ARC Review: THE BLADE BETWEEN by Sam J. Miller (2020)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: December 2020
Source: NetGalley
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC via NetGalley
Trigger warnings: Arson, stabbing, suicide, eviction, drug addiction, sexual assault (implied)

The city of Hudson, New York is rich in a history that’s about to be erased by the gears of gentrification and corporate interests. The community fights back, but it isn’t until the whale gods and ghosts of Hudson’s past join the fray, feasting on hate and unleashing violence upon this already-tense community.

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ARC Review: THE FACTORY WITCHES OF LOWELL by C.S. Malerich (2020)

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy Novella
Year Release: 2020
Source: NetGalley
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC via NetGalley
Content warning: Workers’ rights violations, terminal illness

In Lowell, Massachusetts, weavers are fed up with long hours, unfair and unequal wages, and terrible working conditions. Judith and Hannah, literal witches, band their boarders together with witch craft and hope, starting a union to fight back against their managers.

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ARC Review: THE HARPY by Megan Hunter (2020)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: NetGalley
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC via NetGalley
Content warning: Blood play, suicidal ideal, infidelity, sexual assault (not depicted but heavily implied)

It took me a few days after finishing this one to figure out how I felt about it. On one hand, it is a literary fiction about someone getting cheated on. On the other hand, this one is from the point of view of the one being cheated on, and her evolving bitterness towards the factors that may or may not have contributed to the cheating, and her pre-motherhood love of harpies.

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Review: THE TROOP by Nick Cutter (2014)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2014
Source: Chirp Audiobooks

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: maggots, pica, body horror, surgery, starvation, medical experimentation

Some of my peers who are avid horror readers recommended this read to me, without much context aside from its excellence. What I came to discover is a book a little like Lord of the Flies if wasn’t trying so hard to be important with a backdrop of of Rory Power’s Wilder Girls.

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Review: I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (2018)

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: graphic discussions of murder, sexual assault, and home invasion

Being the fan of true crime that I am, I had heard so many amazing things about McNamara’s work. With my recent interest in nonfiction, especially, i thought it was finally time to dive into this piece of true crime canon.

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Review: A MONSTROUS LOVE: A F/F Anthology by Magen Cubed (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Horror Erotica
Year Release: 2019
Source: Books2Read

Content warnings: Blood play, cannibalism

A collection of shorts of women who love women bathed in a horror aesthetic. There’s something for everyone here: demons, vampires, cannibals, ghosts, all perfect for that Halloween-y flair.

Of the four shorts, I think “Hunger in Bondage” was my favorite, mostly because I enjoyed the way Cubed subverted expectations by making the vampire be the sub. The flirtation and seduction are excellent from start to finish, a brief delight to keep spooky season living on for a few days more.

October 2020 Reading Recap

In October, my friends and I went full spooky season and watched a new movie every weekend. By new, I mean, it was a different movie, but it happened to be new to at least one of us every time. Watching movies with friends is nice, don’t you know?

Started a new job this month, so reading has noticeably slowed down. Whoops.

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ARC Review: TOWER OF FOOLS (Hussite Trilogy #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: October 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warnings: Gore, torture, bigotry 

I had no idea what to expect from a Sapkowski book unrelated to The Witcher. Dear readers, I was absolutely delighted. In this long first entry in The Hussite Trilogy, we follow the misadventures of Reynevan Bielawa, an idiot sorcerer who’s also an adulterer trying to win back his lover, escape her spouse, and not get killed by the Inquisition.

The prose here reminded much of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. There is no separating it from the time period (1400s Central/Eastern Europe) and the text is deeply sarcastic. It takes the time and the war very seriously, shifting to a lecture-esque tone when referring to historical events happening around the main characters. Sapkowski takes every opportunity to roast each charlatan we encounter. No one is necessarily evil, but the entire cast is shitheads. The sarcastic humor is incredible from the prologue.

The story’s relationship with magic is also very interesting. It lulls the reader in with a sense of “maybe the Church is just being paranoid in that way it had been in the time period,” but then surprises the reader with real spells, demonic possessions, and alchemy. It’s a truly wild ride, that also features some key figures of medieval history, namely Johannes Guttenberg and Nicolas Copernicus.

Sapkowski also does a thing that I greatly enjoy which is having chapter epitaphs starting with “In which (…).” I really helps set the tone and the shape of the narrative. Again, deeply sarcastic, but keeps a close eye to attitudes help by those neck-deep in the shenanigans and those watching from the outside.

A series first worthy of comparison to the romances of Chrétien de Troyes with an unexpected time period.

Review: THE LAST BOOK ON THE LEFT: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers by Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, and Henry Zebrowski (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Crime Nonfiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: sexual assault, murder, body horror, cannibalism, and the depravity of history’s most notorious serial killers

I’ve been listening to Last Podcast on the Left (LPotL) for a while now. What keeps me coming back to them is the depth of research that goes into the episodes (especially the multi-part stories) and the way they portray the heinous murderers from past and present as the losers they are. There’s nothing to admire with these folks and LPotL loves to use humor to strip these monsters of any “rock star” status they might have acquired as a fascination with true crime had gone mainstream.

This book covers: Ted Bundy, Richard Chase, Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, David Berkowitz, BTK, Andrei Chikatilo, and Jeffrey Dahmer. These heinous villains eras past have a full chapter devoted to each other, starting from childhood going all the way through their demise. While there is much focus on the severity of the crimes, there are also many details provided about the victims, but, most importantly, the structural failings of the American justice system (with the exception of Chikatilo, who was active in the U.S.S.R.). There is also so much time spent on contextualizing America (and Russia) at the time of the murders, the kinds of behaviors and attitudes which let these crimes slip through the cracks, and persist to monstrous notoriety. It’s clear that Parks did most of the writing, but Zebrowski and Kissell do make asides that ease some of the tension and terror.

Respect for the art of research and an enthusiasm about covering the macabre with the same blunt humor permeates off the page. If you’re a fan of the podcast, you will be a fan of the book.

Review: MY FRIEND ANNA: A True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Book of the Month Club

Content warnings: Alcoholism, suicidal ideation, panic attacksThis tale of toxic friendship and con-artistry opens with the narrator on what should have been an idyllic vacation in Morocco with friends. It quickly turns into a nightmare when credit cards decline and tough financial decisions to prevent more immediate problems arise.

I had vaguely heard of the story of Anna Delvey when it made the rounds on social media. Admittedly, I went into this tale expecting a ruckus tale of rich people shenanigans and extortion. I was pleasantly surprised with what this book actually is.

The level of self-reflection in this work is something else. You can easily see how Williams fell under Delvey’s spell, under the guise of trust that got taken advantage of. The mismatch of friendship expectation made this a slow read for me because even though it’s public knowledge how the cons ended. The pacing when Williams tries to get in touch with the increasingly distant Anna leaps off the page, especially given the plain presentation of their correspondence.

Much quieter than expected, but heart-aching and engaging nonetheless.