Kick-starting this thread of books and stories I've heard this year, with a review or log or something for those interested. πŸ“šπŸŒΈ

My goal is to read at least 52 stories this year, and I'm specifying stories because some are short stories, some are novellas, and some are 742-page bricks (looking at you, Mr. Gaiman). Some are rereads, some are first time reads, old, new, contemporary, horror, romance, fantasy, and *gasp* sci-fi? We'll see.

(1/52) THE BONE HOUSES by Emily Lloyd-Jones

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Welsh Medieval gravedigger meets zombies. A story about grief. I finished last night. The characters were consistent, plot well done, pacing good, setting descriptions were amazing. There was nothing *wrong* with it, but I wish it had more sense of voice. The narration was distant and impersonal, so there was no jokes, no charm, no wit, no flowery prose. And a story like this could've benefitted from some attachment or flare.

(2/52) BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE by Annette Curtis Klause

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Horny wolf girl. YA paranormal romance from '97, a short reread. I was curious how it would hold up (including the romance twist). It's got some problematic elements and tropes (i.e. girl hate/MC being possessive and jealous over LI), but the writing style is critical instead of endorsing/romanticizing. This walked (well) so Twilight and ACOTAR could run (badly).

"I want to lay my kill at your feet" will live in my head rent-free.

(3/52) NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH by Cassandra Khaw

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Horror novella starring a group of friends with a private wedding at a haunted mansion from the Heian era. Gross, very descriptive, pretty writing that was exactly my brand of pretentious. Would love to try reading this in one sitting.

It's been a while since I updated this story thread but

4/52 THE SPIDER'S THREAD by Akutagawa Ryunosuke 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

5/52 THE NOSE by Akutagawa Ryunosuke 🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

I am counting short stories and these were both enjoyable snippets from one of the fathers of Japanese literature. There's humor in the dark that keeps it from being bogged down. But also, typing this makes me want to read Ueda Akinari and Soseki's 10 NIGHTS DREAM for the *dark* darkness.

(6/52) NEVERMORE by Kelly Creagh

🌟🌟/5

I love Poe but this was too long, too confusing, too messy. I thought it was a romance, but the main character doesn't spend that much time with the love interest to be that lost in the sauce so soon? There wasn't any tension or chemistry to justify being in the ROMANCE genre, but as a paranormal / contemporary fantasy, the worldbuilding and plot were convoluted. The stakes were muddled. The villain? Who was the villain??? Why was this 540 pages???

(7/52) EXODUS 20:3 by FreydΓ­s Moon

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

Wouldn't necessarily consider myself a fan of religious erotica but this was a breath of fresh air. It's 93 pages but has both PLOT and CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, starring a Mexican-American trans man and sex worker finding salvation in a biblically-accurate angel that sometimes looks like a Brazilian man... in a church. Hurt/comfort with a happy-for-now ending taking on ICE. Also many limbs and... πŸ†πŸ†. Not a single bible quote made sense to me.

(8/52) DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE by Laini Taylor
🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

The premise was interesting and the way the story unfolded, and how all the breadcrumbs came together, was nice. The last 25% was basically all flashbacks, which was an odd choice but I didn't hate it. I *do* hate endings with the main character + love interest separated but I'll keep reading. Could be 5/5 but detracting points for some throwaway lines being racist and antisemitic and the borderline-but-averted colonizer romance.

(9/52) THE SANDMAN #1-8 by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcom Jones III
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

This was an acid trip of a story that was obviously trying to get its bearings though I enjoyed it. The whole story felt dreamy, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, which I think was really well done. Would read more, and I'm excited for the show.

(10/52) HELL FOLLOWED WITH US by Andrew Joseph White
🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

YA horror spin on the chosen one trope, except the chosen one is a trans boy named Benji who is painted as the Messiah for an eco-fascist fundamentalist cult. He is caught trying to run away and makes his way into a found family of an armed queer resistance group. It is quite graphic in terms of violence and gore, and Benji experiences transphobia as he tries to find his place. I would've liked more setup but would recommend.

