I picked up this book completely on a whim. It was on sale, the preview pulled me in, and my friends were talking about it, so – why not? Why not try and see? And for once, I don’t regret experimenting. While maybe not technically perfect, it’s one of those books I couldn’t stop reading and reading whenever I picked it up.
The NetherTale offered a scenario where a player would rescue people from Hell—yet not hurt anyone at all. Might one live that way? Until recently, Shizuka would have dismissed the suggestion as naïve, a fantasy of the weak and sheltered, those who had never fought or known loss. But nothing in Katrina’s background suggested she was weak or sheltered. As for loss? Her music did not lie. She was fighting with an abandon that only came from loss.
ARC received from the publisher (Stelliform Press) in exchange for an honest review.
I’ll admit: it was the cover that got my attention. The cover, and the promise of a story centering strange sea creatures with an ecological bent. And really, it largely delivered on that – the worldbuilding was incredibly imaginative. I love non-human POVs that feel non-human, taking biology into account. The expected environmental aspect was not “humanity is a plague and must die” and I loved that too. If you liked The Deep, you might like this as well.
Unfortunately, the ending was soured by a rape scene with incredibly brutal consequences, that both felt rather pointless and the content warning at the beginning didn’t come close to preparing me for. It also left me in quite a predicament regarding how to review. After all, most of the book was fantastic, with that one scene like a worm in the last bite of an apple. And, after all, I do not do spoilers as a rule and it’s an ARC besides. But how else to talk about it? What do I do?
So: this summarizes my thoughts for those who need a TL;DR, more details with the minimum necessary spoilers for those who need a more detailed content warning somewhere below the cut.
September was a far above average reading month. I don’t know how or why, but I entered full reading machine mode and finished 9, with one DNF. I also have a massive preorder of 11 books coming between October and December, which I’m very much looking forward to.
Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace: Didn’t vibe with that one at all. I think I initially TBR’d it because YA book with no romance, but the atmosphere, the world, the plot…meh.
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots: So much fun. Supervillains, spreadsheets, and monsterfucking undertones.
A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha: Started off very interesting, but poor pacing and questionable plot choices ruined it, especially in the second half.
Les Orangers de Versailles by Annie Pietri: FIRST BOOK IN FRENCH. Adorable, really liked it. Attempt at a review in French here.
Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford: As expected from Mitford, very gossipy and entertaining. But man I got tired of nobility’s shit.
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (DNF): Yeah no, not for me. Didn’t appreciate the infodumpy stream of consciousness style and the dynamic between the two MCs was exhausting.
Jean d’Alembert by Ronald Grimsley: Precisely the type of biography I hate the most – that is, non-chronological, with not much about the man’s actual life (shamelessly skipped all the bits on maths and physics and so on), but it still gave me some precious bits of info and at least a general sense of who d’Alembert was and what was he about.
The Diviners by Libba Bray: Very good, excellent 1920s atmosphere, creepy undertones…but a little overlong.
Vermilion by Molly Tanzer: Got it a while ago and planned to use it for Bingo, but not sure I’ll finish this one. Not really feeling it.
Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo: Alright so far, but I actually need to sit down with it without distractions.
Voltaire and the Century of Light by A. Owen Aldridge: Yep, still picking at it. Still good.
No one wants to be a real hero; it’s too hard. My husband didn’t give a damn whether the work I was doing was noble as long as it appeared to be. When I killed someone then—something I did a lot more than I do now—it was for the greater good. It was such bullshit.
I’ve never much liked or cared about superheroes – what’s some asshole in a cape? Despite my friends’ gushing, I didn’t put Hench on my radar until there was a sale, and….wait. Mundane job? Spreadsheets? Fuck me, I’m in. I’ve always had enough of a hard-on for bureaucracy and other usually boring shit in books to override subgenre preferences and sure enough, it was exactly my thing. The characters’ low opinion of superheroes was the final cherry on top.
Once again, it’s time for a batch of mini reviews. I might not be in a reading slump anymore, not quite, but I am in a bit of a reviewing slump and I finally have enough of these hoarded up for a post.
