COVER REVEAL + REVIEW: HEART, HAUNT, HAVOC by Freydís Moon

Genre: Adult Gothic Horror Romance
Release Date: February 14, 2023
Buy Links: Amazon | Etsy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had the immense privilege of reading this book early. It’s about a haunted house, a broken relationship, mysticism, and genuine scares. It’s also incredibly hot, and the healing but horrifying journey these characters go through made my heart swoon.

I’m incredibly excited to be part of today’s cover drop. You are completely unprepared.

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January 2023 Reading Recap

Happy 2023! January feels like it was many things. I wrote over 15,000 words of fanfiction and short fiction for deadlines. I re-outlined all of my novel code-named AquaShame. I did a lot of reading and watching movies, and honestly, it’s been a pretty good time. The biggest thing, however, is that I dropped the title of my forthcoming novella! I made a handy dandy press kit that has all the information you need: content warnings, links to goodreads/storygraph, pre-order information, and more.

Blog Interviews are resuming next month with Freydís Moon (who is also showing up on the blog tomorrow with a cover drop).

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Manga Review: BARBARITIES Vol. 1 by Tsuta Suzuki (2023)

Genre: Historical Yaoi Seinen
Year Release in English: 2023
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Political corruption, sexual harassment, explicit sexual content

People call this a historical fiction inspired by Renaissance Europe but I’m pretty sure it’s a secondary world fantasy minus the magic and monsters (I would love for someone to correct me if this is not the case).

Viscount Adam Canning is hired to be the bodyguard of Lord Montague, who has several secrets up his sleeve in order to maintain the efficiency of his station. But tensions between church and state brew in the background, and while a romance between a playboy and a sexually inept young man play out in the forefront.

I kept this manga on my radar when an artist was drawing Luis and Gil, one of the other couples in this work (they are very gay and absurd in their affection). The characters are charming with very quick work done by Suzuki to establish their backstories. I am pulled in hard by the political intrigue unfolding in this work. There’s a tension between the main religion and the more secular monarchy, plus Adam’s entanglements with the queen and her cohort. Joel seems to have several tricks up his sleeve, including eluding an assassination attempt. Who sent the killers? What does he know? I’m invested in the story as well as seeing when (if?) the insta-love and the slow-burn crush will even out in their attraction.

Review: THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED: Stories by Mariana Enríquez (2021)

Genre: Adult Horror Story Collection
Year Release: 2021
Buy Link: Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
General content warnings: Blood, body horror, missing children, murdered women

In preparation for reading an ARC of Our Share of Night, I decided to delve into my backlist and read this collection from the author. I was not disappointed. This collection has a variety of terror, mostly in the form of hauntings and the way it affects the narrators who have to live in the places. But the problems presented are deeply human and unsettling in their rawness. I’ll mention my favorite stories in this brief review.

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Danmei Review: THE SCUM VILLAIN’S SELF-SAVING SYSTEM Vol 1 by Mo Xiang Tong Xio (illust. Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi)) (2021)

Genre: Transmigration Fantasy Danmei
Year Release in English: 2021
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Injury, demons, body horror

I forgot why I picked this one up because I’ve seen art, I’ve seen thoughts, and once it finally landed on my to-read list, I started reading and had a hard time keeping myself away.

Shen Yuan is an inappropriately passionate fan of a fictional web novel, Proud Immortal Demon Way. Upset at the ending, his biggest hope would have been to be transmigrated into the body of protagonist, Luo Binghe (LBH). Instead, he’s the scum villain, Shen Qingqiu (SQQ). (For those like me more familiar with Japanese light novels, this is essentially an isekai). And being the scum villain comes with a literal digital assistant making sure he doesn’t do anything out of character else he forfeits his life. While the characters around him function like normal human beings navigating their demon-battle-filled world, SQQ tries to course correct as if he too doesn’t have his own flesh to worry about it.

There’s a reverence for the genre, while pointing out the ways in which SVSS plays with subverts tropes and expectations. I think what kept me reading and in stitches is the fact that SQQ maneuvers the story as if it’s fiction or a video game, strategizing for points rather than taking into account that the people around him might also be human. His own unawareness of the machinations around him makes him a colossal idiot in a way that is just fun to read. He’s committing to fixing his problematic fave instead of being a character. The absurdity of his own obliviousness is incredible.

The world building and big chapter set pieces are so cool, but I do not have the familiarity with danmei or the cultivation fantasy genre to speak to its execution. I enjoyed myself nonetheless. My favorite sequence had to be the literal dream sequence in which Meng Mo tries to trap both LBH and SQQ. The demonstration of the different magic that permeates the realms really worked for me. The way MXTX threads emotional and system-stakes really works for me, and kept me so invested in the story, in addition to SQQ and his various relationships.

