Review: Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

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ARC received from the publisher (Tor) in exchange for an honest review.

The House in the Cerulean Sea was one of my favourite books of 2020. So naturally, I jumped at the chance to read Under the Whispering Door as well. Unlike Cerulean Sea, this wasn’t an instant hit with me – but it won me over completely before the halfway point and that’s vanishingly rare. It counts for something.

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Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

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As much as I anticipated this book and as much as I wanted to read it (as I’d read anything Alix E. Harrow writes), it released right about when I was in the worst of my slump. So it waited. And waited. Until finally, the time seemed about right. I have to admit that in the end, I didn’t like it quite as much as The Ten Thousand Doors of January – still, it was enjoyable enough, very witchy and very angry.

She thought survival was a selfish thing, a circle drawn tight around your heart. She thought the more people you let inside that circle the more ways the world had to hurt you, the more ways you could fail them and be failed in turn. But what if it’s the opposite, and there are more people to catch you when you fall?

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Review: Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

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ARC received from the publisher (Tordotcom) in exchange for an honest review.

Part mystery, part creepy Southern Gothic ghost story, part dark academia, part an exploration of queer masculinity and grief, Summer Sons was like nothing else I ever read. I wasn’t sure if it’d be up my alley, I don’t go for horror, and the ARC request was of the experimental why-the-hell-not-my-friends-like-it kind, but damn it was good. I picked it up at exactly the right time.

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Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray (The Diviners #1)

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Sometimes, you have books on your TBR without quite knowing why, except perhaps a vague impression that someone, sometime might have said something good about it. Books for one day, maybe, but not soon. The Diviners was one of those – but I went for it and I’m glad I did.

She was tired of being told how it was by this generation, who’d botched things so badly. They’d sold their children a pack of lies: God and country. Love your parents. All is fair. And then they’d sent those boys, her brother, off to fight a great monster of a war that maimed and killed and destroyed whatever was inside them. Still they lied, expecting her to mouth the words and play along. Well, she wouldn’t.

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September 2021 Monthly Wrap-Up

September was a far above average reading month. I don’t know how or why, but I entered full reading machine mode and finished 9, with one DNF. I also have a massive preorder of 11 books coming between October and December, which I’m very much looking forward to.

I also finally reviewed She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan!

Read:

  • The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones: Badass gravedigger heroine who fights the undead with her axe, cinnamon roll mapmaker hero with chronic pain. Very small scope. And there is a goat.
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang: A super adorable graphic novel about a prince who wants to wear dresses sometimes (read genderqueer to me?) and a dressmaker who helps him do that.
  • The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth: Quiet, melancholic, beautiful. One of my faves this year.
  • Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace: Didn’t vibe with that one at all. I think I initially TBR’d it because YA book with no romance, but the atmosphere, the world, the plot…meh.
  • Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots: So much fun. Supervillains, spreadsheets, and monsterfucking undertones.
  • A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha: Started off very interesting, but poor pacing and questionable plot choices ruined it, especially in the second half.
  • Les Orangers de Versailles by Annie Pietri: FIRST BOOK IN FRENCH. Adorable, really liked it. Attempt at a review in French here.
  • Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford: As expected from Mitford, very gossipy and entertaining. But man I got tired of nobility’s shit.
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (DNF): Yeah no, not for me. Didn’t appreciate the infodumpy stream of consciousness style and the dynamic between the two MCs was exhausting.
  • Jean d’Alembert by Ronald Grimsley: Precisely the type of biography I hate the most – that is, non-chronological, with not much about the man’s actual life (shamelessly skipped all the bits on maths and physics and so on), but it still gave me some precious bits of info and at least a general sense of who d’Alembert was and what was he about.

Currently reading:

  • The Diviners by Libba Bray: Very good, excellent 1920s atmosphere, creepy undertones…but a little overlong.
  • Vermilion by Molly Tanzer: Got it a while ago and planned to use it for Bingo, but not sure I’ll finish this one. Not really feeling it.
  • Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo: Alright so far, but I actually need to sit down with it without distractions.
  • Voltaire and the Century of Light by A. Owen Aldridge: Yep, still picking at it. Still good. 

Books read in 2021: 47 (+ 5? rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 20/25 (80%)

Review: A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

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I’m actually not sure where I first heard of the book or what drew me in. The cover? The concept? The fact that it’s based on a Portuguese legend? Was it on some list of sapphic SFF? All of the above? But it felt like a good impulse read all of a sudden, so I went in.

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Review: Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

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No one wants to be a real hero; it’s too hard. My husband didn’t give a damn whether the work I was doing was noble as long as it appeared to be. When I killed someone then—something I did a lot more than I do now—it was for the greater good. It was such bullshit.

I’ve never much liked or cared about superheroes – what’s some asshole in a cape? Despite my friends’ gushing, I didn’t put Hench on my radar until there was a sale, and….wait. Mundane job? Spreadsheets? Fuck me, I’m in. I’ve always had enough of a hard-on for bureaucracy and other usually boring shit in books to override subgenre preferences and sure enough, it was exactly my thing. The characters’ low opinion of superheroes was the final cherry on top.

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Review: The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth

Amazon.com: The Light Between Worlds: 9780062696878: Weymouth, Laura E:  Books

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And we’re all a little frayed around the edges, aren’t we? It doesn’t surprise me and it doesn’t frighten me, finding out you’re only human like the rest of us.

This is one of my favourite finds this year.

Have you ever wondered what happens to children violently thrown from portal fantasy worlds? Do you think Susan from Narnia deserved better? Are you looking for something quiet and melancholy? Did you wish the Wayward Children novellas were darker and longer? Then you should absolutely read it.

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Review: She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (The Radiant Emperor #1)

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ARC received from the publisher (Mantle) in exchange for an honest review.

This was the last book of the 2021 orange sapphic trifecta (the other two being The Unbroken and The Jasmine Throne) I had left to read and another of my most anticipated releases.  It delivers everything other early reviews have promised – moral grayness, queerness, epicness, kneeling, yearning, a most interesting misogynistic eunuch, a petty scholar, determination, and romantic fisting. In short, if you’re looking for a different take on epic fantasy, you should definitely go for it.

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Review: The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

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“You speak of mapmaking as if there’s nobility in it.”

“There is,” he agreed. A moment, and then he added: “Just as there is in gravedigging. Neither occupation is particularly romantic, but I suspect the world would be a sorrier place without us.”

I had this book in my sights ever since it came out, part because of the disability rep, part because of the romance subplot. I don’t know what finally persuaded me to give it a go, but I’m so glad I did. I nearly read it all in one day and it was exactly what I wanted and needed it to be.

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