maybe.


Bookish News

First of all, it was announced that Yoon Ha Lee is writing another book in the Dragon Pearl universe and I’m so here for it. I didn’t keep up with book twitter as much this month, so it’s possible that I missed some interesting cover reveals. If you know some I’m not mentioning that are really pretty, tell me!

Adult SFF

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – I prefer the first book’s cover but I have to admit that they really went there with the skeleton boobplate. I love this on so many levels and I really should read Gideon the Ninth.

The Order of the Pure Moon, Reflected in Water by Zen Cho – Tor.com novellas are always unfairly pretty and this is no exception. Look at it. I’m in love with this cover and can’t wait to read more Zen Cho short fiction. I struggle with her novels, but not her with her short stories, so I hope this will work for me.

YA

There either weren’t a lot of YA cover reveals in September or I was unusually bad at twitter. Knowing how healthy of an environment YA twitter as a whole is, that might have been a good thing.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson – cute! And with a model who actually looks like a teenage girl, on a sapphic book! I hope this is as happy as it looks.

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran – I appreciate that we’re getting more f/f fantasy releases, but I can’t be the only one who thinks this is greatly underwhelming as a cover. The title’s fond kind of makes me sad, it looks so small and lost in the dark.


How was September for you? Have you read or are you anticipating any of these?

Wrap-Up

July 2019 Highlights

Welcome to another post in my Monthly Highlights series, in which I will talk about everything book-related (and sometimes not) that happened in July.


What I Read

July was exam month for Acqua and heatwave month for Europe, so I’m surprised that I still managed to read 15 books:

  • 10 novels, of which 6 were ARCs
  • 2 novellas, of which 1 was an ARC
  • 2 collections, of which 1 was an ARC
  • 1 graphic novel, which was an ARC

I didn’t read as much as I read in June, but I did read just as many novels – this time, without DNFing one – so I consider this a good reading month. Rating-wise, there were a lot of four stars (eight of those 15 books were four stars), a few fives and threes, and a two. We’re over halfway through the year and I still haven’t rated a book one star!

As usual for a highlight post, I will only talk about the books I liked the most.

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↬ Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear is a space opera novel following Haimey Dz, a black lesbian space salvager, as she discovers an abandoned ship and the terrifying truths tied to its existence.

  • this is officially the most unexpected favorite of the year. I hated it at the beginning and wanted to DNF it, but as usual, sci-fi with somewhat dense worldbuilding is worth it
  • I had so much fun with this, even when the story got really dark, because this was just so interesting and beautiful. I was never bored, and this is longer than 500 pages.
  • the premise of this book is basically “archeology in space, but with pirates“, and if you thought it couldn’t get better than that, what if I told you that there’s lesbian villain kissing involving the evil pirate lady?
  • no romance, a great emphasis on friendships between queer characters, and does this book understand that everything, including space, is better with cats
  • combine the ideas of “ancient mysterious artifacts”, “alien technology incomprehensible to humans”, and “the terrifying beauty of space” and you get the aesthetic of this book
  • Haimey’s character arc is one of the best I’ve read in months. This is a story about coming to terms with trauma (she has PTSD from growing up in a cult) and while it gets dark at times, the ending was everything to me.

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↬ The Fox Tower and Other Tales by Yoon Ha Lee is a collection of cute flash fairytales and prose poems.

  • queer (f/f and m/m stories and some non-binary main characters) twists on familiar fairytale tropes and archetypes are so refreshing
  • cuddly foxes!
  • flash fiction is a lot like poetry, which means that sometimes this goes a little for the “pretty for the sake of it”, and… I love that. Because Yoon Ha Lee’s descriptions are many things but are never banal
  • I am still thinking about descriptions like “crystals unfed by unsunlight”. It shouldn’t make sense, in a literal way it does not make sense, but it does, it always does
  • then there are three prose poems, two of which – Candle and Thunder – are clearly tied to some characters from Ninefox Gambit and I still have so many feelings
  • “I don’t expect your hands to glove black (ashes are my favorite fashion)” I personally hate you, [spoilery name censored]
  • “and sometimes it’s about gunfire opening your heart” of course you’d use that imagery, go figure
  • it’s not really tied to the Machineries of Empire universe if you don’t want to scream “Jedao, NO” at some point
  • this, overall, made me so happy and there’s a lot of value in that.

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↬ Pet by Akwaeke Emezi is a futuristic novel following Jam, a black trans girl with selective mutism, in a world in which evil doesn’t exist anymore… or so she’s told.

