Hello, word-worms and welcome to July

In which I skipped a month again

But this time I have an excuse! I had my June opening post all ready to go, and ambitious plans to post every day of the month in a rainbow-fuelled celebration of all things Pride.

Then the murder of George Floyd catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement into the forefront of media and social attention, and posting gleefully about queerness and rainbows and books no longer seemed appropriate. And though I’m back on the posting train now, this seems a good point to remind you all that Black Lives Matter isn’t a single-issue movement to be jumped on and off from with each headline-grabbing atrocity. It needs to be something we’re aware of always.

I’ll be continuing the efforts I started in June to do my bit, however small it may be, and I hope you will too. Follow black creators and activists, challenge racism when you find it and in whatever form you find it, raise awareness, sign petitions and donate if you have the means. If you can afford a regular monthly donation, a lot of organisations find that particularly helpful, or look for Go-Fund-Me’s on Twitter to help a specific cause.

July’s reading plans

An open book sitting on a stone wall amongst blue flowers

I’ve a few carry-over books from June to finish, of course. Including Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, which the library very rudely insisted I return before I’d finished because there were another dozen or so people waiting for it. Hopefully I’ll get that back before the end of the month so I can finish!

July is also the month of the very first Transathon – a month-long readathon focusing on books by trans authors. I’ve put together a tentative TBR but I’m such a mood reader there’s every chance it will change by the end of the week, let alone the month.

And as for the non-readathon reads… I’m very, very, VERY far behind with my Beat the Backlist goals. I have a small but growing accumulation of eARCs from NetGalley (including Seven Devils which I got approved for this morning and promptly shrieked because it’s one of my most anticipated releases of the year). And despite the library having been close for the last three months I’ve made worryingly little progress on the stack of books I borrowed from it. As in, I’ve read 2 and a half out of 19. Oooops.

The words what I wrote

Hello July, and hello Camp NaNoWriMo. I refuse to give up on my NaNo participation streak. And I actually met my goal for the April Camp, so this could be the start of a winning streak as well. The fact I’d forgotten about it entirely until someone tweeted about it 4 days before July is entirely beside the point.

I’m already halfway through my first draft of the still-untitled Curse and Ghost book so choosing a project was simple enough. I’ve given myself a 25,000-word goal which should be doable, even if I’m currently on here writing an unrelated blog post instead of working on the book… Ooops again.

Anything else happening in July?

What, is that not enough? I mean, we’re still in semi-lockdown, 2 out of 3 kids are still off school, my exercise regime (if you can call it that) has been non-existent since my gym had to close for COVID and my garden is getting wildly out of control. So yeah, it’s looking like a busy month!

But I’m hoping that the words – read and written – will be my focus so all cross your fingers for me, OK?

Talk to me

There’s a comments box right down there. Let me know about your plans for July, bookish or otherwise. Are you taking part in Camp NaNo or Transathon? Are you still locked down, or starting to creep back towards some sort of normal? And how do you rate my chances of making inroads on that library pile?!

Tsundoko Tuesday – the series edition

Copy of First Line FridayIn which my unread book collecting has gone beyond shame

There was a time, many years ago, when I promised myself I would never buy a sequel before I’d read the first book in the series. Otherwise, there’s a chance I might not actually LIKE the first book, and then where would I be, with a stack of unread books I didn’t actually want to read any more.

Oh, how present me looks back and laughs. And laughs. And… okay, you get the picture. So here are a few of the offending series.

An Ember In the Ashes

DSC_1008~2Oh dear, I don’t even remember buying book 2. What made me decide to break my policy for it? Was it a present? I have absolutely no idea! And I also have no idea why I haven’t read them yet. Everyone loves them. Sabaa Tahir is hilarious on social media. The fourth book comes out this year so if I don’t read them soon, that’ll be ANOTHER book I end up buying without knowing if I’m committed to a series. And yet, here we are.

