January and February: Books

So far this year, I’ve read thirty books! This is partly because I read a chunk of picture books all at once, and partly because the MTA is a disaster. I feel like I can say this as a part-time disaster myself–and because this week, I haven’t yet had a commute take less than an hour and twenty minutes…for what is supposed to be about a twenty-minute train ride. I don’t have service in the subway system, generally, so I can’t while away the time with social media, and I don’t read on the train because I can get that too-hot carsick feeling (plus I tend to prefer paying more attention my surroundings when I’m actually on the train). But I have done a lot of platform reading, which–despite no longer really being in the business of discussing and dissecting books in public–I will share with you here. The novels and not-picture-books, at least. And this is for me, because as I discovered at the beginning of the year, there’s nothing like being asked what you’ve been reading, or loved (especially in kidlit!), to turn your mind completely blank except for the plot of every smutty book you read in the last quarter. And Q4 was smutty, because that was easy and undemanding in the free time I had.

So, some longer books, but I’m going to be coy about some of them.

»The Prince and the Dressmaker, Jen Wang: A prince likes wearing dresses and feels he has to hide it; a dressmaker wants to be recognized for her work. This leads to Problems. Graphic novel. I know there are some interesting and valid reasons why people love or don’t so much love this one, but I’m fascinated that people who are really into labels have a lot of issues and people who don’t seem to be into labels like it more. I wonder why that is.

»Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse: An urban fantasy that’s not urban at all, really–it takes place on a post-apocalyptic reservation where a Dine woman has become the killer of monsters and sometimes monstrous herself. I keep thinking this is something I’d recommend to someone who likes Paolo Bacigalupi’s books, but I haven’t talked to a person yet who has read one and not the other. A book for every reader I haven’t met.

»The One Hundred Nights of Hero, Isabel Greenberg: A sort-of Scheherezade tale, with a hugely feminist bent and a Scheherezade who isn’t the wife, so that’s nicely subverted. It’s an oversize graphic novel, which probably has a fancy name I don’t know about, and that makes it an interesting gift.

»[redacted] A multi-authored essay collection that a) went on for too many essays and b) didn’t apply to me as much as I…thought, or had hoped? It was fine, just a chore by the end.

»[redacted] Adult romance novella. Trope was workplace setting, but not exactly boss-subordinate. While I liked this well enough, the trope isn’t my favorite, and romance with colleagues is a total turnoff in real life, so… I liked the other novella I’ve read by the author, though, and the author’s longer fiction, so I’d read other romances by them.

»[redacted] Also adult romance novella. Sort of a second-chance romance. I’ve tried a couple of things by this author, who comes widely and often highly recommended, but their work hasn’t clicked for me, so I’m moving on. Alas.

»The Tiger’s Daughter, K Arsenault Rivera: Epic fantasy with an unusual perspective / approach. Has swords and girls kissing in a fantasy East Asia. I had a hard time getting into the first half, but the second half held me. Included a sensual metaphor that made me want to stab my own eye out* like no other in the same scene with one that was also the nicest I’ve ever read in lo these many years of turgid members and honeyed caves.

*I’ve seen an eyeball come out before and I do not need to think about it ever again, but here we are, because a similar thing happens (not super graphically) in the book.

»Willa & Hesper, Amy Feltman: I picked this up at work because it had a lemon on the cover. Has postgraduate writing programs and girls kissing in Brooklyn. Mostly it’s a portrait of post-breakups and of the two girls finding their separate family heritages (Jewish/holocaust history and country of Georgia, they think) painfully. I never underline, but I underlined whole paragraphs in this book because the prose is that wonderfully good.

»Borderline, Mishell Baker: Much-updated-from-its-ancestors urban fantasy, with fae, set in Los Angeles. I know it’s common to have, well, common visceral sensory memories, but for me, remembering college in LA is about remembering temperature and relative humidity and heat radiating off pavement in entirely new and specific combinations, and I felt that while reading. The protagonist is diagnosed with borderline personality, and that informs her character, vividly. One note: she previously jumped from a building.*

*This is another thing I’d like to not think of, and I don’t know how I got two of my three please-nos in such a short span! (Not a reason for me to have avoided, necessarily, but.) If I’d hit hoarding I’d have collected my personal triforce.

»[redacted] Adult romance. We’re practically opposites and we have to save the business by Valentine’s Day! It was entertaining enough, but not memorable.

»Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love, Mira Ong Chua: I can’t remember who got me to (unusually) get in on their friend’s (-friend’s?) Kickstarter, but thank you, this showed up and was hilarious. It was all my favorite manga facial expressions and plotlines. Not that I have many, but I have enough to see what’s going on here.

»Dread Nation, Justina Ireland: I’d read most of the book a half-dozen times, but had had bad luck in finishing it, and kept re-reading. Yes, it’s zombies in an alternate reconstruction-era setting, and I can see why that might sound unusual and even not someone’s thing, but holy crap, Jaaaaaaaaane is amazing and so is this whole book. Just read it already so we can commiserate. I read a lot of fantasy and I know what I’m talking about, you peasants.

Reading now: Dead Girls by Alice Bolin, nonfiction about people killing off women and girls in media; Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan, for book club; The Afterward by EK Johnston because it looked good and also handily for an entirely separate book club; Inkling by Kenneth Oppel; Codename Villanelle because of course; finishing Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie; a nonfiction how-to I picked up for $.99 and am not telling you about; and all the romances I can’t help buying at attractive prices but that we’re not discussing unless I’m sure our romance tastes align. The bad thing about writing this out is that it might make the MTA work right and ruin my reading plans…


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