Doesn’t look like I’ll finish any more books before tonight, so here’s my list of pretty much everything I read in 2021, plus a few other odds and ends, like this year’s reading trends, books I’m looking forward to in 2022, and Favorite New-To-Me Authors.
(A guide to font colors: novels are in black, novellas are in purple, comics are in green, and non-fiction is in blue.)
(Also, I tried very, very hard to keep from picking quotes with Big Spoilers, but the quote from Harrow the Ninth does contain one SPOILER for its predecessor Gideon the Ninth. You’ve been warned.)
Burning Roses – S.L. Huang
“How we are treated is what we become. You will learn, little girl. When you humans want me to be feral so badly, it is the easiest thing in the world to satisfy you.”
Mr. Fox – Helen Oyeyemi
She’d felt terrible burning his stories, which she’d actually thought were rather good. She couldn’t have let Mr. Fox get away with beheading her, though. That was exactly the kind of behavior she had set out to discourage.
The Archive of the Forgotten – A.J. Hackwith
One did not live this long in a library without understanding the clear markers of Suspicious Nonsense.
Rock and Riot – Chelsey Furedi (Vol 1 – Paperback. The Rest – Webcomic)
“We weren’t accepted.”
Death on the Cherwell – Mavis Doriel Hay
After all, you’d have to feel pretty desperate about a person to go to all the trouble and risk of murder, not to mention mess.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North
I considered whether I had the courage to commit actual, cold-blooded murder, and concluded with mild regret that I did.
Elatsoe – Darcie Little Badger
He’d been her best friend for seventeen years—twelve alive and five dead—and Ellie was confident that if food couldn’t persuade him to be brave, nothing would.
Die, Vol. 2: Split the Party – Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans
“I’ll say this—I’m a hack, but I never put a song in one of my books. No one has ever actually read a song in a book. Ever.”
Die, Vol. 3: The Great Game – Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans
“You go for a one-liner and people can fucking die. Don’t be an irresponsible shit.”
Think of England – KJ Charles
“But—why didn’t you say?”
“Secret agent. Secret.”
The Poisoned Chocolates Case – Anthony Berkeley
Sir Charles was always exceedingly embarrassed when women used words like “adultery” and “sexual perversions” and even “mistress” to him outside of business hours. Sir Charles was regrettably old-fashioned.
All the Birds in the Sky – Charlie Jane Anders
Theodolphus had not eaten ice cream since the poisoning at the mall, and he didn’t deserve any now. Ice cream was for assassins who finished their targets.
The Once and Future Witches – Alix E. Harrow
“That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.”
Piranesi – Susanna Clarke
“Your good looks are gone,” I told him. “But you mustn’t worry about it. This unsightly condition is only temporary. Don’t be sad. Don’t fear. I will place you somewhere where the fish and the birds can strip away all this broken flesh. It will be gone soon. Then you will be a handsome skull and handsome bones.”
The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage – Jen Van Meter, Roberto de La Torre
“Maybe start the story, then,”
“Hmm . . . okay. What if I tell you about the day I died?”
Frederica – Georgette Heyer
“Of all the brummish stories I ever heard–! You were never on more than common civility terms with him!”
“Perhaps,” murmured his lordship, “I yielded to a compassionate impulse.”
“A what?” gasped his best friend.
Finna – Nino Cipri
“I might be biased because I was dying at the time, but that store seemed like a depressing place to spend your hours.”
The Memory Collectors – Kim Neville
Noemi loves an audience. Eve doesn’t have to participate. This is a performance, not a conversation.
The Midnight Bargain – C.L. Polk
“What woman knows that she has no wish for the most natural drives in the world at ten?”
Beatrice bridled the urge to snap. “I cannot answer that, as no one makes a habit of asking ten-year-old girls what they want.”
Riot Baby – Tochi Onyebuchi
When you have a purpose that doesn’t involve hurting someone, it changes the way you walk.
Network Effect – Martha Wells
I’ve also had clients who thought they didn’t need any security at all, right up until something ate them. (That’s mostly a metaphor. My uneaten client stat is high.)
