ghosthermione's reviews
268 reviews

Last Night at the Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo

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1950s historical novels aren’t my main interest, but I do like queer romances, especially historical ones (though I veer closer to the 1800s) so I was intrigued by this book. It’s kinda hard to get around here, but the library is well-stocked so I took advantage! 
I’ve recently stopped giving star ratings, just because it feels a bit artificial, but this one would be a definite 5/5 for me. I absolutely enjoyed every page of it. I’d read Malinda Lo’s Ash, a Cinderella retelling, a few years back and enjoyed it a lot too, but you can clearly see the growth in the writing style since then, and a lot of research went into making this book historically accurate as well – and it shows! It’s like a window into another time.

I’ve never been to the US, and my knowledge of San Francisco comes from movies and reading October Daye, so I’m not entirely the best person to judge but it made me feel like I was truly there.

We’re talking about queer teenagers in the 50s so obviously there’s a lot of homophobia, and that was hard to read about at times, but I always felt the characters were true to themselves, and Lily in particular was absolutely relatable in the ways she came to understand who she was, in her shyness around other queer women, her being torn between her family and who she really is… The fact that she had to deal with white queer women around her’s comments about her race made it very clear that she was stuck between two world neither of which truly accepted her, and seeing her navigating that and coming out a proud young woman was really cathartic. Even as a white queer woman myself, Lily’s story spoke to my younger self, without shying away from hard truths about racism which still feel very relevant today.

The last third of the book gets to a crescendo and I simply could not stop reading, I finished it at about 3am because I had to know what happened to them. And I don’t say this often for romances because they’re pretty self contained, but I want a sequel! I’d love to see Lily and Kathleen navigating the 60s and 70s and what happens to them as they grow older (together or apart), that’s how much Malinda Lo made me care about these characters!

As a final note, I also appreciated the research notes at the back of the book, with resources and books to look into it yourself if you want to know more about this part of history. Because it did make me want to read more on that. 

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Siren Queen, by Nghi Vo

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challenging dark emotional mysterious
I’ve enjoyed every Nghi Vo story I’ve read so far, so I was very excited for this novel! Thank you to Tor Dot Com and Netgalley for giving me this free eARC in exchange for a fair review! 

So far what I’d read from Vo were her two Asia-inspired novellas, which were a lot like fairy tales, so I wasn’t sure what to expect here. I’d say Siren Queen is more of a cross between The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Last Night at the Telegraph Club, with added magical realism.

It’s very much about the experience of a Chinese American girl in the 1930s, racism, sexism and all. It’s very much a story about queer Hollywood. And, also, a story where “all the myths are true” and fae and monsters roam the studios of Hollywood and you gotta make bargains – with your voice, your talent, sometimes your body parts or your life – to get anywhere.

I found it very slow, in a positive way. It’s a book you want to read bit by bit and see more of this world unfolding. And you never truly know as much as you’d want about any of it. I don’t think the narrator knows everything she wants to know. I really enjoyed the fantastical atmosphere and the idea that anything (mostly something terrible) could happen at any time. The prose is lovely as always with Nghi Vo, and I may not have liked Luli as a person but I enjoyed seeing her develop as a character, and seeing where she was going next. I also had no clue where the story would go next, or how it would end, the whole time. I like a book that keeps me on my toes!

And throughout, this idea of queer joy that I love so much, despite the rough context of the 30s and despite the fantastical horror: queer characters embracing who they are, even if the world around them would see them as monsters – and grab what joy they can get. I don’t know why queer joy and this kind of horror mix so well but they somehow do. 

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The Future Second By Second, by Meridel Newton, Meridel Newton

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dark hopeful inspiring reflective sad fast-paced


I was given this eARC by the publisher, Interstellar Flight Press, through Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. Thanks for the opportunity!

Over the long weekend I was looking for something short enough that I could get through it quickly on the train, and I happened to have this sitting on my TBR shelf. I’m also not an avid ebook reader, as regulars on my blog know, but I found myself turning page after page until there was no more left to read! It’s very short, and I finished it in an afternoon, which is more than I can generally say for ebooks…

I’m also not a big dystopia, or post-apo fan, but the blurb had me intrigued: what I do enjoy quite a lot are stories of hope. And I think this delivered pretty well!

