Previously: Part 1. For the first time in quite a few months, I managed to finish my monthly TBR, which I am pretty damn stoked about. The only outstanding books I currently have are all preorders that arrived during the summer, and I’ve even caught up on some other goals that I did not expect. It was a pretty great reading month all around!
What: The Last Man on the Moon by Eugene Cernan
Review: Oh, this was absolutely delightful. This is right up there with Mike Massimino’s biography, which I read and loved last year. It’s not at all bogged down by technical jargon, and Cernan’s got a very light, funny voice. He was one of the twelve men that walked on the moon, and flew on Gemini 9 and Apollo 10 before commanding Apollo 16. This, unlike every other biography I’ve read, almost exclusively discusses his time with NASA. We only get a very tiny background before he’s selected to be an astronaut, and a single chapter for after he left the program. He touches only briefly on the different tragedies and successes during his time at NASA, but mostly focuses on what he was doing, which lends to a very personal, very engaging story. Overall, I took my time with this because I didn’t want to leave him behind, and I immediately watched the documentary upon finishing. I also highly recommend the documentary as Cernan’s story unfolds differently, and the visuals are just excellent.
What: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Review: This was a really tough read, particularly because I think it’s a lot more believable now than it was when it was originally published. I can actually see the steps we might take to get to this kind of place in our future. Uglies, the first in a trilogy, follows Tally in her last weeks before getting the surgery to become a Pretty. Despite waiting her entire life for this moment, though, Tally starts to question things when she meets Shay and is unexpectedly forced into following Shay as she runs away to a community of people who have chosen to remain Ugly.
It took me a week to read this book, but only because I would read about 100 pages and then move onto something else for a bit. This was difficult to read, and there were moments where I kept having to put it down because I could so very clearly see how this could happen. It was very interesting, though, and I’ll definitely be continuing on with the series. The writing was lackluster, and while I didn’t have any real stakes set in the characters, the story itself is going to keep me reading.
What: Once & Future by Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
Review: Okay, so this is the best and most ridiculous gay space opera Arthurian retelling ever. And I’m going to tell you why. Because I’ve seen a lot of meh reviews for it, and this is going to be repetitive of my O.W.L.s wrap-up post, but y’all need to understand why this book is the greatest thing in the world.
I want you to close your eyes and think of Leeloo. And if you don’t know who that is, go find out, and this book will start to make sense for you. Is it fast-paced? HELL YES. It is chaotic? Very! Is it all over the place? Oh my god. Is it “wild and exciting and kind of like being pinned back in your seat by warp speed?” That’s the point. Once & Future is Fifth Element and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and the aesthetic of
Taika Waititi’s mind Thor: Ragnarok combined. It’s batshit. Like, hold on to the seat of your pants, friends, because you’re about to be slingshot across several galaxies full of queer characters who deliver horrible (and hilarious) jokes all while trying to scramble around in what’s supposed to be an Arthurian retelling? (Don’t misread me: this is 10000000% an Arthurian retelling. It has all the tropes, and even underneath that, the very core of the story, and by all the gods old and new, I could write a damn essay about this book. I might.)
This is the essence of a space opera. “Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalric romance, and risk-taking. This is the essence of a space opera.” (Wikipedia) It is literally a play on the words soap opera. This book is meant to zip by at the speed of light all while dropping bombs of romance and magic and chaos all over the place. I can’t keep saying the word chaos enough because aside from space opera, that’s the perfect word for this book. Christ on a cracker! If you look at any of the big greats of science fiction space operas, you’ll find that they’re littered with political subplots that catch you unawares in the feels, super romantically charged in sudden ways that’ll make you want to swoon at the most blindsided moment, and so brightly colorful and beautiful and eye-catching that you’re like yes gimme gimme that shiny blue and pink sword is miiiiiiine.
This book is a fucking gem. It’s insane, and I adore it.
So. Once & Future is the story of long dead King Arthur awakening in female Ari as the 42nd reincarnation of his story. It’s set in space where the Earth is dead, and a psycho company called Mercer has erased all of Earth’s history and is now lording over all planets like the goddamn tyrant that needs saving from, oh hey, King Arthur/Ari. Merlin (teenager, grouchy, Sad with a capital s
I mean really why did that not give away what this book was immediately) has awakened in his crystal cave and given an all-knowing sigh because this never works out, but Arthur’s a girl? She’s taken Excalibur into space? He maybe destroys the dome over a moon colony because whaaaaaaaat? That’s about the last time anything is calm because buckle up, folks, you’ve got the front seat for an intergalactic war with flaming torch guns and a dehydrated planet living off of mead. I MEAN COME ON
(I love this book with my whole soul, and you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.)
Honestly, the only thing that could have made it better is if it came with complementary synthesizers.
