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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 TokyoGhoul, 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.
Genre: Historical Yaoi Seinen Year Release in English: 2023 Source: BOOK☆WALKER
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Content warnings: Political corruption, murder, sexual harassment, explicit sexual content Read my review of Volume 1
The intrigue continues as Joel tries to unravel the truth behind a set of fairly threatening letters addressed to Lord Montague and the king. Meanwhile, Luis and Gil are up to some schemes with Simon, the former king’s brother, during their visit to Lorraine. The danger heightens in the depiction of the side couple where all the political intrigue happens. I continue to be delighted and Luis and Gil’s complicated relationship of mutual loathing continues to make me unwell (this is a compliment).
It’s the triple threat of great art, dangerous intrigue, and characters who have so much going on than what’s initially on the surface. We have Gil and Luis starting problems, Joel trying to solve them, and Adam attempting to win Joel’s affections. We also get to learn a bit more about the political differences between Lorraine and Tanse, especially in a scene that spirals into character development when the child Luka, Luis’s cousin and adoptive brother, spends time with his peer, King Christopher. The depiction of gender and uncorrupted childhood innocence around things like love and marriage are precious, especially in the greater context of the tensions between their two respective countries.
If you’re someone who wants to learn characterization, the sex scene between Luis and Gil is something that needs to be studied. The way Suzuki weaves in interiority, backstory, and character development in what’s otherwise very titillating art is masterful. The amount that we learn about Luis and Gil is more than that what could’ve been covered if they were the focus of the series, and I think I’ve reread this portion about three times.
Blood is shed at the end of this volume, setting up some incredible tension for Volume 3, which thankfully drops in July 2023.