  • I recommend this book to… almost everyone? It’s really short and it’s the kind of thing middle schoolers can read and understand but that adult can also get important things from
  • It’s unlike everything I’ve ever read. This is a YA book with no romance (already uncommon), following a 15-year-old main character (also not common) who is a disabled black trans girl (previously unheard of in tradpub YA novels) in a book that isn’t about her being marginalized. It’s also about a society that looks utopian to us (why are all futuristic novels dystopian?) and it involves paranormal elements.
  • it’s about how evil is allowed to thrive unseen when people start refusing to admit that it can exist, and it has a lot of really interesting things to say about what makes a monster, and what – specifically – makes monsters so dangerous
  • it’s a charming kind of weird, beautifully written, and unique
  • the main character isn’t always able to voice and as someone who has also struggled with voicing things (for slightly different reasons, but it’s not that different from the outside), the fact that no one ever makes her selective mutism a problem meant so much to me

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The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang is the fourth and final book in the Tensorate series. It follows Lady Han, a courtesan-turned-revolutionary, and it’s written in the form of a drunken monologue.

  • I know “drunken monologue” doesn’t sound appealing at all but it works
  • this was a great month when it came to f/f villain kissing, because this is about the relationship between Lady Han and Hekate, the series’ villainess
  • how did I not know this was an f/f villain romance before reading it. how.
  • a tragic gay story, but not the kind of homophobia-related tragic gay story we’re used to; it’s a story about two very morally gray women and how their relationship fell apart
  • queer stories should get to be sad like the non-queer ones do, in ways that have nothing to do with the characters’ marginalizations
  • everyone is kind of horrible and I loved that
  • the best novella in the series, and I don’t say that lightly when this was already my favorite novella series. I love this world so much
  • …I still want more Tensorate

Life Update

  • Despite exams, I was finally able to have a free morning for my first Underwater Photography Day of the year. The quality of the water wasn’t the best – it wasn’t dirty (I know where and when to go to avoid that most of the time) but it was somewhat… cloudy? Not sure what the right word is in English, but I couldn’t see very far. Anyway, that was probably caused by a recent coastal storm.
  • Still managed to take some pictures, and the Cystoseira are still there, which should be a good thing (Cystoseira is a genus of algae known for being bioindicators of good water quality)


Cover Reveals

YA


Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen – I love this cover, it looks like such a cute, fun romance, one following East Asian-American characters and set outside the US!

When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson – this one is also set outside the US, it’s a Canadian YA novel about teens going on a road trip to get to Toronto Pride, and… there are so many queer YA novels, but surprisingly few of them feature Pride parades. I’m glad that this exists and that it looks really gay from the outside already.

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett – all I know about this one is that it’s f/f and will have a setting with a really wintry atmosphere. The cover looks a little too “generic YA fantasy for my taste” (it reminds me a lot of Bloodleaf, for example) but the details are everything.

Adult

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood – F/F fantasy!! I don’t love this cover, but I am really anticipating this book. I’m not sure what it is about Tor and F/F involving necromancy but I support the idea?

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer – and I thought Borne was trippy. Oh well? (I love this, but it also almost hurts to look at)

Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty – I still have to read the second book (I know, I know), but can we just say that the UK covers of this series are objectively superior? They have a simple, straightforward and effective aesthetic.


How was July for you? Have you read/are you anticipating any of these?

Wrap-Up

June 2019 Highlights

Welcome to the another post in my Monthly Highlights series, in which I talk about books, what happened this month, plants, and bookish news.


What I Read

June was exam month! I did as well as I possibly could have and also managed to read more than during any month so far this year. I also liked most of the books I read and all of them were queer in some way, so yes, I do consider this a good reading month.

So, numerically, this month I read 18 books:

  • 10 novels, of which 3 were ARCs (2 of them I DNFed but counted anyway because I stopped halfway through instead of 10% in)
  • 5 graphic novels, of which 1 was an ARC
  • 3 novellas, of which 2 were ARCs.

As usual for my highlight posts, I will only be talking about the books I really liked, and while you can find most reviews of the books I read this month scattered around this blog, I made a complete thread of Pride Reads on twitter, with ratings and reviews linked.

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is a graphic novel about Freddie, an Asian-American girl, and her toxic high school relationship:

  • my favorite standalone graphic novel!
  • I was completely in love with both the art style and the characters
  • the part in which Freddie says “I know there are LGBTQIA activist out there who fought for centuries for me to have the right to fuck up like this. I am progress” = I love her so much and do I understand that
  • I really appreciated how it talked about love and how romantic relationship don’t exist to isolate a person
  • queer stories that aren’t happy romances and aren’t tragic but are just a reflection of how queer teens’ lives (and especially love lives) can be are so important

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The Weight of the Stars by Kayla Ancrum is a near-future story following Ryann, a girl who has always dreamed of space, and Alexandria, a girl whose mother has left earth forever to live in space, as they fall in love.

