Recent Reading, January 2021

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. And I give absolutely no fucks.

Filed Under:

January 31, 2021

I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading these days, which has been really great. I feel like I’ve found my reading mojo again–finally. So here’s a few things I’ve read recently:

First up is Eva Leigh’s Union of the Rakes series. These two books were a lot of fun–fluffy Regency romance with protagonists of a scientific and economic bent, respectively. I’ll likely pick up the third book when it comes out.

So then I decided to read Eva Leigh’s Wicked Quills of London series. The first two books in the series, Forever Your Earl and Scandal Takes the Stage did what they said on the tin–women writers trying to make a go of it in a world that gave them short shrift and they were both delightful and somewhat plausible–as plausible as any wallpaper romance is, at least.

The third book, Temptations of a Wallflower, was absolutely dire. I had to force myself to finish it, because I hate DNFing books.

It was so stilted and hard to read and so many things about it were just unbelievable. I didn’t believe the central conceit of the book, that Sarah was secretly writing erotic novels that were selling like hotcakes in Regency London–she has no friends but spends hours a day in a room writing correspondence and her family never stops to ask who she’s writing to? I didn’t believe that Jeremy’s father was given an earldom for being morally and ethically upright and I didn’t believe that Jeremy was so tied to his father’s purse-strings that he’d take on a ridiculous quest like “find the person who is writing these dirty books and unmask them so your father can continue to be seen as a morally superior human being” so he wouldn’t lose his allowance (on top of his living as a vicar). Also, the book makes it sound strange that Jeremy, as a third son, was a vicar–my recollection is that younger sons were often sent to make their way in the Church, so that was weird, too.

Honestly, the book felt like it was being written out of a sense of duty and that Leigh put a lot less care and effort into it than the other two in the series.

I also read the first issue of Mermaids Monthly, which I backed on Kickstarter. I love the concept of a limited series publication with a narrow focus, so I’m really looking forward to what the team does over the course of the year. That said, not everything in issue one really worked for me. What did work for me was Brigit Truex’s poem “Selkie” and Annika Barranti Klein’s “The Little Sea Maid.” I bounced pretty hard off of Patty Templeton’s story, “Pep and Luna’s”–both the voice and the conceit really didn’t work for me; it felt very contrived. And I wanted to love L.D. Lewis’s “From Witch to Queen and God,” which started out so strong and then faltered at the end; I think the ending needed more work and another editing pass to really meet the standard set by the first half of the story. The illustrations are great, especially the cover image. So overall, a bit of a mixed bag for me, but that doesn’t dim my enthusiasm for the project or for future issues.

And finally, I read T. Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones. I am not normally a horror reader. I really, really, really don’t like horror. But I trust Kingfisher (also known as Ursula Vernon) and that trust paid off and I liked the book well enough that it gets a proper-ish review. And I should probably disclose that Ursula is a friend.

Mouse has been asked to clean out her recently-deceased grandmother’s home in rural North Carolina. Grandma was both a hoarder and an incredibly nasty human being, so this task is something that will take both physical and emotional fortitude–and when Mouse discovers the holler people through the journal of her step-grandfather, she finds that she’ll need every ounce of fortitude she can muster, and then some. There is a hound named Bongo and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that nothing bad happens to the dog. There’s also a colorful cast of characters, from the folks living at the commune across the way from the house to the barista at the town’s coffee shop. I really want to know Foxy’s backstory.

In many ways, The Twisted Ones reminded me of the novels of Barbara Michaels–but with the creep factor turned up to 1,000. In Michaels’s novels (which are sadly unappreciated nowadays), there’s always a heroine at loose ends who ends up having to deal with a house. There is often either a recently dead or almost dead malevolent grandmother, and there are intimations of supernatural happenings around the edges. Kingfisher takes those intimations and makes them real, in a visceral and terrifying way–but because the book is written by Mouse as her recollection of events, you’re always sure she’ll make it at the end.

Kingfisher’s voice comes through loud and clear in this book, it’s a practical and to the point sort of voice and I find it very comforting (I suspect that’s why A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking did so well–not only is it a wonderful book, it’s also so reassuring. Also Bob.). Even as Mouse is surrounded by horrors, there’s a sturdy practicality to her that grounds both the reader and the narrative.

Let me put it this way: I liked this book so much that I immediately started reading Kingfisher’s second horror novel, The Hollow Places. Even though I really, really, really don’t like horror.


[book-info number=”1″]

[book-info number=”2″]

[book-info number=”3″]

[book-info number=”4″]

[book-info number=”5″]

You may also like…

Review: A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy

Review: A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy

Margaret Killjoy’s A Country of Ghosts is a work of beautifully crafted utopian fiction that reminded me of nothing so much as Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed–except in a country called Hron where there is enough for everyone, as opposed to LeGuin’s moon Anarres, where there are precious few resources.

Highly recommended.


Words of Wisdom

"It's chaos, be kind."
Michelle McNamara