Genre: Historical Yaoi Seinen Year Release in English: 2023 Source: BOOK☆WALKER
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Content warnings: Political corruption, sexual harassment, explicit sexual content
People call this a historical fiction inspired by Renaissance Europe but I’m pretty sure it’s a secondary world fantasy minus the magic and monsters (I would love for someone to correct me if this is not the case).
Viscount Adam Canning is hired to be the bodyguard of Lord Montague, who has several secrets up his sleeve in order to maintain the efficiency of his station. But tensions between church and state brew in the background, and while a romance between a playboy and a sexually inept young man play out in the forefront.
I kept this manga on my radar when an artist was drawing Luis and Gil, one of the other couples in this work (they are very gay and absurd in their affection). The characters are charming with very quick work done by Suzuki to establish their backstories. I am pulled in hard by the political intrigue unfolding in this work. There’s a tension between the main religion and the more secular monarchy, plus Adam’s entanglements with the queen and her cohort. Joel seems to have several tricks up his sleeve, including eluding an assassination attempt. Who sent the killers? What does he know? I’m invested in the story as well as seeing when (if?) the insta-love and the slow-burn crush will even out in their attraction.
Genre: Transmigration Fantasy Danmei Year Release in English: 2021 Source: BOOK☆WALKER
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.
Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction Year Release: 2022 Source: Libro.fm
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Listened to the audiobook Content warnings: Starvation, depictions of mental illness, period-accurate slur against Inuit and northern indigenous people (explained, but present), animal slaughter, alleged death by suicide, dog on dog violence & cannibalism, corpses, graphic depictions of surgery & infection
Levy returns again with an incredible account of several boats and two dozen people trapped in and around the Arctic circle. Anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson organized a scientific and geographical expedition to the Arctic on The Karluk, a ship vastly unprepared for Arctic sea ice and manned by a crew composed largely of scientists with little experience in that treacherous territory. It goes well, with Stefansson abandoning ship to go on a caribou hunt and leaving everyone else in the charge of its captain, Robert Bartlett. Death, mental illness, desperation, and long, long treks across ice pack into Russia around the onset of World War One ensure.
If you enjoyed Labyrinth of Ice, you are in for a treat with incredible characterization and a reverence for the snow and ice many have tried to traverse in previous expeditions, you’re in for a treat. The audiobook does come with supplemental materials like photographs, a timeline, and additional reading.
A note on the content warnings related to animals: if you like cats, there is a cat who survives and lives for several years after the Canadian Arctic Expedition. If you like dogs, however, you might want to skip this one as many do not survive and Levy does not shirk away from descriptions.
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.