Reading Round-up: December 2021

We are so organized in 2021. So put together with our reading reviews! May that carry over to 2022. May all of your various holidays be joyful, and bright if brightness is your thing. If you prefer the long deep dark of winter, snuggled up in as many layers as possible, hibernating for spring — may that go well for you! And may I offer, in either case, some reviews from December’s reading, just in time for the holiday? I sure hope so, because here they are.

Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney

I read this Tor.com novella in anticipation of diving into my ARC of Dark Breakers, out next year and set in the same world. While I felt this story could have been longer (there was, to my mind, more than enough for a novel) I loved it dearly. It’s Claire’s trademark florid and wonderful style, and, having started Dark Breakers, I can say that the story structure of Desdemona fits very neatly into what she was trying to accomplish. This, however, not being a review of Dark Breakers yet, I’ll focus on what I loved best about Desdemona itself, which is namely that the titular Desdemona is a conflicted woman of privilege who is actually pretty unlikeable in some respects. Despite her sharp edges, or maybe because of them, I commiserated deeply with Desdemona and her journey down into her own dark depths and back into the light. There are themes here that will appeal to fans of Witchmark by C.L. Polk, so if you loved that book you will want to dive into Claire’s new and fantastical world. (Fairies, Fantasy)

Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews

There is no choice. If an Ilona Andrews book comes out, I must read it and I must tell you about it. It is the law. Enter Fated Blades, the newest Andrews book and a novella in the Kinsman Universe. For those who are unfamiliar, as I was, with this particular world in the Andrews imagination, you can go read the collection entitled The Kinsmen Universe released in December of 2018. This is a science fiction romance, which I have a special soft spot for, that features all the trademark Andrews elements: sexy and hypercompetent leads, fast-paced and well-plotted action, and witty banter. If you’ve been on the fence about diving into a new world with this author, you won’t regret it. (Science Fiction, Romance)

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

While I am including this book in my round-up, I don’t per se recommend it. However, it’s a pretty popular title — so if you’ve thought about reading Warm Bodies, here’s my quick take. There were a lot of things to love in this book — philosophical dream sequences and zombies is a pretty fun combination — and at the line level it wasn’t a bad read. All that said, this is another example of a book that just really fails at romance when romance is the central plot. Sometimes you read those pulpy, fragile romances anyway, for fun, but the moments of cute fun were undercut with some really weird stuff. Zombies attempting to have sex on screen is an image I will…be happy forgetting hopefully soon. Julie’s motivations were mostly two dimensional, though attempts were made, and there was a lot of baked in misogyny never dealt with in the text. Overall I enjoyed the movie adaptation more, even though the adaptation cut out what I considered the strongest part of this book, which was R’s relationship with Perry. The story of R and Perry is a far more engaging book, in my opinion, and I wish I had gotten to read something that dove into that more. (Zombie, Romance, Dystopia)

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

This one slipped through last month’s list somehow, which I blame on the chaos of moving back to the east coast. That said, I really didn’t want to not tell folks about this book — it’s a solid young adult tale that I would have loved as a child and which gave me pleasant vibes as an adult as well. This books is a retelling of the “Brothers who Were Turned into Birds” fairytale archetype, but it includes some really interesting eastern Asian mythological elements that make it into something new. I really enjoyed the twists of this story, especially the plot arc involving the stepmother, who ended up being one of my favorite characters. (Eastern Asian, Mythology Retelling, Young Adult)

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

I absolutely loved this book. There are enchanted libraries, speaking books with volition, librarians with swords. There is magic and sorcery, a demon who is emotionally complicated, and a hot wizards with nightmares. There are some excellent and subtle pop culture references for fans of Avatar the Last Airbender as well as Miyazaki films. What more do you want? I cried. I laughed. I loved everything about it, and look forward to diving into more of this writer’s work. (Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance)

Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne Valente

This is another very short novella from the Tor.com line-up and contributes to the abnormal length of this month’s round-up. Comfort Me with Apples is a tale that is as hauntingly well-written as all of Valente’s work. It’s also a story that managed to surprise me. I knew this was a Bluebeard tale, but the other framing piece of this story were unexpected and Bradburian, and I profoundly enjoyed it. (Fantasy, Mythology Retelling)

American Demon by Kim Harrison

I put off reading this book for a long time because I was kind of miffed to see Rachel’s happy ending get rebooted. But I am officially on board with the new adventures of Rachel Morgan after reading this book — there was lots of fun here, good takes on the same characters and new characters that are lovable and interesting. And it is nice to see how the demons start dealing with their collective trauma and integrating into society (though that’s admittedly going slow). Rachel will drag everyone into the future kicking and screaming, and there’s a lot to admire in that. This is a fun read for fans of the Hollow series or anyone looking to scratch that adult urban fantasy itch in a market veering towards secondary world tales. (Urban Fantasy)


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