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Even the Darkest Stars

DSC_0996~2This sounds so good! I got it in a Fairyloot box (ah yes, unread subscription box books. I have a lot of those) over two years ago and I’ve just never got round to it. Then, confronted with a fantastically good value deal at the publisher stall at YALC last year… I caved and bought book 2. But it’s so pretty! It can’t have been a bad decision. Right?

Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister, Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and other dangers at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth about their mission and her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

DSC_0997~2Alright, this one I have zero guilt for. It’s a clear violation of my policy – I bought all three at once and hadn’t even read a single book by Patrick Ness at that point. But they were all sitting there together in a second hand bookshop. In near-perfect condition. Matching editions. They were £1 each! What would you have done?

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee—whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not—stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden—a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

Share the tsundoku confessions

Are you a series hoarder? What’s the longest series you own that’s completely unread? Or maybe you’ve learnt the hard way – have you had to unhaul a whole series after disliking the first book?

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)

Should you write what you know?

notesIn which my life experiences are too boring for a novel

I’m not going to beat around the bush, here. I’m a white, middle-class mum with a part-time job and three kids who are equally adorable and frustrating. I have a cat. I read books, moan about how little time I get to spend with my partner, worry about money and dream about doing something exciting with my life. I have an invisible disability or two, true, and my straight-passing household doesn’t mean I’M straight, but is that enough for novel fuel?

Apparently, books about people like me are fairly popular. I gather I should be having a mental breakdown, an affair, a feud with the over-achieving parent governor mum at one of the kids’ schools, or something along those lines.

But I read for escapism, and I don’t want to read about people with lives like mine. I read fantasy and science fiction in all its glorious forms. That’s what I want to write, too. So writing what I know… isn’t exactly an option. I’ve seen the phrase adapted to “write what you read” and that seems a much better fit.

When you really SHOULD write what you know

Then we come to the spectre of diversity. For every person who’s passionate about increasing the range of representation in fiction, there’s another who cries about it being forced, and a third who looks at this very real need and sees a trend they can jump on to promote their own work.

IMG_20181216_172225_539For me, this is where the sage old writing advice comes into its own. You should not be writing a marginalised experience unless you know that experience. And I mean, know it intimately, inside-out in all its messy nuance, not have read a few left-leaning newspaper articles about it and follow a couple of activists on Twitter. You need to have lived it.

You might get away with having lived it by proxy – the parent of a disabled child would probably be able to write pretty authentically about disability – but it’s not guaranteed. Trust me, I’ve seen some very bad examples. And in any case, if you truly care about the marginalised community you’re considering writing about, why would you want to take their seats at the table away from them?

That’s not to say you shouldn’t include marginalised characters in your writing. Of course you should! They should be everywhere, because that is how the world works and because the more we get used to seeing POC, disabled, fat, queer, neurodiverse etc. characters casually existing in our fiction, the better. As long as you do your research; bad, stereotypical rep can be just as harmful as no rep at all.

But if you’re thinking of writing ABOUT a marginalised existence, about what it is to be trans, or autistic, or indigenous and you can’t apply that same label to yourself… maybe think again. Maybe consider that you are never going to capture that experience as authentically as it deserves. Whatever you write will be coloured by your misconceptions and (probably) privileged viewpoint. Step back, and leave it to the people who live it.

The nuance of who knows what

You can probably take a dozen different authors and readers and get two dozen different shades of opinion. Just as a one example, the debate about who writes and reads queer romance, especially m/m, is an ongoing issue. There’s a history of mostly cis, mostly white women fetishising those relationships – does that mean all women authors should steer clear, no matter how well done the story? What about queer women? And non-binary authors? Where do queer POC fit into this argument?

No, I don’t have any answers to those thorny issues. And I’m not going to start up that debate again here. It simply illustrates how one little piece of advice can become very complicated when you start looking at different angles. This is only my take on it.

