Favorite Books of 2022

Hello again!

Like I mentioned in my previous post, this has not been a good reading year for me; I only read about 50 books, which I realize isn’t exactly nothing, but it’s the least I’ve read since 2015, apparently. So I did not expect to be able to come up with a top 10, but I actually did so quite easily; apparently I managed to read quite a few bangers before I became illiterate partway through the year. So let’s get straight into it…

10. Broken Harbor by Tana French

I only started reading Tana French last year; I read the first three books in her Dublin Murder Squad series in 2021, and I read the next three this year. This was the highlight for me by a mile, and may actually be my favorite in the series overtaking The Likeness. I honestly didn’t expect a whole lot from this premise or choice of narrator, but the atmosphere in this book is eerie and terrifying and the mystery left me guessing until the end; I really adored it.

9. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Chelsea can rejoice; this was the year I finally started reading her favorite series. All I can is “started,” unfortunately; I had every intention in the world of continuing this series immediately after I finished the first book, but I think I read this in June which is about when I started struggling with reading, so unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards for me to keep going, but I’m hoping I can return to it in the new year. But anyway, back to The Game of Kings: rumors of Dorothy Dunnett’s dense prose have not been exaggerated, but this tale of 1500s Scottish political intrigue is so intricately crafted that it’s such a rewarding and stimulating read, and oddly gripping once you really get into it.

8. The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Finalmente ho letto un libro da Elena Ferrante. I still haven’t read her Neapolitan Novels quartet, which I fully intend to, but this ended up being a great place to start with her. This is one of the most oppressive, claustrophobic books I’ve read; it made me want to crawl out of my skin, which I suppose is a compliment because I loved it and never wanted it to end. I thought the character work was astonishingly good for such a short novel, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s able to do in her longer works.

7. Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber

This was my Project Book for the year: it’s a 1000-page long essay collection that has an essay on every single Shakespeare play. I received it as a gift for my birthday so I started reading it in April, reading one essay a week, so I didn’t finish until the fall. This is the one thing that managed to keep me hooked even when I couldn’t concentrate on reading anything else. If you’re new here, I really like Shakespeare, and this was a great way to continue to engage with his works without performing them on Zoom every week as I had been doing for a couple of years previously. I found myself disagreeing with Garber on occasion, but that just made things more interesting, and more often than not, I really resonated with her insights, and there were a couple of passages that left me breathless with the way they reframed a simple element of a play that I hadn’t considered before.

6. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

It’s pretty much a rule of thumb by now that if I read an Emily St. John Mandel book, it’ll make my favorites of the year list. Sea of Tranquility is a sort of companion novel to The Glass Hotel, which is my favorite book of hers, so I adored all of the Glass Hotel tie-ins, but I also really loved what this book was doing as its own project. I think I read this in a single sitting, it was just that engrossing and immersive, and I thought Mandel really succeeded in accomplishing a lot in such a short space. Something about her writing style is pure magic.

5. Either/Or by Elif Batuman

The Idiot is probably one of my top ten favorite books published in the last decade, so its sequel Either/Or had a lot to live up to, and it really succeeded. I loved getting to spend more time with Selin, who has one of my favorite narrative voices probably ever, and I found the continuation of her narrative arc to be so effortlessly natural and satisfactory. I’m usually very anti-sequel on principle, especially with works like this which were originally conceived as stand-alones, but in this case, I felt fortunate that Batuman allowed us to read the next chapter of Selin’s journey.

4. Nightshift by Kiare Ladner

My favorite book of 2022 that was published in 2022 was this hidden gem that I’d love for more people to read: Nightshift chronicles the obsession that a young woman living in London develops with one of her coworkers. This book was both brutal and tender and its ruminations on female sexuality were some of the most insightful that I’ve read. In an oversaturated sea of disaster woman novels, this is one that I’d really encourage everyone to reach for.

3. The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

First and only male author on the list; I guess men deserve some rights. I watched the film adaptation of The Power of the Dog earlier this year and loved it so much that I felt compelled to pick up the book — kind of out of character since I’ve never seen a whole lot of appeal in westerns, but something about this story really got under my skin. The book cleared the high bar the film set; it deepens both the sense of creeping dread and the examination of power and masculinity and queerness. I really believe this is one of the lost masterpieces of 20th century American literature.

2. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

I’d been interested in reading Iris Murdoch for ages and I ended up being so glad that a bookclub finally gave me the push I needed to do so. I adored this. A common (understandable) bookclub complaint was that at around 500 densely-packed pages, this was too long, but I found myself in the minority in feeling like I could have spent another hundred pages with this narrator. This book was just so brilliantly crafted, so perfectly structured, that I felt the length suited this character with an over-inflated ego to a T. This book was both hysterical and sad and all of the Shakespeare references just made it even more of a delight. Just one of the most pleasant reading experiences I’ve had in a while. 2023 needs to be the year I read more Murdoch.

1. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

I guess my reading year peaked before it even began; this was the first book I read in 2022 and it also happened to be the best. I hadn’t had the most auspicious start to my Sarah Waters journey — I’d already read The Night Watch and The Little Stranger, both of which I thought were fine but I loved neither, so I am very grateful that I decided third time might be a charm with Fingersmith. Even though it’s around 600 pages, and nothing about it really screams page-turner, I absolutely tore through this: the twists were unexpected and delightful and the setting and characters both came to life for me like nothing else has all year. The film adaptation, Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, is also exceptional, but if you haven’t seen it already I’d really encourage you to read the book first. It’s worth it, I promise.

What was everyone’s favorite book they read in 2022? Also feel free to link me to your own best of 2022 blog posts! I will read them and reply to comments soon, either this afternoon or tomorrow. Hope everyone has a great New Year!


Most Disappointing Books of 2022

So… hi!

Been MIA for half a year, sorry about that. If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I am still very alive, but due to a number of circumstances, my year was absolute hell, and that sort of manifested in a total inability for me to concentrate on reading and writing. I really hope to be back more regularly in 2023 but I’m also not making any official resolutions to that end because I am trying to not give myself a hard time for not feeling up to any of this when it’s ultimately meant to be a hobby, not something that adds more stress to my life. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter if you are interested in hearing me be annoying about movies multiple times a day.

But I couldn’t let the year end without honoring this tradition, so I will be doing my two annual end of year blog posts. So without further ado… my most disappointing reads of 2022, out of the ~50 or so books I read:

5. Learwife by J.R. Thorpe

I think I read this in January of 2022 which feels like several lifetimes ago… but anyway, it definitely still deserves a mention here. King Lear is my favorite Shakespeare play by a landslide but one that I find particularly challenging to take out of its original context, so I’m always interested to see how authors are going to tackle it in retellings, and the answer here was ultimately just: not well. For a project that endeavors to answer the age-old question about what happened to Lear’s wife, this book didn’t seem particularly interested in the source material, altering a number of details that are kind of critical to the text and not doing anything interesting to expand on the characters and themes present in the original. I also found the writing overwrought and all of the narrative beats incredibly predictable; I just didn’t enjoy spending time with this at all.

4. The Magician by Colm Tóibín

It had been a while since I read a book and thought ‘now what was the point of that?’ but that’s where The Magician left me. Essentially a fictional biography of the life of Thomas Mann, The Magician is a thorough excavation of Mann’s life that spares no details but leaves so much to be desired in the way of intrigue and forward-momentum. I found this novel to be lifeless and plodding and so lacking in narrative substance that I couldn’t help but to wonder, over and over, why Tóibín (who’s published both fiction and nonfiction) opted to write this as a fictional story instead of devoting this effort to an actual biography of Mann. I like Tóibín’s writing on a sentence-by-sentence level and have generally enjoyed him very much in the past, but this project was a miss for me.

3. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
(cannot remember the translation I read; it wasn’t the one pictured here)

I read The Magician paired with Death in Venice for a bookclub and I pretty much disliked them both equally. This was my first foray into Mann and I honestly doubt I’ll be returning in a hurry—while I did enjoy our bookclub talk on this novella’s themes, Mann’s actual writing and sentence structure was just a giant headache for me that I didn’t find nearly rewarding enough to be worth the effort.

