Title: Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, Sarah Moses
Published by Scribner
Published: August 4th 2020
Genres: Fiction, Horror
Format: Trade Paper
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans —though no one calls them that anymore. His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.
Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.
I finished this book almost two months ago, and I still think about it at least once a week. I read a lot
, so it’s rare that a book will stick with me for so long because my brain just jumps to the next thing because yay distractibility, but Tender is the Flesh
is going to stick with me for a while.
Essentially, animal flesh becomes inedible, and the government enters the “Transition” in which “special meat” is processed for consumption. “Special meat” is human meat, and Bazterrica holds nothing back in the description of that transition. Marcos, the main character, is a processor at one of these processing plants, and the first third of the novel is him methodically trying to distance himself from what he is participating in.
When he’s given a live female specimen, though… that’s when everything turns upside down. While he begins to treat this female specimen with a sort of kindness and gentleness, the violence of everything else, including of Marcos’ own doing, amplifies, and the novel turns more gruesome and brutal as it devolves into how brutal people (especially men) can be to one another when it comes to power and control.
This was a book I could not put down because I needed to know what happened next, how this would all resolve, and the last page of this novel is one of the most chilling conclusions I have ever read.
Title: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
Series: Fractured Fables #1
Published by Tordotcom
Published: October 5th 2021
Source: Publisher, Work
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow's A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story.
It's Zinnia Gray's twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it's the last birthday she'll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.
Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia's last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.
Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered has been touted as fairy tales meets Into the Spider-Verse, and I can’t agree more with the comps. For all its historical and narrative weirdness, Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite fairy tales. I love the Disney animated version, I fell in love with Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End, and I got my hands on as many retellings of Sleeping Beauty in any length and form.
The first of a novella duology, A Spindle Splintered follows Zinnia Gray, a young woman born with a fatal condition due to an industrial accident, who finds comfort in the stories of Sleeping Beauty. She, too, thinks of herself as cursed, and falling asleep, only to wake to true love, is just the sort of comfort she needs at a time where her own world is figuratively and literally breaking down
Charm, Zinnia’s best friend, throws a Sleeping Beauty-themed party on her twenty-first birthday, and Zinnia touches a spindle that sends her to a medieval fairy tale world in which she meets Briar Rose, the traditional titular character in a Sleeping Beauty story with which we’re all familiar. From there, the story takes off on its multiverse bent, exploring and shattering tropes and genre expectations that turns the entire concept of a multiverse fairy tale world into a page-turning read. I loved the nods to the fairy tale retelling writers I grew up with, and all of the nods to fairy tale tropes in general.
If you enjoy fairy tales and their retellings, A Spindle Splintered needs to be on your TBRs.
Title: Malice by Heather Walter
Series: Malice Duology #1
Published by Del Rey Books
Published: April 13th 2021
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.
Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.
You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.
Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.
Until I met her.
Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.
But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.
Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—
I am the villain.
Sleeping Beauty is probably one of my favorite fairy tales, especially when the tropes are explored and subverted, and the second I heard about Malice
I knew I needed to read this. It was everything I hoped for!
Malice deftly weaves the familiar and the new, setting up the familiar Sleeping Beauty tropes while fleshing out the fantasy world in which Alyce and Aurora live because the history, politics, and landscape add so much to the story. Alyce is a Dark Grace, assisting the palace and its courtiers with her skills, when she meets Aurora and her world begins to shift. Alyce’s struggle with her true self and wanting to fit in add so much depth, and I loved that her identity scared even herself. It ties in so much with the feeling of being queer, that society tends to tell us we’re wrong for being who we are or that it’s evil. This is the first half of a duology, so there’s a lot left to be discovered in Alyce’s true self and how much of a villain she becomes later on, but I hope that it’s explored more and that she learns more about her own history.
The romance between Alyce and Aurora is so layered, and I hope there’s a lot more buildup and exploration of their romance in the second book. So much of this first one felt like an introduction to the world and these characters that the last third of the book felt rushed, so I hope the second one develops more specifically with the characters now that we have this world set up for us to explore. Aurora is nothing like what we often expect from Sleeping Beauty retellings – a quiet, almost simple girl who has one set of desires and nothing else – because this Aurora is feisty, willing to fight for what she believes in, and questions everything. She also surprises Alyce by saying that she wants to be just like her, something Alyce never thought she’d hear anyone say. The romance in this feels natural and right, never forced (though sometimes a little insta-love, but it is a fairy tale after all), and it’s all I want out of a sapphic romance – fantasy with both fluff and depth.
