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Books I Read in 2021 & Think You Should Read in 2022

Kicking Off New Year’s Right: New Books

Support your local indie bookstores.

Seattle snow delayed the arrival of my first order of books in 2022. And if that’s the only effect of our week-long freezing and snow (thanks, climate change), then all’s well here in my personal household.

I love books, and I love recommending a great book to someone. In that fine tradition, I’ve brought back my annual book post: Books I Read in 2021 & Think You Should Read in 2022.

Because I’m always looking for new books, let me know what books you read last year and think I should read this year!

Bookworm corner 📚

If they’re on my 2021 best of list, find the review in the blog post! I will note them.

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann Leckie ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: epic far future sci-fi

#6 on the 2021 list

Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: non-fiction LGBTQ+ studies

#10 on the 2021 list

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: YA historical fantasy

#3 on the 2021 list

Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2) by Justina Ireland ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: YA historical (US post-Civil War) horror

This was an extremely stressful book to read at the end of 2021/beginning of 2022 with the omicron variant raging in the US. Especially the first half.

Loved the addition of Katherine's voice. Some of the new characters just popped, and I so appreciate the breezy way Ireland introduces even more queer characters.

That said, some of the pacing was off, and the treatment of West Coast Chinese immigrants was questionable. And it was disappointing that we didn't get even one Chinese character joining the crew in the book's second half. The zombies lost a bit of their metaphor compared to book one.

Ireland's portrayal of race as a caste system with Black Americans at the bottom was more effective than a certain very famous nonfiction book.

The last hundred or so pages, I couldn't put the book down.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: contemporary fiction

#1 on the 2021 list

A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2) by Alyssa Cole ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: contemporary m/f romance

** spoiler alert ** I liked the first half of this book better than the second as it seemed rushed for a HEA(FN). The conceit of the Romance genre works well... unless the story is emotionally complex. Portia and Tavish need to work through a litany of issues, which is why I'm giving this book 4/5 stars.

I wanted more of the Portia and Tavish energy that they had at the Renaissance Faire. I wanted more sword making! More #swordbae. Thank you.

Cole knows how to write steamy sex, and I appreciate that.

I wish Portia would've talked to Tavish about her ADHD. Or maybe Cheryl.

Tavish is way too nice to the Queen. She's a monster. I feel like Cole might've tackled that scene differently post-Megan and Harry Oprah interview. (And maybe some reviewers on this app should take back what they said about the villain being too racist.)

I'm an anti-imperialist, so I don't give a fuck if Cole messed up the British peerage titles. It's all made up anyway.

Evil Under the Sun (Hercule Poirot #24) by Agatha Christie ⭐ 2/5 stars
Genre: historical UK mystery

Such misogynistic bullshit through and through. The victim was blamed for her murder constantly, and the single lady with a successful company ditches it for a man as a little cherry on top in the ending.

Greedy: Notes from a Bisexual Who Wants Too Much by Jen Winston ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: non-fiction LGBTQ+ memoir

This memoir felt extremely rushed, and the editing was looser in style than it should've been. I wanted to cheer on Jen in parts, but in other places, I wanted her to get over herself. I'm shocked none of Jen's many stories about dating cis men involved biphobia, or at least she didn't mention it, especially since she mentions it about lesbians. (I've gotten biphobia personally from both groups when dating.)

In the acknowledgments, Jen thanks her partner for helping her realize that queerness can be breezy, which accurately describes this book. Except when I had to put it down for a while as I felt like I'd drank too much of something sickly sweet.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: non-fiction music memoir

Like me, you’re someone who has been a long-time Sleater-Kinney fan or has a keen interest in the PNW punk/indie/riot grrrl music scenes of the 90s/early 00s, this is worth the read.

I felt myself filling in details to Brownstein's stories, whether the scenic and cultural ones of the PNW or knowledge of the music and the scene.