2. The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

I’ve long been a Riley Sager apologist, typically holding the opinion that you can’t take his books too seriously, you should just try to sit back and enjoy the ride (I really enjoyed the much-maligned Survive the Night; I hear all the criticisms but at the end of the day I tore through it). The House Across the Lake was another matter entirely. This book wasn’t even entertaining, to start with, and to me that’s the biggest sin that Sager could commit; I can forgive a lot of nonsense in this genre if a story’s compelling enough, but this was a chore to get through. And then I found the main twist so stupid it almost defies comprehension, so, absolute shit reading experience from start to finish.

1. Sentence by Daniel Genis

In Sentence, Daniel Genis recounts the decade he spent in prison for armed robbery, centering his experience as an “over-educated” white man in US prison system, and treating the experiences of queer and non-white incarcerated people with downright distain. This whole book left such a bad taste in my mouth, which was only exacerbated by this author harassing me over my review nonstop for days on Goodreads, going as far as to insult the profile pictures of several of my friends, claiming they all have the same “ugly glasses”? Anyway. Good riddance to this book, which I will never speak on again after I post this.

So let me know what your worst reads of 2022 were, if you have a full blog post about it that I should check out (I haven’t looked at my WordPress reader in months and I find the prospect a little overwhelming at the minute if I am honest), or tell me something you’ve been up to while I’ve been gone. I will be back in the next day or two with my best books of 2022, which is a list that I’m actually very excited to share, because despite my mediocre year of reading overall, there were some absolute highlights that I’m looking forward to talking about.

book review: Either/Or by Elif Batuman | BookBrowse

EITHER/OR by Elif Batuman
Penguin Press, 2022

“I felt that this is what I was fighting against, and always had been: the tyranny of the particular, arbitrary way that things happened to have turned out.”

Elif Batuman’s debut novel, The Idiot, published in 2017, chronicles a year in the life of Harvard freshman Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants who has vague notions of becoming a writer and thinks she may achieve this goal by looking closely at the way language works. Though she is derailed from her objective, the events of Batuman’s first novel take Selin on an odyssey through the Hungarian countryside in the summer between her freshman and sophomore years as she chases the affections of an aloof older student, Ivan, who has just graduated and is about to move to California.

You can read my full review HERE on BookBrowse and a piece I wrote about Søren Kierkegaard HERE.

book review: The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Berkley, March 2022

I think in a better mood I could have enjoyed this book a bit more, but I also firmly believe I would not consider this a good book under any circumstances. I really admired St. James’s The Broken Girls and was hoping for a similarly gripping paranormal thriller here, but I thought The Book of Cold Cases was largely a slog. The first half of the book drags, the twist is revealed early on and it’s easy to guess even earlier on, the paranormal element doesn’t dovetail with the mystery well enough to really justify its inclusion, and the whole premise is predicated on detectives having overlooked a painfully obvious link during a very high-profile murder case. And where I thought that Shea was a well constructed character, I felt that the way her trauma and eventual recovery was rendered was a bit overly simplistic. Anyway, if you like your paranormal thrillers heavy on tedious domestic drama, for whatever reason, this will be the book for you; otherwise, it’s just a bit of a flop. St. James can do better.

Women’s Prize 2022 Longlist Reaction

Well, the longlist has been announced, and I am underwhelmed. But before we get into that, here it is:

Some stats to start off with—as always, let me know if you spot any errors:

UK: 4
US: 6
New Zealand: 1
New Zealand/Australia: 1
US/Canada: 1
Trinidad: 1
Turkey: 1
Jamaica/UK: 1

White authors: 8
Authors of color: 8

5 debuts

I got 2 predictions correct: Great Circle and This One Sky Day.

I’ve only read one book: Great Circle, 4 stars.

