Review: TENDER IS THE FLESH by Agustina Bazterrica (2020)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: cannibalism, slaughterhouse machinations, humans as sustenance, sexual abuse, rape, blood play, violence against puppies

In the alternate universe in which this book takes place, a virus has made all meat poisonous to humans, except for that certain hunger. The rest is told from the perspective of Marcos, a worker at one of the facilities whose life is falling apart. Until he’s “gifted” with a female, and things get worse from there.

While low on plot and shock value beyond its conceit, the ending punched me in the face on a journey that is very frank with its depiction and high in its interiority.

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Review: SEX CULT NUN: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult by Faith Jones (2021)

Genre: Adult Memoir
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warnings (all of these are graphic): Child sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, incest, suicidal ideation, murder, isolation, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, trauma in the name of religion

I finished listening to this book days ago and have finally figured out how to talk about it. It’s not an easy story or an easy read. But the author’s note at the beginning outlines what Jones set out to do: tell a coming of an age story from the point of view of a girl who grew up in a religious cult. In that, it is successful. Heartbreakingly successful.

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Review: NIGHTBITCH by Rachel Yoder (2021)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Gore, body horror, violence against animals (the cat dies)

A mother lives with her toddler and engineer husband. One day, hair like fur starts showing up on her body and the story only gets weirder and more visceral from there. She’s trying to reconcile who she is as a mother in contrast to herself as an artist in contrast to society’s expectations of both.

This book is intense with an energy that made it so, so, so hard to look away until the curtain falls on a performance art piece that imitates life and the mythology woven throughout.

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Review: WYLDING HALL by Elizabeth Hand (2014)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2014
Source: Audible

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Drug use

A folk band rents out a manor for the summer to record an album. The story of that recording is told through interviews with their manager, the bandmates, and others as they try to tell the full account of singer-guitarist Julian Blake’s disappearance.

This book is super eerie. The interview format really works here, as it’s super easy to track the different versions of the story, in addition to pin-pointing the moments when reality gets a bit wonky. The atmosphere shines through in the different tellings, with a great balance of nostalgia and things unspoken.

Getting any more specific will spoiler the experience, but this was a fun story to sink into, watching these youth make seemingly innocuous choices that rest in stark contrast to the horror to come.

Review: THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (2021)

Genre: Adult Psychological Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Drug abuse, suicide, bullying, rape (depicted), alcoholism, murder

PR manager Ambrosia “Amb” Wellington is invited to a college reunion, but there are so many skeletons buried within that closet and someone is bent on revealing the truth. What follows is a story told in dual timelines, the past and the present, as what looks like normal college debauchery turns into a matter of light and death. There are parties, there are hookups, there are gross boys and even more despicable girls. There’s a laser focus on the extracurriculars of college that felt uncomfortably true to life.

This book is one hell of an anti-bullying PSA. It’s not often we see the person who did the bullying as the protagonist, but the layers to it are hard to take your eyes of.

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Review: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (2005)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2005
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Cannibalism, racism, starvation, dehydration, cannibalism, descriptions of whale butchering

This is the story that inspired Moby Dick. The whaleship Essex attempts to take down a sperm whale, but the sperm whale has other ideas and sinks the ship. What then goes down is a grisly tale of survival and survival cannibalism as the crew members float along the Pacific hoping for rescue. What also features in this narrative is a lot of contextualization of whaling as an international enterprise, the lives of the crew before the tragedy, and what became of them after.

With incredible pacing and thorough research, I found myself glued to this narrative from start to finish.

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Review: THE JASMINE THRONE (The Burning #1) by Tasha Suri (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Immolation, suicide, drug abuse and recovery, sibling abuse, gaslighting, execution by elephant, homophobia (both internal and external)

Malini’s tyrant of a brother locked her up in the Hirana, a decaying temple, and Priya is one of the many servants employed to take care of her. But when Malini witnesses the secret Priya tries to hide, the two form a tense alliance which can change the structure of an empire forever.

This book has so many things: swoony writing, intricate politics, kind people at the end of their rope, thorough depictions of the different political and social strata. There’s also plant magic, waters with mystical regenerative properties, mythologies that contradict, a magical plague, and then some. It’s a treat for any fantasy lover.

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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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Review: RASPUTIN: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs by Douglas Smith (2016)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2018
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Alcoholism, rape allegations, religious persecution, murder, slander, propaganda, rural poverty

Once again, this nonfiction read comes from being thoroughly entertained by Last Podcast on the Left’s breakdown of the Russian mystic’s biography. Dear reader, there is even more to it than can be covered in a 4-part podcast series.

Douglas Smith’s account of the self-proclaimed holy man not only covers the isolated facts of his life, but also goes into contextualizing both Russian culture at the time and the myths and attitudes that contributed to his notoriety.

Told through letters, newspaper articles, diary entries, and other primary sources, this very long, captivating read ultimately leaving it up to the reader to piece together the truth about this absolutely ridiculous man. It’d be foolish to say that Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin did nothing wrong, but the antichrist, he was not.

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