Overall, I enjoyed this so much, from the characters to the worldbuilding, and I’m looking forward to the sequel and anything else Walter releases in the future!
Title: Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida
Published by Quirk Books
Published: January 12th 2021
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Mia might look like a Millennial but she was born yesterday. Emerging from a coma with short-term amnesia after an accident, Mia can't remember her own name until the Siri assistant on her iPhone provides it. Based on her cool hairstyle (undercut with glamorous waves), dress (Prada), and signature lipstick (Chanel), she senses she's wealthy, but the only way to know for sure is to retrace her steps once she leaves the hospital. Using Instagram and Uber, she arrives at the pink duplex she calls home in posts but finds Max, a cute, off-duty postdoc supplementing his income with a house-sitting gig. He tells her the house belongs to JP, a billionaire with a chocolate empire. A few texts later, JP confirms her wildest dreams: they're in love, Mia is living the good life, and he'll be back that weekend.
But as Mia and Max work backward through her Instagram and across Los Angeles to learn more about her, they discover a surprising truth behind her perfect Instagram feed, and evidence that her head wound was no accident. Who was Mia before she woke up in that hospital? And is it too late for her to rewrite her story?
The description of this book sounded really interesting to me, so I requested it and got approved for it via Netgalley, and then it took forever for me to start reading and
continue reading. It wasn’t what I expected it to be. The writing is bright and quippy, and I’ll be interested to see what Tschida does next, but the execution of the concept seemed to fall apart in the second half of the book because the concept is #ambitious to say the least.
What I liked most about it is that it is a commentary and satire of modern millennial culture and the social media use within famous/rich circles. It pokes fun at food bloggers, influencers, and high society in Los Angeles, and that glimpse into the glossy pages of a gossip magazine is what kept me reading through til the end. However, the characterizations started off strong but by the middle of the book seemed too contrived and so much felt contrived and convoluted to fill the space created by the concept. Ultimately though, I think this story would work better in a visual medium and would make a super cute movie! I just don’t think it worked for me in written form because it took almost a month for me to finish this, mostly because I was dragging my feet every time I thought about reading it. The best part about it for me was Mia’s self-discovery once she figured out that her behavior before the accident was nothing like she was once she woke back up and the reconciliations she had to do with herself and the people around her once she decided to take her life in a different direction.
This might be for you if you really enjoy Instagram culture and celebrity gossip magazines! Thank you to Quirk Books for a review copy! All opinions are my own.
Title: The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien
Series: The Lord of the Rings #0
Published by Del Rey
Published: September 21, 1937
Format: Mass Market
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.
According to Goodreads, I hadn’t read The Hobbit
in eight years. EIGHT! I had been waffling for a few months about revisiting Tolkien’s stuff, and once I saw that it had been that long, I decided to start rereading! The Hobbit
is my least favorite part about The Lord of the Rings saga, but it also feels wrong to start reading The Lord of the Rings
without beginning with The Hobbit.
I think part of the reason it’s been so long in between rereads (I used to read it all at least once a year!) is that I have such a nostalgic view of it because it was a series I was obsessed with right around the time the movies were released. So after seeing how long it’s been since I’ve read them and seeing the films again in IMAX this year, it’s time for a journey back to Middle Earth.
It was everything I remembered it being, and I appreciated the story for what it was! It definitely reads like a children’s book in some places and feels a little over-told sometimes. I also tend to forget the huge gap in between the publication dates of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, and it’s evident already as I’ve already started The Fellowship. Tolkien developed so much about Middle Earth that it’s astounding, and with all of these new covers and editions being released in 2020 and in the near future, I want to revisit as much of it as possible.
Bilbo is one of the most relatable fantasy characters to me, someone who only wants to stay undisturbed in his little hobbit hole with a few small adventures here and there, until Gandalf comes along and takes him on a real, true adventure. The whole adventure, Bilbo is “puzzled, yet cheered” and carries on no matter what happens to him. Even though he’s a grumpy hobbit, he’s a grumpy optimistic hobbit, and that sort of optimism helps get him untangled from the worst sorts of situations.
And Bilbo’s last riddle with Gollum certainly wasn’t a riddle.