(11/52) SUMMER SONS by Lee Mandelo
🌟🌟🌟/5

It's a ghost story, a Southern Gothic that was very Southern and Gothic. I like my stories a little faster, as this moved quite slowly and there was a lot of blocky paragraphs that made it hard to parse when things were happening. Also, I don't give a shit about cars and drag racing so like 50% of the book was meaningless to me. I know some will like it, but not exactly my cup of tea. Would still recommend, Mandelo is an excellent writer.

(12/52) SWEETER THAN HONEY by Joy Avery
🌟🌟🌟/5

This is a Black romance, an ARC from Netgalley that I saw promoted on Twitter. It was average. No glaring red flags or problems as a romance, but the story started in a weird place (they already liked each other and the whole town knew it) and the setup for their relationship (fake dating, my favorite romance trope) was flimsy.

(13/52) MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russell
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

cw for csa and abuse

A dual timeline contemporary exploring the psychological dynamics of Vanessa and her high school teacher. In the past, it chronicles the grooming and... abuse in graphic detail, and in the present, it shows the aftermath, where she struggles to maintain healthy relationships and call "abuse," even as his other victims come forward. Super gross content of course, but well written.

(14/52) CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare
🌟🌟/5

This was just so boooooring. The dialogue was bad, the scenes were bloated with descriptions, and the characters were near carbon copies of her other work. The only reason I give two stars is because (1) it is legible, and (2) an attempt at a plot and mystery was made.

(15/21) THE TURNOUT by Megan Abbott
🌟🌟🌟/5

Another boring one. There was a premise and an idea and concept, but just... didn't go anywhere with it. This is the story of two sisters and the older sister's husband who all run a ballet school together. The younger sister moves out, a fire breaks out, and the contractor who comes to fix it is poking around in family secrets. Does he have ulterior motives? Why did younger sister move out? Who started the fire?

Literally all of it is unimportant.

(16/52) THE BRUISING OF QILAWA by Naseem Jamnia

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

ARC from Netgalley: an adult fantasy about a refugee healer who discovers a mysterious illness that implicates their people. The lead is nonbinary, their sibling is a trans boy, there are neopronouns everywhere, and this takes place in a world where transphobia doesn't exist and magic can be used to medically transition. And it's a novella so it's not too long, but the world is rich.

Highly recommend when it comes out August 9th.

Next are DNFs (Did Not Finish) that I won't be rating:

(17/52) THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater - ya contemporary fantasy, atmospheric but VERY slow and VERY long. Kinda bored.

(18/52) FURYBORN by Claire Legrand - dual timeline ya high fantasy, could be interesting but wasn't in the mindset to make much progress. Will come back to it.

(19/52) THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA by Gaston Leroux - for research, but ebook formatting from Gutenberg was annoying so I didn't want to finish.

DNFs continued:

(20/52) CARRIE by Stephen King - Starting to think I'm just not a Stephen King fan. Enjoy movie adaptations but find his writing very dry, hard to drudge through, and sometimes the details he chooses to include are uncalled for and strange in not a good way (i.e. CSA, racism) that take me out of the story.

(21/52) TENDER IS THE FLESH by Agustina Bazterrica - will come back to it, but it's hard to read much in a sitting. Depictions are grotesque and nauseating, not much plot.

I am currently reading an ARC called THREE MUSES by Martha Ann Toll, a historical fiction novel about a survivor of the Shoah who moves to NYC, becomes a psychiatrist, and falls in love with a ballerina in an abusive relationship with her choreographer. Much of his trauma is triggered by music, in particular singing (which I didn't know is featured prominently in Judaism???), and so far at 30% is a well-crafted meditation on tradition, music, and memory.

(22/52) THREE MUSES by Martha Anne Toll
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

ARC from Netgalley, out in September. Historical fiction, less than 300 pages, about John, a psychiatrist trying to heal from memories in a camp during WW2, and Katya, a prima ballerina in a relationship with her choreographer. We see their pasts, how they became their present selves, and when they collide, how their impressions help the other take steps towards healing. Well-written, thoughtful, a layered talk of Judaism, music, and memory.

