Review: WEIRD FISHES by Rae Mariz (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2022
Buy Link: Stelliform Press

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: abandonment, animal cruelty and death of a loved one, child loss and grief, self-harm and suicide, near-drowning, state and police violence, rape and sexual abuse, genocide and cultural loss. Heavy shit, presented in a narrative that takes care to support the weight

Ceph and Iliokai are both weird fishes, one being more like an octopus and the other being a seadog. They notice that the currents have been slowing down as a result of the activities of those Above and it’s a race against other’s collective decisions to fix the problem. Enthusiasm and love for all things oceanic burst from the page along with an impotent rage over its destruction as a result of unregulated human waste. Clever and fantastical, I greatly enjoyed this journey.

An interview with the author will be going up on 12/1/2022.

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ARC Review: HOUSE OF YESTERDAY by Deeba Zargarpur (2022)

Genre: Young Adult Speculative Contemporary
Year Release: November 29th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to a NetGalley AudioARC
Content warning: intergenerational trauma, domestic violence, divorce, blood, vehicular manslaughter

Fifteen-year-old Sara is really going through it between her parents’ impending divorce, her Bibi Jan’s dementia, and the house her mother is flipping that is unequivocally haunted by a ghost which may be a part of Sara’s past. Family secrets and a truth hidden for generations come together in this contemporary fiction that’s as much about community within an immigrant family as it is about Sara’s personal coming of age.

If you’re looking for a YA book with a younger protagonist and no romance arc that’s as heart-wrenching as it is spooky, you are in for a treat. Definitely among the best books I’ve read this year.

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Manga Review: MIERUKO-CHAN Vol. 6 by Tomoki Izumi (2022)

Genre: Slice-of-Life Horror
Year Release in English: 2022
Source: BOOK☆Walker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Ghosts, body horror, disturbing imagery

Miko goes to the temple hidden by a forbidden barrier with Mitsue and Rom, despite Mitsue warning them both about trying to put those spirits to rest. The young woman might be the key to putting the disturbance to rest, however.

This volume has smaller cast, featuring just the three in the summary with references to Hana and Yuria in flashbacks and mentions. The focus of the art in this one, as a result, is centered on the horrific ghosts, and Izumi really shows off what they’re capable of. I recoiled at some of the panels, and it’s great fun.

I did not expect to get so emo about the ghost psychic shill, Rom. The backstory about him and Mitsue is among the most touching. While this series veers towards more comedy and slice-of-life, those take a backseat to horror and more linear plot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hilarious that Rom metal music playing from his phone as part of his ghost-taming arsenal. But, it’s a mostly seriously volume that has me on the edge of my seat for the next volume.

Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 8-14 by Sui Ishida (2016-2017)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2016-2017
Source: Viz Media Digital Subscription

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series. My review of the first half can be found here.

My review starts with me cupping my face with my hands and yelling into my palms. The journey beyond the anime is incredible and definitely something that will stay with me as I keep growing into my dark fantasy/horror self. It’s definitely making me want to go further and explore more within my work, but also the stark differences between the anime and the manga are making me appreciate manga as a medium a lot more.

The standoff between the CCG and the ghouls comes to an end with casualties on both sides, more deranged characters with their own ends and ideas of ghouls vs humans, with a deep thread of defining the boundaries of goodness, kindness, and the things people are willing to do to protect those they care about. Amid the blood and the gore, there is so much compassion that left me somewhat shaken.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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ARC Review: GEOMETRIES OF BELONGING: Stories and Poems from the Birdverse by R.B. Lemberg (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy Collection
Year Release: November 29th, 2022
Buy Link: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Received an eARC from the author
Content warnings: In-universe prejudice, discussions of war, grief

The Birdverse is among the richest worlds I have ever been given the gift of visiting. Between The Four Profound Weaves and The Unbalancing, it is evident that this is a wholly realized world with its only political structures and magic system. This latest excursion, a collection of short stories and poems, really bring forth that incredibly unique creativity. Told in a multitude of styles, from missives to annotations to more structured tales, this collection offers an invitation to a world ruled by the magic of names and where the land responds to the human activity happening in its space.

R.B. Lemberg will be featured on the blog on November 29th, 2022.

