Late 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.

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I tried reading THE TETHERED MAGE by Melissa Caruso because it's the January book for a book club I'm in, but it's soft fantasy and I wasn't feeling the tension in the political wrangling the description promised. This wasn't right for me but I don't have anything bad to say about it, I did make two-thirds of the way before realizing that if I got to the end and had to write a full review I would have nothing meaningful to say about it because it wasn't moving me (positively nor negatively). THE TETHERED MAGE by Melissa Caruso, book 1 of Swords and Fire is Fantasy, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Lady Amalia finds herself the Falconer to Zaira, a mage who has been dodging the law that all the mage-marked must be bound as "Falcons" and kept under imperial control. Told in First Person with Single POV.

I made it less than a chapter into THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS by Charlotte Nicole Davis because of a triggering topic for me. Given that it's described as Westworld meets The Handmaid's Tale, I should have guessed it might be a bit too much. I actually appreciate that it had the scene early so readers like me could know that early on. It's not played for shock value, it's just not something I'm ready to read right now.

No Review (Nonfiction, Graphic Novels, etc.)

I read a smattering of Seanan McGuire's short stories, I think all the ones I read are just available for her Patrons (I have a few queued up that are publicly available on her website).

For a different book club, I read WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi, a book written by a neurosurgeon when he was dying of cancer. It's pretty good, definitely worth a read.

Recent Reviews

Reviews forthcoming for NOPHEK GLOSS by Essa Hansen, THE LAST WISH by Andrzej Sapkowski, and THE GRACE OF KINGS by Ken Liu.

THE BAD BEGINNING by Lemony Snicket, book 1 of A Series of Unfortunate Events is Gothic marketed as Childrens/Middle Grade. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are newly orphaned and under the care of the very creepy Count Olaf, who tries to marry fourteen-year-old Violet as part of his scheme to steal the childrens' fortune. Told in Third Person with an Omniscient Narrator. I see why I liked this as a kid, but I'm noticing how much the premise of the story focuses on Count Olaf trying to marry Violet while subtly making clear that she's also being coveted in a sexual sense by adults while she's a child. It's gross in a way I didn't remember, and there's fatphobia and transphobia I didn't pick up on as a kid. One book down, twelve and the autobiography left to go.

FAR FROM THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN by Tade Thompson is Sci-Fi marketed as Adult. Michelle is a rookie captain of a ship that's not supposed to need a captain. When the AI stops working and wakes her up, shy of their destination, she finds onboard trouble and signals their destination for help. Told in Third Person with Ensemble POVs. It's a locked ship murder mystery, I just wish the interesting backstory hadn't been buried in an infodump more than halfway through the book.

PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT by Yoon Ha Lee is Dystopian/Fantasy, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Jebi is an artist, just trying to survive in an occupied city. They take a job with the occupying military and then discovered a dragon-shaped automaton and concoct a plan to escape with it. Told in Third Person with Single POV. This has such lovely things to say about art and survival, I knew I liked this author's other series but I think this seals them as one I like generally.

TRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse, book 1 of The Sixth World is Fantasy/Dystopian, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Maggie hunts monsters, unsure whether she's one of them or just a person who hunts them. After most of the world has drowned, Dinétah has been reborn and is filled with gods and monsters. Told in First Person with Single POV. This feels like an urban fantasy but there are literally no cities because they were destroyed when the waters rose and this takes place on the rez.

ON THE EDGE OF GONE by Corinne Duyvis is Sci-Fi/Apocalyptic, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Denise and her mother are late to the shelter before the comet hits, and find themselves temporarily allowed to stay in a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth after the comet hits. Can Denise find a way to let them stay on the ship? Told in First Person with Single POV. This was an uncomfortable but good read, it has a lot of the dynamics that make it hard for me to read contemporary books. It has the most immersive and relatable openings to a book that I can think of recently, but that's because it's willing to be uncomfortable, to spend time there.

SOULSTAR by C. L. Polk, book 3 of The Kingston Cycle is Fantasy/Romance, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Robin Thorpe has been trying to survive as a witch in Kingston. But now the aether is gone, the asylums are emptying, and her childhood love has returned to her amidst a revolute born of decades of injustice. Told in Third Person with Single POV. This is a great ending to an excellent trilogy and I'm very pleased by it. The arc of the trilogy is that WITCHMARK shows how bad things are, STORMSONG tries to use politics to fix it, and SOULSTAR says to hell with that, revolution will seize the help that politics tried to deny.

Rereads and Older Reviews

AMERICAN HIPPO by Sarah Gailey is Fantasy/Alternate History/Historical, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Winslow Houndstooth has a plan for revenge, but he needs a crew to help him. He's been working on this for twenty years, ever since his hippo ranch was torched. The crew each have their own reasons for coming along. Originally published as RIVER OF TEETH and TASTE OF MARROW, republished along with some new short stories as AMERICA HIPPO. Told in Third Person with Ensemble POVs. This title includes RIVER OF TEETH, A TASTE OF MARROW, and several short stories in the same continuity.

JADE CITY by Fonda Lee, book 1 of The Green Bone Saga is Fantasy/Urban Fantasy/War, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. The Kaul family are the heart of Clan No Peak, enemies of The Mountain, battling for control of magical Jade and trying to keep their cultural and political relevance as foreign militaries encroach. Told in Third Person with Ensemble POVs.

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 going slowly. The ebook from the library expired so now I'm waiting for it to come back in so I can finish it. Not sure whether I'll DNF or not. AZURA GHOST (which I loved) was compared to it, and I definitely see the similarities, but this particular one might just not be my speed.

I said last time how much I enjoyed the audiobook of THE WAY OF KINGS by Ken Liu. It was great and now I'm listening to the audiobook of the sequel, WALL OF STORMS. It's great so far and I'm planning to read the rest of the series this way.

I'm still reading THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (unabridged) by Alexandre Dumas. I'm live-reacting on Twitter as I read a bit each night. This will probably last for several weeks or maybe even months, since it's a long book I own that isn't as high of a priority as anything I'm reading from the library.

You might have noticed the increasing gap between when I say I'm reading something and when the review comes out. To encourage myself to re-read books I love, read books that don't need a review, and let myself DNF, I've moved to a schedule of three reviews per week (Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, with any DNFs posted on Saturdays). That lets the pace of my reading be more flexible to read books of varying lengths, but it does mean I might have finished something a week or two before its review gets posted. If the backlog gets too intense I may have a bonus review every other week, but it's not at that point yet.

In Case You Missed It

THE SEEP by Chana Porter is set after a fungible alien invasion, where a Trina and her wife, Deeba, are living happily until Deeba decides to be reborn as a baby and leave Trina behind. It's about grief during a strange kind of loss, and the importance of leaving space for sadness.

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.

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.

As for the podcast, hopefully you're enjoying our most recent episode, ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE by Robin Hobb, 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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