Manga Review: UZUMAKI by Junji Ito (2013)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2013
Source: Viz Manga Subscription

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Death of parents, harm to children, body horror, violence against animals, arson, starvation, stalking, natural disasters, debris, loss of home

It is the year 2023 and I have finally read my first Junji Ito upon subscribing to Viz’s new manga subscription for more horror and classics.

And wow, is this one a horror classic for several reasons. One, there is a clear sense of dream and how far Ito pushes the human form to creature something that skirts possibility and tips over into the edge of madness. Two, the children are written with the correct amount of hubris and sense of survival that makes Kirie’s happening so compelling to watch. Things just kind of happen in her vicinity and while she is curious, she’s as much in danger as the rest of her town.

Three, the way plot details escalates recalls previous horrors and happenings from previous chapters. It’s sequential in a way that’s really satisfying and makes for a horrifying progression. The concept of dread crumbs is executed perfectly in some of the most unambiguous art I’ve ever seen.

I’m absolutely excited to read more of this horror master’s work.

Review: THE GRAVEYARD APARTMENT by Mariko Koike (trans. Deborah Boliver Boehm, 2016)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release in English: 2016
Source: Kindle Copy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: mention of suicide, a pet parrot dies at the start of the story (aftermath depicted), there is a dog and the dog suffers the same fate as the family

Misao, Teppei, and Tamao have recently moved into an apartment too good to be true: spacious and cheap. The only problem with the complex is that it’s surrounded by a graveyard, hence the title. Shortly after moving in, unsettling happenings escalate to the point that everyone moves out, leaving the fledgling family on their own to deal with supernatural forces beyond their understanding.

If you’re someone who enjoys the tropes and presentation of j-horror, this will be a treat.

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Review: ROMANCING THE BEAT: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes (2016)

Genre: Adult Writing Craft Nonfiction
Year Release in English: 2016
Source: Kindle Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve been meaning to pick this craft book up for years now. When I got stuck on plotting the former middle of my latest project, I knew it was the perfect opportuntiy.

Hayes presents a very easy-to-understand framework for plotting romance novels. She keeps an eye on genre conventions and audience expectation while presenting the opportunities and variations in ways that aren’t prescriptive. The definitions of each plot beat stay within scope, and, for queer writers, the main couple is referenced as H1 and H2.

The big take away I got as someone who wanted to level up their character craft and not as someone wanting to necessarily write a genre romance is focusing on character wounds and addressing those both internally and externally. It made my plotting stronger, and still offers space for more character discovery. Highly recommended for people who might be great at worldbuilding and plot, but falter on character work.

Author to Author with Sarena Ulibarri (Another Life)

Happy release day to Another Life by Sareena Ulibarri, a piece of solarpunk climate fiction about Otra Vida, a post-capitalist society that offers a way of life and governance that’s more egalitarian than the previous version of the world. It’s a novella grappling with past lives and offers a compassionate and forgiving approach to working through the sins of humanity’s past and how personal mistakes don’t necessarily doom the present.

I’m excited to have Sarena on the blog to talk about how this novel turned into a novella, what she’s working on next, and how slush reading influenced her approach to her own work.

Buy Link: Stelliform Press

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Writing is Hard Part 9: Revision is Not a Line Edit

As implied when I first mentioned this next installment, there’s been a lot of discussion–discourse–cropping up regarding word counts in traditionally published books. It’s daunting to trim a book down; I’ve been there several times. Infamously, I’ve sloughed off as much as 40,000 to 50,000 off fantasy books so that they would be within a range that’s considered acceptable for most agents.

Most advice, however, on tightening stories and making them more efficient is around removing filter words and dialogue tags. It’s never been enough, in my experience. Mostly because that’s a line edit, not a true revision.

In this latest installment of Writing is Hard, I’m going to outline some steps to pull off a revision that not only will make your story more focused, but also remove a whole bunch of words because you’ll be focusing on your story at a more holistic level than the words on the page.

