Late December Reviews (2021)

Greetings

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.

DNFs

Just one DNF this time. LITTLE THIEVES by Margaret Owen is a YA Fantasy retelling of The Goose Girl. I didn't like the tone of the narrator and the story seemed set up to thrive in several tropes that stress me out. I got a few chapters in and then stopped.

No Review (Nonfiction, Graphic Novels, etc.)

I finally finished a nonfiction book, MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING: HOW FINANCE MADE CIVILIZATION POSSIBLE by William N. Goetzmann. I read half of this a couple of years ago and then finally was prompted to finish it by the Clear Ur Shit readathon.

I found and read "The Comet" by W.E.B DuBois because it was being discussed on Philosophers in Space, a podcast I listen to semi-regularly.

To try and clean up my TBR pile before the New Year I read several short stories by E. Lily Yu. Specifically, I read "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees", "The Transfiguration of Maria Luisa Ortega", "The White-Throated Transmigrant", "The Lamp at the Turning", and "The Time Invariance of Snow". I like her style and will probably seek out more of her work, since it looks like she's published one novel in addition to her short stories in various magazines.

Recent Reviews

Reviews forthcoming for BLACKFISH CITY by Sam J. Miller, THE ATROCITIES by Jeremy C. Shipp, THE WOLF AMONG THE WILD HUNT by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, and OUR VIOLENT ENDS by Chloe Gong.

SURRENDER YOUR SONS by Adam Sass is Thriller, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Connor is sent by his mom to a Christian conversion camp to pray the gay away, but finds himself embroiled in the mystery of a decades-old assault and murder (and a victim of the systemic abuse that is an ordinary day at the camp). Told in First Person with Single POV. Apparently I can like contemporary YA if it's a thriller, this worked well overall but I'm unsure about the way it treats the plot-important disabled character.

WHEN THE TIGER CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN by Nghi Vo, book 2 of The Singing Hills Cycle is Fantasy, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. The Cleric has their mountain journey via mammoth interrupted by three Tiger sisters who demand they tell a story known to the Tigers before they will be eaten. Told in Third Person with Single POV. I'm enjoying this series of novellas where a nonbinary priests wanders about a changing countryside an hears weird stories, having them have to both tell and hear the story this time was a great choice. I love the tigers especially.

AETHERBOUND by E.K. Johnston is Sci-Fi, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Pendt and the Brannick twins must band together to help Pendt escape her controlling family and help the twins resist the empire that holds them hostage through their genes. Told in Third Person with Dual POVs. I like the way that it's a trans-affirming narrative which features a character who can manipulate genetics, dealing with the constraints it causes but not otherwise making an issue of the character's identity.

STORMSONG by C. L. Polk, book 2 of The Kingston Cycle is Fantasy/Romance, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Dame Grace Hensley must finagle her political peers into holding the city together after the aether was cut off, all the while fending off questions from an astute and alluring reporter. Told in First 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 before I finish off the trilogy next month with SOULSTAR.

RADIANCE by Catherynne M. Valente is Fantasy/Sci-Fi, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Severin Unck is gone, left on Venus by her film crew after a film gone wrong. Set in an alternate vision of the early 1900's where Venus has Callowhales, Pluto is bascially a libertarian colony, and Severin's grief-stricken father pours his cinematic talents into telling the story of what happened to his child when she went to Venus and didn't come back. Told in First and Third Person with Ensemble POVs.

LATCHKEY by Nicole Kornher-Stace, book 2 of Archivist Wasp is Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Dystopian, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Isabel used to be Wasp, the Archivist. When the nameless supersoldier ghost she helped years ago returns right as her town is attacked, she and his ghost friend, Foster, must delve into the tunnels under the town and learn way more about the Before-Time child supersoldier program than she ever wanted to know. Told in First Person with Single POV. LATCHKEY is amazing, FIREBREAK definitely has my heart but I love this whole series.

ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE by Robin Hobb, book 1 of The Farseer Trilogy is Fantasy, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Fitz is the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, trained as an assassin because you can't just leave royal bastards lying around. Told in First Person with Single POV. I read this series in high school but didn't remember much of it, so it was nice to re-read. It's a doorstopper of a book that deals with trauma and the aftereffects of violence rather than just heaping things on to the main character (though it definitely does that as well).

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 Seven I read BLACKFISH CITY by Sam J. Miller (Book I don't remember), RADIANCE by Catherynne M. Valente (water themes), and UNWHOLLY by Neal Shusterman (group cast). I actually read UNWHOLLY near the start of the readathon because I originally intended to read it for another prompt, then was swayed when I realized there were six narrators and counting.

For the Eighth and final trio I read LATCHKEY by Nicole Kornher-Stace (free book space), OUR VIOLENT ENDS by Chloe Gong (opulent book), and SQUAD by Lisa Sterle and Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Boss Battle for the Tooth Guild; read a book with cult/religion vibes).

End-Of-Yearathon

This readathon is six days long, lasting from December 26th to the 31st. It's designed to be one final push between Christmas and the New Year. For this I'm reading or have read the following books:

  1. THE WOLF AMONG THE WILD HUNT by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor - Read a 2021 Release

  2. ALONG THE SALTWISE SEA by A. Deborah Baker - read a book from a series that you've started but haven't finished

  3. FRIDAY BLACK by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah - Read an Own Voices book

  4. THE ATROCITIES by Jeremy C. Shipp - Read your most recently acquired book

  5. OUR VIOLENT ENDS by Chloe Gong - Read a book with gold on the cover

Current Reads

I made a little progress in PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT by Yoon Ha Lee, since it didn't fit either of my current readathons I haven't prioritized it at the moment.

I started the short story collection FRIDAY BLACK by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, I've read one story so far and it's going well.

In Case You Missed It

MUTANT PRIDE by S.J. Whitby, book 1 of Cute Mutants is Fantasy/Superheroes, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Dylan is a mutant. She always wanted to be an X-Man, but didn't think that having super powers would mean having her pillow eavesdrop on her love life. Her team is just, whoever happened to get the powers and there's a mysterious mutant causing natural disasters. Told in First Person with Single POV. This one doesn't quite fit the vibe I usually want for deconstructed superhero books (HENCH and WE COULD BE HEROES were more my speed), but I liked the second book more and the series is going strong. I intend to read more of them, I just haven't gotten to it yet. If you like snarky queer teens trying to deal with way too much responsibility (and also the sudden appearance of superpowers), try this.

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, WAYWARD WITCH by Zoraida C√≥rdova, 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!

-Robin
Co-host of Books That Burn

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