ARC Review: SOFT TARGETS by Carson Winter (2023)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: March 22, 2023
Buy Links: Tenebrous Press Site | Kindle Edition

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an eARC from the publisher
Trigger warnings: graphic depictions of gun violence in the workplace, gore, death by bludgeoning, suicidal ideation. A portion of all sales goes to the Sandy Hook Foundation.

Two office workers channel their worst impulses in casual conversation in a twisted friendship that makes those daydreams a reality through a loophole that acts almost like Groundhog Day for the unhinged. Violent, mind-bending, with a breathtaking ending that hasn’t stopped bouncing within my brain since I finished.

This is one of those books where the main characters are absolutely repulsive. They’re in jobs that pay the bills and, on the surface, seem relatively adjusted, until you, the reader, get insight into their conversations, mostly revolving around how great the break in routine in the form of tragedy would be. This novella definitely serves as a character study of the worst type of white collar worker: someone with lots of ideas but who fundamentally does not contribute much to society or culture. They’re so realistic, I found myself getting mad at them like actual people and not people within a work of fiction.

The writing and development of these two is something incredible, especially given the book’s length. I will not spoil the journey, but the amount of self-awareness that emerges is masterful, especially following the restraint-less self-indulgence of the Tide – the unreality that strikes our main characters like a cyclical storm. It’s Office Space for the twenty-first century in ways both painfully true and deeply upsetting.

Intense and horrifying in its mundanity; absolutely proceed with caution give the subject matter.

ARC Review: BLOOD DEBTS by Terry J. Benton-Walker (2023)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Year Release: April 4, 2023
Buy Links: | Unabridged Books |

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a physical ARC from the publisher
Content warning: mentions of a dead family member (father), gun violence, necromancy, gore, body horror, blood, depression, anxiety, intergenerational trauma, catfishing, homophobia, depictions and discussions of racism, attempted sexual assault, attempted vehicular manslaughter, emotional and mental manipulation

Cris and Clem are twins and the heirs to a powerful magical legacy, which may or may not have been usurped in the aftermath of a series of murders which took place thirty years before the start of the story. Cris has distanced herself from magic, while Clem uses it to connect with his family and ancestors. But when it’s discovered that magic caused their mother’s sickness, not natural causes, they race against crimes of the past to protect their future and the ones they love.

Equal parts epic fantasy and contemporary fantasy, magic is a force not to be trifled with as a pair of twins come into their own despite the conflict and tensions circling the families around them.

An interview with author Terry J. Benton-Walker is coming up on the blog on release day, April 4th, 2023.

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Comic Review: NINETY-NINE RIGHTEOUS MEN by K.M. Claude (2015)

Genre: Adult Gothic Horror
Year Release: 2015
Source: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Dubious consent, attempted sexual assault, explicit sexual content, body horror, vomiting, blood, religious trauma, mention of past rape and alcoholism

Caleb is a parishioner at Father Daniel’s church. He slowly starts behaving strangely and erratically, and the root problem seems to be a demonic possession. Monsignor Tiefer does not believe Fr. Daniel, but the only other priest available for an exorcism is Fr. Adam, who has a sordid personal history with the father. A moving story of forgiveness and atonement told through art that is at once beautiful and horrific. It left my brain in a flaming vortex when I reached the final panel, but please heed the trigger warnings before diving in.

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ARC Review: OUR SHARE OF NIGHT by Mariana Enríquez (2023)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: February 7, 2023
Buy Links: | Unabridged Books |

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: AIDS epidemic, child abuse, human sacrifice, murder, human trafficking, gaslighting, mental illness, explicit sexual content, body horror, blood, dead parent (the mother), dictatorship, mentions of political uprising, nonconsensual medical experimentation, suicidal ideation, knives, cutting, there is a dog and terrible things happen to the dog

At its core, this book is a horror. It’s got cults, it’s got something akin to a vampire that fuels the world’s most rich and powerful at the expense of local children, and there’s a heart-wrenching exploration of the ways parental protection can actually cause more harm than good. Gaspar and his father, Juan, are on the run from their family and the terrifying legacy they weave. Upsetting in its horror, heart-wrenching in the depiction of parents trying their best but failing miserably, and the tension between moving on and finding normalcy.

A great cult book, a great family saga, with mysteries and supernatural treats galore.

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Review: CINDERED GLASS (Glass Queen Book 1) by Chalan Johnson (2023)

Genre: Dark Fantasy Why Choose Romance
Year Release: 2023
Source: Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Parental abuse, dubious consent, on-page rape (Chapter 13), anxiety, dubious consent, classicism, blood, immolation, pregnancy, dead parent, mentions of infertility and miscarriage (full list here)

In another instance of a first foray into a subgenre, I picked up this dark fantasy Cinderella retelling because it’s the “why choose” genre – one where the main character, usually female, has multiple lovers over the course of the story.

