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: MADHOUSE AT THE END OF THE EARTH: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night by Julian Sancton (2021)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2021
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Starvation, scurvy, depictions of mental illness, animal slaughter

If you thought Arctic exploration had its moments of “why would anyone ever do this,” Antarctic exploration is on a whole other level. This book follows the expedition of The Belgica, a ship from Belgium with a mostly international crew. What makes this account particularly captivating is its wacky cast of characters and a trip that felt mad long before Adrien de Gerlarche and his crew made it to the southern seas.

Told fairly linearly in multiple points of view, the ending really has you wondering just what such journeys do to people, especially when there’s national and international renown at stake.

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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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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: BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage (2018)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abuse, Crohn’s disease, parental neglect, attempted murder, hitting a child, gaslighting, burning

Usually when there is a horror trope of an evil child, the kid is either possessed or we see the entire thing from the parent’s point of view. In this book, we get the point of view of the mother, Suzette, and the daughter, Hannah. Suzette has Crohn’s disease, body image issues, and really wants a life that isn’t being a stay at home mother. Hannah, meanwhile, has been expelled from several kindergartens and refuses to speak. Something dark lurks beneath and she wants her mother out of the picture.

Baby Teeth is designed to make the reader deeply uncomfortable with sharp prose that’s intense from start to finish.

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