I realize it’s been about nine months since I’ve done a blog post about what I’ve been reading. Well, I think it’s because I’m embarrassed about how little I’ve actually read in the interim. Seriously, it’s been taking me months to get through books and the changes I’ve been going through in 2018 meant my time for leisure reading took a severe hit.
But on a good personal note, I finally got a couple of stories accepted. You can find one in Strange Horizons. The second is due in Uncanny at the beginning of February (though I mistakenly said in this month’s audio essay that it was going to be released this month. However, even though it’s been a minutes since I talked about books and I make my way through Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories (thanks, Didi!), I’d like to go through the ones I managed to finish, well, now last year.
Black Queer Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Kapri
I had the opportunity to see Britteney give a reading at our local book festival. I was immediately taken with her style and the content of her poetry. I picked up a copy and had it signed before I left. I don’t read as much poetry these days as I used to, but it’s always nice to come across a poet with a flair for words and relatable subject matter as well as subject matter beyond my experience. Britteney captures this as well as her other work in community organizing in this collection.
From Scratch by Katrina Jackson
I loved the first book I read by Katrina Jackson, Encore, so I didn’t hesitate when I had the opportunity to read From Scratch. And let’s just say the idea of receiving an incentive to relocate to a small town and opening a business is appealing to me. And, oh, there’s threesomes involved as well. Overall, this was a delight to read with baked goods and sexual exploration at the center (separately, not together). If I have one gripe about this story, though, it was a bit too short. However, as part of the Welcome to Sea Port series, I’m definitely on board to read more about the people in this (not-so) quaint little town.
Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon
I was a bit surprised when I began reading Haven a while back. The story takes a much darker tone than Rebekah’s other work, but the heaviness doesn’t become too overwhelming. Instead, we get the story of two people thrown together through extenuating circumstances and finding themselves and each other through exploration… of the sexual type. Haven reminds me of one of the things I appreciate most about Rebekah’s work: there’s plenty of sex but there’s as much attention paid to character and plot development so none of it feels forced or thrown in like I find in many other romance stories. We go on a journey with these characters and see how they make connections in all aspects of their relationship.
James Baldwin: The FBI File by William J. Maxwell
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I read it on and off throughout most of the year. This isn’t a commentary on the quality of the work, but it’s just been that type of year. However, the casual historian in me who loves documents and historical files found this work absolutely fascinating. Maxwell proceeds each set of documents with commentary and explanation about what it contained. He describes the FBI files as a strange type of fan scrapbook, which I found to be an apt description. This is a good book for anyone who loves Baldwin’s work as well as those like me who enjoy perusing documents.
Monster Portraits by Sofia and Del Samatar
I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this work, but I do know that I have never been disappointed with anything Sofia has written. Yet, I was still not prepared for what I found. This chronicle of monsters of various lores are used to tell the stories of the siblings’ experiences as mixed race children growing up on different continents in different cultures as well as the lives they’ve carved for themselves as adults. This is all done through Sofia’s ever-present poetic style that adds a little something spectacular to her prose. Monster Portraits is one of the most original things I’ve read in a long time, and it’s almost graphic novel style would make this a great zine.
The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin
Thanks to a book club, I read both The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate twice this year. With the second read, I found so much more than those solitary read throughs and came to appreciate Jemisin’s genius even more than I had with The Inheritance Trilogy. I also think I find this work my favorite of the Broken Earth trilogy because it was such a difficult read. Not because of how it was written but because of the content in which we are introduced to Essun’s daughter Nassun. As we follow along her journey after being separated from her mother, we are forced to confront a harsh reality of the end of the world and how families sometimes fail to be a haven and often inflict the most harm on its members.
Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Rebekah never disappoints with her romance, so I was excited for the opportunity to read her buff male nanny entry after watching her go through the process of writing it last year. And what do you know, she delivers her trademark compelling characters that you immediately care about. And one of the things I always love about her stories is that her conflicts come across as original. And as with all her work, Rebekah is explicit with the sexual aspects of the relationship but makes it flow naturally with the trajectory of the narrative. And so Rafe has been one of my favorite reads this year along with NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy.
The Stone Sky by NK Jemisin
Jemisin finished off the trilogy in spectacular fashion with this one, and needless to say, she definitely did not disappoint with this ending. Like her other work, she does not soften the world she has created and takes us further on this journey of characters trying to survive the end of the world. And, of course, for those who went through the entire journey of the first two books, we anticipated the potential reuniting of mother and daughter. And I’ll just put it this way, I can’t wait for the adaptation of this series.
The Tree by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun
It took me months to finish this second installment in Na’amen’s almost-completed trilogy. Again, nothing to do with the quality of the work as I’ve had to find time to do leisure reading. However, the stakes are getting higher, the worlds are thrown into chaos, and the gore becomes, well, even gorier. At times, I have trouble keeping up with the characters, but this is mostly because of the lack of consistency I had in continuing my reading. Still, the characters remain compelling, and Na’amen’s worldbuilding is exceptional.