(23/52) THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME by Julia Quinn

🌟🌟/5

I read this because I was curious about Bridgerton hype but also Shondaland disappoints me regularly and I no longer have Netflix. The book was bland as far as romances go. Plot events were poorly contrived, the pacing was disastrous, the tension was weak, and the romance itself (when the couple finally got together) was lacking. It's bad Austen with bad smut.

(24/52) ROMANCING THE BEAT by Gwen Hayes
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

This is a craft book about plotting romance stories and subplots. Very quick, informative, painless, and not pretentious. The 80s song recommendations for each beat was a nice touch.

(25/52) WE HUNT THE FLAME by Hafsah Faizal
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

Hunter and assassin set out separately to find the book that can save their kingdom from poisonous magic. Slow to start bc we see a lot of their personal interactions that made them who they are and there's a lot of context needed once they hop on the boats, but once the boats leave, ZOOM. It's got action, yearning, blood, a sketchy witch with her own agenda, yearning, a team of misfits, a spooky forest that talks, monsters, yearningβ€”

(26/52) WE FREE THE STARS by Hafsah Faizal
🌟🌟🌟🌟.98 / 5

An excellent sequel, especially as this is Faizal's debut series. Arawiya is in danger: the team of misfits managed one success, but in conquering one beast, they've unleashed a greater force that'll test their bond. Absolutely nothing goes right until like, the last 25%. Still action, blood, gore, betrayals, yearning~ but it was long. Faizal knows how to write scenes and plot twists, but in the last 100 pages, I was getting fatigued.

(27/52) HOWLS FROM THE DARK AGES, an anthology edited by P.L. McMillan and Solomon Forse
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

ARC (advanced reader copy) from Netgalley, provided for free in exchange for an honest review. This is a historical horror short story collection by a bunch of authors, curated around a theme of "medieval manuscripts." Very fun concept, and in between each story is a little intermission that feels like a guided tour through a museum.

(28/52) HONEY GIRL by Morgan Rogers
no rating

Not rating bc I DNF'd after about 25% and skipped to the end. The concept sounds amazingβ€”type A overachiever goes to Vegas with her friends to celebrate a birthday and wakes up marriedβ€”but the structure is really confusing. The focus is more about an anxious woman struggling to know what she wants to do postgrad and having a strict father, shoehorned into a romance trope when it really isn't a romance. Dialogue and character were forced and cheesy.

(29/52) THE MONSTER OF ELENDHAVEN by Jennifer Giesbrecht

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

"Monster was... his favorite word. The first part was a kiss, the second part a hiss."

Great for fans of Hannibal, a horror novella with hints of eroticism about Johann, a monster spit out from the sea, and Florian, a sorcerer seeking revenge in the dying city of Elendhaven. They're both horrible murderers absolutely *made* for each other. Excellent writing, worldbuilding, character, tension, gore, ugh. Buying immediately.

(30/52) THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS by Micah Nemerever

🌟🌟🌟🌟.98/5

Adult thriller. Paul, a poor, lonely teen enrolled at a local college, befriends Julian, a fellow WASP-y classmate who *gets* him. The boys become friends and then lovers, obsessed with each other and violence and desire, and obviously things don't end well. A proper dark academia successor to THE SECRET HISTORY. A little too floweryβ€”sometimes I missed details that weren't spelled outβ€”but well-done.

(31/52) LORDS OF CHAOS: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan and Dirik SΓΈderlind

0/5 stars - DNF at 17%

Thread: eldritch.cafe/@guerrillarain/1

Poorly written, not thoroughly researched, lacking academic rigor. A zealous fanboy with no critical thinking or any other skills tries to interview and write about music and fascist murderers. Your time is better spent watching paint dry or feeding ducks at the pond. It feels like a practical joke Moynihan himself isn't in on.

(32/52) MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER by Oyinkan Braithwaite

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

A nice, fun short-read. Korede has a clear voice, and the story starts off immediately with a body, a problem, and how Korede solves it. Clear stakes, not too complicated.