But I will say again, whatever it is you’re thinking of writing, be sure you read it. Read widely, in and around your genre, from a range of voices, and you’re at least starting on the right track.

Tsundoko Tuesday – lockdown comfort buys

Copy of First Line FridayIn which I confess to a bad habit

Comfort buying of books has always been an issue. When my mental health is particularly poor, I’ve had a tough day, or any number of reasons for feeling a little down, there are all the bookstores of the online world right at my fingertips and… Well, I am weak.

So, as you might have anticipated, the added stresses of our wonderful lockdown situation have not been kind to my bank balance or my TBR pile. I don’t even want to count the number of impulse ebooks I’ve bought over the last few weeks, especially when so many lovely authors and publishers have been holding flash sales to feed the bookworm’s habit. So we’ll stick with a few of my physical purchases for this week’s Tsundoku Tuesday.


DSC_0995_2It’s been ALL OVER book Twitter, and it sounds intriguing and fabulous, and I just couldn’t help myself. Maybe I was dazzled by Ryan La Sala’s liberal application of sparkles to his Twitter feed. Or maybe I know a good book concept when I see one. The synopsis:

All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different.

As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.

This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.

Blood Heir

DSC_1000~2This one was deliberate, the timing mere coincidence, I swear! I read an excerpt of the first few chapters before it was published and I was sucked in to this world of Affinities and prison breaks. And it’s a (loose) Anastasia retelling; what more could you want? If that hasn’t convinced you, maybe the synopsis will:

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

Only Mostly Devastated

DSC_0990~3It’s queer Grease. That’s it, that’s my comments done.

Summer love…gone so fast.

Will Tavares is the dream summer fling―he’s fun, affectionate, kind―but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairy tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted―and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.

Right? Right.

Share the tsundoku confessions

Have you been impulse buying, or have you been a model bookworm and used this unexpected time at home to reduce your TBR instead of adding to it? Spill all down below!

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)

April wrap-up – What I Read

Apr 20 Wrap-upIn which the answer is… not a lot

Reading slumps are the actual worst, am I right?

I mean, given all *gestures wildly at the mess of the outside world* I think I can be forgiven, but I still hate it. Especially this specifically dreadful form of reading slump where I actually want to read SO MANY BOOKS but just can’t focus or motivate myself to do so.

Dammit, world. Pull yourself together.

IMAG39842The highlights

On Wilder Seas was an eARC I requested on a whim from NetGalley and ended up being my favourite read of the month. From the scant facts about the existence of a woman named Maria who travelled on the Golden Hind for part of its voyage around the world, Nikki Marmery weaves an engrossing and evocative tale of hardship, courage and resilience, and a protagonist – a black woman fleeing slavery despite the very real danger she knows awaits – who shines from the page.

DSC_0961~2 (2)

State of Grace is an #ownvoices book for autistic rep, something I try to seek out as it’s still fairly rare in mainstream publishing. This is a quiet YA book, dealing with the trials and troubles of teenage life, friendships and families, rather than any huge drama or danger, and it’s one of the best on-page renditions of autism I’ve come across. It pervades the whole of Grace’s life, but it isn’t her focus or her only characteristic; she’s not a stereotype but a real teenager with autism as an added complication to a life that’s full of plenty of other challenges.

The rest

A Long Petal of the Sea was so lauded, and from an author with such a good reputation – I really wanted to like it. And in sections, I did. It was very powerful where it dealt with the personal impact of war and becoming a refugee. But it’s the second Isabel Allende book I’ve had the same problem with – too bogged down by detailed recitations of the history to be a gripping story – so I have to conclude this is her particular writing style not gelling with me.

In a completely transparent effort to improve my numbers for the month, I ploughed through a few short stories I’ve been meaning to get to. Dolor’s Legs was creepy and definitely whet my appetite for Deeplight (it’s a piece of background lore from that world). Mothmen was erotic romance – or maybe just erotica – with polyam and kink rep and shapeshifters, too short for my liking even if it hadn’t confirmed that this just isn’t my thing. The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky was short and sweet and had Monty and Percy in it; what more do you need to know?

