ARC Review: CINDERS OF YESTERDAY (Legacy of Shadows #1) by Jen Karner (2021)

Genre: Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Year Release: June 2021
Buy Links: Barnes & Noble | Indiebound (Audiobook)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: trauma, parental death, house fires, fantasy violence, psychiatric hospital, immolation

A necromancer named Spectre killed Dani Black’s partner and the hunter is out for revenge. He also haunts Emilie Lockgrove, a medium with repressed memories and a whole bunch of family trauma to unpack. They come together in Dawson, Maryland, in search of a blade and a way to kill the necromancer once and for all.

Smooth as a knife’s edge and just as sharp, an exciting and sapphic new entry into the paranormal genre with plenty of scary monsters to go around.

An interview with author Jen Karner will be up on June 29th, 2021 (release day).

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ARC Review: FOLKLORN by Angela Mi Young Hur (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: parental death, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, hate crimes, discrimination

Physicist Elsa Park returns from a research trip to Antarctica when she founds out that her catatonic mother had died. All Elsa has left of her is a collection of stories and an uncanny ghost who follows her around. Then begins a search for discovery as Elsa reconnects with the stories she inherited from her mother and what it means for the rest of her adult life. There’s physics, there’s ghosts.

Hypnotic in its exploration of mythology, culture, and family, this literary contemporary fantasy shows how family and mythology have lines that might not at all be clearly defined.

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ARC Review: SORROWLAND by Rivers Solomon (2021)

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: birth, self harm, teen pregnancy, drowning, child abuse, cult, emotional abuse, blood, gaslighting, drowning, rape, gun violence, hanging, suicide, AIDS

Fifteen-year-old Vern gives birth to twins in the woods after having escaped the religious compound where things were amiss. She seeks to raise them free of that influence, but the hauntings and hunts force her to interact with the forbidden world beyond.

Feral and howling, this brilliant piece of speculative fiction is not one to miss. It is as beautiful as it is raw, and I am truly jealous that I can’t re-experience it for the first time again.

An interview with author Rivers Solomon will be posted on the blog on release day, May 4th 2021.

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ARC Review: DEFEKT (LitenVerse #2) by Nino Cipri (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: April 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: bleeding (mild), doppelgangers

This unexpected sequel to Finna starts off with the backstory of why Derek couldn’t come into that fateful work day when Jules and Ava fall into a wormhole. What continues is an unexpected shift to tame homicidal toilets with a team of Derek’s own doppelgangers.

With fantastic dynamics, characters that leap off the page, and the cost of company loyalty, Defekt is a wonderfully weird sequel which leaves the reader wide-eyed at the strangeness and grinning with delight.

This book was a ton of fun. I feel like the tone went from scary-weird to funny-weird with clever uses of character introductions. Derek, as a person, is relatively harmless, albeit annoying as far as coworkers go. He’s senselessly loyal to LitenVäld, including details like how he lives in a cargo trailer near the store and seems to not know how to interact with other humans. He feels suddenly ill one day and takes a sick day, leading him to sleep for 30 hours which accidentally causes the relationship tension in Finna.

To make up for his absence, Derek gets assigned to a special inventory unit to deal with defekta, or mutant furniture. In true LitenVäld form, however, his coworkers are also his clones. I enjoyed how Cipri pulled this off. Each doppelganger definitely feels like they’re cut from the same cloth as Derek. It was also super exciting to see him interact with being that aren’t all LitenVäld all the time. It’s really funny from the end, and the inclusion of company handbook advice between the chapters to remind the reader of the capitalist horror that is this future brand.

Author Nino Cipri returns to the blog to talk about this sequel, which will be posted on release day, April 20.

ARC Review: THE UNBROKEN (Magic of the Lost #1) by C.L. Clark (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: March 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC provided by the author
Content warning: depictions of colonial violence, gore, past attempted rape, threats of rape, threats of torture, disembowelment, graphic violence, vomiting, plague, destruction of sacred sites

I was beyond thrilled to receive an ARC. I’ve been hearing so much about the beauty of Touraine’s arms, the complexity of the world-building, and more. This book delivers on so many notes, from the nuanced depiction of a rebellion against an empire to the complexity of the key players to fine detail work woven throughout.