(33/53) SAILOR MOON: ETERNAL EDITION VOLUME 1 by Takeuchi Naoko

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

let's be honest, do we expect anything less than 5 stars? it's got Usagi, and Ami, and Rei, and Makoto, and Mamoru, and Luna is just as bossy as I remember (cough cough). perfection. chef's kiss. peak fiction.

(34/52) CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

Reread book 1 some time in December and finally got around to picking up book 2 again. Suzanne Collins is the GOAT, and Peeta "If it wasn't for the baby" Mellark is truly s-tier YA boy.

(35/52) MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

Another reread, well written and the pacing was immaculate. Huzzah. You could see the seeds from earlier in the series being planted and leading up to this conclusion. Yay for plotting.

(36/52) BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse
🌟🌟🌟🌟 .75 / 5

Serapio is one of the coolest characters I've ever read, so I have no choice but to stan, even if this book is just setup for its sequel and doesn't have a plot.

my in-depth thoughts (without and with spoilers) honestly needs to be a thread because it's hard to fit into less than 500 characters.

(37/52) CIRQUE DU FREAK: A LIVING NIGHTMARE by Darren Shan

no rating

A blast from the past, rereading a book I enjoyed in middle school. Very fun, funny, and goofy. The writing itself on a prose level was nothing amazing, but I kinda forgot all the wild shit that happens because it comes so far out of left field, so I still enjoyed.

(38/52) THE LESBIANA'S GUIDE TO CATHOLIC SCHOOL by Sonora Reyes

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

Sapphic YA rom-com that came out last month about Yami Flores who transfers to a new school with her younger brother. She's an outsiderβ€”poor, Mexican-American, gayβ€”and with her father away, she has a lot of pressure at home. So she pretends to be straight,,, but her classmate Bo, an outspoken, proud, and very cute Chinese lesbian, is making her charade impossible. Cute, funny, heartfelt, not cheesy, happy ending.

(39/52) LITTLE THIEVES by Margaret Owen
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

Vanja is a little goblin and I would die for her. A servant girl who's sick of getting the raw end of the deal, she steals the princess's identity and robs the nobility so she can get enough money to escape her godmothersβ€”Death and Fortune. But when a theft goes awry, Vanja is cursed to make things right or her body will turn to jewels until it stops her heart.

This book is everything. The characters, the pacing, the feels. AGH!

(40/52) WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING by Alyssa Cole

🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

A thriller about a neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification from the perspectives of a grieving woman with severe anxiety and her new white unsuspecting neighbor. It was... an experience. It talks a lot about race and class, capitalism, white supremacy, and mutual aid in Black communities. Didn't mind the romance. The last 20% was certifiably batshit, BUT some of the conspiracies,,, felt a little too plausible for my liking 😭

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(41/52) WHAT BIG TEETH by Rose Szabo

Doesn't get a rating because I DNF'd @ 40%. I don't think it was well paced, the plot still hadn't started yet, the prose wasn't great, and the protagonist was flat.

More importantly, I found this review: romanticparvenu.com/2021/11/29 which confirms some gross things I noticed. A few male characters are sadistic werewolves but their real "flaw" is that they're gay. The protagonist cosigns this, and the book has a "love the abusive family trying to kill you" vibe.

Β· Β· 3 Β· 1 Β· 2

What Big Teeth, spoilers up to 40% 

The book starts with a girl named Eleanor returning home to her Addams-inspired family but the grandpa will literally kill her if she shows fear or runs away and she does. Repeatedly. But she loves him so it's okay.

She has two cousins, one boy and one girl, who both have crushes on the family accountant (man) and are both violent and homicidal, but the main character's SOLE mission is to keep the boy cousin away from the accountant.............................

What Big Teeth, spoilers up to 40% 

And I could already tell a romance was forming with the accountant, so it was just very,,,, weird. Like the entire family is feral and obsessed with this accountant, but SHE and her female cousin are the only ones allowed to engage in that obsession.