Ace: What Sexuality Reveals About Desire, Society and the Meaning of Sex – Angela Chen
I dislike both these caveats and the fact that I am always tempted to use them. “I’m X but Y” always throws someone under the bus. “I’m a girl, but one of those cool girls” emphasizes the default view that girls are not cool. “I’m ace, but I’m kinky and not celibate” is an insult to those who are vanilla or celibate. “I’m ace, but not ace in the boring way you’re thinking” is still a dart, a subtle reinforcement of all the lessons taught about what it means to be frigid.
Here, The World Entire – Anwen Kya Hayward
For fear of being seen, I have never looked.
Night of the Mannequins – Stephen Graham Jones
I’m not in AP Math, so I can’t do the numbers for how much water a fifty-foot-tall mannequin would displace, and then factor that into the grade or whatever of the slope around the lake over here on the Rockwall side, but if I could, I know they’d match up perfect.
A Blade So Black – L.L. McKinney
Addison was white. Like, super white, saying stuff like “in a tick.”
The Conductors – Nicole Glover
“If anything happens to him, I’m going to find a way to make Charlie pay.”
“But,” Penelope protested, “ he’s dead.”
“Yes,” Hetty said, “but I’ve never been afraid of breaking taboos.”
A Thousand Ships – Natalie Haynes
Ten years of war, followed by three solid years wandering about the high seas, failing to come home with one excuse after another. You met a monster. You met a witch. Cannibals broke your ships. A whirlpool ate your friends.
Beneath the Rising – Premee Mohamed
“If you have to fuck people up to follow a dream, then it’s a bad dream and you shouldn’t follow it.”
Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson
Stevie Bell had a simple desire: she wanted to be standing over a dead body.
Paladin’s Grace – T. Kingfisher
Stop. You are the responsible one. You are not going to make love to a woman on a mud-infested hillside. That is not responsible. She will get bug bites. So will you.
Chaos Vector – Megan E. O’Keefe
The white light of death, so far as he knew, was not supposed to feel wet.
Once + Future – Cory McCarthy and A.R. Capetta
“But I do have an impulse control problem. And a sword.”
The Honjin Murders – Seishi Yokomizo
He’d wanted the information made public at the most dramatic moment possible.
Fortune Favors the Dead – Stephen Spotswood
The line dripped with the kind of innuendo they invented the Hays Code for.
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within – Becky Chambers
She wanted to keep her job. She wanted to fuck in a park (metaphorically). She could not see a reality in which those two desires might coexist.
Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeannette Ng
“You have to understand, I am as much a prisoner as you.”
“Your cage is larger, then.”
She Lies in Wait – Gytha Lodge
The disdain of older siblings had always seemed uniquely intense to Jonah.
Root Magic – Eden Royce
These tears were the last things I’d ever be able to give my grandmother, and I wanted her to have all I had.
Goldie Vance: Volume One – Hope Larson & Brittney Williams
“Who could complete with Alan Shepherd? First American in space and in my heart.”
“Did the Russians get there first, too?”
The Vanishing Stair – Maureen Johnson
“Let’s just say that I needed to have Moonbeam fight something and the only thing I could come up with was called the Pulsating Norb. It’s like a wall that jiggles. The best thing I could come up with this week is a wall that jiggles called the Pulsating Norb. I need you to come back here and kill me.”
The Decagon House Murders – Yukito Ayatsuji
“Hey, you’re not going to get all hysterical as well on us, I hope?”
“I don’t have the energy for that, Ellery.”
The Memory Police – Yoko Ogawa
“I sometimes wonder what I’d see if I could hold your heart in my hands,” I told him. “I imagine it fitting perfectly in my palms, soft and slippery, like gelatin that hasn’t quite set.”
And What Can We Offer You Tonight – Premee Mohamed
Why can I not be as brave and careless as her? (Because I am alive, because I am still alive.)
Summer of Salt – Katrina Leno
“You have to stop picking Sylvia Plath. It’s making everyone cry.”
Wendy, Darling – A.C. Wise
Once invited, always welcome—that’s his way.
The Valley and The Flood – Rebecca Mahoney
But this isn’t the five stages of grief people keep telling you about. This has no sequence. It resists scheduling.
One Last Stop – Casey McQuiston
“I wish I were never born,” August moans into the floor.
