Manga Review: MIERUKO-CHAN Vol. 2 by Tomoki Izumi (2021)

Genre: Slice-of-Life Horror
Year Release in English: 2021
Source: BOOK☆Walker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Ghosts, body horror, disturbing imagery

It took so much of my self-control to not immediately inhale this as soon as it hit my phone. Continuing with the excellent ghost designs, this volume introduces new characters and new lore (?), while still keeping up the slice-of-life pacing.

I winced at every new ghost introduced here. They are larger, more intricate, but I really liked how Izumi introduces softer moments where maybe the ghosts aren’t all bad. In fact, helping them find closure Sixth Sense style might be a way for Miko to find peace with her new horrifying ghouls.

One of my favorite archetypes is the character who declares themself to be someone’s apprentice. Here comes Yuria, a fledging medium who wants to know why the old woman closed up her shop and what exactly is up with Miko seeing ghosts beyond ever her comprehension. I can’t wait to see how this relationship evolves, especially since Miko tries to maintain that she cannot see anything going on around her.

ARC Review: THE INITIAL INSULT (#1) by Mindy McGinnis (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: dead parents, seizures, car accidents, animal cruelty, animal death (off-screen), drug abuse, vomiting, bleeding

This book is so fun, in as much fun as a story about a friendship falling apart can be. Filled to the brim with Edgar Allan Poe references, this book is a treat. Tress Montor lives with Cecil, her grandfather and guardian, who lives in a trailer next to a questionably-legal zoo. Her former best friend Felicity Turnado has the disappearance of Tress’s parents to answer for. Then comes the Halloween party, then the wall, and the secrets come tumbling out.

The pacing in this book is simply delightful and there’s even segments from the point of view of a panther. Fun from start to finish.

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Review: THE GRIP OF IT by Jac Jemc (2017)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2017
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Vomiting, menstruation, cervical injury, stalking, gaslighting

A couple finally gets their shit together, buys a house, and move in. But there’s no evidence of the realtor. Their neighbor stalks them and goes missing. There are teeth in the walls. This quick read is creepy, atmospheric, and makes you question reality along with Julie and James.

The simplicity of the prose in this one was what got me. The details and terrors are presented so plainly, there’s no attempt at using metaphor to describe what’s going on, it’s brilliant. The house just has teeth in the walls and secret doors everywhere, it’s not a big deal.

The other edge of the blade that makes this novel work really well is the almost literary presentation of Julie and James’ relationship. He has been keeping a gambling addiction from her. She resorts to the comforts of friends who only have platitudes to offer. When the hauntings move to physical ailments and distortions in reality’s fabric, the house almost becomes a Dorian-Gray-esque reflection of the couple’s inner turmoil.

Getting your life together seems like a terrible idea.

ARC Review: FIREHEART TIGER by Aliette de Bodard (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: emotional abuse, attempted domestic violence, arson

In a palace, Thanh returns from years abroad to a mother that doesn’t value her presence, a fire elemental which has taken to her, and a lover who won’t quite quit. The personal conflict mirrors the political conflict, a perfect blend of interior and exterior stakes.

The structure of this novel is so effective. It’s brief, with so many layers of world-building that would tickle fans of door-stopper fantasies. But it is the relationships that leap off the page. In particular, the waxing of Giang and Thanh’s connection, and the waning of Eldris and Thanh’s relationship really worked well, especially when taken in parallel with Thanh gaining her own footing politically. The precise characterizations and deliberate scenes infuse deep personal stakes that amplify and influence the political machinations. Thanh’s character journey really works. The mutual respect between Thanh and Giang is swoony and casts a warmth like firelight.

Review: MUTED by Tami Charles (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: 2021
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abuse (physical, sexual, mental), kidnapping, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, forced dieting and weight loss, homophobia, sexual assault

A dream turns into a nightmare as Denver sees an opportunity to get into the R&B industry through superstar Sean “Mercury” Ellis. It starts off with the lavish trappings of fame like parties and studio time, but devolves into manipulation and abuse as Merc tries to stamp out Denver’s voice, while also showing the ways she can fight back.

With parallels to the 2019 documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, this novel in verse does not pull any punches, exposing the dark side of the music industry and the ways young women can fight back.

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Review: WE KEEP THE DEAD CLOSE: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper

Genre: Adult True Crime Nonfiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Murder, sexual harassment, power imbalance, work place harassment, sexual assault

A murder at Harvard that’s been left unsolved for decades, the murder of Jane Britton is passed around as a bit of a ghost story, a poltergeist haunting the archaeology department. One undergrad, writer Becky Cooper, doesn’t want to leave it at that, and embarks on a quest to find the truth behind this brutal murder.

What unfolds in a eye-widening exploration of misogyny in academia, silencing on an institutional level, and frightening parallels between gender equality in the late 60’s/early 70’s and in the 2000’s.