To learn that their grandpa was also in love with the accountant so the grandma seduced and enslaved him is. I don't like it. It's gross. To learn it isn't handled well makes me not want to read further.

It also came to my attention that the author has a new book coming out in which a white woman, to deflect suspicion from her homicidal sister, accuses a gay Black man of murder and yes he is tortured.

It isn't out yet but early reviews say that it also wasn't handled well.

so.

no thanks!

(42/52) SAGA vol. 1 (#1-6) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5

This is a reread because I needed joy in my life. I love everything about this, truly. The characters are flawed and always being corrected, questioned, and challenged. Beautiful artwork. Funny and full of heart. S-tier stuff.

(43/52) YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY by Akwaeke Emezi

🌟🌟.5 / 5

I'm sorry! I love romances and messy queer black folk, but this,,, where was the substance? Everything was underdeveloped and vague. The prose was pretty but because all characters and plot and themes were hollow, none of the quotable lines MEANT anything. It's about a heroine learning to love while struggling with grief but we don't ever really know what she's lost??? Also, plot-wise, not a Romance.

The protagonist is Feyi, a Black woman who was widowed young and grieving her husband. What was he like? We don't know. What did they do together? What was his career? What was HER career? Where did they live? What did she love about him?

We don't know.

And who is Feyi? A beautiful widow. While it is important for black women to be told they're beautiful, that's ALL anyone says to her because she doesn't have any substance. She's an "artist" but what it means to her?

We don't know.

Feyi could be replaced by a beautiful cardboard cutout and nothing would change. No jokes, no hobbies, no likes or dislikes. We know that her husband died and she's grieving but we don't even see her grief. We know she's grieving because it SAYS in the text that she's grieving but what does her grief look like? Is it through her friends with benefits that she doesn't actually talk to?

Because she doesn't talk about anything but who has fucked who. That's it. Why?

We don't know!

She has a best friend, and they only talk about Feyi's sex life. Her best friend seemed to be having a rough time but does Feyi care? Nope! Does she try to get to know or express care for anybody at all? Nope!

So when she and her love interest decide to piss off the world after two very brief conversations, it doesn't make sense. His "I should have told you" about who he has and hasn't fucked when they barely know each other and barely talked? It just didn't work.

Overall, this was my impression: the prose was pretty sometimes. Dialogue was clichΓ© but not terrible.

However because the characters don't know each other and WE don't know the characters, none of it means anything. Him saying "you're my heart" is cute,,, until you remember they've barely spent 4 cumulative hours together, most of it not even talking.

This book reads like "See? I can do romance too!" without considering the genre conventions. The main couple don't go on a date. We don't see how they are apart and how they are together. We don't see how they complement each other (because they don't have personalities or quirks). They don't have shared values. And the stakes are too high for what little investment they've put into the relationship.

You can't just throw beautiful people and taboo pairings in a book and call it a romance.

Anyway, I've seen some reviews that say the author's other works are better, so maybe I'll try one of those. They're clearly talented. I just wish they had a better editor to reel in the story and prompt them for depth.

Pet, Freshwater, and Dear Senthurian seem like great choices.

@guerrillarain sometimes i just feel some authors miss the entire purpose of allegory and end up writing the worst shit that comes across even worse than what they are criticizing

@guerrillarain oh that sucks! i struggle with reading shallow writing as well too because it feels like all fluff and no substance

slut shaming/amatonormativity? 

@guerrillarain It almost sounds like we're supposed to know she's grieving and not coping well because she has sexual partners that she has no romantic connections to? What a strange way to depict a character.

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Une instance se voulant accueillante pour les personnes queers, fΓ©ministes et anarchistes ainsi que pour leurs sympathisantΒ·eΒ·s. Nous sommes principalement francophones, mais vous Γͺtes les bienvenuΒ·eΒ·s quelle que soit votre langue.

A welcoming instance for queer, feminist and anarchist people as well as their sympathizers. We are mainly French-speaking people, but you are welcome whatever your language might be.