Here’s where I usually go through the books one at a time and give you a reaction per title, but honestly I can’t be bothered, because half of these books I’d never even heard of until today, and the ones I had heard of, I hadn’t been particularly interested in reading. After reading through all of these summaries, nothing really leaps out at me either. So, here’s what I’m thinking…

Will prioritize: Build Your House Around My Body, Salt Lick because I got roped into a group read, Sorrow and Bliss, Creatures of Passage

Maybe: Remote Sympathy, The Book of Form and Emptiness, The Bread the Devil Knead, The Exhibitionist, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, The Island of Missing Trees, The Paper Palace, This One Sky Day

Probably not: Flamingo, Careless, The Sentence

This list just feels bland and commercial and uninspiring to me, on the whole. That said, it’s much more diverse than last year’s list, so that’s the good news. And who knows, maybe there will be a couple of hidden gems in here.

How do you guys feel about this year’s longlist?

Women’s Prize 2022 Predictions

I can’t believe it’s already this time of year, but the Women’s Prize longlist announcement is just around the corner! I’m scheduling this post to publish the same day as Anna & Eric’s prediction video, both to join in the excitement and to resist the temptation to borrow from Anna’s list more than I already have in the weeks we’ve spent talking about this (I only stole one from her, to be fair).

I will be updating my Women’s Prize Complete Longlist history post here and its corresponding Google Doc here as soon as the list drops, so you can look forward to that, if that is the sort of thing you look forward to.

So, without further ado, my 16 predictions for the longlist (chaotic mix of UK and US covers as always):

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? Yes! I’ve heard so many good things about this book and it seems very up my alley.

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chen

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? No, no, no. Nothing about this appeals to me, from the premise to what I’ve seen of the writing style. I’ll probably pass if it’s longlisted.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? I think so. This one didn’t totally land for me for a couple of reasons, but I had fun reading it and I think its depiction of workplace microaggressions was phenomenal and deserves to be recognized.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? I’ll definitely pass if it’s longlisted. I’ve heard this is fantastic, so I won’t be mad to see it on the list, but it’s over 800 pages and the premise isn’t doing much for me so I just don’t see myself reading this.

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? (This is the one I stole from Anna.) Anyway, I’m on the fence—this seems like it could be good but it might also be a bit ‘book of the month’ for my tastes, so I’ll wait and see what other people think first.

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Has the author been longlisted before? No (!!)

Would I be happy to see it? I think I’ll feel pretty neutral about it. I think it’s very likely—Groff is, obviously, a tremendously well-known writer and it feels like it’s time to see her recognized by this prize, especially for a book that feels more Women’s Prize-y than anything she’s done before—so I’m prepared for it, but I was a bit underwhelmed by this book and I’m not a huge Groff fan so I won’t exactly be jumping for joy.

Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

Has the author been longlisted before? Yes.

Would I be happy to see it? Sure? I haven’t felt very compelled to pick this up, but at the same time it does seem like the sort of thing I could enjoy. I’ve also never read any Sarah Hall which feels like something I need to rectify.

Devotion by Hannah Kent

Has the author been longlisted before? Yes.

Would I be happy to see it? I was a huge Burial Rites fan so definitely, I’d love to read this.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? Yes! I started hearing amazing things about this when it was nominated for the National Book Award, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it and would love the excuse to pick it up.

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? Yes! I really enjoyed McConaghy’s debut, Migrations; I thought it was a bit messy but mostly successful for me, and I’d love to read her followup novel at some point soon.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Has the author been longlisted before? Yes.

Would I be happy to see it? As your resident Sally Rooney stan, yes, of course. That said, I will be equally fine with seeing it snubbed. This book has gotten a truly absurd amount of exposure and I’d be happy for something lesser-known, especially by a lesser-known Irish author, to take its place. (Let the record show that I am specifically predicting that BWWAY will be longlisted but not shortlisted, for that reason. I think the judges will include it as a nod to its cultural significance, but ultimately want to award the prize to a book that they can leave more of a mark on.)

This One Sky Day by Leone Ross

Has the author been longlisted before? Yes (not since 1997!!)

