Reading Round-up: April 2021

April showers bring May flowers, and this month’s Round-up has no theme to speak of! We’ve got horror. We’ve got regency romance. We’ve got cli-fi. We’ve got epic fantasy that was not, in my opinion, YA. I was kind of all over the place, so enjoy!

Devolution by Max Brooks

If you liked World War Z, specifically how World War Z was so well-researched and a collection of “primary” sources, you’ll really appreciate this book. Devolution is a horror novel focusing on Big Foot but actually exploring man’s relationship with nature at the end of the Anthropocene. There’s a lot to unpack here about how vulnerable we are in the face of infrastructure collapse, how unwilling we are to look at worst case scenarios, and how delicious we might be to our larger mammalian relatives. I spent a lot of time yelling internally at everyone in this book, which is usually a good sign for horror as near as I can tell. Horror, Climate Fiction

The Impossible Resurrection of Grief (ARC) by Octavia Cade

This novella comes out on May 20th from Stelliform Press. I normally do ARCs in their own posts, but in this case I didn’t really have enough to say about the book to do a full 500 words or more. Suffice to say that I found this story intriguing but that it didn’t quite stick the landing for me. I’m a sucker for cli-fi books as we’ve mentioned, and I really thought there were some good things explored here, but my emotional engagement wasn’t quite where it needed to be. I do think the story raises some really interesting questions about guilt, what level of action is good enough, and what our agreed-upon ideas of ‘sanity’ are actually worth in the face of a world-ending crisis. If any of those themes are of interest to you, you may want to check out this story, but prepare yourself for a profoundly literary story structure. Science Fiction, Climate Fiction

Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke

I am not really clear on why this book was marketed as young adult, because to me it reads in a similar vein to epic fantasy stories such as The Black Cauldron or the Wheel of Time series. Yes, the narrator is seventeen, but by the standards of her culture she is an adult. Not to mention that many of the themes explored in this book seemed very adult — there were a lot of casual hookups, multiple instances of drinking and recreational drug use, and discussions of addiction (and a lot of murder). This alone is not in and of itself an issue — kids certainly experiment — but the ending implies a follow-up story where the character will be much older than she is at the start of Seven Endless Forests (i.e. firmly adult). I can’t help but feel that this is a situation where a woman author who was previously published in YA got slotted into this subgenre for marketing purposes, which is a personal pet peeve of mine, and I really hope that any potential sequel doesn’t get tanked for that reason. I’d really love to follow this character further in her story.

All of that said, I really enjoyed this book. The worldbuilding was robust and organic, the characters were interesting, and I was deeply invested in the adventure. So please go check this book out, my screed aside. I think you’ll like it. Fantasy, Young Adult

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

I don’t think I’ve previously mentioned reading Courtney Milan, who is one of my favorite romance authors, because she doesn’t have any speculative fiction elements in her work. Yes, I hear you all gasping in shock and horror. But if you want to get into romance, especially regency romance, you could do much worse than reading one of Milan’s books. I really enjoyed The Duke Who Didn’t because it has the added distinction of being an Own Voices Chinese diaspora story, which is always a lot of fun. Romance, Historical

Stormsong by C.L. Polk

It’s taken me forever to get back to the Kingston Cycle, which is a damn shame because I loved Witchmark. My feelings about Stormsong remain overwhelmingly positive, but massively more complicated. There is a central theme in this book about using your privilege and political power to do the right thing and it struck near to my heart for a lot of personal reasons. It’s a good book and I encourage folks to read it, but it’s not always an easy read, or at least it wasn’t for me. Discomfort leads to growth, they say, and I really appreciated everything this story had to offer, including a strong wlw romance which is something I honestly see too little of. Romance, Fantasy, LGBTQ

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