Oh, and I also read a book of children’s poetry. Homeschooling in the time of COVID, folks.

How was your reading month?

Is the lockdown giving you more time to read or too much stress to manage it? What was the last book you picked up on a whim and ended up loving? Tell me all!

April wrap-up – this writing month

Writers Wrap-up (1)In which Camp NaNoWriMo happens

That’s right, April means it’s time for NaNoWriMo’s more chilled cousin. In Camp, you can set your own goals instead of going for the big 50K novel draft. Write, edit, blog, bring forth poetry and screenplays, anything you feel like.

Of course, the downside of all this freedom is that I have no one to blame for the inevitable ensuing pressure of meeting the goal but myself. Sigh.

Speaking of goals

With the lockdown and homeschooling situation – well, it didn’t seem the most helpful atmosphere for creative progress. I wasn’t sure how I’d get on no matter how gentle a goal I set. And the new NaNo website still isn’t up to full functionality; the only way of counting progress is words written. Kinda takes away from the purpose of Camp, if you ask me – and yes, I know no one did, but if I can’t share uninvited opinions on my own blog, where can I? But a few minutes of muttering under my breath as I counted past drafts provided a rough equivalent of 450 words to a page, so the 30,000 word goal I went with would be around 67 pages.

Time for the complication, because there always is one. I was supposed to be continuing the first draft of Curse and Ghost. I’m writing that by hand, hence the pages goal. But as April approached, I still hadn’t finished the first draft of Sparrow. On Scrivener. Where I can count words but not (reliably) pages.

So it was a cobbled-together accounting for the month, but I did meet my goal! It’s the first NaNo or Camp I’ve managed that for some time, so fingers crossed it’s the start of some upwards momentum. I was even pretty consistent throughout the month, no stops and starts and 10K days trying to reach a goal I’d left a bit late. I finished Sparrow, and made a bit of progress on Curse, and I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Camp secrets

two men with feet up and mugs by a campfire (photo by Taryn Elliott)No, not campfire gossip, though there was a bit of that. I’ve said it before but that doesn’t make it less true now – the key to a good Camp NaNo is your cabinmates. Get an engaged, active group who’ll sprint with you, cheer you on when you’re doing well and encourage you when you’re not. I joined a writers’ group on Discord before April and they’ve been wonderful both through Camp and either side of it. You know who you are, folks – and I’m looking forward to lots more evenings of writing and gossiping to take us through to the next Camp in June.

What’s next?

Well, like any uncooked lump of dough, Sparrow is resting now while it waits its turn for review and revision. This was more of a draft zero than anything else, so there will likely be a lot of chopping around to get it into final form. I didn’t start on Curse until something like the 25th of the month, so while I’m pleased to be moving forward there’s still a looong way to go, and for now that’s my focus. Hopefully the support of a lovely group of writing friends will continue to keep my momentum going, because I could get used to it!

Are you a NaNo writer?

Did you meet your goal? Are you carrying on this month? Let’s chat!

First Line Friday

First Line FridayIn which January never happened

What are you reading today, bookworms? First Line Friday is a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words. It’s a simple but excellent idea; you, the readers, get an intriguing taste of one of my books (usually a current read or new purchase) from its first line or two, and see if it sounds like something you want to add to your TBR pile!

2020 was going to be a Better Year. It really was. I was going to commit to reading my backlog of unread books, stick to my TBRs, oh, and increase my overall reading to hit my first ever 200-book Goodreads target (my most prolific reading year to date was last year, and that was 169, so we’re talking quite a jump there).

In January, despite it being about a million days long, I did none of these things. I read one book from my backlist and DNF’d another. I only managed 9 books in total, which is not how you go about meeting a 200-book goal, and worse; two of those were comic books/graphic novels that I DIDN’T EVEN WANT TO READ but was coerced into doing by my 7 year old. Ugh.