The best illustration is Brownstein's recounting of the "last" Sleater-Kinney show at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon. She speaks to how the entire venue became a moshpit and how after the show ended, everyone had gone, and the house lights were back up, the band and their family and friends continued to dance with the show's energy. But for those who've never been to the Crystal Ballroom, she leaves out a critical detail: the famous flexing venue floor. The motion is a critical detail to the story, and it's missing, which illustrates how a lot of this memoir felt.

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) by Helen Hoang ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: contemporary m/f romance

** spoiler alert ** Mixed bag of feelings on this one:

The good stuff:

  • Autistic heroine written by an Autistic author.
  • Stella is also a woman in STEM who makes all the money.
  • Steamy sex scenes with good physicality.
  • Consent for sex acts go both ways.
  • Michael's lovely family dynamics and Vietnamese rep.
  • Michael has the creative profession.
  • In general, the writing was excellent and compelling.

The groan stuff:

  • The other man interested in Stella is a walking pickup artist and #MeToo sexual harassment lawsuit. He never posed an actual threat.
  • Very contrived that Michael didn't notice Stella had fallen for him.
  • While most of this book was based on OwnVoices and probably additionally researched and reads, it didn't feel like sex work (Michael's other profession) and sex workers were. An ample missed opportunity for this gender reversal Pretty Woman take. It lacked nuance.
  • There lacked a real reunion scene at the end.
  • Weird capitalism takes.

Lost On Planet Earth by Magdalene Visaggio, Claudia Aguirre, and Zakk Saam ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: far-future sci-fi graphic novel

This story hit me where I live in so many ways. It looks at the imperialism of a Starfleet and going after what you want in your life.

Magic in the Blood (Allie Beckstrom #2) by Devon Monk ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: urban fantasy

Perhaps these books have escalated too quickly, but perhaps, you felt every second of it.

Query Craft: The Writer-in-the-Know Guide to Getting Your Manuscript Requested by Angie Hodapp ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: non-fiction how-to writing

Beneficial and thorough advice on how to craft a query letter and what to expect in response from an agent.

Rainbow Bridge by Steve Orlando, Steve Foxe, and Valentina Vianconi ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: YA animal stories graphic novel

The dog does die, and then the boy goes to help the dog in pet heaven. I cried fully at the beginning, thinking about my cat, who passed in 2020.

Shattered Spear by Otava Heikkilä ⭐ 4/5
Genre: Historical far-past fictional graphic novel

Two strangers meet when one’s injured and the other’s trying to find missing family members.

Taking the Lead (Secrets of a Rock Star #1) by Cecilia Tan ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: contemporary m/f kinky romance

Sometimes characters have silly jobs in romance, but Ricki's inheriting a secret BDSM club was a bit over-the-top for me. Same with her mother's death cause. There were moments where I lost my connection with the characters and their motivations.

But this was a fun kinky romp, and I'll certainly read more in this series.

Voices (Annals of the Western Shore #2) by Ursula K. Le Guin ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: YA historical fantasy

#7 on the 2021 list

Reread: Yes, Roya by C. Spike Trotman and EA Denich ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: historical fiction (US 1960s) m/m/f kinky erotic graphic novel

Special mention on the 2021 list

Film Podcast! 🎥

Erica & Friends Talk Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020), image is the teens at camp in the film
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020) is an incredible documentary about the origins of the American Disability Rights movement. It follows disabled teenagers from their small camp in upstate New York in the 1970s to how they grew up to be the force behind the eventual passage of the ADA in the 1990s. This episode’s movie friends are Katelyn Bruhn and Anna Froese!
How can you listen? Via my Patreon. For $2/month, you get all 30+ previous episodes and new ones.

Things I wrote recently

Book progress:

I’ve submitted The Reclamation Project to a publisher with an open submission call for debut authors who aren’t agented. Please cross your fingers for me.

For those wondering what my book’s about, here’s the description:

When Sean's sister outs him at their father's funeral, his carefully siloed life collapses. A Longshoreman Casual at the Port of Seattle, Sean had set his hopes on joining the union, but now they're striking. So he heads for what he knows best: a night out dancing with his codependent best friend, Penelope.

