Early January Reviews (2022)


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.

News and Events

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 started reading THIS IS OUR RAINBOW: 16 STORIES OF HER, HIM, THEM, AND US, an anthology for kids which stars queer characters. I completely missed that this is Middle Grade/Childrens until I started reading. I wish I'd had something like it as a kid but I've missed that particular window and won't be finishing it.

No Review (Nonfiction, Graphic Novels, etc.)

I finished an essay collection that I'd gotten halfway through several years ago and then recently picked up again. SHAPES OF NATIVE NONFICTION: COLLECTED ESSAYS BY CONTEMPORARY WRITERS, edited by Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton. It was good, and I'm glad I finally finished it, it gave me a lot to think about.

After a very long wait (seriously, I ordered this book a year and a half ago, the order was cancelled, I ordered it again from a new bookseller in spring 2021, and it finally arrived right around Christmas), I was able to read a new-to-me manga. SPY x FAMILY VOL. 1 by Tatsuya Endo, book 1 of Spy x Family is Manga marketed as Adult. A spy, and assassin, and a telepath are living together as a "family" for their own reasons, each unaware of the other's abilities and/or profession. Told in First Person with Ensemble POVs.

I'm still working my way through the manga series DEATH NOTE, this time I read Volumes Six and Seven. I've read it before, and I'm enjoying it. The premise is a high schooler in Japan finds a notebook that lets him kill people by writing their names. I'm at the halfway point of the series, and things are... rather more complicated than that at this point.

Recent Reviews

Reviews forthcoming for THE BAD BEGINNING by Lemony Snicket, FAR FROM THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN by Tade Thompson, and PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT by Yoon Ha Lee.

BLACKFISH CITY by Sam J. Miller is Dystopian/Fantasy/Sci-Fi, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. A woman riding an orca arrives in a city run by A.I. and owned by committee, various characters try to figure out her motives before gradually joining her cause. Told in Third Person with Ensemble POVs. I wanted to like this one more but it just didn't happen. The way it ended made the stakes feel smaller and more petty than I was promised at the start, which was disappointing.

OUR VIOLENT ENDS by Chloe Gong, book 2 of These Violent Delights (duology) is Fantasy/Historical, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Juliette and Roma parted on awful terms after Juliette (fake) murdered Roma's best friend. Now they must work together to fight a new political danger in the city as well as literal monsters. Told in Third Person with Ensemble POVs. It's great, if you want angsty older teen enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies-to-who-the-fuck-knows, check this out (though it's best to start with THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS if you're new to the duology).

THE ATROCITIES by Jeremy C. Shipp is Horror marketed as Adult. Ms Valdez arrives at a very creepy mansion to be a tutor/governess for a girl who apparently died months ago. Told in Third Person with Single POV. It's creepy and great, I'm please to be building a collection of horror novellas and this one is a great addition.

THE WOLF AMONG THE WILD HUNT by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, book 1 of The Scythewulf Chronicles is Fantasy, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Skythulf is a wolf-shifter raised in the fight pits who finds himself loyal to his liege but abused by their Lady. When he accidentally kills a nun he chooses to run in the Wild Hunt rather than face a quick execution. Told in Third Person with Single POV. If you want aro/ace ride-or-die between a wolf-man and his liege, read this. Also the Wild Hunt, in all its wonderful body horror and terror.

FRIDAY BLACK by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is an Anthology marketed as Adult. A variety of Black characters try to survive and maybe even thrive in strange situations, speculative stories of Blackness in something quite like America, but hopefully not real. Told in an Anthology with multiple POV styles. My favorite story in the collection takes seriously the idea that in a time loop some people will choose to be infinitely depraved... and makes that the backstory for the protagonist. It adds a tension and depravity beyond what makes it onto the actual page, in a collection which explores kinds of depravity in uncaring systems.

ALONG THE SALTWISE SEA by A. Deborah Baker, book 2 of The Up and Under is Fantasy marketed as Middle Grade/Young Adult. Avery and Zib continue along the Improbable Road until they end up down a well and on a pirate ship in the Saltwise Sea. Told in First Person with an Omniscient Narrator. I liked book one a little better, but this is a good continuation of the series. It has a harsher edge to it since the kids are slowly growing up, by sometimes painful degrees and with mundane ways of losing innocence.

BTB 2022 Reading Challenge

For 2022 I'm hosting a reading challenge that lasts the whole year. January's prompt is to read a book by a disabled author, with bonus prompts for reading an author who is disabled and queer, and for reading an author who is a queer person of color. For the general prompt I read ON THE EDGE OF GONE by Corinne Duyvis (also fitting the disabled/queer bonus prompt), and for the other bonus prompt I read PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT by Yoon Ha Lee.

Current Reads

THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET by Becky Chambers is a different kind of sci-fi than I'm used to, and I'm still settling in.

I'm reading THE GRACE OF KINGS by Ken Liu as an audiobook. I'm enjoying the narrator so much that I'll probably try and read the rest of the series that way. The whole series are doorstoppers, and if I listen when I'm driving or doing other things then I'll get to fit them in around other things and take my time a little, really savor them.

I started The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged) because I can (this is a re-read for me), I like it, and I fully expect to read it by inches and not finish it until the summer. I'll pick it up when I need something to read and I'm not already full to bursting with the rest of my queue, or when I want to read more pages but not finish anything at the moment.

I'm re-reading JADE CITY by Fonda Lee, as part of what will be a re-read of the first two books in preparation for the final book of the trilogy (I'm waiting for it to be released in paperback, the hardback is available now).

In Case You Missed It

CUTE MUTANTS Volume 2: YOUNG, GIFTED & QUEER by S.J. Whitby has queer kids with superpowers, except the government is after them and things are getting pretty complicated. The main character, Dylan, has the power of speaking to inanimate objects. I didn't get quite as into this series as a lot of reviewers I follow did, but I've enjoyed the first two and I'm planning to read the rest. The sixth and final volume of the main series is available (or maybe coming out soon? I'm not sure), and it looks like the author is branching into canon AU's with other versions of the main characters.

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, IRON WIDOW by Xiran Jay Zhao, as well as the first half of our interview with author Seanan McGuire (AKA Mira Grant, A. Deborah Baker), released in January. 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!

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