I read 198 books this year in a split of: 39 ARCs, 59 audiobooks, 85 manga volumes, 9 physical copies, 2 light novels, and 6 eBooks. As my boyfriend said, “That’s a lot of things, Jo.” It is that time of year where I want to share my favorites, so please enjoy my top 20 2021 books, top 20 books from before 2021, and, a new feature, 5 manga.
I realize that I make lists for books I’m excited for and book I want to read, and failed on both those lists. So, my lists for 2022 books is mostly about boosting others works regardless of if I personally get around to reading them. That’s just how it is when you’re employed and vastly mis-measure what kind of focus you’ll have as the year goes on. Moving also robbed me of a bunch of my focus, which should not have been as surprising as it is. On top of working full time. On top of being in a relationship and trying to participate in the communities I’m a part of.
October went by quickly. I had the opportunity to go to Sirens Conference where I was on a panel about nonbinary representation in science fiction and fantasy. I also had a hard time reading this month, which was unfortunate, but I did enjoy the books, ARCs, and manga I did manage to read.
Read an ARC from the publisher Content warning: gore, blood
Cat, Phillip, Faiz, Nadia, and Lin are on a trip to Japan for a destination wedding that sounds idyllic on paper: a getaway to an old mansion. One problem arises, however, when the mansion already has a bride in its walls, plus the bones of other girls buried alive. It’s hungry and it wants more blood.
The thrills and chills in this novella are incredible. While there’s not too much going on as far as plot goes, there is a richness to the attention-to-detail as far the character studies and the atmosphere goes. I can feel every disturbing detail. No stone goes unturned which makes this some of the scariest under-150 pages I’ve ever experienced.
If you want to be delighted and disgusted by a ghost story that doesn’t flinch away from the bloodier and gorier details of how it all falls apart. In addition, there is also a meta-textual level where Lin and the narrator point out how quickly the group falls into horror story tropes. You watch it unfold. You tell them that they’re on the right path. But then you wince as it goes to shit anyway. It goes to show that even if you know “the rules,” the ghost house wants what it wants, and that thing is blood and terror.
August and September were two months I can only describe as liminal spaces. Long story short, we moved into one apartment, and then transferred to another apartment. I didn’t feel like doing an August recap without having settled in. So here we are. I’ve also been busy otherwise.
I did several author interviews (and there are so many more to come):
The All-Consuming World is a queer science fiction novel about a splintered group of mercenaries trying to unravel what went so wrong on a job decades ago. But it’s also about the cost of functional immortality and surviving an abusive relationship. The balance between heart-wrenching prose and awesome action set pieces with sci fi tech sprinkled throughout is impeccable Several weeks before its release, I’m thrilled to feature author Cassandra Khaw to talk about the craft behind this multi-layered work and what you can look forward to reading next.
Read an ARC from the publisher Content warning: gore, partner abuse, self-surgery,gun violence, death
A small fraction of a band of mercenaries called the Dirty Dozen get together for one last job which will hopefully bring closure to the disaster which tore the group apart several years ago. Rita leads, but it’s unclear if she can be trusted. Maya wants to, though everyone else seems to disagree. Meanwhile, an AI searches for the same planet and an epic clash is on the horizon.
Aesthetically and thematically science fictional with profane prose that pulls and prods the feelings, Cassandra Khaw’s debut novel is a queer treat.
Content warning for suicide ideation, blood consumption, gore, violence, manipulation
Genevieve Gornichec’s “A Sheep Among Wolves” performed by Erika Ishii
A college student looks for companionship and finds it in the unlikeliest of places. I really appreciate how Gornichec approached the recruitment strategy, and laid out a solid framework for that final reveal. The mental health aspect of it was also relatable, plus the general loneliness that comes with being in college. Very atmospheric.
Cassandra Khaw’s “Fine Print” performed by Neil Kaplan
Of the three, I think this one might have been the grossest. Khaw takes the approach of food insensitivities and the paperwork that goes into becoming a vampire. It also tackles individual interpretations of privilege that are both incisive and has you rooting for the antagonists in the best way. Sometimes the vampires are the good guys.
Caitlin Starling’s “Land of Milk and Honey” performed by Xe Sands
The setpiece of a verfiable blood farm was exquisite in this work. Leigh just wants to have an ethical source of vampire food, and nearly compromises the Masquerade in the process. If you’re looking for some sapphic pining, this novellas also has plenty of that to go around. The women are complex, and the attention to detail regarding animal husbandry is particularly good.
A must-listen for people needing more vampire stories in their life.