August 2022 Reading Recap

August saw me flying from New York City back to Texas and spending a bunch of time recovering from psychic damage I’m not going to get into. I also did a bunch of painting, had a weird episode with my Instagram, and just. What a ride of a month it was!

I am nearing the end of my revision journey, and then I’m going to be doing more focused reading lists that I may or may not share as part of the recovery phase after finishing an intense project.

This month’s blog interviews were:

September is off to a hype start, with me getting to announce a short story with the inaugural edition of the Best Served Cold zine.

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ARC Review: BONE WEAVER by Aden Polydoros (2022)

Genre: Young Adult Dark Fantasy
Year Release: September 20th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an advanced copy on NetGalley
Content warning: on-page murder and violence, decapitation, gun violence, body horror, off-page dismemberment, reference to the mutilation of corpses, religious and ethnic persecution, death of a parent (off-page)

Toma lives in the wilderness with her benevolent upyri parents and younger sister. A dirigible erupts near their home, where the found family nurses a boy back to help. He turns out to Mikhail, the tsar who is on the run from violent revolutionaries. The two run off to find Toma’s sister, Galina, stolen by enemies, and pick up a snarky boy witch on the way.

With layered world-building that examines monstrosity and otherness with an endearing cast, this one is a must-read for fans of historically-grounded Slavic dark fantasy.

An interview with the author is going up on September 20th, release day.

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Review: BURNOUT: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (2019)

Genre: Adult Self-Help Nonfiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Kindle

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The way I came across this read is via a friend who I think got it for me when I was in a particularly dark part of my professional and creative career that nearly crushed me. I’m not going to get into specifics, but I started reading this book and had to put it down multiple times over the course of the years. I finally finished it when it seemed I needed the last two chapters the most (“What Makes You Stronger” and “Grow Mighty”).

While it is very focused on the experience of woman-identified and the pressures of those assigned female at birth, there is a lot here that resonated with me as someone who grew up with the terrible combination of undiagnosed ADHD, immigrant parents pursuing the American Dream, and gifted child syndrome. The Nagoskis put together a veritable buffet of anecdotes, studies, previous research, psychology, social psychology, behavior studies, and worksheets to get a sense of your own burnout and ways to work around it. Each section comes with a TL;DR section for quick reference, making the read accessible on a short time frame.

It might not be for everyone, but I’ll be referring to it when things get difficult.

ARC Review: BABEL, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang (2022)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy
Year Release: August 23rd, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an advanced copy on NetGalley
Trigger/Content warning: death of a parent, racism, microaggressions, colonialism, imperialism, gun violence, blood, vomiting, sexual harassment, murder, suicidal ideation, child abuse, parental abuse

When Robin Swift’s mother dies of cholera in Canton, a British professor Richard Lovell whisks him off to England to be trained in Greek and Latin to attend the translation program at Oxford University. He befriends his cohort of three other students, Ramy, Letty, and Victoire, but what lies beneath is a mechanism that furthers white British supremacy and goals of global domination. This book and its characters are having none of it, and it begins an exploration of the role of language and translation as a weapon and tool of colonialism.

Magical, nuanced, intense, and gut-wrenching, this is definitely going to live in my heart as one of my favorite reads of 2022.

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Review: REVENGE by Yōko Ogawa (2013)

Genre: Adult Horror Short Story Collection
Year Release: 2010 (2022 on audio)
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warnings: death of a child, blood, gore, surgery, mold, vomiting

My introduction to Yoko Ogawa is via this collection of short stories, each one scarier than the one that came before it. We follow a mourning mother, lovers in a quarrel, doctors too committed to their jobs, doctors not committed enough, and scoundrels slithering in the dark.

This short story collection itself reads like a single novel with several narrators, several which appear in different stories. Masterful in the way it amps the terror of otherwise pedestrian life.

