ARC Review: DIREWOOD by Catherine Yu (2022)

Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: September 20th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to a NetGalley AudioARC
Content warning: body & bug horror, death, on-page violence, racial microaggressions, vomiting

Aja’s perfect sister Fiona goes missing and strange things start happening: blood rain, a mysterious fog, blood-sucking grubs, all precursors to the arrival of a vampire. She strikes a bargain with Padraic and tries to free the kids in his thrall, including her ex-friend Mary,

Gross, goth, and steeped in 90’s vampire aesthetic, a fun read for folks constantly searching for new vampire content.

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ARC Review: THE UNBALANCING by R.B. Lemberg (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: September 20th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warnings: earthquakes and the aftermath of natural disasters, references to past ableism

Gelle-Geu is an island city whose star god is restless and earthquakes come closer and closer. Ranra has taken on the role of starkeeper, and her first task is to unravel the problems left attended by her predecessor. She seeks the counsel of Lilún, a poet whose ancestor is begging them to take on the role of starkeeper. Their relationship ignites while disaster strikes, and it’s a race against star charts and magic to possibly save the city.

This novel has all the dreaminess of poetry and being told a bedtime story with intense calamity on the horizon and tender romance at its core.

An interview with the author will be posted to celebrate the release of Geometries of Belonging: Stories and Poems from the Birdverse on November 29th, release day.

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Review: SINKABLE: Obsession, the Deep Sea, and the Shipwreck of the Titanic by Daniel Stone (2022)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: drowning, deaths at sea, maritime disasters, Atlantic slave trade

I was definitely one of those kids with a RMS Titanic obsession as a child, that honestly, had nothing to do with the Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet romance movie (didn’t want that until much, much later). The level of hubris and poor planning in the name of aesthetics is what captured many people’s attention, but for me, it’s the physics and aftermath that fascinated me. Humans are characters, but the focus here rests on shipwrecks in general, as a study, as a phenomenon, as a hobby, and some of the greatest tragedies that befell humans on the regular before air travel rose to prominence.

The specific lens that this book tells the tale of the fated voyage is strictly through the point of view of finding and uncovering shipwrecks. Entertaining, informative, and so focused on the final phase of a ship’s life time, rather than the story of a single ship’s demise.

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ARC Review: NONA THE NINTH (The Locked Tomb #3) by Tamsyn Muir (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fantasy
Year Release: September 13th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: gore, references to main character deaths, dissociation, vomiting, gun violence, medical experimentation

The third entry of The Locked Tomb trilogy stars a character born literally six months before the beginning of the book, the eponymous Nona. Innocent and bursting with good will and curiosity, she’s a teacher’s aid at a school in a city on the verge of war against “zombies.” A birthday party gets ruined as a certain tomb is about to opened, and it’s a race against time and necromancy to figure out who, exactly, Nona is.

An entry into the quartet most interested in telling a story than stringing together memes and tropes, Nona by far is my favorite, because of the focus on characterization and literal ticking clock pacing. And the dog does not die (you’re welcome).

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Manga Review: FIRE PUNCH Vol. 1 & 2 by Tatsuki Fujimoto (2018)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2018
Source: Viz Media

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fire Punch is the first manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto, best known for Chainsaw Man. This dystopian horror in which certain humans are blessed with elemental powers feels scoured directly from the litany of things I like in my fiction. It’s hyperviolent, it’s bleak as all get out, there’s an ice witch who destroyed the world, there are people with powers and completely irresponsible ways of using, it’s complete Jo bait.

I’m only two volumes in, and I am definitely continuing with the series as the need for treats come in because wow.

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ARC Review: LUCKY GIRL, How I Became A Horror Writer: A Krampus Story by M. Rickert (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: September 13th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Trigger/Content warning: serial murder, dead family, stalking, spiritual abuse, ritual torture (aftermath)

Ro is a struggling writer with a couple of stories and a group of friends who seemed to have come together randomly at a diner during Christmas. They meet for several Christmases more, and each one seems to end worse than the one that came before as the past haunts them.

More creepy than scary, with people proving to be the real horror with folkloric elements woven throughout that makes the reader wonder if there’s sinister spirits afoot or if people are just like that.

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Review: RAISING LAZARUS: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis by Beth Macy (2022)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content/trigger warnings: COVID-19, overdose, vomiting, prison, drug abuse, structural inequality, death of relatives

This book is a kind of sequel to Dopesick, in that it is a continuation of Beth Macy’s research and investigation into the impact and extent of the devastation left behind by the Sackler’s mismarketing and straight-up lying about the acute and long-term effects of their so-called miracle drug. There is some follow-up with the activists, doctors, and caregivers from the initial investigation, with several new key players in the movement to curb overdose deaths both within Appalachia and nationwide.

Though “hope” is in the subtitle, this volume reckons with the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down many of the boots-on-the-ground work with regards to harm reduction and further stigmatization and rethinking addiction as a disease rather than a personal failing. It does end, however, with action items that the reader can take on personal, political, and local levels.

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ARC Review: CROM CRUACH by Valkyrie Loughcrewe (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: September 22, 2022
Buy Links: Tenebrous Press Site | Kindle Edition | Bandcamp

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an eARC from the publisher
Trigger warnings: body horror, gore, blood, murder, homophobia, racism, transphobia, anti-traveller racism, animal death, Nazis, arson, vomit

A family is found murdered in their homes, but their bodies haven’t quite got the memo. Churches have been burned and locals are quick to accuse others of heinous crimes. Or commit them themselves. Is it a product of something folkloric or something disturbingly human?

With sharp lines, feverish and gross imagery, this horror novella feels like a nightmare with a deeply human cast.

An interview with the author will be going up on release day, September 22nd, 2022.

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ARC Review: BONE WEAVER by Aden Polydoros (2022)

Genre: Young Adult Dark Fantasy
Year Release: September 20th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an advanced copy on NetGalley
Content warning: on-page murder and violence, decapitation, gun violence, body horror, off-page dismemberment, reference to the mutilation of corpses, religious and ethnic persecution, death of a parent (off-page)

Toma lives in the wilderness with her benevolent upyri parents and younger sister. A dirigible erupts near their home, where the found family nurses a boy back to help. He turns out to Mikhail, the tsar who is on the run from violent revolutionaries. The two run off to find Toma’s sister, Galina, stolen by enemies, and pick up a snarky boy witch on the way.

With layered world-building that examines monstrosity and otherness with an endearing cast, this one is a must-read for fans of historically-grounded Slavic dark fantasy.

An interview with the author is going up on September 20th, release day.

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Review: BURNOUT: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (2019)

Genre: Adult Self-Help Nonfiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Kindle

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The way I came across this read is via a friend who I think got it for me when I was in a particularly dark part of my professional and creative career that nearly crushed me. I’m not going to get into specifics, but I started reading this book and had to put it down multiple times over the course of the years. I finally finished it when it seemed I needed the last two chapters the most (“What Makes You Stronger” and “Grow Mighty”).

While it is very focused on the experience of woman-identified and the pressures of those assigned female at birth, there is a lot here that resonated with me as someone who grew up with the terrible combination of undiagnosed ADHD, immigrant parents pursuing the American Dream, and gifted child syndrome. The Nagoskis put together a veritable buffet of anecdotes, studies, previous research, psychology, social psychology, behavior studies, and worksheets to get a sense of your own burnout and ways to work around it. Each section comes with a TL;DR section for quick reference, making the read accessible on a short time frame.

It might not be for everyone, but I’ll be referring to it when things get difficult.