What: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Robin Wasserman
Review: Goddddddd, this is dumb, and I love it. This is a collection of short stories from Simon’s time at the Shadowhunter Academy, and it’s the worst sort of fan service. I keep quoting myself with this book, but I mean, “This book is SUCH fan service, but not in the Carry On way, where you’re really happy it’s happening, but in the somehow I got lost in ff.net on my way to AO3 and I can’t figure out how to get out.” I’M NOT WRONG. The writing in this is subpar, the stories are obnoxious (honestly the only ones I actually liked were the ones where we were being told stories from the past), and the characters are soooooooo OOC. Like, I know Clare is the author and so she has final say, but when Isabelle started practically throwing herself all over Simon, I just about peaced out and called this a wash. I didn’t, obviously, but man, I definitely preferred The Bane Chronicles over this, and I wasn’t particularly enamored with that, either.
Eventually, I’m going to write a post titled In Defense of Guilty Pleasures, and I’m going to use the Shadowhunters universe as an example, but long story short, I’m going to keep reading these books because I am addicted, and it really doesn’t matter how much they occasionally annoy me.
What: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Review: Wow, this hurt my soul. I’ve got a ton of adult literary fiction on my overall TBR, and I’m slowly starting to knock them off, which of course meant that I should start with the saddest one. Like, this only kind of has a happy ending? This follows a young couple who live on a remote island 100 miles off of the coast of Australia. They tend to the lighthouse there, and when a small rowboat washes up on its shores with a dead father and his wailing baby, Isabel quickly takes the baby up to their cottage and starts caring for it. After some very heavy topics concerning childbirth, Isabel is not really in the right state of mind when she finds the baby. She manages to convince her husband, Tom, to keep the baby, determined to believe that if the father was dead in the rowboat, then clearly the wife drowned somewhere out at sea.
One of the things I loved most about this book is how Isabel is handled. She’s in a unique situation as a character, where she is both victim and perpetrator, and it’s really interesting how that story is told. I felt strongly for her, but was also appalled at her actions. Tom struggles a lot with what they’ve done, as well, and being able to see through his perspective helped a lot in navigating these tricky waters. Overall, this is superbly written, and it reminded me why I like adult literary fiction in the first place.
What: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
Review: In a completely unsurprising turn of events, I was wholly enamored with another McLemore book! When the Moon was Ours was something of a shock to my system. I’d spent so long weeping over The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton that went I first stumbled upon Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing, I gave a gasp of utter disbelief! It’s happened! I had found another Ava Lavender! (I even wrote a post about it.) For some reason, I didn’t immediately purchased everything McLemore had written, but waited until after reading a short story in All-Out and then one that knocked me off my feet in Toil & Trouble. In a mad dash, I ordered all three of her other books, and here we are, swallowed whole by flowers.
Wild Beauty is magical realism at its finest. The Nomeolvides women are able to grow flowers specific to their names as simply as breathing. They are also cursed to lose their lovers, either to death or by turning them out before they can be claimed in death by the land around them, La Pradera, which they’ve helped flourish into something wild and beautiful with their magic.
If for nothing else but the writing, read this. You know when poetry is written in prose form, and it just aggravates the living daylights out of me? This is poetry written in prose form, BUT IT’S THE NECTAR OF THE GODDESSES. McLemore is, hands down, one of the best writers currently in the market, and I am constantly astounded by her skill. And it’s not just words–her characters leave me wondering about them long after I’ve left them, the way she peels apart different romances and makes you bleed with love, the very slow build of plot that doesn’t let you realize you’re steeped in something dangerous and high risk until it’s right there in front of you. This book was hard to put down, but one I wanted to read slowly at the same time so that I could savor its brilliance.
What: The Hidden Power of F*cking Up by The Try Guys, or: Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld, Eugene Lee Yang, Ned Fulmer
Review: I just saw the Try Guys on tour, so I wanted to read their book before attending the show. It was definitely not necessary, but it did get me appropriately hyped up for it. The book, much like the show, is full of laughter, surprising nuggets of wisdom, and expertly crafted. This was not at all what I was expecting of these sometimes ridiculous men:
This is a recent video, but one that made me seriously cackle. Their book is anything but ridiculous, though, and actually steps through some heavy topics in a very fitting way. I was truly impressed with the way they tackled this book, and even more impressed with what an incredible show they put on. If you’re not a fan yet, I definitely recommend looking into them.
What: The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Review: I hate this book. It gets two stars because the writing is decent enough to deserve a star, and the story itself is decent enough to deserve one, as well. But the actual plot? Well, if you want to read about rape, violent murder, descriptions of gore pertaining to children, animals dying left and right, and mild incest, then this is the book for you! Not to mention the very weird blending of Inuit and Norse mythology that fails to actually work, the destruction and desecration of indigenous people, and a sense of hopelessness for 500 out of 520 pages. Oh, and casual transphobia. I will not be reading anything else by this author, and I’m disgusted by this story.
Next month are the N.E.W.T.s! I can’t really believe that I passed my O.W.L.s, but the proof is in the pages. My TBR for August is going to just be my N.E.W.T.s TBR, too, because reading very briefly turned into an “abandon everything else just to get these done” activity in the last half of July, and I need a break. That said, here is my TBR, and I won’t waste space writing it out again.
Outside of N.E.W.T.s, the only book I’m planning on reading is Emma by Jane Austen, and then I am taking September off from my monthly TBR so I can just do whatever the hell I want before the holy month of October descends upon us because my Halloween TBR is seriously, like, fifteen books long.
How was your July?