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ARC Review: THREE KINGS by Freydís Moon (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy Romance
Year Release: 2022
Buy Link: NineStar Press

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warnings: blood used in a ritual, necromancy, depiction of anxiety pertaining to pregnancy, conversation surrounding fertility

Ethan and Peter live a pretty idyllic life in the village of Casper as a lighthouse keeper and fishing captain, respectively. One day, a selkie gets tangled in Peter’s net and Ethan uses necromantic ritual to bring another person back to life. Full of healing, intimacy, and interpersonal devotion, this autumnal read is perfect for people looking for some magic and tenderness a la a Miyazaki film that also fucks.

I love the exploration of family here. Ethan and Peter are very devoted husbands at a kind of crossroads in their lives. The selkie does not help in the immediate situation, but opens up the opportunity for something else. There is a mishap with some marrow that leads to heat, but the relationships among the three develop long before ignition. I really enjoyed the dynamic between the husbands, but especially their interactions with others in town. It feels slice-of-life even though there’s definitely an inciting event, a middle, and an end.

The worldbuilding is also rad. The rules of the magic are fairly hand-wavey, but there’s a nice folkloric aspect to Ethan’s rituals that add a layer of dreaminess to the entire narrative. Overall, this quick read is atmospheric, magical, and romantic.

Review: EXODUS 20:3 by Freydís Moon (2022)

Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
Year Release: 2022
Source: Physical Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: explicit sexual content, off-page transphobia, mention of drug use, off-page police brutality

Diego is a trans man who takes on what’s supposed to be a low-key construction job to help get him back on track. The job is managed by the enigmatic Ariel, who definitely has a secret of angelic proportions. Their relationship evolves into something equally queer, intense, and divine.

This book is cozy in a way reminiscent of post-coitus. Diego carries a lot of baggage and a lot of emotional turmoil with regards to both faith and his experience as someone worthy of care and attention. The way the differences between faith, devotion, and religion mingle in the conversations between Ariel and Diego, especially when it comes to drawing lines between what is faith and what is the result of centuries of iterative interpretations. I found these explorations cathartic and affirming as a queer person raised in a religious household.

A theme that permeates Moon’s work is the respect given towards working class individuals, and this is also extends towards sex workers. There are mentions in the novella that Diego has engaged in cam work before and both the text and Ariel treat it as the job it is, with no virtue or vice attached to it. It’s a refreshing detail that also highlights the thoughtfulness in Moon’s work as a canon.

If erotica where a young man falls into lust with a literal and Biblically accurate angel is something of interest, definitely give this one a read. The paperback edition has a bonus scene that takes place a year later, and it is swoony—I cannot recommend it enough.

ARC Review: EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END by C. L. Polk (2022)

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy Noir
Year Release: November 8th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: gun violence, ritualistic sacrifice, implied and period-appropriate homophobia

All magical detective Helen Brandt wants is to live out her days in peace Edith Jarosky. But her time is running out and an opportunity comes to get her soul back in exchange for solving a serial murder. With mischievous devils and devious angels, this Chicago fantasy noir has great worldbuilding and intricate character development.

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ARC Review: DESERT CREATURES by Kay Chronister (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror Western
Year Release: November 8th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a physical ARC from the publisher
Content warning: death of a parent (father), ableism, body horror, misogyny, gun violence, realities of pregnancy, dead baby

Magdala is an eleven-year-old with a club foot, on the run from her settlement with her father across the Sonoran desert, where desert sickness overtakes more organic matter, turning them into horrifying corpse-cactuses. It’s a little bit Annihilation (the movie) and a little bit Red Dead Redemption with a creepy atmosphere and unexpected but delightfully unnerving Christian religious overtones. Where faith in humanity clashes with faith in the divine, it’s a great perambulation through a nightmare scape where everyone kind of sucks, but the supernatural dangers aren’t much better.

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Light Novel Review: VAMPIRE HUNTER D Vol. 1 by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Yoshitaka Amano (2005)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy Science Fiction Western
Year Release in English: 2005
Buy Link: Barnes & Noble (Initially received via

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: violence, gore, threats of rape, misogyny

The hardest part of writing this review is figuring out which genre to slot this work into. The ’80’s genre classic, Vampire Hunter D follows the exploits of a dhampir, the eponymous Vampire Hunter D. He rides an electronic horse, has vampire powers, and uses a really cool sword to slay his half-brethren with. In this first volume, he goes to a town ruled by a Count, and a girl named Doris being preyed on by the vampires around. This first entry is fun with some rad world-building, definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of genre blends and vampire classics.

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