January 2023 Reading Recap

Happy 2023! January feels like it was many things. I wrote over 15,000 words of fanfiction and short fiction for deadlines. I re-outlined all of my novel code-named AquaShame. I did a lot of reading and watching movies, and honestly, it’s been a pretty good time. The biggest thing, however, is that I dropped the title of my forthcoming novella! I made a handy dandy press kit that has all the information you need: content warnings, links to goodreads/storygraph, pre-order information, and more.

Blog Interviews are resuming next month with Freydís Moon (who is also showing up on the blog tomorrow with a cover drop).

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Danmei Review: THE SCUM VILLAIN’S SELF-SAVING SYSTEM Vol 1 by Mo Xiang Tong Xio (illust. Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi)) (2021)

Genre: Transmigration Fantasy Danmei
Year Release in English: 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Injury, demons, body horror

I forgot why I picked this one up because I’ve seen art, I’ve seen thoughts, and once it finally landed on my to-read list, I started reading and had a hard time keeping myself away.

Shen Yuan is an inappropriately passionate fan of a fictional web novel, Proud Immortal Demon Way. Upset at the ending, his biggest hope would have been to be transmigrated into the body of protagonist, Luo Binghe (LBH). Instead, he’s the scum villain, Shen Qingqiu (SQQ). (For those like me more familiar with Japanese light novels, this is essentially an isekai). And being the scum villain comes with a literal digital assistant making sure he doesn’t do anything out of character else he forfeits his life. While the characters around him function like normal human beings navigating their demon-battle-filled world, SQQ tries to course correct as if he too doesn’t have his own flesh to worry about it.

There’s a reverence for the genre, while pointing out the ways in which SVSS plays with subverts tropes and expectations. I think what kept me reading and in stitches is the fact that SQQ maneuvers the story as if it’s fiction or a video game, strategizing for points rather than taking into account that the people around him might also be human. His own unawareness of the machinations around him makes him a colossal idiot in a way that is just fun to read. He’s committing to fixing his problematic fave instead of being a character. The absurdity of his own obliviousness is incredible.

The world building and big chapter set pieces are so cool, but I do not have the familiarity with danmei or the cultivation fantasy genre to speak to its execution. I enjoyed myself nonetheless. My favorite sequence had to be the literal dream sequence in which Meng Mo tries to trap both LBH and SQQ. The demonstration of the different magic that permeates the realms really worked for me. The way MXTX threads emotional and system-stakes really works for me, and kept me so invested in the story, in addition to SQQ and his various relationships.

Now that the characters have gone off script and the System itself has shut down, I’m so excited to see how SQQ weasels his way through the shenanigans to come.

Manga Review: GUNBURED X SISTERS Vol. 1 – 3 by Wataru Mitogawa (2022-2023)

Genre: Fantasy Yuri Seinen
Year Release in English: 2022 – 2023

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I thought I had reviewed the first two volumes of this high octane manga about a religious order who fight vampires, but apparently not. It is sexy and little perverted, it’s over-the-top, there are girls in love, girls in rivalries, and knights who use she/they pronouns. The series is fun and irreverent with really fun fights and so many ulterior motives among people supposedly working together.

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Light Novel Review: VAMPIRE HUNTER D Vol. 4: Tale of the Dead Town by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Yoshitaka Amano (2006)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy Science Fiction Western
Year Release in English: 2005
Buy Link: Barnes & Noble (Initially received via Humble Bundle)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: violence, gore, talking carbuncle, blood, weather disaster

In this volume, Vampire Hunter D stumbles upon a biker and a family that’s been eliminated by radiation poisoning with only a teenager surviving. Things only get stranger from there when the new trio make their way to a literal wandering village inhabited by several thousand people. The mayor has some specific problems with Nobility, but the poisoned family’s home might have the key to all the goings-on.

The mystery here can literally only happen in the world of the Frontier. There’s science that feels like magic and fantasy that is ripped straight from horror. The architecture and depiction of the moving town is also something really rad. There’s allusions to the mechanisms that are firmly rooted in 90’s-style sci-fi, with a rudimentary understanding of computer and cyberpunk mechanics. It’s present enough to give the genre’s grounding, but not so much that not knowing the specifics will interrupt immersion. The intrigue driving the story is also deeply human, where the reasons behind the town’s ailments perfectly map to “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I won’t go into specifics, but if medical horror is your jam, you’re going to be well-fed.