Would I be happy to see it? Kind of neutral. I’ll probably give it a chance if it’s longlisted but for some reason it hasn’t been screaming my name. Actually, I see it is commonly shelved on Goodreads as ‘magical realism,’ so, that is probably the reason.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? Eh… meh. I thought this was an adequate, by-the-book, Circe-esque Greek mythology retelling. I enjoyed it well enough but I didn’t think it did anything particularly groundbreaking, and for it to be lauded as one of the 16 best books by women of the past year would honestly feel a bit silly to me, but I won’t be mad as long as it’s not shortlisted.

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? Absolutely! This didn’t fully work for me but it came damn close. It’s a sprawling, ambitious book that I found mostly successful in its aims.

The Performance by Claire Thomas

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? Yes! I haven’t read this but I think I could love it.

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

Has the author been longlisted before? No.

Would I be happy to see it? No. This really underwhelmed me. But I will not be surprised at all to see it longlisted; the Women’s Prize loves motherhood, especially in recent years it seems.

To address the elephant in the room: no, I don’t see To Paradise being longlisted. It feels too divisive, too controversial, too literary, too ambitious, too weird for this sort of prize. And I am aware that my list is very debut and first-time longlister heavy; there are a lot of other notable heavy hitters I’m leaving off (Erdritch, Strout, Riley, Barker, Toews, Shafak…) I don’t know why, it just feels like it’s going to be a mostly new, young writers year with a couple of exceptions. But we shall see!

What are you hoping and expecting to see on the list? Comment and let me know!

book review: Sleepwalking by Meg Wolitzer

SLEEPWALKING by Meg Wolitzer
Riverhead, 2014; originally published in 1982

It feels a bit silly and pointless to critique the 1982 debut of a prolific and well-established author on the grounds that it reads like a debut, but I have to get my criticisms out of the way: this book was remarkably clumsy—it reads like two concepts for two different novels stapled rather than sewn together.

The first of the two concepts is the story of ‘the death girls,’ three Swarthmore freshman who are each obsessed with a different female poet who died by suicide (Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and an invented poet, Lucy Ascher). The novel introduces the three girls with the striking opening sentence ‘They talked about death as if it were a country in Europe’ and the prologue continues on to explain their strange friendship, predicated on a similar reverence for death—but then this conceit falls away completely. Naomi and Laura, two of the death girls, barely factor into this novel at all—this is the story of Claire, coming to terms with the death of her brother as well as the death of her favorite poet; her story is shared only by the parents of Lucy Ascher, who have fallen apart in the years since their daughter died.

Enter the second concept: an unsentimental excavation of the many faces of grief. In spite of the obvious thematic parallels between these two narratives that Wolitzer thought up, she is unable to integrate them into one another in a way that doesn’t feel forced and unnatural. The ‘death girl’ setup (as well as the introduction to Claire’s narratively pointless boyfriend, Julian) is ultimately the framework for the novel’s real aims, but it’s flimsy and unconvincing and honestly a bit of a letdown to anyone who approaches this looking for a Secret History-esque campus novel about close-knit friendships. (The bulk of the novel takes place off campus, to add insult to injury.)

But that’s all okay—again, it’s a debut by an author who’s been working for 40 years, so it’s hard not to give Wolitzer the benefit of the doubt. And in spite of all the aforementioned clumsiness, I really enjoyed reading this book. Wolitzer’s meditations on death and grief are surprisingly fresh and insightful, and though the other death girls don’t leave much of an impression, Claire is a remarkably well-drawn character. This was actually my first Wolitzer, and I’m interested to see how her style has evolved through the years.

book review: Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park | BookBrowse

LOVE IN THE BIG CITY by Sang Young Park
translated by Anton Hur
Grove Press, 2021

Set in Seoul, South Korea, Love in the Big City is a warm, playful, emotionally rich novel that weaves together four interconnected vignettes to tell the story of its narrator, Park Young, as he matures over the course of his 20s and 30s. Split into four sections—each of which could conceivably stand alone as a short story—Love in the Big City first introduces the friendship between Park Young and Jaehee, a fellow student who, like Young, spends most of her free time drinking and hooking up with random men. The two move in together, sharing everything, and the platonic love between them is palpable; Young keeps Jaehee’s favorite Marlboro cigarettes stocked and Jaehee buys him his favorite frozen blueberries. When Jaehee uncharacteristically decides to settle down and get married after years of the two sharing their young and free lifestyle, Young feels betrayed and unmoored, which leads to a series of inauspicious romantic trysts.