  • Ancrum’s books are so beautiful, they give me so many feelings
  • and I struggle to explain those feelings with words, because they don’t always use words to convey them!
  • There is so much in what isn’t said.
  • kind of mixed media format, but not really, it’s complicated
  • characters who are rough around the edges and very gay
  • found family! casual polyamory representation!
  • the more you go on and read, the more you can feel the terrifying maws of the void, which is definitely staring at you
  • I was upset. But also not?
  • It’s a weird one, maybe even weirder than The Wicker King, but I liked it more.

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The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite is a historical romance set in England around 1816.

  • science lesbian (astronomer) meets art bisexual (who likes botany, embroidery, and botanical embroidery)
  • I hate the concept of historical romances and yet here I am, this book is amazing
  • queer women living happy and fulfilling life despite sexism and homophobia!
  • What is the opposite of a slow-burn? Because that’s this book. Don’t say instalove, this is obviously not instalove, they have so much chemistry
  • (*rembers a certain sex scene*)
  • it did have pacing problems and at times it was boring but I’m yet to find an adult romance novel that isn’t at least some shades of boring so that’s probably more on me than on the book
  • maybe I should really get to that “reading romance as an aromantic” post

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This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone is an epistolary sci-fi enemies-to-lovers f/f novella set during a time travel war:

  • f/f stories making me emotional is the theme of the month
  • gorgeous writing, which sometimes gets too much, but if you don’t viscerally hate prose with a purple side to it, it will make you feel things!
  • some of the best descriptions and quotes I’ve read in months, and so many colors
  • excellent plotting too!
  • I struggled with the time travel aspect at first, but did it stick the landing with that.
  • you know who is gay? Time. Time is gay.
Other Books Worth Mentioning
  • Coffee Boy by Austin Chant: ownvoices trans man representation! Cute m/m workplace romance novella, and as always, novellas are the best format for romance. One of the happiest trans stories I’ve read.
  • Borderline by Mishell Baker: the plot and worldbuilding didn’t surprise me that much but I liked this main character so much that I almost didn’t mind. I’m considering continuing the series, and I almost never do that if the first book isn’t five stars and it’s not a companion series. Bisexual main character who has BPD and uses a wheelchair!
  • Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju: awkward biracial Sri Lankan lesbian Nima Kumara-Clark discovers her town’s drag scene (and herself, too). A really cute read, if you don’t mind a little secondhand embarrassment; the writing could have been better.
  • Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh: a forest fairytale inspired by the figure of the green man, with a sweet m/m romance. Loved the plant magic aspect and the atmosphere, didn’t feel strongly about the plot or the characters themselves.

The two books I DNFed were Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells (it was fine, but I have exams and don’t have time for “fine”), and All of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil (I was loving the writing and atmosphere, but seeing what the book was doing with the 10-year-age-gap “”romance”” involving a teen, I quit – and I also didn’t want to review it).


(Plant-)Life Update

  • June 1st was the day my city’s botanical garden was open to the public! Last time I went there it was winter and it just wasn’t as interesting, but this time the Brazilian coral tree (Erythrina falcata) was blooming and I’ve never seen a more gorgeous tree in my life.
  • I also recognized the common myrtle (Myrtus communis) and the manna ash (Fraxinus ornus) easily and almost got the sessile oak (Quercus petraea; I was on the fence between that one and Q. robur because I couldn’t see any acorns) so I’m really proud of myself.
  • This month, I went for a few days in the Tuscan–Emilian Apennines and there were many beautiful things I expected – we went in a place that is famous for its beautiful beeches, and if you don’t think a beech (Fagus sylvatica) can be beautiful, you’re wrong – but what I did not expect were the fact that all the brooms (Cytisus scoparius) were blooming together.
  • nearer to the towns, there were also some impressive Spanish brooms (Spartium junceum) but I didn’t take pictures of those.

Cover Reveals!

This month there have been several remarkable cover reveals, and here are my favorites:

A Phoenix Must First Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell: the best cover of the month, maybe even of all the 2020 covers revealed so far. I love it so much, and also this is an anthology of Black speculative fiction featuring so many authors I’ve read and loved both novels (Ibi Zoboi, Elizabeth Acevedo, Somaiya Daud) and short stories (Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, L.L. McKinney) from.

The Silence of Bones by June Hur: historical mystery set in Korea in the XIX century? This sounds unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the YA age range and the cover is a sad kind of quiet – it has my interest, for sure.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez: apparently the author illustrated her own cover? That’s so cool, and the result is both original and charming. Can’t wait to hear more about this Bolivian-inspired fantasy novel!

We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia: the first one was prettier, but you know what? If you put them together, they kind of look like sunset and sunrise, which might have been the intention. Or a rainbow, which also could have been the intention, because gay, and I really need to get to that first book, don’t I.


How was June for you?