Light Novel Review: BAKEMONOGATARI Part 01 by NISIOISIN (illust. Vofan) (2016)

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Year Release in English: 2016
Source: Physical Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Mention of an attempted rape, death of a child, cults, injuries, blood, threats of violence

This light novel series starts off with a fairly simple premise: a former vampire catches his classmate who slipped on a banana peel, only to find that she weighs literally nothing. And if full of stationery. And haunted by a crab. In the second half of the book, the two of them encounter a little girl haunted by a snail aberration, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Full of friendship, interesting exchanges, strange happenings, and explorations of past trauma that don’t get resolved with the resolution of the haunting, there is so much to like and see in this work told almost entirely through dialogue but does not at all feel like reading a script.

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2023 Bookish Hype Train

Per my post about 2023, I really need to refocus on refilling my creative well. So, this year, I’m limiting the number of author interviews I do and reshuffling my to-read list to be mainly about backlist titles. Plus, I am releasing a novella of my own, which I am more than thrilled to unleash upon the world.

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My 2022 in Reading: Jo Needs a Nap

I read 192 books this year in a split of: 54 ARCs (up from last year), 33 audiobooks (down from last year), 72 manga volumes (down from last year), 20 physical copies (up from last year), 8 light novels (up from last year), and 5 eBooks (down from last year). I want to share my favorites, so please enjoy my favorite 20 2022 books, favorite 10 books from before 2021, and my favorite 5 manga. I would have done a favorite 20 of backlist books, but, unfortunately, I did not prioritize this year, and I think that contributed to my exhaustion.

Overall, it’s not as many things as last year, and it did bring me dangerously close to burning out on reading. 2023 will be a year for resetting some of my priorities with regards to reading, which will focus on my backlog and reading a whole lot of light novels.

Note: Harper Collins book links have been replaced with the linktree for the Harper Collins Union until that publisher goes back to the bargaining table

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December 2022 Reading Recap

December is a strange month for me because of traveling to get home and other plans, and having to recon with my own success at completing my own goals (not going to touch on that whatsoever here). It was a month where I read a bunch of things in translation and a singular ARC which feels more in the direction of how I want to be reading into 2023.

December’s only blog interview:

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Light Novel Review: VAMPIRE HUNTER D Vol. 2 Raiser of Gales & Vol. 3 Demon Deathchase by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Yoshitaka Amano (2005)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy Science Fiction Western
Year Release in English: 2005
Buy Link: Barnes & Noble (Initially received via Humble Bundle)

Review of Volume 1 can be found here

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Blood, kidnapping, incest, rape (fades to black, but unequivocal), dismemberment, nonconsensual medical experimentation

The mystery in this one is so engaging. We start off finding a young girl who has been selected by her town to go off into the capital as part of a special program that gets her a higher status in human society while the village of Tepes gets more resources. But there’s more to the precocious young woman than meets the eye, and gnarly is just one word for it.

What really shines here is how monstrous the humans are especially juxtaposed to the Nobles. I won’t spoil the mystery, but there is a horrific arc in which we learn more about Lina and the mayor who took her in. Please heed the content warnings for that portion of the story.

The action is incredible, and I really liked how less animalistic the vampires were in this one. The conspiracy is a years’ long literal medical experiment in eugenics. It’s very horror, and highlights Kikuchi’s ability to blend genres and use tropes to great effect. I can’t say too much without spoiling the entire story arc.

Content warnings: Blood, kidnapping, dubious consent, body horror of John Carpenter’s The Thing variety

This entry is absolutely the gnarliest one I’ve read so far, and, yes, I am aware that I am only on volume 3. While Demon Deathchase is the lightest on lore so far, the mesh of science fiction and dark fantasy is at its tightest. There are death cars and possessed carbuncles that grow into fully sentient tumors. It’s disgusting. It’s incredible.

There is no stone Kikuchi will leave unturned when it comes to the horrific scientific possibilities plaguing the world eleven thousand years into the future. We have flesh-possessing carbuncles that are eerie like ghosts and unsettling in the way flesh distorts with science that feels like magic.

The women within this work show a range of strength, from the lovelorn dhampir mechanic Caroline to the gearhead hunter Leila. I love them all, especially how they relate to D. The purple prose really works throughout the series to draw attention to D’s terrific power and ethereal beauty. The interactions and obsessions only highlight it further, and seeing the variety of personalities attracted to him definitely keeps me engaged in the new characters regardless of gender and whether or not they label their attraction love.

The ending to this one is brutal, gross, and eerily beautiful.