Review: KNIVES IN YOUR EYES by RooFiction (2022)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy Erotica
Buy Links: itch.io | AO3 (Read for Free)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Trigger warnings: Full list here, gore, body horror, surgery, eye trauma, torture, insects, graphic sex, dubious consent & lack of consent, incest

This is a self-published novel about a boy who can’t die, a professor who’s actually a god, and hunter seeking a new job. Val is a little freak with a heart of gold who seeks to understand all the people around him while he helps the professor, Dream, search for his brother, Mare, while newly-minted humanoid monsters called spiders wreak havoc in city centers. The reunion is fraught with danger at every corner, including a man called the Cardinal Major with literal daggers in his eye sockets.

It’s intense with some gorgeous writing and a compelling found family, Please heed the trigger and content warnings before diving into this one.

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Light Novel Review: OUR LAST CRUSADE OR THE RISE OF A NEW WORLD Vol 1 by Kei Sazane & Ao Nekonabe (2019)

Genre: Seinen Fantasy
Year Release in English: 2019
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Fantasy violence, war

One of the greatest pieces of Jo bait are stories in which a technology faction is at war with a magic faction and neither seems to be winning. Throw in, specifically, ice witches and an enemies-to-lovers romance, and I’m hooked.

A mechanical utopia, The Empire, is at war with a paradise for witches, The Sovereignty. Iska is the youngest to rise to the rank of Saint Disciple in the military, on a mission to capture the Ice Calamity Witch, Alice. Epic fights ensue while intrigue and plotting unfold in the quieter moments, culminating in a literally earth-shattering fight against a originator witch possessing multiple elemental powers.

There are some beautiful turns of phrase throughout this novel that makes the prose as exciting to read as seeing the illustrations. The world feels lived in, with one of my favorite details being the culture present within the neutral cities. It’s where main characters Iska and Alice get to know each other, specifically attending an opera and seeing an art exhibition together. They can’t attack, and that forced proximity and peace makes for some charming awkwardness that brings the characters together almost as efficiently as their weapons and magic clashing in battle.

There are more powers that be than just the Empire and the Sovereignty, and I’m eager to keep reading.

Light Novel Review: THE HOLY GRAIL OF ERIS Vol 1 by Kujira Tokiwa & Yunagi (2022)

Genre: Supernatural Secondary World Fantasy
Year Release in English: 2022
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Beheading, gore, murder, poisoning, kidnapping

It took me a minute, but I did enjoy reading this light novel, the first in a new series. It’s got a noble woman haunted by the ghost of another whose execution she witnessed, court intrigue, and conspiracy galore.

The book takes place in a secondary world with about as much technology as present in the late 1700’s on earth. There are viscounts and kings, emperors, delegates from other realms, and a smattering of international politics here and there.

The main character, Constance Grail, needs to do one thing to live up to her family name and that’s to be sincere. She’s also engaged to a lecherous duke and is haunted by Scarlett Castiel, who’s quite infamous among noble circles. She’s out for revenge and enlists Connie’s help . The dichotomy between these two is so fun so far. Where one is timid and polite almost to her own detriment, the other is ruthless. It’s this contrast that really keeps the story going. There are so many threads introduced, and, by herself, I’m not sure Connie can manage them all, but with having a new fiancé and Scarlett at her side, I’m sure she’ll get to the true reason why Scarlett was executed in the first place.

Nobles play badly and there’s conspiracy and artifacts afoot.

Book & Show Review: DOPESICK (2018 & 2021)

While watching The Dropout with a good friend of mine, she recommended Dopesick the show to me. Seven episodes in, I found myself so absorbed in the fabricated stories that I wanted to dive immediately into the true story that inspired the acclaimed miniseries. Naturally, I binged it on audible, and then watched Episode 8. So, we’re in for another double review.

For more reads about the Sacklers and the opioid epidemic, I highly recommend the incredibly well-researched and infuriating, Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe.

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Manga Review: Chainsaw Man Vol. 4-11 by Tatsuki Fujimoto (2021-2022)

Genre: Horror Shonen
Year Release in English: 2021-2022
Buy link: Viz Media Digital Subscription

Image source: VIZ Media Page

Reminder: Star rating reflects my opinion of the series overall.
Follow these links for my review of Volumes 1 through 3.

At the beginning of the series, we meet Denji, a boy saddled with generational debt who gets killed by gangsters, only to make a pact with his dog, Pochita, to become a Devil-human hybrid called Chainsaw Man. He gets picked up by the department of public safety, whose Division 4 is managed by the beautiful, enigmatic Makima. Their primary objective is to eliminate the Gun Devil, which wreaked havoc on Japan over a decade prior.

There’s elements of slice-of-life, true horror, and exciting action as we follow Denji on his quest to fulfill the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with satisfying twist after satisfying twist.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Trio Review: The SMALL SPACES series by Katherine Arden (2018-2021)

From left to right: covers for Small Spaces (2018), Dead Voices (2019), and Dark Waters (2021), all by Katherine Arden

To get in the mood for spooky season, I’ve decided to dip back into some horror reads. Katherine Arden’s shift to Middle Grade has been on my radar for a bit. What a delightful series it is. We follow the scary adventures of Ollie Adler, Coco Zintner, and Brian Battersby, three middle schoolers with different experiences of the supernatural. These books are scary but heartwarming, with tense situations and fantastic character development. The cliffhanger Dark Waters ends on makes me impatient for the next book, but they are a delight and highly recommended for fans of things like Over the Garden Wall, Crimson Peak, and urban legends coming to life.

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Duo Review: DEVIANT (1985) and PSYCHO USA (2012) by Harold Schechter

It took me ten days to listen to the interview between Last Podcast on the Left, Harold Schechter, and Eric Powell discussing their new graphic novel project because I kept getting distracted by reading Schechter’s work. I thought it would make more sense to combine the reviews.

Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original “Psycho” (1985) on the left and Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You’ve Never Heard of (2012) on the right, both by Harold Schechter

I spend more time than is probably recommended listening to Last Podcast on the Left. Which is why it surprised me that it took me days to get through an interview that’s just under an hour long. Infected with Marcus Parks’ enthusiasm for Schechter’s work, I wanted to dive in and do some of my own reading. Wow, the hype is definitely well-earned. The discussion of mental health in both works seem somewhat progressive for their time, especially given the subject matter. The structure of both novels also kept me engaged and is worth studying from a story-telling perspective.

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Duo Review: THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers (2021) and THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN by Jeff Guinn (2017)

I read these books in close proximity to each other. After learning that the non-fiction was used as research for the fiction, I thought it would be neat to combine them.

The Project (2021) by Courtney Summers (left) and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple (2017) by Jeff Guinn

Cults are a subject that have fascinated true crime writers and fans for quite some time. From their deadly demises to the strategic and manipulative ways they entice people to their group, there is so much to examine, and so many opportunities for heart-break. In 2021’s The Project, Courtney Summers tells the story of a budding journalist, Lo, who tries to reconnect with her sister, Bea, who had been lost to a cult, The Unity Project. The rise of Lev Warren can be easily mapped onto the rise of Jim Jones and Peoples Temple in the 70s, a socialist organization which had a flimflam man who believed himself God at its center. Both books are chilling, heartbreaking, and compliment each other so well.

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