Newton’s world is one where tech has disappeared, electricity is a thing of the past and raids are common. Within that though, the little commune of Osto has survived for a lifetime, as people work together to take care of their harvest and animals, craft their clothes and build new systems to evolve in this new world. It’s not all rosy though, and I appreciate that even within this tight knit community it’s made clear that there’s always, always gonna be conflicts, abusers, etc. There’s even a strong theme of domestic abuse for a few of the characters. So while it’s a story about hope, it’s not about blind hope.

But at the end of the day it truly is about cooperation and making the best of what you got, and communities coming together and building bridges. When you consider the state of the world today, especially with the climate crisis… I want to say “looming” but at this point it’s no longer looming, it’s definitely there… I think we need more of these kinds of stories that actually tackle the issue and what we can/could do in those situation, without it being just guns and violence. Hopepunk it is! 

Ice Massacre, by Tiana Warner

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adventurous dark tense

Someone said horror mermaids? I gotta say it’s a concept I enjoyed since I read Into the Deep by Mira Grant, and so mermaids+horror themes+queer stuff attracts me like bees to honey. This one is more on the YA side but Warner didn’t shy away from depicting some gruesome scenes anyways. It’s a massacre, after all.

The romance itself, while a big part of the story, wasn’t the Main Thing. The main themes were definitely ones of survival, with a side serving of “what makes us monsters” which I really enjoy in books like that. There was some cattishness among the girls, which I think is fair. Put twenty 16 year olds on a boat and sending them to their deaths, while they all think they have the best strategy and the best way to rule over the others. Give them lethal weapons. Put them in the path of even more lethal creatures… shit’s going to happen. The novel deals a bit with the trauma of the situation, though I think it dealt more with the loss of others prior to the trip, than with what PTSD-inducing nightmare the trip itself is, but you can see some of the characters fraying at the seams and to me that was pretty realistic.

I also enjoyed that it had a more nuanced approached to mermaids as monsters than a clear-cut monster-hunter, us-versus-them narrative. Are the humans truly justified in going into their territory to kill as many as possible? is killing a child mermaid ok?

I tend not to go too much towards YA these days but it was still an enjoyable read and I’d recommend it for a good ol’ case of friends to enemies to lovers as well. There was less romance than I expected but it was still pretty cute, and the worldbuilding made it well worth it! 

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The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 14%.
This was my second or third attempt, and I really wanted to love it because everyone seems to, but I don't think it's for me.
Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings, by Kuzhali Manickavel

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 33%.
This is too weird and experimental for me
Ice Floe, by Melissa Birling

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 5%.
I received an ARC from the publisher through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

I stopped under 10% because I could not stand the heroine at all. She is the most "not like the other girls" character I have read since Twilight, and would have you believe every other girl is a superficial, brainless airhead who only thinks of seducing and killing human men. We're supposed to believe she's also Not Really Pretty and more concerned about martial art than appearances and that makes her better than her peers. Just insufferable

The writing is questionable with huge chunks that are just exposition while it leaves off obvious questions like "why do you have a regular sounding human sounding bed with comforter underwater, and why do mermaids attend underwater high school? is this like Finding Nemo?" or, more interestingly, why do they need to mate with human men since mermen exist. I do not have enough suspension of disbelief for this.

But the last drop for me was the idea that this anti-men culture developed out of slavery, so that liberation has for consequence the murder of human men and the enslavement of (male) merchildren to labour camps basically from birth. It's not subtle, and I hate narratives that paint oppressed people as the next oppressor. I am not here for this.

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Silk Fire, by Zabé Ellor

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 3%.
no. Just... no.
I'm Not Dying With You Tonight, by Gilly Segal, Kimberly Jones

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 10%.
I think contemporary YA is just not for me
The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 0%.
Could not keep track of the characters/voices in the audiobook so it made very little sense to keep going. Might give the ebook a try some day