ARC Review: PLAGUE BIRDS by Jason Sanford (2021)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy
Year Release: September 21, 2021
Buy Links: Apex Book Company | Bookshop

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the author
Content warning: blood, gore, body horror, self-harm for the purposes of magic, gaslighting, violence

You’ve heard of plague doctors, get ready for plague birds. Plague birds are people bonded with blood AI who exact justice by killing the wrong doer. They are very powerful and very feared. Crista bonds herself to one named Red Day and embarks on a journey to attempt to save her village from a rogue faction called the Veil. There are twists and turns and memory manipulation galore, while the real danger might be coming from inside the metaphorical house.

Deftly toeing the line between dark fantasy and science fiction, this book is perfect for those wanting to read compelling characters with science and technology that feels like magic.

The author Jason Sanford will be featured on the blog in an interview on September 14th, 2021.

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Review: THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (2021)

Genre: Adult Psychological Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Drug abuse, suicide, bullying, rape (depicted), alcoholism, murder

PR manager Ambrosia “Amb” Wellington is invited to a college reunion, but there are so many skeletons buried within that closet and someone is bent on revealing the truth. What follows is a story told in dual timelines, the past and the present, as what looks like normal college debauchery turns into a matter of light and death. There are parties, there are hookups, there are gross boys and even more despicable girls. There’s a laser focus on the extracurriculars of college that felt uncomfortably true to life.

This book is one hell of an anti-bullying PSA. It’s not often we see the person who did the bullying as the protagonist, but the layers to it are hard to take your eyes of.

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Review: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (2005)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2005
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Cannibalism, racism, starvation, dehydration, cannibalism, descriptions of whale butchering

This is the story that inspired Moby Dick. The whaleship Essex attempts to take down a sperm whale, but the sperm whale has other ideas and sinks the ship. What then goes down is a grisly tale of survival and survival cannibalism as the crew members float along the Pacific hoping for rescue. What also features in this narrative is a lot of contextualization of whaling as an international enterprise, the lives of the crew before the tragedy, and what became of them after.

With incredible pacing and thorough research, I found myself glued to this narrative from start to finish.

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ARC Review: THE WOLF AMONG THE WILD HUNT by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor & Andrew Garin (ill.) (2021)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy
Year Release: September 14, 2021
Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the author
Content warning: blood, gore, body horror

Skythulf is a scythewulf, neither a man nor a beast, who must serve the Wild Hunt in order to regain his honor after killing an impostor nun. Told in flashbacks in a world where myths come to life, this dark fantasy light novel is not one to miss.

The author Merc Fenn Wolfmoor will be featured on the blog in an interview on September 9th, 2021.

There is so much packed into this neat little horror package. The worldbuilding comes at you hard and fast, unfolding in vivid detail. Myths get introduced, stories told with folkloric prose, only to show up as character and plot events page later. It’s riveting and makes for a quick read, even with the short page count. The illustrations also lend a mythologic air to this story.

I also really enjoyed the relationships. There’s definitely a bit of a nature versus nurture when it comes to Skythulf and his thorniness. He has tenderness and honor in Brennus, and I loved the contrast in that relationship. One is very much of the world, while the other has been shunned by it. It’s beautiful amid the gory, violence pulled straight out of the aesthetics of Northern European folklore. I think what also helps is that the world is gentle towards those who are queer, and this bit of kindness doesn’t conflict with the otherwise intense story and world Wolfmoor presents.

ARC Review: NO GODS, NO MONSTERS (The Convergence Saga #1) by Cadwell Turnbull (2021)

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: death by police officer, discrimination-based violence, guns, drug abuse, drug addiction, cannibalism, suicide

This book has everything. It’s got shifters, conspiracy theories, communities coming together, families falling apart, time skips, parallel universes, and the meaning of truth in light of things incomprehensible. Turnbull delivers another genre masterwork that this time blends literary fiction with urban fantasy, where werewolves and weredogs exist alongside humans, some of which want to ascend to godhood.

With heart-wrenching prose and deft navigation of several POVs, No Gods, No Monsters is a wild ride that I didn’t want to end.

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Review: THE JASMINE THRONE (The Burning #1) by Tasha Suri (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Immolation, suicide, drug abuse and recovery, sibling abuse, gaslighting, execution by elephant, homophobia (both internal and external)

Malini’s tyrant of a brother locked her up in the Hirana, a decaying temple, and Priya is one of the many servants employed to take care of her. But when Malini witnesses the secret Priya tries to hide, the two form a tense alliance which can change the structure of an empire forever.

This book has so many things: swoony writing, intricate politics, kind people at the end of their rope, thorough depictions of the different political and social strata. There’s also plant magic, waters with mystical regenerative properties, mythologies that contradict, a magical plague, and then some. It’s a treat for any fantasy lover.

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Review: BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage (2018)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abuse, Crohn’s disease, parental neglect, attempted murder, hitting a child, gaslighting, burning

Usually when there is a horror trope of an evil child, the kid is either possessed or we see the entire thing from the parent’s point of view. In this book, we get the point of view of the mother, Suzette, and the daughter, Hannah. Suzette has Crohn’s disease, body image issues, and really wants a life that isn’t being a stay at home mother. Hannah, meanwhile, has been expelled from several kindergartens and refuses to speak. Something dark lurks beneath and she wants her mother out of the picture.

Baby Teeth is designed to make the reader deeply uncomfortable with sharp prose that’s intense from start to finish.

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Review: GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2) by Holly Jackson (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Read my review of the first book, A Good Girls’ Guide to Murder.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: gaslighting, missing person, rape (mentioned, not depicted), murder, gun shots

I dragged my feet a bit on listening to this one. I’m having a hard time with fiction, but something that’s a mystery with a structure that has to deliver on certain beats could fix some of it. Wow, was I correct.

In this sequel, there’s another mystery to solve and Pippa tries to have nothing to do with it. But when the police are true-to-life useless, it’s up to her and her podcast to come to the rescue.

Predictable in a masterful way that the author lays out everything that’s coming, really fun to listen to on audiobook, especially give the full cast performance in multi-format.

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Manga Review: KASANE Volumes 1-4 by Daruma Matsuura (2017)

Genre: Contemporary Seinen
Year Release in English: 2019-2021
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.

The girls are kissing in this one and there is nothing romantic about it. Kasane Fuchi is a very ugly girl with a secret: she inherited a lipstick from her late mother that allows her to borrow people’s faces. She wants to become an actor and you can see where this is going. Intense, gray morality to the nth degree, I’m strapped to the seat of this wild ride.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Duo Review: DEVIANT (1985) and PSYCHO USA (2012) by Harold Schechter

It took me ten days to listen to the interview between Last Podcast on the Left, Harold Schechter, and Eric Powell discussing their new graphic novel project because I kept getting distracted by reading Schechter’s work. I thought it would make more sense to combine the reviews.

Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original “Psycho” (1985) on the left and Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You’ve Never Heard of (2012) on the right, both by Harold Schechter

I spend more time than is probably recommended listening to Last Podcast on the Left. Which is why it surprised me that it took me days to get through an interview that’s just under an hour long. Infected with Marcus Parks’ enthusiasm for Schechter’s work, I wanted to dive in and do some of my own reading. Wow, the hype is definitely well-earned. The discussion of mental health in both works seem somewhat progressive for their time, especially given the subject matter. The structure of both novels also kept me engaged and is worth studying from a story-telling perspective.

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