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Manga Review: THE PROMISED NEVERLAND Vol. 1-3 by Kaiu Shirai

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2017-2018
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

As with most things, this blog is a work in progress. I’ve decided that instead of spamming with multiple blog entries if I read a whole bunch of chapters at once, I’m going to do a compilation post instead. The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Child murder, gaslighting

What an idyllic start to a dark fantasy. Kids with serial numbers on their necks live in harmony at an orphanage with a Mom who takes care of them, a daily test, and entire afternoons spent playing. Things are a little strange, with the gate, the smooth wall, and lack of other humans around, but it’s fine (for now).

When one of them is picked to be adopted, the children are elated. Emma and Norman notice that the child left behind her beloved bunny. They go to the gate. Instead of a loving family, there are demons waiting to eat the child. The kids are not to be adopted at all; they are meant for a feast.

The tone shifts with a snap and instills immediate dread. If things seem too good to be true, they likely are, and this manga so far leans into that energy spectacularly. The kids start planning an escape, but it seems futile. I’m very invested in what tricks and secrets are revealed to get these kids out this nightmare.


Content warnings: Child murder, gaslighting, caricature of a Black person

In Volume 2, the children continue planning their escape. This one was a bit of a struggle for me on a few fronts.

The first being the introduction of Sister Krone. Her design and depiction were certainly a choice, in that she is a Black character with exaggerated features reminiscent of caricatures of African-Americans. It is pretty uncomfortable to look, but in terms of her characterization, it was interesting to see someone who’s also interested in taking down Mom, but not for the benefit of the children. This execution of a third party conflict really works, but it’s really difficult to appreciate it with the depiction on-page.

The second point of struggle is the pacing. This volume gets interpersonal between Ray, Emma, and Norman with some fascinating reveals. I just wished that things moved along a little bit more quickly. It feels at times as if Shirai does not trust readers to keep the facts in their heads.


Content warnings: Child murder, gaslighting, caricature of a Black person, death of a Black character

Finally, there is plot movement as the kids get closer and closer to escape they. But Mom knows all and uses her influence to both literally cut the escape plan at the knees and eliminate Sister Krone. The tension amps up, and I am so relieved that it is less dialogue-heavy. It seems that Shirai is finally trusting the reader more, and I hope that momentum continues

The ending ends on an explosive note, but wow do these kids need to get out as soon as possible, for all our sakes.

Review: LAKEWOOD by Megan Giddings (2020)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction/Horror
Year Release: 2020
Source: Chirp Audiobooks

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: medical experimentation, vomiting, self-harm

Lena’s grandmother dies and her mother needs medical treatment. She drops out of college to care for her mother, but then a too-good-to-be-true offer comes her way in the form of participating in a research study. It involves being part of some testing at a facility that hides behind a venture called Lakewood Shipping Company. Horrors come to light as they make Lena and the other participants take untested medications.

Disturbing in a way that is all too real, I could not pull myself away from this read.

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Manga Review: MIERUKO-CHAN Vol 1. by Tomoki Izumi (2020)

Genre: Slice-of-Life Horror
Year Release in English: 2020
Source: BOOK☆Walker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Ghosts, body horror, groping, disturbing imagery

This manga might be my new favorite thing. It follows a girl, Miko, as she goes about her daily life with one major problem: she can see ghosts. They are not friendly, and no one else around her can interact with them. Sometimes it’s funny, other times it’s horrifying, and I am so interested in where this story is going.

The ghost designs are so excellent. The art style really balances the slice-of-life and the ghostly terrors. They’re so inventive, and each one has me both terrified and unable to look away. The page-by-page jump scares are exquisite. I really enjoy Miko and Hana’s friendship, they do every day girl things that leave me convinced they are girlfriends.

There is a brief introduction of rules and lore, with the breaking spirit beads and visits to mediums. It’s light in this first volume, and I really hope it gets explored.

Duo Review: THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers (2021) and THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN by Jeff Guinn (2017)

I read these books in close proximity to each other. After learning that the non-fiction was used as research for the fiction, I thought it would be neat to combine them.

The Project (2021) by Courtney Summers (left) and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple (2017) by Jeff Guinn

Cults are a subject that have fascinated true crime writers and fans for quite some time. From their deadly demises to the strategic and manipulative ways they entice people to their group, there is so much to examine, and so many opportunities for heart-break. In 2021’s The Project, Courtney Summers tells the story of a budding journalist, Lo, who tries to reconnect with her sister, Bea, who had been lost to a cult, The Unity Project. The rise of Lev Warren can be easily mapped onto the rise of Jim Jones and Peoples Temple in the 70s, a socialist organization which had a flimflam man who believed himself God at its center. Both books are chilling, heartbreaking, and compliment each other so well.

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