My 2021 in Reading: That’s a Lot of Things, Jo

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.

“That’s a lot of things,” indeed, self.

Continue reading

December 2021 Reading Recap

December went by like a flash. I attended Dis Con III, visited my family for Christmas, and write you from Chicago. Please enjoy this final reading recap of 2021. What a year it’s been.

Tomorrow, we have my annual recap coming up. I hope you’re excited.

Continue reading

Review: TENDER IS THE FLESH by Agustina Bazterrica (2020)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: cannibalism, slaughterhouse machinations, humans as sustenance, sexual abuse, rape, blood play, violence against puppies

In the alternate universe in which this book takes place, a virus has made all meat poisonous to humans, except for that certain hunger. The rest is told from the perspective of Marcos, a worker at one of the facilities whose life is falling apart. Until he’s “gifted” with a female, and things get worse from there.

While low on plot and shock value beyond its conceit, the ending punched me in the face on a journey that is very frank with its depiction and high in its interiority.

Continue reading

Review: THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris (2021)

Genre: Adult Literary Suspense
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Microaggressions, racism, stalking, kidnapping

A new co-worker in the office tends to be exciting. When another Black girl arrives and Nella Rogers is no longer the only Black girl her at her company, strange things begin to happen. Mysterious notes and cryptic texts telling her to leave Wagner send Nella in a spiral that could unravel the fabric of reality itself.

Excellent in its twists, and takes its sweet time establishing understanding, The Other Black Girl interrogates the publishing infrastructure for its lack of diversity while also introducing dread and menace in a tightly woven mystery.

If this has been pitched to you as Get Out meets The Stepford Wives but make it publishing, you’ve got an accurate description of this book.

Continue reading

Review: SOCIAL CREATURE by Tara Isabella Burton (2018)

Genre: Adult Literary Thriller
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Alcoholism, murder, drug use, dubious consensual sex, domestic violence, attempted suicide

This book is absolute bananas from start to finish. A worthy entry into books which spiritually remind me of My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, Social Creature features Louisa and Lavinia at its core. Louisa is a down-on-her-luck New York City transplant who works several jobs to not even make ends meet until one day, she’s booked as a tutor for Cordelia and meets Lavinia. Lavinia is a socialite who is one a sabbatical from Yale who lives in some kind of alternate universe where everything is beauty and poetry. We know Lavinia dies, and we beat witness to that toxic friendship.

This book has prose that hypnotizes with all the surreal glitz of oblivion. A wild ride from start to finish where having everyone be deeply unlikeable is part of the charm.

Continue reading

Review: THE LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE by Valeria Luiselli (2019)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: American border crisis, missing children

A family goes on a road trip to record voices and sounds, but as the trip moves south, the husband becomes obsessed with following the story of the Apaches, while the wife seeks to unravel the mystery of a Mexican friend’s two missing children. All while their own kids watch their parents’ marriage dissolve in real time.

An effective demonstration of the power of multi-media story-telling, this moving and inventive novel makes great use of shifting perspectives to tell a deeply personal story that works so well in its framing narrative.

Continue reading

Review: THE INCENDIARIES by R.O. Kwon (2018)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Year Release: 2018
Source: Chirp Audiobooks

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: rape, abortion, drug abuse, cults

I went into this novel having heard of it and subsequently posting it as a “pick my next audiobook” poll. I wish I could send everyone who voted on this one a thank you card because I listening to it in one sitting.

The prose in this work is tight and hypnotic, particular in its intentions and at times, incredibly heavy. None of the main characters are likable, but their journeys to the end of the narrative are simply fascinating.

Continue reading

ARC Review: THE HARPY by Megan Hunter (2020)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: NetGalley
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC via NetGalley
Content warning: Blood play, suicidal ideal, infidelity, sexual assault (not depicted but heavily implied)

It took me a few days after finishing this one to figure out how I felt about it. On one hand, it is a literary fiction about someone getting cheated on. On the other hand, this one is from the point of view of the one being cheated on, and her evolving bitterness towards the factors that may or may not have contributed to the cheating, and her pre-motherhood love of harpies.

Continue reading