Manga Review: NO. 6 Volumes 1-5 by Atsuko Asano & Hinoki Kino (2013-2014)

Genre: Science Fiction Shonen
Year Release in English: 2013-2014
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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ARC Review: THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON by Ryan Douglass (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: Gore, school shooting, revenge porn, attempted rape, bullying, homophobia, abuse by parents

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black student at St. Claire’s Prep. The ghosts reliving their deaths and ghouls following him don’t make high school any easier. When a mass shooter from the town’s recent past decides to pick Jake as his next target, it’s a race against escalating violence as Jake comes into his powers as a medium to banish the spirit once and for all.

An atmospherically horrifying new voice in horror that had me reading this book through splayed fingers from start to finish, while clinging onto the hope for a happy-for-now ending for Jake.

Author Ryan Douglass will be featured on the blog on release day, July 13.

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Review: FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: Drug abuse, gun violence, rape (depicted, fade-to-black), microaggressions against indigenous people, vomiting, drug overdose, murder, kidnapping

Taking place on the border between the U.S. and Canada, this thriller follows Daunis Fontaine, a biracial, dorky, 18-year-old who deferred college enrollment to take care of her mother and grandmother. A newcomer captures Daunis’ attention and hidden truths come to light when she witnesses a murder. The body count starts climbing and the source of harrowing trouble might hit closer to home than initially expected.

Heart-breaking as it is beautifully written, Boulley presents a thriller that’s as much about the power of community and honoring those around you as it is about the terrible ways the drug trade ravages communities.

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Manga ARC Review: UNDEAD GIRL MURDER FARCE Vol. 1 by Yugo Aosaki & Haruka Tomoyama (2021)

Genre: Fantasy Mystery Seinen
Year Release in English: 2021
Buy Link: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warnings: Blood, murder, nudity, disembodied head

In 19th Century France, vampires are allowed to live alongside humans. Detectives are called in but little does anyone expect, it’s the disembodied head who’s also a demon.

This manga opens up with a dead vampire, a family member suspected, and a kooky trio consisting of a maid, a himbo, and a disembodied head in a cage. It is wonderfully strange and not very deep. It ends on a cliff-hanger, and I’m eager to see what the cage user has hidden behind his kind lack of sense.

The art style is really neat, though at times, the background work gets in the way of comprehending the words on the page. I’m unfamiliar with the differences between ARC manga and finished copies, so perhaps it is cleared up, and I hope so. I had a ton of fun during this read.

If you’re looking for something with cheek, thought-out world-building, and engaging action, definitely give this a shot.

Light Novel Review: BOOGIEPOP AND OTHERS by Kouhei Kadono & Kouji Ogata (2006)

Genre: Horror
Year Release in English: 2006
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Gaslighting, violence, blood, gore, murder, dismemberment, kidnapping

I had watched the Boogiepop Phantom anime several years ago and due to my recent foray into manga and light novels, decided to give the source material a try. It is a treat.

Told non-linearly, we follow a collection of high schoolers as some of their own disappear and others turn into either Boogiepop or their enemy the Manticore. Souls get devoured in a technological attempt to subjugate humanity, and Boogiepop needs their own set of allies to set things straight.

The craft here cleverly plays with reader’s sense of reality as the grounding of real vs. surreal becomes upended from the point of view of the character narrating that chapter. The kids are certainly not all right, and the adults are strangely absent. I’m interested in seeing if we get any of them involved. There seem to be strict rules about attendance, phone use, dating, etc. but when one of them goes missing, no one talks about it. It’s eerie in the same way groupthink is, and it just adds to the unsettling nature of this story and its telling.

I’m lucky to have already purchased the second novel, and I’m excited to dive in.

ARC Review: MEET CUTE DIARY by Emery Lee (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Year Release: May 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: Vomiting, panic attack

Noah Ramirez runs a blog called Meet Cute Diary, a collection of short stories about trans people meeting the love of their lives in increasingly adorable ways. He writes most of the stories and an online troll calls it out in online-public ways. Noah’s also spending the summer in Denver with his brother as his parents move from Florida to California. To save the blog, he strikes up a fake relationship with a local while trying to balance the blog situation and a new job at a summer camp.

This book is adorable and refreshingly young as far as young adult protagonists go. Meet Cute Diary is a delightful light-hearted summer romp.

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Review: THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris (2021)

Genre: Adult Literary Suspense
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Microaggressions, racism, stalking, kidnapping

A new co-worker in the office tends to be exciting. When another Black girl arrives and Nella Rogers is no longer the only Black girl her at her company, strange things begin to happen. Mysterious notes and cryptic texts telling her to leave Wagner send Nella in a spiral that could unravel the fabric of reality itself.

Excellent in its twists, and takes its sweet time establishing understanding, The Other Black Girl interrogates the publishing infrastructure for its lack of diversity while also introducing dread and menace in a tightly woven mystery.

If this has been pitched to you as Get Out meets The Stepford Wives but make it publishing, you’ve got an accurate description of this book.

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Review: THE SHIP OF STOLEN WORDS by Fran Wilde (2021)

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook

Pigs fly in this whimsical novel about the importance of meaning what you say and not relying too heavily on short cuts to getting out of trouble. Fifth grader Sam is ready to kick off summer but when teasing goes too far and a little library gets vandalized, he loses the ability to use his favorite word, “sorry.” The culprits are goblins, and we’re set off on an adventure featuring prospectors, goblins, and ships powered by words.

A delight from start to finish, it was wonderful to watch Sam learn the importance of action behind meaning and Tolver learning the hard way that just because he can, doesn’t mean he should.

Treats here include understanding adults, uneven roads to forgiveness, plus Ursula K. Le Guin elementary which I wish was actually a thing I could claim as a place where I studied. I’m so excited to have Fran on the blog next week.

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ARC Review: THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL by Nghi Vo (2021)

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy
Year Release: June 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: homophobia, racism, abortion, domestic violence, car accidents, alcoholism

In this queer reimagining of The Great Gatsby, Jordan Baker is a queer, Vietnamese adoptee and socialite with all the beautiful sharp edges of stained glass. It’s deeply sensual and takes full advantage of almost a century of historical contextualizing. There’s glitz, glamour, and paper craft magic that fully immerses the reader in its time period and aesthetic.

I’m not saying this book is perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. The Chosen and the Beautiful perfectly captures the horniness of a summer fling with all the yearning horror of watching your best friend make increasingly ill-advised decisions when it comes to the men in her life.

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