Early December Reviews (2021)


Welcome to the Books That Burn Fortnightly Roundup! Releasing every two weeks (one week early for Patrons). Remember to head to Transcripts That Burn for all available transcripts of the podcast.

Upcoming events

Our livestreams are being replaced as a monthly event by the opportunity to vote on books in my reading queue. You can find those links at the end of the newsletter.

The 2022 prompts are now available from the annual reading challenge! It runs from January 1st to December 31st each year. Find info and links here.

I've started a new blurb format, please let me know how it's working. I'm trying to provide a quick sense of the book, including series, genre, premise, age range, and point of view style, then any additional comments I have about the book.


There were several DNFs this fortnight. I finally accepted that I'm not going to get through THE AWKAKENING by Dusk Peterson. I got this as an ARC a few months ago and it's just not my thing. I made it just one chapter in so I don't have much to say about it other than that it's alternate history.

I received an ARC of the anthology DRAGONS WITHIN: GUARDING HER OWN when we'd barely begun the podcast, I finally tried it and I was having trouble getting into the stories and then one of my triggers appeared so I stopped. It's a collection of stories where every story features dragons in some form. DRAGONS WITHIN: GUARDING HER OWN by Multiple Authors is Fantasy/Sci-Fi marketed as Adult. This anthology features dragons in all the stories but doesn't seem to have a coherent hook beyond that. I just didn't get into this one. Told in an Anthology with multiple POV styles.

THE LAST SUN by K. D. Edwards, book 1 of The Tarot Sequence is Fantasy/Sci-Fi, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Rune is the last of the Sun Court, on a mission for the Tower and currently inconvenienced by a promise to one of the Lovers. Set in New Atlantis and themed around the Tarot. Told in First Person with Single POV. I got halfway through it before stopping. I keep not liking books which are set in a magical realm with easy access to the modern world but which treat it as something to reference rather than an actual place. Some of my previous DNFs were books with a similar feeling, I discuss this a bit more in my full review (linked above).

No Review (Nonfiction, Graphic Novels, etc.)

I read a few things that don't get a full review. For nonfiction, there's NOTES OF A NATIVE SON by James Baldwin. I also read Issue 2 of UNCANNY MAGAZINE.

DEADLY RELATIONS by Gregory Keyes, book 2 of Babylon 5: Saga of Psi Corps is Sci-Fi marketed as Adult. Alfred Bester is the son of rebel leaders, Matthew and Fiona Dexter, killed by the Psi Corps when he was a baby. DEADLY RELATIONS follows his life with the Corps before he first sets foot on Babylon 5. Told in Third Person with Single POV. I grew up watching the sci-fi show Babylon 5 and I love this trilogy. If you'd like to read more about Alfred Bester, Psi-Cop and perennial antagonist of the station, check out this trilogy.

SQUAD by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle is Fantasy/Graphic Novel, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Becca falls in with the popular girls at her new school and discovers they're werewolves with a murderous secret. She promptly joins them, then things start to fall apart. Told in First Person with Single POV. I like this one a lot, it's by the same author as THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA.

Recent Reviews

Reviews forthcoming for SURRENDER YOUR SONS by Adam Sass, WHEN THE TIGER CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN by Nghi Vo, and AETHERBOUND by E. K. Johnston.

A PSALM OF STORMS AND SILENCE by Roseanne A. Brown, book 2 of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (Duology) is Fantasy, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Malik and Princess Karina must figure out whether the pain in their pasts are worth bringing down a whole kingdom's future. Told in Third Person with Dual POVs.

GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is Fantasy/Apocalyptic, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. A demon and an angel are trying to avert the apocalypse, even as everything is going according to the Divine Plan. Told in Third Person with an Omniscient Narrator. If you're considering reading the book because you liked the miniseries, just watch the miniseries, don't attempt the book. The miniseries removed the homophobic, ableist, and very briefly racist language which was in the original book (published in the 1990's). That language was present to make it easy to spot antagonists, but it's my opinion that it's better off without it in the adaptation.

SUMMER SONS by Lee Mandelo is Horror/Fantasy/Southern Gothic, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Andrew comes to Vanderbilt to investigate Eddie's apparent suicide, wracked with the loss of his best friend who was closer than a brother. But Eddie's haunt fills Andrew's throat with the scent of bloody earth, and the more he splits his time between backstabbing academia and a nightlife of boys, cars, and drugs, the more of the haunt he lets in. Told in Third Person with Single POV. I love this one, so much so that it prompted to re-work my list of my all-time favorite books which have a certain crunchiness to the language, an evocative manner to the syntax. You can find the "Densely Syllabic and Definitely Queer" list at the link.