This week’s first line

So, I’ve unilaterally taken then decision that 2020 shall officially begin in February. I’m still not reading much but those dratted comics, but I am slowly chipping away at my backlist TBR, and one of those is the source of this week’s first line:

Deep in the dark heart of the royal palace, the King was hiding.

Ooh, I’m liking this! Kings aren’t known for hiding, not in fantasy novels anyway, so this is already a very good hint that all is not well. Trouble is coming. And with trouble comes an intriguing plot, or so I hope.

Do you recognise the book? If not, would you read on based on that first line?

Here’s your clue: Asian-inspired YA fantasy that I’m reading for #FFFebruary, second in a pretty hyped series.


Last chance…


Ready for the reveal?

This week’s book is…


Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan. I’m lucky enough to have the special Fairyloot edition – the stained pages and the colours on the cover are different, and they’ve done a fantastic job, wouldn’t you agree? The first book, Girls of Paper and Fire finished on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I’m going to need to get round to this one soon before the not knowing becomes far too painful.

Just because I felt like a bit of a comparison, here’s the first line of the first book:

There is a tradition in our kingdom, one all castes of demon and human follow.

What do you think? Have I tempted you to give this series a try?

Tsundoko Tuesday – and make it Latinx

Copy of First Line FridayIn which I do the blogging equivalent of a sub-tweet

If you’re active in Book Twitter, you’ll know what prompted this post. I’m not going into the politics of it; I’m not the best positioned or qualified to do that, and a few quick Google searches will turn up a much better summary of the whole ugly mess than i could manage.

What I can do is use my platform (small as it is) and privilege to shine a light on some books from the Latinx writing community that’s had such a rough couple of weeks.

More Happy Than Not

DSC_0726~2Adam Silvera’s first book was actually the last of his to end up on my shelves, and though I’ve loved everything else I’ve read from him, I still somehow haven’t made it to this one. The synopsis, for your delectation:

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.

As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Contemporary with a dash of sci-fi – it sounds like the sort of genre-crossing mind game of a novel I simply adore. Plus queer, plus with the usual Silvera touch of heartbreak, or so I’ve heard. With all that lining up in it’s favour, the more I write, the more surprised I am that I still haven’t read it! Hopefully, this one will shortly be rectified. And, in the sort of coincidence I’m becoming alarmingly good at, I’d already planned to put it in today’s post when the announcement was made yesterday – there’s a five-year anniversary special edition planned, with a new chapter set a little while after the main story. Hooray!

When The Moon Was Ours

When the Moon Was Ours#2

Okay, this one I have an excuse for! I bought it with every intention to read it, then joined a travelling book organised by a few Instagram friends and now I’m waiting my turn with the annotated copy despite frequent urges to cheat by reading my own version ahead of time. I will be good! Even though this sounds amazing:

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Woven In Moonlight

DSC_0725~2A (very) recent addition to the unread pile – I only got this last month, but it’s too pretty to not be featured! Plus, it’s inspired by Bolivian history. BOLIVIA, people? When did you last see a book with that sort of background? Also, I briefly adopted Bolivia as my second football team during a World Cup in my youth, based on nothing but the colour of their kit and liking the sound of the name, and I have to confess I still have a lingering fondness for the country!

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

Share the tsundoku confessions

Let’s keep it on theme this week – share with me a book or two by a Latinx author that you keep meaning to read?

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)

#FFFebruary is here

spooky reads (1)In which Sapphic books are bursting out of every corner

A couple of years ago I could count on one hand the number of wlw books I knew of – especially if we stick to recent releases instead of the same classics (Fingersmith, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, The Color Purple) again and again. Those are definitely worth reading, of course, but while mlm was exploding into a hugely marketable subset of almost every genre, wlw was definitely the poor relation, or relegated to token side characters.

