Late November 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.

DNFs

ALL THE STARS AND TEETH by Adalyn Grace was built for someone who wants to see every moment of a scene in full color, from the wall decorations, to the clothes, to the hair. Someone who wants to soak in every luxurious detail. Since my brain won't grant me mental images of things I've never seen, that's pretty useless to me (there's a reason I prefer witty and dialogue-heavy books that lean on actions and words over scenery and wardrobe descriptions). I recognized my error in attempting this one and quit it by the third chapter.

Recent Reviews

I recently finished A PSALM OF STORMS AND SILENCE and GOOD OMENS. Those reviews are forthcoming.

SPIN ME RIGHT ROUND by David Valdes is a Sci-Fi/Time Travel/Romance book, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Luis Gonzalez is trying to stop a fellow gay kid from dying after Luis finds himself transported to the 1980's. I read this as an ARC, and it's basically Back to the Future, but gay, and heading to the 80's instead of from them. No time machine, sadly.

SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson is a Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk book marketed as Adult. Hiro Protagonist and Y.T. are trying to deliver pizzas and stop a computer virus from breaking hackers' brains. It's considered one of the foundational texts for cyberpunk, and actually holds up pretty well (except that I suspect it's a least partly responsible for the trend of Western fiction naming all their Japanese protagonists "Hiro" like it's the only male name around.

MINORITY REPORT by Philip K. Dick is a Sci-Fi book marketed as Adult. Various characters are paranoid about the nature of reality, often justifiably so. I love reading PKD when I want to feel paranoid. If you don't want that (or at least are okay with it), then don't read this. But, if you want to read the stories that inspired the movies for Minority Report and Total Recall (We Can Remember It For You Wholesale), read this.

ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vandermeer, book 1 of The Southern Reach is a Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction book marketed as Adult. The biologist explores a closed-off zone as part of a slowly dwindling expedition into this strange land. Not my thing but it's good. It's weirdly introspective for a story that never reveals the protagonist's name.

COMFORT ME WITH APPLES by Catherynne M. Valente is a Horror book marketed as Adult. Sophia has a perfect life with a perfect husband in a perfect gated community. Then she finds a strange brush in an unused drawer of her dresser. I love this one, it's strange and good. Like Stepford Wives X Bluebeard X Mother!

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.

I'm a bit behind on the readathon, there are roughly three prompts per week. My second trio of books is SNOW CRASH (A Book People Talk About a Lot), MINORITY REPORT (Shortest Book), and ANNIHILATION by (Steal a Book From Someone Else's TBR - my wife has been meaning to read that one).

The third trio isn't quite complete, but I'll tell you anyway since I just have one more to go. I read GOOD OMENS (A book with Silver, Gold, or Bronze on the Cover), followed by DEADLY RELATIONS (Smallest Book). I'm not yet done with the third book in this set, SUMMER SONS (Spooky Book). I have begun reading all the books for the third trio, plus one for the fourth. Since yesterday, as I draft this, marked the beginning of week five, that means I'm catching up and I'm almost on schedule.

Current Reads

So... this is a long list, so bear with me. I've restructured my reading so my deadlines are based on starting books and not when to finish them. We'll see how this works out.

I'm almost done with FIRE BRINGER by David Clement-Davies. It's one of my favorite books from when I was a kid. It's actually marketed as "Childrens", which surprised me, given how it's about a society of deer slowly sliding into fascism in ancient Scotland.

I'm working on a re-read of THE POPPY WAR by R.F. Kuang. I've almost finished UNWHOLLY by Neal Shusterman, the sequel to UNWIND.

I've read a few stories in DRAGONS WITHIN: GUARDING HER OWN, which is a SFF anthology that I received in exchange for a review.

SUMMER SONS by Lee Mandelo is great so far, it prompted me to reconfigure one of my lists on TheStoryGraph to include achillean books, so now that list is "Densely Syllabic and Definitely Queer". Books on this list have commonality of feeling to me, language that focuses on how it would feel in your mouth, imagery that's more about the crash of syllables than the exact meaning (though that, too, is precisely honed and intricately carved).

I'm listening to SURRENDER YOUR SONS by Adam Sass as an audiobook, listening instead of looking at pages because I need the help of it automatically playing to get through the stress of reading this triller set at a conversion therapy camp. It's good, just a difficult topic that hits hard.

I haven't made any progress in the ARC of THE AWAKENING by Dusk Peterson, but I have that set aside to finish for one of the later readathon prompts. I'm in between issues of UNCANNY MAGAZINE at the moment, but I'm sure by the time this posts I'll have started Issue 3.

In Case You Missed It

THE TIGER FLU by Larissa Lai is one of the books on my syllabic/queer list mentioned above. Actually it's the book which got me thinking of this as a list, and not just indivudual books I liked. It's a Fantasy/Apocalyptic/Cyberpunk book, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Kora Ko and Kirilow Groundsel meet in Salt Water City after Kirilow's lover dies from the Tiger Flu.

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, LABYRINTH LOST 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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