In September, I began what I like to think of as fall-themed or spooky season reading, while also picking up new releases in a variety of genres. In other bookish news, I was able to attend a day of WorldCon on a visit to Chicago with my brother this year, and we had a lot of fun attending panels and found a few books on the convention floor. I think that means I’ll be able to nominate and vote for next year’s Hugo Awards as well, which puts added motivation on me to read lots of 2022 SFF releases. Let’s get into the stats!
Total books read: 11
2022 releases: 9
Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda (5 stars) – Sometimes all I have to do is hear the vague premise of a book to know I’m going to love it. In this case, it was the phrase “literary vampire novel.” Woman, Eating is in many ways a classic coming-of-age story about Lydia, an artist living on her own for the first time, doing an internship in London that’s allegedly going to help jumpstart her career. She deals with both racism (Lydia is of Malaysian, Japanese, and English heritage) as well as sexism. And like many young women (and people of all genders), Lydia is intensely preoccupied with food; she thinks about it constantly, watches food videos on YouTube, and daydreams about what she wishes she could eat but can’t. It’s only that she’s a vampire and her only source of nourishment is blood that separated her from the rest of us, although we quickly begin to see how slim that difference is. Woman, Eating is written in fairly spare prose and is very approachable; if you’re thinking that you don’t like either literary novels or paranormal ones, this could still easily work for you. Despite her vampirism, Lydia is very easy for any milennial to relate to and identify with, and her growth of self is both literal and metaphorical over the course of the novel. I loved this one.
Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews (4 stars) – This was the conclusion to the second trilogy in Andrews’s Hidden Legacy series, and although it didn’t necessary blow me away in the same way that the first and second books did, I still love these characters and this series very much. I’m also very much hoping that the family’s third sister gets her own trilogy next, as I’m very much not ready to say goodbye to this world.
L’Esprit de L’Escalier by Catherynne M. Valente (4 stars) – I was lucky enough to see Catherynne M. Valente speak at 2 different panels at WorldCon in Chicago this year, which pushed me to pick up another one of her works ASAP. This novelette was one of her Hugo-nominated pieces this year; it’s a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth done in a way that’s macabre and highlights the story’s misogyny. Like everything I’ve read from her, its lush and detailed prose impressed me, and I’m sad she didn’t end up winning any Hugos this year.
The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (4 stars) – The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher might be the first and only book I’ve read in 2022 to legitimately freak me out. In that way, it was an excellent way to kick off spooky reading season. It combines horror and portal fantasy in a way that makes both genres appealing to a wider range of readers, and utilizes both mundane creepiness and utter strangeness to great effect. This is actually the second Kingfisher book I’ve read this year, after Nettle & Bone (a dark fairytale that I also really enjoyed) and definitely won’t be my last. A very solid 4 star read perfect for fall.
High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson (4 stars) – Since I recently spotlighted some of my favorite short books, it seems timely to also talk about the fantasy novella I just finished reading, High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson. Our main character Lana is a fun-loving, flirtatious scribe who gets conned into working for Parliament. It’s a riskier job than it sounds, since if the delegates can’t read an agreement, everyone in the city is drowned as part of a peace-keeping pact made with fairies centuries ago. It’s a fun mix of lighthearted humor and just enough depth to keep the stakes high, and I enjoyed the read.
A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Cana (4 stars) – A cute contemporary romance featuring an enemies-to-lovers, fake-dating romance between a chef and a whiskey distiller whose families have always been close but whose relationship has grown tense in recent years. I thought that the characterization in this book was really well done, with fleshed out family members on both sides, and I’m a sucker for a fake dating premise with all of.its accompanying hijinks. I liked that both protagonists were flawed but showed a lot of growth, and I thought the audio narration was excellent.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (3.5 stars) – I’ve been seeing a lot of readers with glowing 5-star reviews for this book, and I honestly wish that I was among them. A lot of aspects of this were really interesting to me, particularly the descriptions of the different games that the main characters were developing, but I thought that the character development overall was lacking, with too much telling and not enough textual evidence. Sadie, the main female character, particularly suffered, and although she wasn’t, at times she really felt to me like a cliched female character written by a male author.
The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett (3.5 stars) – One of the many chef-themed contemporary romances I’ve been picking up recently, and although I didn’t dislike it, not one of my favorites. It was still overall an enjoyable read, but didn’t blow me away.
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo (3.5 stars) – A very cool premise and collection of ideas that felt disjointed in plot and execution.
Because I Want You by Claire Contreras (3 stars) – I picked up this romantic suspense novel on a whim; I’ve enjoyed several books from Claire Contreras in the past and read an excerpt of this one on her Instagram that made me immediately pick it up. I ended up liking some features of it (great chemistry with forbidden romance due to the fact that our female MC is the male MC’s brother’s ex-girlfriend) and other aspects less so (the plot really dragged as the book went on).
A Highlander for Hannah by Mary Warren (3 stars) – It’s great to see more plus-size representation in romance, and this one had a fun premise, but both main characters were immature and their dynamic wasn’t always fun to read about.