Mid July 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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I’m currently in the middle of four books, an ARC of HOW WE FALL APART (2021) by Katie Zhao, DEATHLESS DIVIDE (2020) by Justina Ireland (sequel to DREAD NATION which I also re-read), an ARC of THE ALL-CONSUMING WORLD by Cassandra Khaw, and re-reading NOT YOUR SIDEKICK by C.B. Lee.

I finished THE POETIC EDDA (2019 / very old) translated by Carolyne Larrington. The EDDA didn’t get a standard review because it’s a translation of poetry from Norse mythology, but I’d been meaning to read it and finally got around to it.

I had one book I didn’t finish. I just couldn’t get into A RIVER OF ROYAL BLOOD (2018) by Amanda Joy. It’s YA fantasy, which is normally my thing, but I wasn’t engaged with the story and called it quits halfway through after a week of no progress and no desire to resume.

I’ve been reading K.J. Charles lately (i.e. m/m romance/erotica), I read FLIGHT OF MAGPIES (2014) to finish off the trilogy “A Charm of Magpies”. This series has one more book associated with it that I intend to read, but this finishes the main story arc. I then picked up AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION (2017) which is good, but I didn’t realize that while the Magpies series was paranormal romance, AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION has neither magic nor monsters. I did enjoy how one of the characters is a taxidermist and so there are a lot of great descriptions of that profession.

NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro is a quiet and circuitous reminiscence on a life lived which slowly unfurls into descriptions of an inescapable dystopian nightmare, proceeding at the ambling pace of ordinary existence, ending with a whimper. I liked it and style is someone reminiscing about their life, with all the pacing problems that can happen from someone telling a long rambling story where they pause and return to earlier ideas, or saving other ones for more detail later. I enjoyed it, but my friend who hates this book said that was his main complaint, so I’m giving a heads-up. I think it’s best enjoyed knowing it’s dystopian, so that certain reveals don’t feel like twists.

After over a year, I returned to the historical fantasy “Sorceror Royal” series with book two, THE TRUE QUEEN (2019) by Zen Cho. This felt more like a second book in the same world than a normal sequel, so I was a bit disoriented at first when (after a long break) I started this book and didn’t recognize the character or the setting because it was a new character who initially begins in a different country from the last book. Things synced up pretty quickly and I liked it a lot.

I read three very different YA fantasy novels. THE NEVER TILTING WORLD (2020) by Rin Chupeco is about separated goddess sisters on a planet that has stopped turning so one side is under the burning sun and one just has the moon. It’s the first half of a duology, so things don’t feel resolved yet but the pacing is good and having four different point of view characters meant I didn’t feel like I had to like all four of them.

RUINSONG (2020) by Julia Ember is a sapphic story of falling in love under a brutal regime where magic is sung and a mage commoner-turned-queen is out to make the nobles suffer. I liked it but even though it’s fantasy it feels like it has more in common with a dystopian novel, so this isn’t a cute love story. The yearning is early on but the actual romance is very very late in the story. There are more scenes of emotional abuse and torture than of intimacy, so please check out the CWs in the review before proceeding.

The final YA novel of the fortnight was WHAT BIG TEETH (2021) by Rose Szabo. The initial test of whether something is a retelling is whether the source material is obvious, and by that standard this is a Red Riding Hood retelling. I haven’t seen it officially marketed that way, and it can be enjoyed without that connection, but there’s so many features in common that I’m comfortable recommending it as an excellent horror/thriller retelling about a girl returning home after being sent away as a kid, only to find her family stranger than she remembered and wary at her reappearance. It does have a closer connection to its probable inspiration than some retellings I’ve read which were explicitly marketed as such, for whatever that’s worth.

As for the podcast, hopefully you’re enjoying our most recent episode, THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN by C.L. Polk, 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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