(1/52) THE BONE HOUSES by Emily Lloyd-Jones
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.
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
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 Freydís Moon
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... 🍆🍆. Not a single bible quote made sense to me.
(8/52) DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE by Laini Taylor
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
(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
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
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.
(25/52) WE HUNT THE FLAME by Hafsah Faizal
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, yearning—
(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
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
Not rating bc I DNF'd after about 25% and skipped to the end. The concept sounds amazing—type A overachiever goes to Vegas with her friends to celebrate a birthday and wakes up married—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
"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
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 flowery—sometimes I missed details that weren't spelled out—but well-done.
(31/52) LORDS OF CHAOS: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan and Dirik Søderlind
0/5 stars - DNF at 17%
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.
(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
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
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 outsider—poor, Mexican-American, gay—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
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 godmothers—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
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 😭
(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: https://romanticparvenu.com/2021/11/29/book-review-what-big-teeth-rose-szabo/ 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.
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.
Une instance se voulant accueillante pour les personnes queers, féministes et anarchistes ainsi que pour leurs sympathisant·e·s. Nous sommes principalement francophones, mais vous êtes les bienvenu·e·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.