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ARC Review: THE STONE ROAD by Trent Jamieson (2022)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy
Year Release: July 19th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an advanced copy on NetGalley
Trigger/Content warning: alcoholism, death of a relative, vomiting, harm against animals, death, grief

Jean March protects her village from the dead while the paw at her, begging to be heard, begging for more of their own. Her grandma was to supposed to teach her in the abilities to combat the supernatural forces threatening Casement Rise, but when a mysterious from the calamity called Furnace arrives, it’s time to speed run an education in magic and the hungry forces wanting to bring the world to ruin.

This book definitely scratched the itch that constantly chases the vibes of The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. Gothic, decaying but not bleak, with an ending that draws on hope that can only be pulled from a community’s strong bonds.

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ARC Review: THE HONEYS by Ryan La Sala (2022)

Genre: YA Horror
Year Release: August 16th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an eGalley courtesy of the publisher
Trigger/Content warning: death of a sibling, body horror, blood, bleeding, kidnapping, hazing

In the middle of the night when she’s supposed to be away at her prestigious summer camp, Mars’ sister Caroline attacks them within their family home. The encounter ends in tragedy, with a tidy explanation, but Mars suspects the camp itself might have had a hand in the violence. They take her spot, and they start learning about what lurks within bucolic Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy.

I had a fun time getting lost in the haze of La Sala’s prose which deftly takes the reader from summer’s bliss to a trippy nightmare. It’s entertaining and really fun for folks who have seen films like Hereditary and Annihilation, but stars a badass genderfluid teen determined to find out the truth about his sister’s death.

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Review: WITH A VENGEANCE by Freydís Moon (2022)

Genre: Adult Dark Paranormal Romance
Year Release: 2022
Source: Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: Dominant/submissive roleplay, rape fantasy, consensual explicit content, dubious consent, deadnaming, misgendering, body horror, dysphoria, reference to off-page sexual assault, murder, violence and gore, spanking, belt play, religious eroticism, religious trauma, familial death, saliva play, blood play, size difference, primal play, breeding kink, psychosis, mention of depression, depressive episodes, suicide ideation, racism, police brutality

Kye Lovato (they/them) returns to their haunted childhood home to settle their recently-deceased mother’s affairs. A demon prince, Eligos, hears Kye’s desperation and possesses them, starting a relationship that’s drenched in the supernatural, complete with powers. As if that isn’t complicated enough, an ICE agent starts sniffing around their mother’s alebrijes business and threatens the community she’s taken care of.

This romance between a nonbinary human and a demon is affirming and hot in its sexual content, while, also having a nuanced exploration of culture, family, grief, healing, and the things people do to keep their community safe from shady law enforcement. An incredible blend of recovering from trauma, a mystery, and getting split open by a saucy demon.

An interview with the author will be going up on September 1st.

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Review: I’M GLAD MY MOM DIED by Jennette McCurdy (2022)

Genre: Adult Memoir
Year Release: 2022
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warnings: anorexia, bulimia, vomiting, child abuse, death of a parent, cancer, alcoholism, sexualization of minors

Jennette McCurdy is best known for playing Sam Puckett on the Nickelodeon show iCarly. I had not grown up watching the program, so what drew me to this memoir is its evocative title. And I found an incredibly frank and intense personal story within its pages.

Exploring the pain of and recovery from being raised by a narcissistic and abusive mother, McCurdy brings humor and frankness to a discussion on the aftermath of parenthood that often gets buried under the sentiment, “Do not speak ill of the dead.”

Content note: This review will mention specifics of the abuse.

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ARC Review: SPEAR by Nicola Griffith (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: April 19th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a physical ARC from the publisher
Trigger/Content warning: death of a parent, fantasy violence, misogyny, discussions of infertility

Peretur grew up in a cave with her mom, Elen, without a name until she sees a band of knights and decides to go to Cair Leon where her destiny lies. There’s the lady of the lake, the sword in the stone, and the holy grail, remixed together in a swoony tale that fully honors its origins.

Romantic in a way only medieval romance can be, I really loved this exploration of the quest, the relationship between the chosen one and her mystical mother, and, ultimately, how much this story loves the women found within its pages.

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