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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ARC Review: THE GOOD GIRLS by Claire Eliza Bartlett (2020)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Thriller
Year Release: December 2020
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape culture, predatory teacher, murder, suicide, substance abuse, guns

This twisty read follows the investigation for four girls. Three of them perhaps have something to do with the fourth’s murder. Secrets come out, and to protect each other and their truths, they have to stand up to a police department which doesn’t believe them and a school administration actively working against them.

Complex, evenly paced with a compelling, complex characters who are neither “good” nor “bad,” The Good Girls is a layered read that delivers a satisfying mystery and catharsis.

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ARC Review: RISE OF THE RED HAND (The Machinists #1) by Olivia Chadha

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Content warning: violence against children, plague, medical experimentation, violence

Set in South Asia, this cyberpunk science fiction dystopia has everything: a ruthless technocratic government, a deadly plague, mechanical augmentations, mechs, a shiny chrome utopia for the upper class, crowded slums for everyone else, a splinter group of revolutionaries, and hackers working from the inside.

Told in crisp, matter-of-fact prose by complex characters, this science fiction debut is not one to miss.

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ARC Review: THE MEMORY THEATER by Karin Tidbeck

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: violence against children

Intricately weaving together three parallel plot threads in one neat package, The Memory Theater is an inventive little package about a sister protecting her brother, that brother trying to get his name back, and a frightening noblewoman who discovered time.

Creepy and gorgeously atmospheric, this is a must-read for fans of Scandinavian fairy tales and folklore with darker tones.

Author Karin Tidbeck will be featured in a blog interview on release day, February 16th, 2021.

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ARC Review: ACROSS THE GREEN GRASS FIELD (Wayward Children #6) by Seanan McGuire

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: misgendering, intersex-phobia, kidnapping

We’ve had installments in the Wayward Children series for fans of Candyland, Frankenstein, and riddles. Finally, there is an entry for Horse Girls.

Regan struggles to understand friendship at that pivotal intersection of puberty and childhood. After she reveals to her “best friend” that she is intersex, Regan runs away and joins a commune of literal centaurs. There is a queen in the Hooflands, and she wants the human. But Regan will stop at nothing to maintain her agency and autonomy, despite whatever destiny wants her to believe.

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ARC Review: A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S.T. Gibson (2021)

Genre: Horror Romance
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: NYX Publishing

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC courtesy of the author
Content warning: emotional and domestic abuse, blood, violence, mental illness, gaslighting

If you’ve ever been interested in reading a story of Dracula told from the perspective of one of his brides, look no further. Told from Constanta’s POV, we experience her tumultuous relationship with the ubervamp and her relationship with her fellow spouses, spanning literal centuries. It’s romantic, but it also heart-wrenching with all the gothic delights one expects from a vampire story.

Author S.T. Gibson will also be my first author interview of the year so look out for that.

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ARC Review: A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders (2021)

Genre: Nonfiction (Writing Craft)
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop | Libro.fm | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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This is my first foray into nineteenth century Russian short stories and Saunders’ experience teaching them page-by-page shines through this craft book that is also a specific craft study. Saunders selected works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol to explore how these stories work and the connections between readers and authors.

What really stuck out to me about this collection was the subjectivity of the analysis and the dispersal of advice. Saunders makes it abundantly clear that the reader is allowed to get out of this work what they will. Disagreement with his impressions is encouraged throughout, and he even used the page space to refer to his own evolving relationship with these works. The balance between analysis of each story and more zoomed-out writing advice and Saunders’ own insights play well together, and it kept me engaged from start to finish.

There are definitely bits that I am taking with me as far as the exercises go, and some of the adages of what makes great writing work. A recommended read for people who learn by example (like yours truly).

ARC Review: WHEN THE TIGER CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN (The Singing Hills Cycle #2) by Nghi Vo (2020)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: December 2020
Buy Links: Bookshop | Libro.fm | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Cleric Chih is back at it again with their storytelling. This time, they find themself trapped with Si-Yu and her mammoth by a trio of shape-shifting tigers. To stall for time until the mammoths arrive and to appease the tigers’ desire for the truth, Chih unravels the full story of Ho Thi Thao and her lover, a scholar named Dieu.

Vo has such a knack for weaving otherwise epic storylines into so tight a space. Big emotions thread throughout, and what I found particularly intricate was the compare and contrast of how the tigers knew this epic love story versus how it was passed down among the clerics and throughout folklore. There are so many layers to this world Vo built, and the detail work is simply astounding and completely mesmerizing.

What particularly resonated with me was the violent presentation of Ho Thi Thao’s heartbreak during one segment of the story. It’s great to see a femme act out on page, and the way the narrative jumps back to the frame story to talk through how each character would deal with that specific grief. It worked really well for me, and provides a bit of indulgence that can’t be afforded if the story had strictly been told from either Ho Thi Thao’s or Dieu’s point of view.

Another epic distilled to its finest parts, I really enjoyed this return to the Empire of Ahn and can’t wait to read more of Vo’s work.