ARC Review: THE WITCH’S HEART by Genevieve Gornichec

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: childbirth, burning alive, sutures

I was a Norse mythology kid growing up. And the books that I had read painted Angrboda as the de facto villain with Loki being kind of a quaint deuteragonist. This book tells the story from Angrboda’s point of view, starting with her third burning through her courtship with Loki, to the birth of her monstrous children, and finally, Ragnarok itself. Beautiful imagery, full of romance, and heart-breaking in its pivotal moments, this book has captured my heart, and I’m not sure I’m getting it back any time soon.

Author Genevieve Gornichec will be featured in a blog interview on release day, February 9th, 2021.

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ARC Review: THE GOOD GIRLS by Claire Eliza Bartlett (2020)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Thriller
Year Release: December 2020
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape culture, predatory teacher, murder, suicide, substance abuse, guns

This twisty read follows the investigation for four girls. Three of them perhaps have something to do with the fourth’s murder. Secrets come out, and to protect each other and their truths, they have to stand up to a police department which doesn’t believe them and a school administration actively working against them.

Complex, evenly paced with a compelling, complex characters who are neither “good” nor “bad,” The Good Girls is a layered read that delivers a satisfying mystery and catharsis.

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ARC Review: RISE OF THE RED HAND (The Machinists #1) by Olivia Chadha

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: violence against children, plague, medical experimentation, violence

Set in South Asia, this cyberpunk science fiction dystopia has everything: a ruthless technocratic government, a deadly plague, mechanical augmentations, mechs, a shiny chrome utopia for the upper class, crowded slums for everyone else, a splinter group of revolutionaries, and hackers working from the inside.

Told in crisp, matter-of-fact prose by complex characters, this science fiction debut is not one to miss.

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ARC Review: THE MEMORY THEATER by Karin Tidbeck

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: violence against children

Intricately weaving together three parallel plot threads in one neat package, The Memory Theater is an inventive little package about a sister protecting her brother, that brother trying to get his name back, and a frightening noblewoman who discovered time.

Creepy and gorgeously atmospheric, this is a must-read for fans of Scandinavian fairy tales and folklore with darker tones.

Author Karin Tidbeck will be featured in a blog interview on release day, February 16th, 2021.

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Review: WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF by Elana K. Arnold (2017)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: 2020
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abortion, animal death, attempted sexual assault (author’s note), vomiting

I took Elana K. Arnold’s Revision Season course last fall, so before getting into the book itself, I felt like I had an insider knowledge of its revision cycle. I got my ears into the audiobook and dove right in.

This work follows Nina Faye as she navigates her teenage years with the social pressures as they relate to autonomy and sexuality. Her mother tells her that there is no such thing as unconditional love, and Arnold explores the different modes of love during key moments of Nina’s life. It feels like the contemporary precursor to Damsel, so if you enjoyed the brutally honest way it explored its topics through fairy tale, you will enjoy this.

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ARC Review: ACROSS THE GREEN GRASS FIELD (Wayward Children #6) by Seanan McGuire

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: misgendering, intersex-phobia, kidnapping

We’ve had installments in the Wayward Children series for fans of Candyland, Frankenstein, and riddles. Finally, there is an entry for Horse Girls.

Regan struggles to understand friendship at that pivotal intersection of puberty and childhood. After she reveals to her “best friend” that she is intersex, Regan runs away and joins a commune of literal centaurs. There is a queen in the Hooflands, and she wants the human. But Regan will stop at nothing to maintain her agency and autonomy, despite whatever destiny wants her to believe.

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ARC Review: A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S.T. Gibson (2021)

Genre: Horror Romance
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: NYX Publishing

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC courtesy of the author
Content warning: emotional and domestic abuse, blood, violence, mental illness, gaslighting

If you’ve ever been interested in reading a story of Dracula told from the perspective of one of his brides, look no further. Told from Constanta’s POV, we experience her tumultuous relationship with the ubervamp and her relationship with her fellow spouses, spanning literal centuries. It’s romantic, but it also heart-wrenching with all the gothic delights one expects from a vampire story.

Author S.T. Gibson will also be my first author interview of the year so look out for that.

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Review: THE ABSTAINER by Ian McGuire (2020)

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: murder, revenge, Irish-English tensions of the nineteenth century, child abuse

One of the reasons that I am so drawn to Ian McGuire’s work is that the writer absolutely does not flinch away from the nasty parts of historical accuracy that permeate both the time period and his characters’ backstories.

In this latest work, we go between Manchester, England and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as generational trauma and crime in the name of a greater cause chase our two main characters, Stephen Doyle and James O’Connor, respectively.

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Manga Review: Requiem of the Rose King Vol. 1 by Aya Kanno

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2015
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Transphobia, misgendering, medieval violence

The premise of this manga is that it is Richard III but instead of having a hump, Richard is intersex, with elements of Henry VI woven throughout. This cover kept coming up on recommendations and feeds, so I had to dive in.

Dear readers, this is going to ruin my life and I am excited.

We’re introduced to the conflict of the Lancaster and York families which has lasted for a while. It looks like the Yorks are winning, but things take a turn for the worst when York retreats. I love the relationship King Richard has with his son. His death is completely telegraphed, but its depiction on the last page pulled me right in. It’s moving, it’s brutal, and I went two days before I caved and got the last volume.

Richard’s mother, Cecily, is a piece of work. She hates her son for being intersex, even though everyone around him otherwise accepts him. The other character who’s an asshole is the ghost of Joan of Arc, whose sole function seems to be to terrorize Richard. I’m invested enough that I definitely want to know more about her and the context for why she has latched onto this goth prince.

Manga Review: CHAINSAW MAN Vol. 3 by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2020
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Blood, gore, monsters, vomiting

This volume gets a bit gross on several fronts. Tensions are high as the eternity devil goes specifically after Denji. Half the gang wants to feed Denj to it. And he learns the taste of devil’s blood. Fujimoto does a great job introducing new rules and mechanics of this world through action sequences. This segment, however, also features moving flashbacks from Himeno, and dives deeper into possibly Denji’s psyche. It’s direct and moves the plot nicely along.

The drinks scene gets a little uncomfortable, with boundaries all the way down. Himeno comes onto Denji and promptly vomits on him. They go home together and nothing comes of it. Instead, they establish a mutual understanding of romantic goals. It’s quieter and less dire than Denji’s conversations with Makima and Aki. I can’t wait to see this friendship deepens.

And then the assassins show up with what looks like a new villain, and I am appropriately eager for how this unfolds.