FIRE BRINGER by David Clement-Davies is Fantasy marketed as Childrens. Rannoch has a fawn mark like an oak leaf, born on the night his father was killed in a coup meant take over the herd. As he grows his life is shaped by a whispered prophecy, feared by a hummel (antler-less deer) who would style himself the Lord of Herds. Told in Third Person with an Omniscient Narrator. Aka: Prophesied savior-deer grows up under slowly creeping authoritarianism and then has to stop the Big Bad as an adult. It's appropriately marketed for kids, similarly to Redwall, but it has some ableism and fatphobia that doesn't further the story and means I wouldn't currently recommend it, though I did love it when I was a young teen.

THE POPPY WAR by R.F. Kuang, book 1 of The Poppy War is Fantasy/War marketed as Adult. Rin is a poor war orphan who tests into the most prestigious military academy in Nikan. Before she can finish her schooling, the Third Poppy War ignites. Told in Third Person with Single POV. This was a re-read for me, but my original review from last year is at this link. I'm re-reading it to hopefully finish the whole trilogy in the next few months.

Clear Your Shit

I'm participating in the ClearUrShit Readathon! It started on November 1st, 2021 and runs for 8 weeks. It's designed to help clear out the shelves before the end of the year. I'm reading a mix of books that are physically on my shelf and ebooks that I've been meaning to get from the library for a while.

For Trio Four I read FIRE BRINGER by David Clement-Davies (a book with an animal), NOTES OF A NATIVE SON by James Baldwin (Boss Battle - have someone else pick the book - thanks to my sibling Taylor), and I'm almost done reading ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE by Robin Hobb (Free Book Space - book one of a trilogy I loved in high school).

I got a bit out of order so I've read all of Trio Five already, with THE POPPY WAR by R. F. Kuang (A Fantasy Book), AETHERBOUND by E.K. Johnston (A book with a purple cover), and WHEN THE TIGER CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN by Nghi Vo (A book with a female or nonbinary main character).

I'm making progress on Trio Six (of Eight). I already read SURRENDER YOUR SONS by Adam Sass (an intimidating book). I'm currently reading MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING: HOW FINANCE MADE CIVILIZATION POSSIBLE by William N. Goetzmann (Boss Battle: too heavy to pack). It's a nonfiction book I made it halfway through a few years ago, so now I'm trying to finish it. I'm also halfway through my re-read of STORMSONG by C.L. Polk (Free Book Space), it's the second book of a trilogy so hopefully soon I'll finish that up and get the whole thing done.

Current Reads

In addition to the books I mentioned for Clear Your Shit, I'm a third of the way into RADIANCE by Catherynne M. Valente, and a seventh through PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT by Yoon Ha Lee. PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT started out as a book for CYS and then got bumped, so I probably won't focus on finishing it until after the readathon is over.

I finally found a listing on TheStoryGraph for the comic LORE OLYMPUS, so now I can track my reading of that. Just know I'm reading that every weekend and enjoying it. If you'd like a Hades/Persephone romance in webcomic form, try this.

In Case You Missed It

A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S.T. Gibson is Fantasy/Horror, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Constanta is a medieval peasant brought into eternal life by her beloved, Dracula, who gradually adds other consorts to their bloody existence. When Constanta finds some of his secrets she has to decide whether her love for him is stronger than her love for freedom. A queer/poly Dracula's Brides reimagining. Told in First Person with Single POV. I originally read this last year as an ARC, it came out a few months later and is well worth reading!

Pluggables and Podcast News

If you're looking for a place to buy any of the books I've reviewed, please consider our Bookshop page (if you use our links to purchase any books we get a small commission). Let us know if there's a category you'd like to see curated and we'll see if we can get some titles together.

As for the podcast, hopefully you're enjoying our most recent episode, BRUJA BORN by Zoraida Córdova, as well as the first half of our interview with author Kevin Klehr, released in November. If you'd like to receive the second (spoiler-filled) half of the interview, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Patrons receive this newsletter one week early, as well as a list of upcoming podcast episodes for the next three months.

Patrons pledging $5 or more each month can vote on some of what I read next. Patrons pledging $50 or more can vote once per month on what we'll cover in the podcast. You can find all of those polls here. Patrons at any level receive the booklist with our planned episodes for up to three months at a time.

Thanks for reading, the next roundup will be in two weeks!

Co-host of Books That Burn

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