ARC Review: THE UNBROKEN (Magic of the Lost #1) by C.L. Clark (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: March 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC provided by the author
Content warning: depictions of colonial violence, gore, past attempted rape, threats of rape, threats of torture, disembowelment, graphic violence, vomiting, plague, destruction of sacred sites

I was beyond thrilled to receive an ARC. I’ve been hearing so much about the beauty of Touraine’s arms, the complexity of the world-building, and more. This book delivers on so many notes, from the nuanced depiction of a rebellion against an empire to the complexity of the key players to fine detail work woven throughout.

Continuing conversations started by works like The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson and The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, The Unbroken turns colonist narratives on its head with two resilient main characters trying to do their best in a political structure that wants both of them to fail.

Author C.L. Clarke will be featured in an interview to be posted on March 23rd (release day).

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ARC Review: A DESOLATION CALLED PEACE (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: March 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: vomiting, death, attempted genocide

The sequel to A Memory Called Empire picks up right where the previous entry left off: with Mahit Dzmare returning to Lsel Station. However, we are treated to a few new POV characters in the form of Nine Hibiscus and her fleet waging war on aliens they can’t communicate with who fight back with novel weaponry.

Taking a few pages out of Arrival (2016), the second half of Teixcalaan’s story moves away from a single location mystery and brings that political intrigue to space and beyond. As hypnotic as the first and ties up many loose ends in its satisfying conclusion.

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February 2021 Reading Recap

February is the shortest month and wow did so many things happen. I quit my dayjob because I got an offer for another day job more aligned with where I want to be and the things I want to do. My boyfriend got (and accepted) into a PhD program. I managed to do a lot of manga reading and a fair amount of audiobooks. All in all, it was a fine month.

There were three whole author interviews too:

  • Genevieve Gornichec celebrated her debut with The Witch’s Heart
  • Karin Tidbeck delighted us with some insight into the inspiration behind their latest, The Memory Theater
  • Sarah Gailey shared their process of choosing a near-future sci-fi setting where The Echo Wife takes place
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Manga Review: THE PROMISED NEVERLAND Vol. 4-8 by Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu

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

Click here to read my review of Volumes 1-3. Major spoilers for the anime. General spoilers for the manga.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Child abuse

Correction: this is the chapter that ends with the explosion.

There’s still a bit of a lull as the kids plan their escape. But the mortal chess game they’re playing against Mom tightens its deadline as Norman is the next kid to be sent out for “adoption.”

What I really enjoyed was the way the reveal was handled about the greater structure of the world. Shirai definitely trusts the readers a lot more, much like in the previous volume. It’s also fun as a reader to learn details as the kids discover them.


Content warnings: Attempted self-immolating, arson, corpses

This volume is an absolute delight. From the pacing to the planning to the world-building.

We finally see the world on the other side of the wall around Grace Field House and, ho boy, is it a forest full of terrors. It’s not just demons, but also man-eating carnivorous plants and a brief glimpse into the hierarchy of the demons.

The art in this volume is just so dynamic. And I really liked how the stakes don’t just end at whether or not they will escape. It’s not even as simple the group of older kids who escaped surviving. At some point, they’ll have to go back for the younger kids, and I’m reading more to see how that unfolds.


I am thoroughly enjoying the demons’ complexity. We have our main villain set, but in this volume, the kids are rescued from a feral demon by two pious demons who reveal that the world was actually split in two. It gives me major Tales Of vibes, which was a treat.

This throws another wrench in the plan to rejoin the human world in a twist that couldn’t wholly be predicted. It does work, and it’s great that Emma proves to use her powers of endearment to learn additional secrets.

The volume ends with them arriving at B06-32 which looks like a temporary reprieve.


Content warnings: Attempted murder, guns, body horror

Of course the kids wouldn’t be alone at B06-32. Why would they be? They’re met with a formidable deuteragonist in the form of Mister. He too has a brand like the kids, and he reveals that Mr. Minerva, a figure who left clues in the kids’ books that led them to the shelter, has not been found.

Ray and Emma elect to go out with the man to find the next destination. The reveals here reminded me of certain moments in Attack on Titan where we get glimpses of the human world outside the context of the farms. Emma and Ray discover a cache of weapons and have to do battle against symbiotic demons. The battle is fierce and the body horror is exquisite.


Content warnings: Hunting children, gore, dismemberment, child death

The next destination, Goldy Pond, is nothing what it seems to be. It’s a secret hunting ground for demons called Poachers, who are not affiliated with the farms.

Emma, of course, true to character, wants to save the other kids trapped there. But the dangers are on a whole other level. The Poachers are on the same level of villainy as Mom, with Emma on her own facing off against this new enemy.

She’s not alone, though. There’s another group of escapees and their adult leader, Lucas, knew the man from the bunker. It’s emotional and gives an uncomfortable cyclical nature of the orphans’ plight, and I fear it’s only going to get worse.

Manga Review: IBITSU by Haruto Ryo (2018)

Genre: Horror
Year Release in English: 2018
Source: BOOK☆Walker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Trigger warnings: Gore, body horror, self-harm, torture, asylums, suicide, sibling abuse

A young man is on his way home when a girl dressed up as a gothic lolita sits in a trash heap and asks him if he would like a little sister. He answers her, and what begins is a nightmare of stalking and supernatural entities. I could not tear myself away from this read, even as shit escalating to the murderous.

What this manga does so well is set up its world rules as soon as we hit the first chapter. There is an urban legend, but otherwise there is no magic in the world. So everyone involved is left to their own devices in terms of dealing with the terrors that unfold.

This one is creepy from start to finish in a way that you hope the protagonist unlocks some kind of key to getting his fake-sister to leave him alone. Until the ghostly lolita tricks his landlady into giving him a copy of the key, and starts terrorizing his younger sister. Their parents aren’t safe either, and though he tries to tell his friends about the lolita, they’re scumbags who can’t see past their own interests.

A fantastic urban legend horror, but keep in mind the trigger warnings before diving in because it is a lot.

Review: FATHOMS: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs (2020)

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Decomposition, animal death, climate change, animal cruelty

Whales will always be my favorite thing. So large, so unaware of their size. Such a strange route to evolution, where the progenitor whale went back into the sea, rather than staying in the ocean depths.

The angle this book takes isn’t one that’s strictly about whales. It’s about these gentle giants in concert with both the human world and the natural world. How much we can learn about climate change can also be elucidated from examining their biology. Captivating, anecdotal, and quite funny in places at the absurdity of man, I learn a little bit more with each new whale book I read.

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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.