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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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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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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ARC Review: BABEL, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang (2022)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy
Year Release: August 23rd, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an advanced copy on NetGalley
Trigger/Content warning: death of a parent, racism, microaggressions, colonialism, imperialism, gun violence, blood, vomiting, sexual harassment, murder, suicidal ideation, child abuse, parental abuse

When Robin Swift’s mother dies of cholera in Canton, a British professor Richard Lovell whisks him off to England to be trained in Greek and Latin to attend the translation program at Oxford University. He befriends his cohort of three other students, Ramy, Letty, and Victoire, but what lies beneath is a mechanism that furthers white British supremacy and goals of global domination. This book and its characters are having none of it, and it begins an exploration of the role of language and translation as a weapon and tool of colonialism.

Magical, nuanced, intense, and gut-wrenching, this is definitely going to live in my heart as one of my favorite reads of 2022.

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ARC Review: THE STONE ROAD by Trent Jamieson (2022)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy
Year Release: July 19th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an advanced copy on NetGalley
Trigger/Content warning: alcoholism, death of a relative, vomiting, harm against animals, death, grief

Jean March protects her village from the dead while the paw at her, begging to be heard, begging for more of their own. Her grandma was to supposed to teach her in the abilities to combat the supernatural forces threatening Casement Rise, but when a mysterious from the calamity called Furnace arrives, it’s time to speed run an education in magic and the hungry forces wanting to bring the world to ruin.

This book definitely scratched the itch that constantly chases the vibes of The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. Gothic, decaying but not bleak, with an ending that draws on hope that can only be pulled from a community’s strong bonds.

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ARC Review: THE HONEYS by Ryan La Sala (2022)

Genre: YA Horror
Year Release: August 16th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an eGalley courtesy of the publisher
Trigger/Content warning: death of a sibling, body horror, blood, bleeding, kidnapping, hazing

In the middle of the night when she’s supposed to be away at her prestigious summer camp, Mars’ sister Caroline attacks them within their family home. The encounter ends in tragedy, with a tidy explanation, but Mars suspects the camp itself might have had a hand in the violence. They take her spot, and they start learning about what lurks within bucolic Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy.

I had a fun time getting lost in the haze of La Sala’s prose which deftly takes the reader from summer’s bliss to a trippy nightmare. It’s entertaining and really fun for folks who have seen films like Hereditary and Annihilation, but stars a badass genderfluid teen determined to find out the truth about his sister’s death.

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ARC Review: THE SLEEPLESS by Victor Manibo (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: August 23rd, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an Advanced Bound Manuscript obtained from ALA AC 2022
Trigger/Content warning: suicide, burnout, gun violence, beating, alcoholism, drug abuse

In the year 2043, the world has passed through a plague like any other, one that rendered a quarter of the population Sleepless. We follow Jamie Vega, a reporter, who didn’t develop hyperinsomnia via the illness. He got it by biohacking, and it leads to some serious problems. Like forgetting the details of what happened the night before he found his boss, Simon, dead. Mysteries and a global conspiracy unravel, with twists on twist on twist.

This sharp examination of the cost of non-stop productivity at a personal and a global level includes a personal character journey as Jamie tries to clear his own name and get to the truth of what really happened that night.

An interview with the author will be going up on release day, August 23rd, 2022.

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ARC Review: I NEVER LIKED YOU ANYWAY by Jordan Kurella (2022)

Genre: Adult Contemporary
Year Release: August 15th, 2022
Buy Links: Indiebound | Kindle Edition

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an eARC from the publisher
Content warning: death, discussion of suicide, abusive relationships

Orpheus and Eurydice get the CW treatment in this retelling that puts the tragic couple in college. Both are music majors, and both have different goals for their relationship as well as their musical careers. A litany of questionable choices follow, told in the past in the music program and present in the Afterlife.

Really fun with delightfully messy relationships and excellent use of music references to move the story along.

An interview with author Jordan Kurella will be going up on release day, August 15th, 2022.

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ARC Review: THE BRUISING OF QILWA by Naseem Jamnia (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: August 9th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warnings: blood, surgery, bigotry, xenophobia, hate crime (aftermath depicted), plague, medical racism, corpses

Qilwa is a city-state which is the new home of our healer protagonist, Firuz-e Jafari, who lives with their trans brother, Parviz. A plague sweeps the city, but takes on a more menacing tone when new symptoms appear and the body count increases at the clinic. All the while, their younger sibling wants to transition and the siblings bring a fellow blood magic user into their fold.

This novella has a bit of everything: medical fantasy, slice-of-life, and a mystery, all presented in some of the tightest, most layered writing I’ve had the joy and privilege of reading.

An interview with the author will be posted on August 9th, release day.

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