Review: PARTY FAVORS (So Over the Holidays #4) by Erin McLellan (2020)

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Year Release: 2020
Source: Kindle

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Amanda Ellis is an heiress who wants to break free of her family’s expectations and painful heteronormativity. Wren Rebello designs lingerie and seeks to be taken more seriously as a romantic partner. The two are best internet friends and, on a whim, decide to do a friends vacation at a cottage for New Year’s Eve.

Much like the book itself, this review will be short and sweet. The emotional journey these characters go on together is so swoon-worthy, but this is no way a slow-burn when it comes to the erotic. It starts real quick, and it does not abate. If anything, it escalates to some highly horny sequences of self-discovery featuring sexy consent and sex toys galore.

ARC Review: UNMASK ALICE: LSD, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the Worlds Most Notorious Diaries by Rick Emerson (2022)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: June 7, 2022
Buy Links: Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an Edelweiss eARC
Content warning: suicide (graphic, on-page), child abuse, gaslighting, fraud, drug abuse, ritual abuse, religious abuse, violence

Go Ask Alice is a book that floated on the periphery of my awareness during middle school. Usually featured as a banned book, I had the vaguest knowledge of its contents. The title of this non-fiction investigation into the origin of this reviled book piqued my interest. I fell into it like being swallowed into a can of worms that covers American politics, the inner workings of publishing, and heart-wrenching stories of families in way over their heads when it comes to their children’s adolescence and mental health.

The story behind the “memoir” is a wild ride from start to finish. It touches on the war on drugs, Satanic panic, ethics in publishing, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Review: THE ONES WE’RE MEANT TO FIND by Joan He (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: 2021
Source: Unabridged Bookstore

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warning: terminal illness, suicide, violence (including choking), death, death of parent (off page), vomiting, large scale natural disasters and mass casualties

Cee has lived on an abandoned island for three years with no idea of how she got there. All she knows is that she has a sister, Kasey, who lives in eco-cities, a final bastion protecting humanity from ecological collapse that has been an apocalypse of humanity’s design. With intricate science and a stern point of view about its role in human lives, Joan He crafts a story steeped with mystery and melancholy.

A book that left me with that feeling of sitting on the shore while a beach day winds down, it’s better to go into it knowing as little as possible.

But, I can’t leave the review like that, now can I? What I really liked is the exploration of survival and, specifically, survivor guilt. There is so much tragedy, from the sisters’ mother’s death to the large scale natural disasters that ravaged the Earth, whose solutions led to other disasters. The prose is immersive, with deep interiority in the POVs of both sisters.

What He does particularly well is letting the reader comes to conclusions on their own before the book confirms suspicions. It’s engaging in the most masterful way. Again, I cannot go into specifics, but before you open up to page 1, trust He as she takes you on a journey of sisterly love and coming to terms with unresolved griefs.

Manga Review: HELL’S PARADISE: JIGOKURAKU (Full Series) by Yuji Kaku (2018-2021)

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2018-2021
Source: Viz Media Digital Subscription

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

In this historical dark fantasy, there are rumors of an island containing the elixir of life. Every scouting team sent, however, returns as floral corpses. The Shogunate dispatches a group of their own executioners coupled with a convict sentenced to death. The one who finds and returns the elixir will be given a pardon. Gabimaru the Hollow wants nothing more than to return to his wife. A bunch of monsters both literal and human will not be able to stop him.

A series with beautiful art, compelling characters, body horror galore, and impressive escalation that raises the stakes without introducing nonsense out of left field.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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ARC Review: FLOTSAM (Peridot Shift #1) by R.J. Theodore (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Year Release: February 1, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: deicide, dismemberment, murder

I had the opportunity to read the original release of Flotsam when it had been under Parvus Press. But in February 2022, the book is being re-released with Robot Dinosaur Press. There have been a few updates in the prose, but largely the story has stayed the same.

It’s the same delightful steampunk meets first contact story about a pirate ship in search of a magic ring which may or may not throw the balance of magic and godhood off in search of power.

An interview with author R.J. Theodore will be going up on release day, February 1, 2022.

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ARC Review: COLD THE NIGHT, FAST THE WOLVES by Meg Long (2022)

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: January 11 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Content warning: dog fighting, hypothermia, vomiting, blood, gore, loss of parents, child abuse, gun violence, colonialism

Attention all readers who once identified as wolf girls: this book is for you. On a frozen planet Tundar, Sena is scraping her way to survival while being caught between the competing interests of local gangsters and corporate overlords. An Iditarod-type race takes place every season, and she’s sworn off it as it claimed the lives of her mothers. But when she pisses off a gangster and steals his prized wolf, she must partake in the race for a chance to get off that rock.

A compelling relationship between a girl and her wolf woven throughout rad world-building that takes a hard look at the literal colonialism of taking over a planet for its resources.

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ARC Review: ECHO by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: February 8, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: falling, disfiguration, vomiting, body horror, violence against birds, suicide (both discussed and depicted)

Sam Avery’s boyfriend, Nick Grevers, is an avid mountaineer who goes into Alps one season and an accident occurs. Nick’s climbing partner Augustin perishes while Nick returns with supposed amnesia and a face completely bandaged up. In an effort to give his boyfriend closure and healing, Sam races against time and nature while supernatural madness unfolds. While Nick might have left the mountain behind, it certainly back with him.

Echo taps into several sources of primordial dread, like losing the one we love in ways less permanent than death, tall men who are slightly too tall, and sleep deprivation demons.

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ARC Review: BASE NOTES by Lara Elena Donnelly (2022)

Genre: Adult Thriller
Year Release: February 1, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: murder, manipulation, blackmail, gore, eye surgery, strangulation

Vic Fowler is an artist, a perfumist whose business is struggling as they’re trying to achieve the height of luxury and artistry in New York City despite everything about their lifestyle pointing to the contrary. They are threatened with blackmail in exchange for a commission—that’s right, the perfume is made of people. A saga of desperation, aesthetic, murder, and dissatisfaction follows hence forth.

Tonally, it reminded me a lot of A Certain Hunger with its voicey protagonist who’s really three anxiety attacks in a well-tailored blazer. At least they smell beautiful.

An interview with author Lara Elena Donnelly will be posted on February 3rd, 2022.

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ARC Review: ALL THE WHITE SPACES by Ally Wilkes (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: January 25, 2022 (UK); March 29, 2022 (US)
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: starvation, grief, gore, dead dogs

A polar expedition to the South Pole goes terribly and having a stowaway on board isn’t even one of the myriad problems plaguing the Fortitude. Jonathan Morgan is trans and grieving his brothers who he lost in the great war. Eager to take their place on the adventure to Antarctica, he hides out on the ship. Discovery isn’t his only problem. Things start going downhill very quickly as the ghosts from his past become everyone else’s terror as well.

Comparing this book to the show, The Terror, and Alma Katsu’s The Hunger with more queers is honestly the most perfect description.

An interview with author Ally Wilkes will be posted on UK release day, January 25, 2022.

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ARC Review: THE MIDNIGHT GIRLS by Alicia Jasinka (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Release: December 28 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: child abuse, body horror, blood, gore

Three servants serve the three Jaga sisters. Marynka serves Red Jaga as Midday, Beata serves White Jaga as morning, and Zosia serves Black Jaga as Midnight. These girls are monsters in the name of magic, which is only powered by prince’s hearts. Karnawał presents the opportunity for trickery, and both girls seize the opportunity to go after Prince Józef, one with the purest heart yet discovered.

What unfolds is a wonderful, wintery tale of rivalry, devotion, monstrosity, and what it means to be free of one’s past.

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