We’re nearly halfway through August, we’re in the middle of a heatwave and my brain is slowly simmering – so it must be time for a refreshing summer book tag. Luckily, Louise @ Monstrumology pointed me at this excellent option created by Bookables.
Sand in your toes – perfect to read on the beach
In spite of my reptilian features, I don’t make a habit of lounging in the sun (on beaches or anywhere else) – but if I did, I would want a book that was so engaging I had no chance to fret about things I felt I ought to be doing rather than enjoying my book in the sun. This year’s undisputed choice are Sarah Gailey’s SFnal thrillers The Echo Wife and Just Like Home which have magnificently unlikeable heroines doing unspeakable things and encouraging you to kinda root for them anyway. In The Echo Wife, a scientist helps her clone cover up the murder of her treacherous, controlling ex; and in Just Like Home a young woman must come to terms with being the daughter of a killer and what that means for her. I only read them recently, but if there was a beach in my immediate future a reread would be on the cards…
Summer thunderstorm – a book that spooked you
I love reading spooky books in summer, when the light is nice and bright without me feeling like a wuss for turning any on while I read. As a bonus, Dead Water by CA Fletcher is set over two cold, wet, stormy days (very atmospheric, guaranteed to cool you down) on a remote Scottish island where the past is about to catch up with locals and new arrivals alike.
Heating up – seriously steamy
Yes, I know, I know, this prompt is supposed to be all about sex – but that’s not really my reading bag so I thought I’d talk about books that are set somewhere swelteringly hot instead. Ironically, no sooner did I focus on deserts and droughts than every book I thought of features a romance, with a sliding scale from tender kisses to a spot of fisting. I’ll let you guess which is which, but I adored all three. Minds (and more) meet In The Labyrinth Of Drakes; that fine pair of arms raise the temperature (and breach the peace) in The Unbroken; and a burning desire is what matters most in She Who Became The Sun.
Rained out – a let down
One person’s rainy day is another duck’s delight, so let me preface these choices by saying they are objectively fine – but they were highly-anticipated reads that didn’t hit the subjective mark for me. Girls of Storm and Shadow was rather too telegraphed and on-trope for my taste; the Los Nefilim novellas needed considerably more world and character building to pack the emotional punch they aimed for (although I became more invested when the later novellas foregrounded a healthy marriage and tender father/son dynamic); and You Sexy Thing similarly needed a bit more depth for me to really appreciate its explosive plot, but if you’re looking for a fun popcorn read of old soldiers turned restaurateurs, a sentient spaceship who wants to learn to cook and a terrifying space pirate with a side of imperial politics then dive on in.
Vacay mode – a character goes on holiday
There are no holidays quite like taking your Fallen husband home to visit the relatives, am I right? Unfortunately for Thuan – scholar, minor prince and dragon – whenever he and Asmodeus do return to the kingdom below the Seine, people have a tendency to die. Not that that is Asmodeus’s fault (for once), but there’s no keeping a bored, sharp-tongued, sharper-knived Fallen from sticking his nose into something exciting like murder; and it’s not that he doesn’t appreciate there may be political considerations so much as he doesn’t really care. Whodunnits with a side of politics and relationship drama, in a unique setting – I’ll keep reading and recommending these as long as Aliette de Bodard keeps writing them. The Dragons and Blades novellas follow on from the Dominion of the Fallen trilogy, but broadly stand alone (as a sequence; I wouldn’t jump in at Of Ghosts, Charms and Grievances).
Road trip – all about a road trip
In Gods of Jade and Shadow, a young woman escapes her toxic home when she unleashes a death god who appoints her as his champion to help him defeat his treacherous twin. A fantastical road trip across Jazz Age Mexico to the underworld ensues, but girl, god and Mexico are all a-changing. Will they want the same things when the time comes to confront his nemesis? I plan to revisit this as an audio read (which I think will really suit the prose) as I don’t think reading it in 2020 did it any favours.
Amusement park – a rollercoaster read
I very rarely see people mention Laura Lam’s excellent cyberpunk duology set in a near-future San Francisco where the line between utopia and dystopia rather depends on what freedoms you value. Murder is non-existent (unless you cross the Ratel), poverty and climate change are solved, negative urges are managed with a legal drug-induced dream state, but you really don’t want to know what the most powerful corporation in town has planned.
False Hearts and Shattered Minds are stand alone stories set in the same timelines, and include one twin pretending to be the other to infiltrate the Ratel, a psychopathic brain hacker, and a gorgeously diverse cast in a future that embraces difference. Looking for dark, gritty cyberpunk that wasn’t written by Richard Morgan? The Pacifica novels are right here, and they are a ride. Expect high tension and non-stop plot with plenty of feelings.
Ice cream – a deliciously sweet read
You say sweet, I hear Zen Cho. It’s not that her works are saccharine – far from it – but even while they grapple with structural inequalities, charged relationships and difficult circumstances, they always feel incredibly heart-warming at their core. Whether it’s arm wrestling your dead grandma and her goddess for possession of your soul (Black Water Sister) or finding love after death (The Terracotta Bride) or burning down the racist patriarchy (Sorcerer To The Crown), there’s gentle humour and a great deal of kindness to offset the darkness of the worlds.
Sunrises & sunsets – a cover featuring sunrise/sunset (colours)
Let’s go: is that sunrise or sunset? I’m not sure, but Soulstar is the glorious trilogy closer for CL Polk’s Kingston Cycle, which I recently enjoyed. Subjective Chaos Kind of Finalist Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao is soaked in sunset colours and is up next in my reading rotation. Goodbye To The Sun by Jonathan Nevair is another sunset in title and on the cover, which I’ll be adding to my SciFiMonth TBR because hell yes I’m here for Antigone in space.
Long days – the longest book you’ve read this year
Apparently Dead Water was over 500 pages, but I devoured it so very quickly I really can’t claim to have noticed – I’d have guessed it was around the 300 mark if asked to guess!I’ve also been listening to The Expanse as audio reads, and those books are proper chonks in any format – the audiobooks regularly clock in at nearly 20 hours each.
Fancy joining in? Tag yourself and link to so I can come read your answers