“Retweet,” Wes says solemnly.
Toads and Diamonds – Heather Tomlinson
“I pray that God will know the regret in my heart and judge me accordingly.”
“Yes, yes. Change dresses now, justify yourself later.”
The Hand on the Wall – Maureen Johnson
“I wonder who my dad will have as VP if he gets into the White House? I’m rooting for a cloud of bats.”
The All-Consuming World – Cassandra Khaw
We anthropomorphize Death; we create apocrypha in which he is conscious, compassionate, capable of reason; of being charmed into procrastinating; of caring, fuck us, do we want him capable of caring, of capitulating to powers that exceed his own.
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 – P. Djèlí Clark
He’d been eyeing the cages of chickens dubiously. As he understood, the Zār had to end in a sacrifice. He wasn’t averse to such things, but the blood and feathers were likely to get on his uniform. And he’d just had it cleaned and pressed.
Bryony and Roses – T. Kingfisher
“I stabbed you, so the least I can do is clean it up.”
“It’s nothing,” said the Beast.
“I stabbed you. With a knife.”
“Not very well,” he said, almost apologetically.
Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess – Book One: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew – Jeremy Whitley, Rosy Higgins, and Ted Brandt
“So, you ever wanna go on a quest?”
“Not a chance. I’ve got two kids I like and a very comfortable bed. Also coffee.”
Harrow the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
But Harrowhark—Harrow, who was two hundred dead children; Harrow, who loved something that had not been alive for ten thousand years—Harrowhark Nonagesimus had always so badly wanted to live. She had cost too much to die.
The Sun Down Motel – Simone St. James
“This place is dark.”
“Some of us like the dark. It’s what we know.”
Knock Knock – S.P. Miskowski
“Once we start to bleed, we can have a baby any time. Then we might as well be dead.”
The Bayou – Arden Powell
Eugene slowly lifted his gaze from his shoes. He would only die if someone tried to play the hero. It had been such a long summer, the sun so bleak and unforgiving, and at the end of such a wearying decade. He prayed there were no heroes left.
Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism, Genre – Alison Peirse (edited by)
When I first began researching Stephanie Rothman, I hit a wall early on, as most information I found about her career was conflictual and unverifiable. Stymied and frustrated, I did the only thing I could think to do—I asked her about her career. This is the untold secret of feminist interventions in film histories: many women are waiting to talk about their films and careers, but no one has ever asked.
The Final Girl Support Group – Grady Hendrix
“You’re absolutely one hundred percent safe here.”
“Your father is trying to reassure you,” I say, making eye contact, my hand on her other shoulder. “In reality, you could be murdered at any moment by a deranged lunatic who’s killing final girls.”
The Secret Skin – Wendy N. Wagner
It was built and it lived and it died, that house. It awakened to the kind of life that only living things can know, for it was a great house, the first of its kind in its wild place. And like all great houses, it breathed in secrets and whispered them in the dark.
The Wicked + The Divine, Book 3 – Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
“Being the devil is knowing you lost,” she says, ordering another drink.
Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels – Gwen Hayes
Romance has two heroes, not one.
Upright Women Wanted – Sarah Gailey
He would kill them all, because that’s what the State told him was right, and because the State told him that he was important for doing it.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune – Nghi Vo
That’s something I think peasants understand better than nobles. For them, the way down matters, whether you are skewered by a dozen guardsmen or thrown in a silk sack to drown or allowed to remove your robe and walk down to the shores of the lake before you gut yourself. Peasants understand that dead is dead.
The Inugami Curse – Seishi Yokomizo
Besides, it was not very pleasant to be near a corpse whose head and body had been sewn back together.
Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko
“Uniformity is not unity. Silence is not peace.”
And This Is How To Stay Alive – Shingai Njeri Kagunda
I have always preferred the word madness to insanity; it feels more rooted, more tied to the ground. Insanity ends in an unfinished sound, eeeee, like you are waiting for the word to close but it remains open. At least with madness, there is a sense of finality. A kissing of tongue to teeth. Assssiii.
When The Tiger Came Down the Mountain – Nghi Vo
“It is, and you are not invited,” snapped the mother fox.
