Happy debut day to Let The Mountains Be My Grave by Francesca Tacchi! I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of this Nazi-killing historical fantasy novella where the partisans get by with a little help from Etruscan gods.
Join me in celebrating this release with an interview with the author, where xe discusses the inspiration behind the novella, the kinds of research xe did, the fun xe had writing it, and what Tacchi is working on next.
Read an eARC from the publisher Content warning: anti-Japanese racism, anti-Asian racism, slurs, white supremacy, arachnophobia, gore, blood, miscarriage
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Alma Katsu’s historical horror novels. This one takes a little bit of a different approach, delving into a specific historical chapter but using characters largely invented for the story. In one of the very real Japanese internment camps in Idaho, Meiko Briggs notices a mysterious shipment arrive while her daughter, Aiko, sees portentous demons in the corner of her room. In Oregon, preacher Archie Mitchell eagerly awaits the birth of his first child, while those dreams are dashed when a mysterious balloon explodes and kills his wife along with some local children. In Nebraska, a journalist, Fran Gurstwold sees one of these mystery balloons and falls down a rabbit hole of government conspiracy and further abuses.
Unnervingly relevant, The Fervor offers a critique and condemnation of racism and xenophobia while weaving a terrifying story featuring demons from Japanese folklore and a mysterious illness.
Read a NetGalley eARC Content warning: starvation, grief, gore, dead dogs
A polar expedition to the South Pole goes terribly and having a stowaway on board isn’t even one of the myriad problems plaguing the Fortitude. Jonathan Morgan is trans and grieving his brothers who he lost in the great war. Eager to take their place on the adventure to Antarctica, he hides out on the ship. Discovery isn’t his only problem. Things start going downhill very quickly as the ghosts from his past become everyone else’s terror as well.
Comparing this book to the show, The Terror, and Alma Katsu’s The Hunger with more queers is honestly the most perfect description.
An interview with author Ally Wilkes will be posted on UK release day, January 25, 2022.
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.
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.
In November, I attempted NaNoWriMo, and I did not win. Which is fine. Work was wild. I’m not on any contractual deadline. I read a lot, but I feel like this month had more duds in it than usual. It happens.
In October, my friends and I went full spooky season and watched a new movie every weekend. By new, I mean, it was a different movie, but it happened to be new to at least one of us every time. Watching movies with friends is nice, don’t you know?
Started a new job this month, so reading has noticeably slowed down. Whoops.
The Chernobyl miniseries on HBO is one of my favorite pieces of visual media. While the docudrama follows the Voices from Chernobyl, this book delves more into the context of nuclear power in Russia, the culture of scientific academia, and politics and policies that influenced the choices made and, more importantly, not made.
The narrative for this one was fairly linear, starting all the way with the construction of the facility, moving through Russia’s hopes and dreams of being on the forefront of technological development, the education of the facility staff and those in power, and finally, a timeline of the disaster itself. It is fascinating from a cultural perspective, especially as this is something my parents likely remember.
Given the current circumstances of the world, parts of the government’s decision making hit uncomfortably close to reality. The saving face, the underplaying of an unprecedented disaster as something totally manageable, and taking the correct actions far too late hit differently. For these reasons and more, this book is another fairly difficult read, but this read goes more into the science and background of being a nuclear scientist in Soviet Russia than the heart-wrenching stories of those affected by the disaster.
Having loved Katsu’s previous historical horror, The Hunger, I had high expectations for her second. The Deep is a fictional take on the events of the Titanic and the Britannic, ships which had sunk in very different circumstances, but shared a few passengers, including main character Annie Hebbley.
Katsu has such a knack for managing several timelines and points of view in one narrative. In addition to the great historical tragedies, Katsu delves deeply into one personal tragedy which spans both ships’ journeys. The one that carries the story—the Fletcher family consisting of Caroline, Mark, Ondine, and the late Lilian Notting—was particularly compelling. It features the promise of better, jealousy, terrible choices, and redemptive arcs which try to right the wrongs of the past. Katsu also narrows in on the stories of other passengers, like the Astors, Guggenheim, and more. The depth of research simmers on page, maintaining immersive dread.
Much like in The Hunger, each character gets ample page time. The supernatural, folkloric scares in this one work so well because this narrative is so character-driven. The ships simply serve as a backdrop and madness thrives independent of its majesty. Personal sins and tragedies haunt everyone every step of the way, making for yet another heart-wrenching narrative.
Once again, I found myself the kind of upset in a way that makes me say thank you.
This book has been on my mind ever since I learned the story of the Donner Party over at Last Podcast on the Left. Having survived a horror read like The Devil in Silver, I figured I dive in with this historical horror.
Dear reader, I found something far more upsetting.
Come for the rumors of cannibalism, stay for a story of human error, loyalty, and fear of the unknown as a wagon train falls under a series a mishaps. Could it be the witch, Tamsen Donner? Could it be the scoundrels of John Snyder and Lewis Keseberg? Could it be biting off more than you can chew when trying to escape your tragic past, a la Charles Stanton? The book answers these questions and more.
Katsu expertly navigates several points of view while trying to humanize the members of the Donner party. After finishing the book, I think the tragedy came from an unfortunate concoction of error, fear, and interpersonal conflicts. From the outset, it’s hard to decide whom to trust and the morality there is kept so gray. If you know the story, then you’ll know who the villain is. Worry not, there’s no sympathy given there.
This read left me equal parts nauseated and the crying kind of upset in a way that makes me say thank you.