Every summer, I sign up to 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy of 746 Books as a fun sidequest through the summer. I set myself a target, which I inevitably miss. In mid-July point, I reset my goal to just 10 Books of Summer… but where have I ended up?
This year, I actually thought my final count was going to be in single digits – my reading rate dropped (as it often does in summer), and much of my Subjective Chaos reading didn’t qualify in the end as it required new acquisitions and library loans. A last minute reading spurt over a long weekend has closed the gap, so I’m sailing in on 10 after all. Yes, technically I’ve got today and tomorrow to read some more, but I don’t plan to read anything that will change the outcome here so I’m calling it. Even better, my Books of Summer have produced 5 of my favourite reads of 2021 and got me back within 2 reviews of 80% on NetGalley, so I consider it a huge success.
Time for a quick round-up? Let’s do it! First up, my ARCs of Summer:
2021 has seen some spectacularly good releases. I adored Tasha Suri’s yearning murder lesbian epic The Jasmine Throne and Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became The Sun is still shivering through my bones: so fierce yet so restrained, and so very, very cinematic. As yet also so very unreviewed, argh. Best intentions and – I admit it – a slice of intimidation, although I acknowledge that writing a review that doesn’t do it justice is still doing it less justice than not writing a review at all. I will get there!
Speaking of restrained, I also adored Katherine Addison’s addition to the world of The Goblin Emperor. The Witness For The Dead is a quiet, character-driven exploration of life and death beyond the court, which once again leaves me yearning for more.
In fact, restraint and queer yearning may be my themes for the summer – Zen Cho’s haunting Black Water Sister by Zen Cho (sorry not sorry) also ticks those boxes with its quiet protagonist Jess. As ever, Cho’s work is warm-hearted, with the rippling joy of a breeze across deep waters under a kind sun.
Mike Brooks continues to challenge epic fantasy tropes in The Splinter King, but his embrace of epic structure – by which I mean way too many POVs – left this sprawling sequel feeling like it was all subplot. Perhaps I’m just out of practice at epic fantasy, but I much preferred the social fantasy and tighter focus of The Black Coast.
It feels odd to include a book that hasn’t been released yet in my Books of Summer, but the ARC has been sat on my shelf since spring, so Cassandra Khaw’s debut novel The All-Consuming World counts as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, I found this breathtaking in a good and a bad way simultaneously: yes, bring me fractured teams of badass women and enbys taking on their past and insuperable odds; but no, not like this.
My off the shelf summer reads have been more of a mixed bag. I am more excited about Celtic fantasy than tragic romance, and Kristina Pérez’s Sweet Black Waves is strong on the YA romance and light on everything else (although I got a good deal more out of sequel Wild Savage Stars, which didn’t count towards my Books of Summer as I bought it in August).
I was also surprisingly unengaged by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam’s space opera of rebellious women sticking it to an evil empire. Seven Devils has the sensibilities of a blockbuster scifi movie, built around familiar archetypes but given a queer feminist makeover that should have delighted me. Instead, it fell unexpectedly flat and it’s always worse when something you’re super excited for disappoints, so I’ll be avoiding the sequel.
The NeoG flew to the rescue as my new favourite search and rescue crew faced their demons and took on a dangerous conspiracy in KB Wager’s space thriller A Pale Light In The Black. This was the popcorn space opera I craved, with a stew of tasty SF tropes served up in a warm-hearted, brilliantly diverse dish I didn’t want to put down.
The Difficult Loves of Maria Makiling is my second Solaris Satellite and my first foray into the work of Wayne Santos. A charming, imaginative novella, this has the Canadian incarnation of a Filipino goddess taking a new approach to solving an ancient conflict, resulting in an unexpected mash-up of folklore, geekdom and identity. I loved everything about the story, but Santos’s style is heavy on quirky comic asides that I enjoy more in visual media than in print, making me reluctant to tackle his long-form work.
So that’s it for another summer! Autumn is set to be ARC-heavy after a moment of NetGalley weakness (I’m determined to get to 80% reviewed by Christmas in spite of myself), although I’ll certainly be making time for the second NeoG novel Hold Fast Through The Fire and the last 2021 Solaris Satellite, Pollen From A Future Harvest by Derek Künsken.
What have you read over the summer?