A chance romantic encounter at a gay bar with the union's lawyer leaves Sean considering bringing home a boyfriend to meet his large, working-class Catholic family. With too many sisters, one tiny nephew, and his intentionally clueless mom, Sean navigates his family’s grief, searching for a new job, and uncovering the secrets, contradictions, and changing relationships with those he loves the most.

Will Sean's family deplete him, while simultaneously rejecting his queerness, and scare away the man who's capturing his heart? Or will Sean's emotionally stunted dumbassery hold him back and leave him stuck in the past, broke, and broken?


Green thumb update

I have too many houseplants. (That’s like 230+ houseplants, friends.) I’ve lost a couple of them due to neglect, usually getting too dehydrated. But most of them are still growing and overgrowing and growing too well. If you’re in the area and love houseplants, please reach out as I’d love to share.

And yeah, too many houseplants doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun getting Hoya cuttings from my friends Sheila and Yoshiko. Oops.

Hoyas all the hoyas in spagum moss
My DIY Hoya propagation box from a Costco plastic muffin box. Yes, I did knock another plant on the floor while taking this photo.

Other things

RIP to some incredible cultural figures:

  • Betty White (Has anyone made me laugh more?)
  • bell hooks (Read Feminism is for Everyone (link is a PDF of the book))
  • Anne Rice (Would I even be the same person had I not read her vampire and witch books when I was 12? Would I even have fetishes?)
  • Wakefield Poole (Would we have queer cinema without this gay pornographer, who also captured gay life pre-HIV/AIDS crisis, when you could only show movies with gay couples in porn theaters?)

[CAPITALISM] My Icky Sticky Evolving Relationship With Consumerism by Ijeoma Oluo — Oluo’s home burned down, and she reflects on the very few items she misses from it and how when she buys things for her new home, she now has the economic means to be picky and thoughtful about her new stuff. So many of us, including me, have too much stuff.

[FILM] Here's Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult To Understand (And Three Ways To Fix It) by Ben Pearson — Everything I watch needs to have closed captions.

[FOOD] Meet the Guy Who Spends Just $150 a Year to Eat All His Meals at Six Flags by Quinn Myers — Yep, this is just as gross as you’d think, but also amazing.

[HOLLYWOOD] Losing a Teenage Dream by Colton Haynes — Actor Colton Haynes opens up about the horrific treatment he’s received in his acting career due to being a gay man, namely people trying to make him less gay and his lack of being cast after coming out.

[MUSIC] Tear the Roof off Jungleland by Greg Tate — RIP to Greg Tate, a cultural commentator, and his review of seeing Springsteen live is just *chef’s kiss*.

[PLANTS] The online plant community has a hoarding problem by Jessica Lucas — Instagram and Facebook Groups, in particular, have created a lust for too many plants, and maybe that’s a bad thing when you cannot take care of them. (Again, friends, please reach out if you’d like houseplants. I will give them to you.)

[SEATTLE] The Seattle Times Found Many Ways to Profit From Exclusion and Redlining by Ray Dubicki — The Seattle Times has always been and always will be garbage centered on white business owners’ capital.

[SHORT STORY] Crawl by Max Delsohn — Delsohn’s story is precisely what I think about when it comes to the impact of very specific stories. The MC Jack is a young trans man going to gay male bars, and eventually a bathhouse, in Seattle looking to get laid. These details round out the world and the character’s experience and elevate them to relateable empathy.

[TECH] How the web was lost by Patrick R — A look at the internet’s evolution into what I recently told someone never should’ve been created (as someone who has made all their money as an adult on the internet).

[WRITING] Sometimes Writing is Just a Job by Ijeoma Oluo — Writing is work. Oluo lays out how to take care while getting the work done.

Wishing you all the best health in 2022,


Erica McGillivray

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