Reading Round-up July/August 2021

I’ve read so many good books over the last two months, and I wanted to share now that I’m settled in enough to collect my thoughts! I’d recommend every book on this list, depending on what you’re looking to read next, but wow was my reading all over the place this summer. So in no particular order, let’s dive in!

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

I read this book at Glacier National Park, full of anger and hope for the future, and I recommend that you also carry those emotions into your reading. If you love witches, suffragists, and labor movements, are remotely interested in alternate and fantastical history that’s well-researched but not bound too closely to the truth, and always suspected St. George was a dick, this one is for you. My only quibble was with the ending, which I will leave unspoiled but which didn’t quite stick for me. That said, I overall enjoyed this book a lot. (Fantasy, Alternative History, LGBTQ+)

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

I loved almost everything about this book, but it comes with a lot of content warnings. That said, this book is surprisingly hopeful, providing a profound meditation on what makes art great and the role of the artist in revolution. It’s also a book I read for book club, and some of the members of the club were avid Metal fans, which brings another layer of enjoyment to the work. If you, too, love metal, you will have a far more complete picture of this book than I did, but you don’t need to have a background in this genre of music to enjoy what Hendrix has to say with this novel. (Horror, Contemporary)

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

This book is very small, like a knife between the ribs, and I read it almost in one sitting. Translated from the original Spanish, it retains the trademark flow of that beautiful, brutal language, and perhaps that was part of why I was sucked in. But I was equally fascinated by the obvious amounts of research into the meat-packing industry, and their application. This book is about cannibals. It’s about human beings’ inherent inhumanity. It’s about how we use other people, how we judge other people, and about the choices that make us less and the lies we hold close to protect our lives. It is also not for the faint of heart. (Horror, Near Future)

The Blackwing War by K. B. Spangler

Do you, like me, love a good blend of science fiction and fantasy? I grew up on Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey and some part of me will always feel the most at home in the gray area of witches in space, which is exactly where you’ll find yourself in The Blackwing War. A fast-paced novel full of modified humans in all colors and shapes, this book also deals directly with themes of fascism, power, and revolution in ways that make it clear there are no easy answers, only moral ones. A really weird and excellent piece of science fiction that surprised me regularly. (Science Fiction)

Soulstar by C.L. Polk

Speaking of power, you cannot read the Kingston Cycle without getting a masterclass in power, activism, and all of the troubles associated. Soulstar was a wonderful conclusion to this series, one that centered a queer woman of color from an immigrant, working-class community unlike the previous two works. While each book has had a romantic element, I didn’t feel that the romance on the page was really the center of this book, perhaps because I didn’t feel the ‘will they, won’t they’ tension was as developed as in the previous two volumes. The politics were the star of the show, and I was 100% here for it. (Fantasy, LGBTQ+)

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Rounding out the themes of revolution and power in a near-future climate dystopia we have Blackfish City. I read this one in Seattle, after my roadtrip across the US, and I feel like I have a lot more to say about it than I can fit in this brief summary so you may see a separate post soon. But for now let me just say that there were twists in this story that honestly surprised me. There is a strong theme of family in this text — the family you’re born with, the family you make, and the family that is a city. While I don’t think Blackfish City quite achieved everything I think it was reaching for, it provided powerful food for thought. (Science Fiction, Climate Fiction, Near Future)

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