Continuing conversations started by works like The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson and The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, The Unbroken turns colonist narratives on its head with two resilient main characters trying to do their best in a political structure that wants both of them to fail.

Author C.L. Clark will be featured in an interview to be posted on March 23rd (release day).

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ARC Review: A DESOLATION CALLED PEACE (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: March 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: vomiting, death, attempted genocide

The sequel to A Memory Called Empire picks up right where the previous entry left off: with Mahit Dzmare returning to Lsel Station. However, we are treated to a few new POV characters in the form of Nine Hibiscus and her fleet waging war on aliens they can’t communicate with who fight back with novel weaponry.

Taking a few pages out of Arrival (2016), the second half of Teixcalaan’s story moves away from a single location mystery and brings that political intrigue to space and beyond. As hypnotic as the first and ties up many loose ends in its satisfying conclusion.

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ARC Review: THE INITIAL INSULT (#1) by Mindy McGinnis (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: dead parents, seizures, car accidents, animal cruelty, animal death (off-screen), drug abuse, vomiting, bleeding

This book is so fun, in as much fun as a story about a friendship falling apart can be. Filled to the brim with Edgar Allan Poe references, this book is a treat. Tress Montor lives with Cecil, her grandfather and guardian, who lives in a trailer next to a questionably-legal zoo. Her former best friend Felicity Turnado has the disappearance of Tress’s parents to answer for. Then comes the Halloween party, then the wall, and the secrets come tumbling out.

The pacing in this book is simply delightful and there’s even segments from the point of view of a panther. Fun from start to finish.

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ARC Review: FIREHEART TIGER by Aliette de Bodard (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: emotional abuse, attempted domestic violence, arson

In a palace, Thanh returns from years abroad to a mother that doesn’t value her presence, a fire elemental which has taken to her, and a lover who won’t quite quit. The personal conflict mirrors the political conflict, a perfect blend of interior and exterior stakes.

The structure of this novel is so effective. It’s brief, with so many layers of world-building that would tickle fans of door-stopper fantasies. But it is the relationships that leap off the page. In particular, the waxing of Giang and Thanh’s connection, and the waning of Eldris and Thanh’s relationship really worked well, especially when taken in parallel with Thanh gaining her own footing politically. The precise characterizations and deliberate scenes infuse deep personal stakes that amplify and influence the political machinations. Thanh’s character journey really works. The mutual respect between Thanh and Giang is swoony and casts a warmth like firelight.

ARC Review: THE ECHO WIFE by Sarah Gailey (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: murder, dissection, corpses, abuse (child, spousal, and emotional)

Orphan Black meets Stepford Wives in this twisty, heart-wrenching exploration of marriage, identity, cycles of abuse, and healing. Evelyn Caldwell is an award-winning scientist who specializes in cloning. Martine is everything Evelyn is not, a facsimile of the perfect wife. Until the cheating husband, Nathan, winds up dead. And the journey Gailey takes us on requires a hard examination of self and a weighted blanket to get to its hopeful conclusion.

Author Sarah Gailey will be featured in a blog interview on February 18th, 2021.

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ARC Review: THE WITCH’S HEART by Genevieve Gornichec

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: childbirth, burning alive, sutures

I was a Norse mythology kid growing up. And the books that I had read painted Angrboda as the de facto villain with Loki being kind of a quaint deuteragonist. This book tells the story from Angrboda’s point of view, starting with her third burning through her courtship with Loki, to the birth of her monstrous children, and finally, Ragnarok itself. Beautiful imagery, full of romance, and heart-breaking in its pivotal moments, this book has captured my heart, and I’m not sure I’m getting it back any time soon.

Author Genevieve Gornichec will be featured in a blog interview on release day, February 9th, 2021.

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