You can read my full review HERE on BookBrowse and a piece I wrote about contemporary Korean literature in translation HERE.

book review: Voting Day by Clare O’Dea

VOTING DAY by Clare O’Dea
Fairlight Books, April 1, 2022

Set in 1959 against the backdrop of Switzerland’s failed referendum for women’s suffrage, Voting Day is split into four sections, each dedicated to a different Swiss woman, all of whose lives end up intersecting. This novella is short, sweet, and to the point: O’Dea deftly carves out a rich inner life for each of her four protagonists, and the story crescendos bittersweetly during the anticlimax of the result of the vote. 

The only problem I had was with the sentence-by-sentence writing, which felt overly modern, simplistic, and occasionally under-edited:

Oh God, she saw Luigi. I can’t say he’s a work colleague… maybe a neighbour? I’m so disappointed in him. He was up front all along, so why did he have to get so secretive in the end? It doesn’t do justice to what we had together.

Well, seeing as I was in that special situation with Herr Fasel, and not looking for anything serious, I thought, why not? I have no time for all this fuss people make about love and heartbreak and bagging a man. I’m a modern woman, and I don’t have to fit into some outdated mould.

(This seems to be a theme with a lot of my recent reading, doesn’t it: liking the idea of a story more than I like the prose.)

As this only takes about an hour to read, I have no hesitation in recommending it if this is a premise or period of history that particularly interests you, but unfortunately I don’t think this was as brilliant as it had the potential to be.

Thank you to Netgalley and Fairlight for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

book review: A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard

Saga Press, 2019

I was so sure I was going to love this short story collection—modernized mythology is a conceit that excites me—but ultimately found it pretty one-note and heavy-handed. This is a YA collection in adult clothing, and I think it’s a shame that it wasn’t edited with a young adult audience in mind (characters are all adults but feel like teenagers, and a few passing references to sex are clearly made to age it up; it doesn’t work). Anyway, it leaves me in this awkward place where I don’t like to criticize YA books for being YA (they just weren’t written for me, and that is a-okay!), but this book was explicitly marketed as adult and I did go into it expecting that it had been written for me so here we are.

I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to get on with this from the author’s forward, which ends with the words: ‘Turn the page. I have miracles to offer you.’ If that isn’t the most self-aggrandizing way to begin a book, I don’t know what is. I was just at odds with Kat Howard’s style prose style the whole time, with lines like that as well as ‘There had been a woman, Madeleine, he thought her name was, who smelled of paper and stories.’

This whole collection can pretty much be summed up in this line, from the story The Green Knight’s Wife (hey, I like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, maybe that story will finally be the one for me… never mind):

He feels more comfortable in a place that is like him: forest, secret, overgrown.
No one ever asked me what my comforts were[…]

This collection is just a mindless chorus of similar female voices lamenting being overshadowed by men; a theme I can absolutely love when done well, but here it isn’t executed with particular craft or purpose. I could pretty much hear Howard’s internal monologue as she was writing: “What if The Green Knight… but feminist? What if Orpheus and Eurydice… but feminist? What if Macbeth (kind of)… but feminist?” Like… ok, great, good start—and then what? Feminism is just an idea, an ideology, not a fully-constructed narrative. Each story just felt like a rough sketch of something and each ended in an anticlimax.

Thankfully the story that I enjoyed the most was the longest one—the novella-length Once, Future, a meta retelling of Le Morte D’Arthur. I thought this one was fun, at least: I think Howard’s strength is plot, which is why it was frustrating to see so little of it across these stories. I don’t think she excels at theme, atmosphere, or descriptive writing, and that’s pretty much all these stories purportedly have going for them.

This just wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. It clearly works well for the right reader, so if it interests you at all I’d absolutely encourage you to read a sample and see what you make of the writing style, but I just didn’t get on with it at all and I hope Marija forgives me.