“I’m a tiger, I am invited wherever I care to go,” replied Ho Thi Thao.
Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao
But I have no faith in love. Love cannot save me.
I choose vengeance.
The Murder Room – P.D. James
“He said that to be human is to feel guilt. I am guilty therefore I am.”
Arsenic and Adobo – Mia P. Manansala
“He was like family! But nobody lets you down like family, I guess.”
Die, Vol. 4 – Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans
“Has anyone ever found an island in this—and I quote—’empty sea’?”
“Probably! We can’t be sure. No one’s ever come back.”
Loveless – Alice Oseman
“Wank fantasy sisters!”
“Never say that again.”
Now for the breakdown:
Per usual, there aren’t a lot of surprises on this list. I mostly stuck to fantasy, mystery, SF, and horror, with the occasional outing into romance and non-fiction. I have started getting into honkaku and shin honkaku mysteries, which was a fun discovery. I’m really hoping Pushkin Press (or anyone, really) publishes more English language translations of Seishi Yokomizo’s Kosuke Kindaichi series. (I also really wish The Inugami Family—the first movie preferably—was available online somewhere with English subtitles. After having read the book, I’d love to check out the film. Alas, I haven’t found it yet.)
I’ve also been reading my usual metric ton of fanfic, of course. I’m still primarily obsessed with The Untamed because my obsessions run deep, but also because I’ve sadly bounced off most other fandoms I thought I’d sink into. I’ve also been reading Batman: Wayne Family Adventures online, which I’m listing here rather than above because it’s still ongoing. TBH, I’ve never read many webtoons before, but I really adore this one. It fulfills all my very important, very fluffy Bat Family Feels needs.
Some Favorite New-to-Me Authors: Nghi Vo, Maureen Johnson, Yoko Ogawa, Casey McQuiston, Arden Powell, Jordan Ifueko, Xiran Jay Zhao, Premee Mohamed
Allow me a quick shoutout to The Liar’s Knot by M.A. Carrick, which just came out a few weeks ago. It’s the second book in the Rook & Rose trilogy, and it’s fantastic. I know because—as I mentioned last year—I’m friends with one of the authors and had the opportunity to read both novels before they released. (Hence why neither appeared on the above list.) I’d highly recommend these books to anyone who likes their epic fantasy with a healthy side of politics, fencing, con artists, and magic.
Some upcoming 2022 releases I’m particularly looking forward to:
Some of the Most Quotable Books I read this year:
Mr. Fox – Helen Oyeyemi
Network Effect – Martha Wells
Beneath the Rising – Premee Mohamed
And What Can We Offer You Tonight – Premee Mohamed
Harrow the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
FAVORITE CHAPTER OR SECTION TITLE
A Butterfly That Better Not Be My Dead Sister – Iron Widow
I mean, damn. If that doesn’t draw you in, I don’t know what will.
The Other describes the circumstances under which it will be right to kill me. – Piranesi
My reaction to the Other’s declaration that he may, under certain circumstances, kill me – Piranesi
And finally . . .
FAVORITE OPENING QUOTE
So Shanna got a new job at the movie theater, we thought we’d play a fun prank on her, and now most of us are dead, and I’m really starting to feel kind of guilty about it all. – Night of the Mannequins
Look, I don’t actually have a Favorite Opening Quotes Master List or anything, but if I ever do start one, this is what I know:
1) Shirley Jackson would be on the list multiple times.
2) This quote by Stephen Graham Jones would rank high because it’s perfection.
Stephen’s god died a little after noon on the longest day of the year. – Paladin’s Grace
When Gullah people die, babies in the family get passed over the coffin so the dead person won’t come back from the beyond to take them away. – Root Magic
The dead girl woke and asked for her perfume and we gave it to her and she slept again. – And What Can We Offer You Tonight
I wake up, get out of bed, say good morning to my plant, unwrap a protein bar, and drink a liter of bottled water. I’m awake for five full minutes before remembering I might die today. When you get old, you get soft. – The Final Girl Support Group
“Something wants to eat you,” called Almost Brilliant from her perch in a nearby tree, “and I shall not be sorry if it does.” – The Empress of Salt and Fortune
That’s it for now. Next week (hopefully): My Favorite Books of the Year!