It still is, to an extent, but things are definitely getting better. When I came to put together my TBR for the second year of #FFFebruaryReads, I didn’t have any trouble locating enough wlw books from my shelves to fill a pretty ambitious reading list. There were some on there I didn’t even realise were wlw, and had just picked up because they looked so damn cool. There’s too many I want to get my hands on for me to just go buy the whole lot any more.

So let’s launch into a month of celebrating all the books of women who love women.

(#FFFebruaryReads is hosted by Imi and Ellie here)

My #FFFebruary TBR

Now, I’m not reading exclusively wlw books – I’ve got a shrinking but still sizeable library backlog, a couple of buddy reads and ARCs I’m committed to, and as Aro Week also falls in February I’ve been searching out some good recommendations for aro rep too . But here’s the list of books I’m planning to read especially for their wlw rep:

Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan

Chainbreaker and Firestarter by Tara Sim (I’m also rereading the first book, Timekeeper, though the wlw rep doesn’t come in til book 2)

Priory of the Orange Tree#1

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (this one might take me a fair chunk of the month on its own!)

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Skylarks by Karen Gregory

Black Iris by Elliot Wake

Proper English by K J Charles (another reread, I already know this one is brilliant!)

All Eyes on Us by Kit Frick (assuming my library reservation comes through in time – fingers crossed.)

A few last thoughts

I didn’t want to finish without noting that there’s still a long way to go in getting decent rep for everyone who falls under the wlw umbrella. Where are my books about trans lesbians (or trans bi or pan women, for that matter)? Disabled and neurodivergent wlw (um, hello, I do actually exist!)? Some of the books on my list have POC protagonists, but there’s still an overwhelming array of whiteness on view. Ace and Aro spectrum rep has some overlap, but that’s few and far between as well. Let’s all enjoy the month for what it is, but let’s not forget there’s still work to be done.

Are you reading wlw this February?

Let me know in the comments! And especially if you happen to have some more recommendations for those harder-to-find books I mentioned.

And if you like the idea of joining in but aren’t sure where to start, Imi and Ellie also have an amazing master-list of wlw books to whet your appetite!

Tsundoko Tuesday – surprise sequels

Copy of First Line FridayIn which I am shamefully ill-informed

About everything. But in particular, I cannot keep up with all the new releases and anticipated releases and books I want to read but haven’t.

So every now and again, a book I (often for no good reason) firmly believed was a standalone turns out to, well, to not be.

Generally this revelation comes courtesy of the sequel turning up on bookstagram and me going wait, what? It happens with longer series, too, a trilogy that turned out to be four books long and another that was actually five – and in both cases the final books aren’t out yet so I couldn’t read the series all in one lovely binge to avoid the dreaded cliffhanger scenario.

The most recent surprise sequel

I have a weakness for dystopian. I don’t care if it was overdone to the point of death a few years ago, it never actually flatlined and I’m doing my level best to keeping it ticking over until the inevitable resurgence (sideline – I think we may already be creeping that way. I’ve seen & read a few more recent additions that are stretching the genre beyond its cliches. Maybe that’s another post).

DSC_0603~2So Zero Repeat Forever was a bit of an impulse buy based on nothing more than having seen it around and knowing it was dystopian. And it’s happily sat on my shelf with all the other unread books ever since. Until last week, when I spotted Cold Falling White on a bookstagram feed. Cue also linked revelation that it’s written by a female author called Gabrielle, and not the bloke called Graham I had apparently invented from thin air in my head. I don’t know, there’s no point asking.

So here’s the synopsis of book one, which has jumped right up my TBR list so I can decide whether to buy the sequel. Though, if we’re honest, buying sequels and indeed entire series before I know whether I like the first book is another weakness of mine…

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind.

Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.

His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting.

Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance.

Shelter in place.

Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have?

Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival depends on trusting each other…

Share the tsundoku confessions

What books are sitting around unread on your shelves despite your best intentions? Have you ever been taken by surprise by a sequel, or more than one?

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)