Review: WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF by Elana K. Arnold (2017)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: 2020
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abortion, animal death, attempted sexual assault (author’s note), vomiting

I took Elana K. Arnold’s Revision Season course last fall, so before getting into the book itself, I felt like I had an insider knowledge of its revision cycle. I got my ears into the audiobook and dove right in.

This work follows Nina Faye as she navigates her teenage years with the social pressures as they relate to autonomy and sexuality. Her mother tells her that there is no such thing as unconditional love, and Arnold explores the different modes of love during key moments of Nina’s life. It feels like the contemporary precursor to Damsel, so if you enjoyed the brutally honest way it explored its topics through fairy tale, you will enjoy this.

Continue reading

ARC Review: ACROSS THE GREEN GRASS FIELD (Wayward Children #6) by Seanan McGuire

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: misgendering, intersex-phobia, kidnapping

We’ve had installments in the Wayward Children series for fans of Candyland, Frankenstein, and riddles. Finally, there is an entry for Horse Girls.

Regan struggles to understand friendship at that pivotal intersection of puberty and childhood. After she reveals to her “best friend” that she is intersex, Regan runs away and joins a commune of literal centaurs. There is a queen in the Hooflands, and she wants the human. But Regan will stop at nothing to maintain her agency and autonomy, despite whatever destiny wants her to believe.

Continue reading

ARC Review: A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S.T. Gibson (2021)

Genre: Horror Romance
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: NYX Publishing

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC courtesy of the author
Content warning: emotional and domestic abuse, blood, violence, mental illness, gaslighting

If you’ve ever been interested in reading a story of Dracula told from the perspective of one of his brides, look no further. Told from Constanta’s POV, we experience her tumultuous relationship with the ubervamp and her relationship with her fellow spouses, spanning literal centuries. It’s romantic, but it also heart-wrenching with all the gothic delights one expects from a vampire story.

Author S.T. Gibson will also be my first author interview of the year so look out for that.

Continue reading

Review: THE ABSTAINER by Ian McGuire (2020)

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: murder, revenge, Irish-English tensions of the nineteenth century, child abuse

One of the reasons that I am so drawn to Ian McGuire’s work is that the writer absolutely does not flinch away from the nasty parts of historical accuracy that permeate both the time period and his characters’ backstories.

In this latest work, we go between Manchester, England and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as generational trauma and crime in the name of a greater cause chase our two main characters, Stephen Doyle and James O’Connor, respectively.

Continue reading

Manga Review: Requiem of the Rose King Vol. 1 by Aya Kanno

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2015
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Transphobia, misgendering, medieval violence

The premise of this manga is that it is Richard III but instead of having a hump, Richard is intersex, with elements of Henry VI woven throughout. This cover kept coming up on recommendations and feeds, so I had to dive in.

Dear readers, this is going to ruin my life and I am excited.

We’re introduced to the conflict of the Lancaster and York families which has lasted for a while. It looks like the Yorks are winning, but things take a turn for the worst when York retreats. I love the relationship King Richard has with his son. His death is completely telegraphed, but its depiction on the last page pulled me right in. It’s moving, it’s brutal, and I went two days before I caved and got the last volume.

Richard’s mother, Cecily, is a piece of work. She hates her son for being intersex, even though everyone around him otherwise accepts him. The other character who’s an asshole is the ghost of Joan of Arc, whose sole function seems to be to terrorize Richard. I’m invested enough that I definitely want to know more about her and the context for why she has latched onto this goth prince.

Manga Review: CHAINSAW MAN Vol. 3 by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2020
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Blood, gore, monsters, vomiting

This volume gets a bit gross on several fronts. Tensions are high as the eternity devil goes specifically after Denji. Half the gang wants to feed Denj to it. And he learns the taste of devil’s blood. Fujimoto does a great job introducing new rules and mechanics of this world through action sequences. This segment, however, also features moving flashbacks from Himeno, and dives deeper into possibly Denji’s psyche. It’s direct and moves the plot nicely along.

The drinks scene gets a little uncomfortable, with boundaries all the way down. Himeno comes onto Denji and promptly vomits on him. They go home together and nothing comes of it. Instead, they establish a mutual understanding of romantic goals. It’s quieter and less dire than Denji’s conversations with Makima and Aki. I can’t wait to see this friendship deepens.

And then the assassins show up with what looks like a new villain, and I am appropriately eager for how this unfolds.

Manga Review: CHAINSAW MAN Vol. 2 by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2020
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Blood, gore, monsters

In Volume 2, we pick up with the bat devil fight. It’s fast-paced, but when Fujimoto decided to pause, it stayed with me. The way he contrasts Denji as a devil-man against the other devils and against the other devil hunters really works. He seems kinder than both parties, but really Denji’s a beast of his own. He just wants to do whatever will help him comfortable. And you know what, I support it.

Many secondary characters were introduced, and I found myself drawn to Himeno. Her flashbacks add touch of seriousness that felt a little absent. Being a devil hunter is hard, and she has a trail of partners behind her. It really works to show her relationship with Aki, but then also hints towards her interest in Denji.

Everyone seems to be into the young devil-man, and the cliffhanger this volume ends on is a bit stressful, and I’m hype for it.

ARC Review: A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders (2021)

Genre: Nonfiction (Writing Craft)
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop | Libro.fm | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC

This is my first foray into nineteenth century Russian short stories and Saunders’ experience teaching them page-by-page shines through this craft book that is also a specific craft study. Saunders selected works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol to explore how these stories work and the connections between readers and authors.

What really stuck out to me about this collection was the subjectivity of the analysis and the dispersal of advice. Saunders makes it abundantly clear that the reader is allowed to get out of this work what they will. Disagreement with his impressions is encouraged throughout, and he even used the page space to refer to his own evolving relationship with these works. The balance between analysis of each story and more zoomed-out writing advice and Saunders’ own insights play well together, and it kept me engaged from start to finish.

There are definitely bits that I am taking with me as far as the exercises go, and some of the adages of what makes great writing work. A recommended read for people who learn by example (like yours truly).

Manga Review: CHAINSAW MAN Vol. 1 by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Note: Starting in 2021, I’ll be reviewing the manga I’m reading. It takes up a bunch of my reading and totally counts. I definitely want to share my favorites.

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2020
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Blood, gore, monsters

Monster transformations in anime/manga have got to me my favorite things. This one is something that has come back on my radar with the MAPPA adaptation coming, so I wanted to dive into the source material.

With the hyperviolence and “killing things like yourself” of Toyko Ghoul and a humorous tome reminiscent of Kill la Kill, I am super on board for this journey of a young man who merges with his dog to fight the devils terrorizing the world.

Continue reading

2021 Bookish Hype Train

2020 was trash, but brought us many, many gifts in terms of books that came out. Here are the presents coming to us in 2021 that I’m personally far too excited to read.

Continue reading