Late September 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.

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No DNFs this fortnight, but that's mostly because I can't quite bear to give up on DISTANT GARDENS.

Recent Reviews

I'm slowly (or not-so-slowly) working my way through the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, reading each sub-series in order but not worrying about reading everything single of the books in strict publishing order. This method seems to be going well and is kinder to the combination of waiting and luck that is getting a book on hold from the library. THE COLOR OF MAGIC (1983) is the very first book as well as the first book in the Wizards sequence and it's... we'll it's from the 1980's and while nothing has aged too horribly it's below the level of what I'd recommend reading. If you're a completionist then go for it, but it's enamored of its own cleverness in a way that was just annoying. I enjoyed MORT (1987) a bit more, but it treats the mention of fatness or insanity as if that's the entire joke. It's the first book in the Death sequence, and therefore sets up one of the more constant background characters for the series. I like GUARDS! GUARDS! (1989), it lightly features the dwarves, who have a genderqueer society which I understand will be explored more later. It's fine but not amazing, but it is the first one so far that I would specifically recommend someone read if they're planning to read the series casually.

IRON WIDOW (2021) by Xiran Jay Zhao is amazing, it's so good! I read it as an ARC but it just came out. If you want a YA sci-fi novel that features Qi, mech battles, and a girl hell-bent on revenge for her sister's murder by a casually cruel system which treats boys like heroes and girls like batteries, read this. It features a disabled protagonist (she has bound feet) and it matters to the story as well as showing her using various types of mobility aids, something I haven't read before in a protagonist who begins a book disabled. Hell, I'm not sure how often I've read a book where a YA protagonist begins with a disability and there's no cure plot. It's a queer retelling of China's first female emperor.

AILUROS (2021) by Matt Doyle is another ARC I received. It's a sci-fi novel in an experimental format where the right-side pages tell one story and the left-side pages look like footnotes and tell an intertwined but separate story. It's about wreckage and monsters, of both the literal and the relationship varieties. I read the right side then the left, and at some point I'll probably re-read it while treating the left as footnotes to be read as they're referenced, but I can vouch that the right side is completely understandable and a very good sci-fi horror novella without the complications added by the left.

2021 Hugo Update

This year I'm going to vote in the 2021 Hugo Awards, so I'm trying to read as much as I can of the finalists. In case anyone else is voting (or just wants to join in), here's a reading challenge for Best Novel (it has some of the other awards as bonus prompts), and here's the reading challenge I made for Best Series (it has the novels in each series as required, and any short stories as bonus prompts).

Finishing my read of The Daevabad trilogy, THE EMPIRE OF GOLD (2021) by S.A. Chakraborty is about what the hell you do with a destroyed city and its survivors after magic vanishes. Nahri, Ali, and Dara get endings that fit them, while the long page count means there's room for the story to breathe. I loved it and this trilogy is now on my must-own list.

RING SHOUT (2020) by P. Djèlí Clark is a historical fantasy horror novella set in 1915, placing otherworldly monsters alongside the Klan after the debut of very racist film The Birth of a Nation. It follows the Black resistance fighters trying to stop the monsters from spreading their infection.

Current Reads

I might need to DNF DISTANT GARDENS, I was reading it because a particular author's work is in there so I might skip forward to their stuff and then stop, I'm not sure yet.

I started the thriller THEY NEVER LEARN by Layne Fargo. It alternate perspectives between female serial killer whose targets are men who have hurt women on campus, and one of the incoming freshmen whose friend gets assaulted at a party. If you wish the show Dexter were queer and on a college campus, then you might like this.

I've been meaning to add nonfiction into my rotation, so I'm reading MONEYBALL by Michael Lewis. I don't do written reviews for nonfiction, and I'm not sure if I'll finish this one. It's fine but I haven't been very engaged by it at the moment.

DESTROYER OF LIGHT by Jennifer Marie Brissett is a sci-fi retelling that I'm reading as an ARC. So far I'm still getting into the setting and don't have a good sense of it yet.

FOR THE WOLF by Hannah Whitten is several hundred pages of longing, concern, and wound care where they have to bleed to keep the shadows from taking over the forest. I'm loving it, just vibing and waiting to see if the plot shows up.

THE JASMINE THRONE is a fantasy novel but I'm not far enough in to have more of a sense of it.

In Case You Missed It

This is a new section where I talk about a book I read around this time last year (in case you missed it then). This fortnight we're heading back to LEGENDBORN (2020) by Tracy Deonn. This is an Arthurian retelling set in the modern day, following a Black highschooler who is taking college classes early and gets caught up in a secret society on campus that appears to wield actual magic. This has a love triangle, a heisty scene, and a really great way of handling who has Arthur's powers.

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 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, SHADOW RISING, part of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, as well as the first half of our interview with author Sara Codair, released back in June. 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. Thanks for reading, the next roundup will be in two weeks!

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