July was an incredible month for reading. I was alternating between not reading much one week then reading two books in one day the next when I stumbled upon something I was in the mood for (the ever mysterious reading moods…), but it still got the job done.
The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (reread): I needed my never-fail comfort read. That’s pretty much it 😂
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (reread): Picked it up on a whim and reread it in like an hour and a half. Why? I don’t know. But it sure felt good.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (ARC): Mostly, as good as everyone said it would be, and a much faster read than expected. Loved the hurt/comfort aspect of the romance especially.
The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison (ARC): I may have adored The Goblin Emperor, but this was a disappointment. Pancake-flat characters and none of the charm.
After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang (ARC): Short enough to almost be a novella, this was so good and melancholic and kind, even if it dealt with a climate disaster and chronic (terminal?) illness.
Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold (reread): I’m apparently on a Bujold kick this month. Less good than I remember but still good.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (ARC): Review is taking me a little longer, but it’s very good and very queer. Recommended to all fans of epic fantasy. (Plus, there’s the very memed romantic fisting lmao)
Amatka by Karin Tidbeck: Another near-novella. Creepy, weird, and dystopian.
Mindline by M.C.A. Hogarth (twice in a row): I didn’t think I’d ever continue the series, but I needed this so badly. Despite some issues, it’s a complete comfort read. Mini review to go up when I have enough of them for a post.
The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis (ARC): Ebook, kindle. Need to reduce my ARC pile badly and this one doubles for Bingo. Vampires in historical (19th c?) Prague. Promising.
Voltaire and the Century of Light by A. Owen Aldridge: Hardcover. About halfway through and in absolutely no rush. Learned of some some hilarious new anecdotes and I love that letter reference numbers are cited directly in the text. Even if they’re slightly inaccurate and going to look slows me down. If it wasn’t so damn rare, I’d recommend this bio to anyone interested in this petty asshole.
Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely by Andrew S. Curran: Ebook, pc. I’ve been curious about the guy for a while and finally picked it up after the Ada Palmer AMA. So far, so good. Getting similar chaotic vibes to Voltaire.
ARC received from the publisher (Stelliform Press) in exchange for an honest review.
Now this was a breath of fresh air. Barely over novella length and set in near future Beijing plagued by pollution where water is strictly rationed, it’s at the same time deeply melancholic, sweet, and kind. I loved it. I requested this more or less on a whim after Christine @ Black Forest Basilisks recommended it to me and I have no regrets.
(Also, if you need any more convincing, there are dragons and it’s gay.)
I am now fully vaccinated! The second shot did a number on me (which is why this post is so late), but it’s done with, and I can rest a little easier now. I also spent a lot of time this month reflecting on what the hell do I want to do with my life after deciding to quit studying computer science for good a few months ago and finally arrived to a conclusion: I do want to go back to uni and I will go study history and French. How will I get tuition money, I’m not yet sure. But I will get there.
Anyway, enough with the personal stuff, onto the books!
The Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer: Still good. Still so full of plot twists and great characters and moral ambiguity and so up many of my specific alleys. Though a review is still eluding me.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: Read it on a whim because it was the book of the month for one of the r/fantasy bookclubs and someone uttered the magical words “it’s short.” No regrets.
The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian (ARC): Not my favourite of her books (that honour will forever go to Two Rogues Make a Right), but enjoyable enough. She never disappoints.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (ARC): I was a little afraid of it because of its length, but it’s a much faster read than expected and the romance is exquisite. f/f + hurt/comfort = yesplease???
ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When I read the first anthology, I knew I will be going for the others if I get the chance. I loved the idea of Star Wars seen from the POV of minor, unimportant characters, I especially hoped for more Stormtrooper (or better, imperial guard) POVs.
Unfortunately, even accounting for the fact that whatever anthology you take, not all the stories are going to be good, this one still felt lackluster in comparison.
Time for another novella round-up post! Lately, thanks to all the slumps, I’ve been going more and more for shorter books. This time around, all three novellas reviewed are SFF and all are books I’d highly recommend.