In this retelling, Summer lives under the equally oppressive and neglectful thumb of her stepmother in a world where fae and magic are very real, where transgressions can cost people their names, and curses can spell economic disparity. Her only hope for societal freedom is marriage, but when she’s set up with Sandsell who seems more monster than man, she will do whatever it takes to find her own path. Between the pacing and the intrigue, I had a lot of fun with this entry point into a new-to-me genre, though I highly recommend checking the content/trigger warnings before diving in.

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COVER REVEAL: ICE UPON A PIER by Ladz (yours truly)

I am so thrilled to finally get to share the cover art for Ice Upon a Pier, done by the incredible Aleta Perez, a Bolivian-American illustrator and screen-printer. The reveal went up earlier today on Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup newsletter and website, which comes complete with a preview of Chapter 1. A preview of the Introduction went live in the January edition of my own newsletter, which you can read here.

This post is to show off the cover on my own space and also tell you how to request ARCs.

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Genre: Adult Gothic Horror Romance
Release Date: February 14, 2023
Buy Links: Amazon | Etsy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had the immense privilege of reading this book early. It’s about a haunted house, a broken relationship, mysticism, and genuine scares. It’s also incredibly hot, and the healing but horrifying journey these characters go through made my heart swoon.

I’m incredibly excited to be part of today’s cover drop. You are completely unprepared.

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Manga Review: BARBARITIES Vol. 1 by Tsuta Suzuki (2023)

Genre: Historical Yaoi Seinen
Year Release in English: 2023

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Political corruption, sexual harassment, explicit sexual content

People call this a historical fiction inspired by Renaissance Europe but I’m pretty sure it’s a secondary world fantasy minus the magic and monsters (I would love for someone to correct me if this is not the case).

Viscount Adam Canning is hired to be the bodyguard of Lord Montague, who has several secrets up his sleeve in order to maintain the efficiency of his station. But tensions between church and state brew in the background, and while a romance between a playboy and a sexually inept young man play out in the forefront.

I kept this manga on my radar when an artist was drawing Luis and Gil, one of the other couples in this work (they are very gay and absurd in their affection). The characters are charming with very quick work done by Suzuki to establish their backstories. I am pulled in hard by the political intrigue unfolding in this work. There’s a tension between the main religion and the more secular monarchy, plus Adam’s entanglements with the queen and her cohort. Joel seems to have several tricks up his sleeve, including eluding an assassination attempt. Who sent the killers? What does he know? I’m invested in the story as well as seeing when (if?) the insta-love and the slow-burn crush will even out in their attraction.

Review: THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED: Stories by Mariana Enríquez (2021)

Genre: Adult Horror Story Collection
Year Release: 2021
Buy Link:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
General content warnings: Blood, body horror, missing children, murdered women

In preparation for reading an ARC of Our Share of Night, I decided to delve into my backlist and read this collection from the author. I was not disappointed. This collection has a variety of terror, mostly in the form of hauntings and the way it affects the narrators who have to live in the places. But the problems presented are deeply human and unsettling in their rawness. I’ll mention my favorite stories in this brief review.

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Danmei Review: THE SCUM VILLAIN’S SELF-SAVING SYSTEM Vol 1 by Mo Xiang Tong Xio (illust. Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi)) (2021)

Genre: Transmigration Fantasy Danmei
Year Release in English: 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Injury, demons, body horror

I forgot why I picked this one up because I’ve seen art, I’ve seen thoughts, and once it finally landed on my to-read list, I started reading and had a hard time keeping myself away.

Shen Yuan is an inappropriately passionate fan of a fictional web novel, Proud Immortal Demon Way. Upset at the ending, his biggest hope would have been to be transmigrated into the body of protagonist, Luo Binghe (LBH). Instead, he’s the scum villain, Shen Qingqiu (SQQ). (For those like me more familiar with Japanese light novels, this is essentially an isekai). And being the scum villain comes with a literal digital assistant making sure he doesn’t do anything out of character else he forfeits his life. While the characters around him function like normal human beings navigating their demon-battle-filled world, SQQ tries to course correct as if he too doesn’t have his own flesh to worry about it.

There’s a reverence for the genre, while pointing out the ways in which SVSS plays with subverts tropes and expectations. I think what kept me reading and in stitches is the fact that SQQ maneuvers the story as if it’s fiction or a video game, strategizing for points rather than taking into account that the people around him might also be human. His own unawareness of the machinations around him makes him a colossal idiot in a way that is just fun to read. He’s committing to fixing his problematic fave instead of being a character. The absurdity of his own obliviousness is incredible.

The world building and big chapter set pieces are so cool, but I do not have the familiarity with danmei or the cultivation fantasy genre to speak to its execution. I enjoyed myself nonetheless. My favorite sequence had to be the literal dream sequence in which Meng Mo tries to trap both LBH and SQQ. The demonstration of the different magic that permeates the realms really worked for me. The way MXTX threads emotional and system-stakes really works for me, and kept me so invested in the story, in addition to SQQ and his various relationships.

Now that the characters have gone off script and the System itself has shut down, I’m so excited to see how SQQ weasels his way through the shenanigans to come.