Now that the characters have gone off script and the System itself has shut down, I’m so excited to see how SQQ weasels his way through the shenanigans to come.

Review: DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD by Olga Tokarczuk (trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, 2019)

Genre: Adult Mystery
Year Release in English: 2019
Source: Physical Copy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: violence against animal, dead pets, hunting, misogyny, blood, bore, vomiting, blood in stool (mentioned), alcoholism

A woman with a deep love for animals is at the center of this mystery where men with violent tendencies towards the local wildlife start appearing dead in her vicinity. The source material for the movie, Spoor (2017), I definitely had to give this one a read, and it’s incredible how well both versions of the story work in their respective media.

Much smaller in scope than The Books of Jacob, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a character study of a recluse who loves animals living among hunters and

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Manga Review: GUNBURED X SISTERS Vol. 1 – 3 by Wataru Mitogawa (2022-2023)

Genre: Fantasy Yuri Seinen
Year Release in English: 2022 – 2023
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I thought I had reviewed the first two volumes of this high octane manga about a religious order who fight vampires, but apparently not. It is sexy and little perverted, it’s over-the-top, there are girls in love, girls in rivalries, and knights who use she/they pronouns. The series is fun and irreverent with really fun fights and so many ulterior motives among people supposedly working together.

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ARC Review: SWIFT THE STORM, FIERCE THE FLAME by Meg Long (2023)

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: January 17, 2023
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Review of Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves (2022)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: gun violence, weather disasters, blood, explosions, loss of parents, colonialism, implied nonconsensual medical experimentation, mentions of torture. There is a wolf. The wolf experiences some peril, but the wolf does not die or suffer permanent injury

Once again, Meg Long takes the reader on a journey that is full of feeling, fun worldbuilding, and the complexity of friendship and surviving trauma. Sena and her wolf, Iska, are side characters in this adventure told from Remy’s point of view. It takes them to Maraas, a lush, jungle planet plagued by a hellstorm which rests the landscape every two weeks and the corporations at war with the syndicates. Remy searches for a good friend who she lost several years ago, and that might mean teaming up with the boy who betrayed their partnership at the same time.

Excellently paced, intriguing, and healing, I really enjoyed this return to Long’s slice of the cosmos, this time in stormy jungle rather than in a frozen tundra.

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Light Novel Review: VAMPIRE HUNTER D Vol. 4: Tale of the Dead Town by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Yoshitaka Amano (2006)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy Science Fiction Western
Year Release in English: 2005
Buy Link: Barnes & Noble (Initially received via Humble Bundle)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: violence, gore, talking carbuncle, blood, weather disaster

In this volume, Vampire Hunter D stumbles upon a biker and a family that’s been eliminated by radiation poisoning with only a teenager surviving. Things only get stranger from there when the new trio make their way to a literal wandering village inhabited by several thousand people. The mayor has some specific problems with Nobility, but the poisoned family’s home might have the key to all the goings-on.

The mystery here can literally only happen in the world of the Frontier. There’s science that feels like magic and fantasy that is ripped straight from horror. The architecture and depiction of the moving town is also something really rad. There’s allusions to the mechanisms that are firmly rooted in 90’s-style sci-fi, with a rudimentary understanding of computer and cyberpunk mechanics. It’s present enough to give the genre’s grounding, but not so much that not knowing the specifics will interrupt immersion. The intrigue driving the story is also deeply human, where the reasons behind the town’s ailments perfectly map to “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I won’t go into specifics, but if medical horror is your jam, you’re going to be well-fed.

Review: EMPIRE OF ICE AND STONE: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk by Buddy Levy (2022)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Starvation, depictions of mental illness, period-accurate slur against Inuit and northern indigenous people (explained, but present), animal slaughter, alleged death by suicide, dog on dog violence & cannibalism, corpses, graphic depictions of surgery & infection

Levy returns again with an incredible account of several boats and two dozen people trapped in and around the Arctic circle. Anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson organized a scientific and geographical expedition to the Arctic on The Karluk, a ship vastly unprepared for Arctic sea ice and manned by a crew composed largely of scientists with little experience in that treacherous territory. It goes well, with Stefansson abandoning ship to go on a caribou hunt and leaving everyone else in the charge of its captain, Robert Bartlett. Death, mental illness, desperation, and long, long treks across ice pack into Russia around the onset of World War One ensure.

If you enjoyed Labyrinth of Ice, you are in for a treat with incredible characterization and a reverence for the snow and ice many have tried to traverse in previous expeditions, you’re in for a treat. The audiobook does come with supplemental materials like photographs, a timeline, and additional reading.

A note on the content warnings related to animals: if you like cats, there is a cat who survives and lives for several years after the Canadian Arctic Expedition. If you like dogs, however, you might want to skip this one as many do not survive and Levy does not shirk away from descriptions.

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