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Review: THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS by Micah Nemerever (2020)

Genre: Adult Historical Thriller
Year Release: 2020
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warnings: death by suicide, death of a parent (the father), gun violence, vehicular manslaughter, suicidal ideation, violent crime, self-harm, explicit sexual content, polite homophobia, references to past hate crimes, mentions of antisemitism, there is a dog who does not get harmed

Paul recently lost his father and feels adrift in his family. A bit of an outcast, he’s more interested in maintaining his butterfly collection than friendships. When he starts college, however, things seem to be looking up when he meets the wealthy, effortless, and charismatic Julian. What starts off as a friendship immediately erupts into an obsessive and unhealthy version of love

A character study of a deeply insecure and narcissistic young man, plus the things he and his boyfriend are willing – and unwilling – to do to prove their love for each other.

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Review: OSSUARY by T.D. Cloud (Illus. by AmbiSun) (2023)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2023
Source: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: Emetophobia, blood draining, broken necks, childhood trauma (neglect)

Four curse-breakers venture into the Paris catacombs to do a bit of clean up. Spells decay over time and someone has to clear the frenzied magic. One such curse-breaker is Thierry Pryor, cursed with a family legacy he’d rather keep under wraps. His companions for this next venture are a novice, his schoolyard bully, and a manager more suited to the office than the field. When spells go awry and a tunnel collapses, gothic delights ensue and we learn the truth of what haunts Thierry both figuratively and literally. Steeped in magic and the gothic, both in mood and theme, a quick read that’s an absolute delight.

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ARC Review: ANOTHER LIFE by Sarena Ulibarri (2023)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: May 25, 2023
Buy Link: Stelliform Press

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an eARC from the publisher
Content Warnings: state violence, climate disaster

Galacia Aguirre is Mediator of Otra Vida, a city of communal living and equivalent exchange that exists on the shores of what was once Death Valley. In the lead-up to her re-election, a colleague of hers reveals to have discovered a way to discover past lives. Unfortunately, Galacia’s past life is of the man who might have singularly spurred the climate decline of the planet. This novella will appeal to fans of the Monk & Robot books by Becky Chambers in the way it offers a compassionate and forgiving approach to working through the sins of humanity’s past and how personal mistakes don’t necessarily doom the present.

An interview with the author will be going up on May 25, 2023.

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April 2023 Reading Recap

Apologies for the delay in posting this recap. Life stuff came up and I needed to take care of my own, but it’s finally here. The biggest thing that happened in April is I debuted with my sapphic true crime fantasy noir novella, Ice Upon a Pier. The reception has been great so far, and I’m so excited that people have purchased, read, and enjoyed it. I did get some reading done, but absolutely not the level I’m used to. I’m really excited to continue down this path and there are announcements coming in June.

Here are the cool things that happens with Ice Upon a Pier:

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Manga Review: TOKYO GHOUL: RE by Sui Ishida (2017-2019)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2017-2019
Source: Viz Media Digital Subscription

If you’re looking at this header image and wondering, “Who is that?” Welcome to Tokyo Ghoul: Re. A continuation of the story told in Tokyo Ghoul, Sui Ishida returns to a version of Tokyo overrun by ghouls and the investigators hunting them down.

The story starts with the introduction of a new group of Ghoul Investigators called the Quinxes, which are artificially-made ghouls that still function more or less like humans. Their leader is Haise Sasaki, who strangely resembles Kaneki in demeanor and the things haunting his psyche. Everything else I’m going to talk about in my review is going to be a major spoiler for who Haise is and the crew around him. This follow-up does an incredible job expanding the world and diving into backstories with some intense art and moments so gut-wrenching, I had to take weeks off between chapters and volumes.

Full of distressingly beautiful art and moral quandaries that make humans and ghouls hero and villain in equal measure, I am definitely going to seek out the boxset as soon as I have the budget for it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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