Review: MUTED by Tami Charles (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: 2021
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abuse (physical, sexual, mental), kidnapping, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, forced dieting and weight loss, homophobia, sexual assault

A dream turns into a nightmare as Denver sees an opportunity to get into the R&B industry through superstar Sean “Mercury” Ellis. It starts off with the lavish trappings of fame like parties and studio time, but devolves into manipulation and abuse as Merc tries to stamp out Denver’s voice, while also showing the ways she can fight back.

With parallels to the 2019 documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, this novel in verse does not pull any punches, exposing the dark side of the music industry and the ways young women can fight back.

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Review: AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS (Supernatural Investigations #1) by B.B. Alston (2021)

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Year Release: 2021
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: bullying, light fantasy violence

Middle grade fiction is full of wonder and magic, and this book is the cream of the crop. It is a little bit Men in Black, a little bit Artemis Fowl, with plenty of Black girl magic and heart.

Amari joins the summer tryouts for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs to get answers behind her brother, Quinton’s, disappearance. It has all the enchantment of being part of a secret magic society with references to classic monsters and common mythologies. This book tailored to some very specific interests, and I loved it.

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Review: WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF by Elana K. Arnold (2017)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: 2020
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abortion, animal death, attempted sexual assault (author’s note), vomiting

I took Elana K. Arnold’s Revision Season course last fall, so before getting into the book itself, I felt like I had an insider knowledge of its revision cycle. I got my ears into the audiobook and dove right in.

This work follows Nina Faye as she navigates her teenage years with the social pressures as they relate to autonomy and sexuality. Her mother tells her that there is no such thing as unconditional love, and Arnold explores the different modes of love during key moments of Nina’s life. It feels like the contemporary precursor to Damsel, so if you enjoyed the brutally honest way it explored its topics through fairy tale, you will enjoy this.

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Review: WALK AMONG US by Genevieve Gornichec, Cassandra Khaw, and Caitlin Starling (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Adult Horror Novellas
Year Release: 2020
Source: Libro.fm

Content warning for suicide ideation, blood consumption, gore, violence, manipulation

Genevieve Gornichec’s “A Sheep Among Wolves” performed by Erika Ishii
A college student looks for companionship and finds it in the unlikeliest of places. I really appreciate how Gornichec approached the recruitment strategy, and laid out a solid framework for that final reveal. The mental health aspect of it was also relatable, plus the general loneliness that comes with being in college. Very atmospheric.

Cassandra Khaw’s “Fine Print” performed by Neil Kaplan
Of the three, I think this one might have been the grossest. Khaw takes the approach of food insensitivities and the paperwork that goes into  becoming a vampire. It also tackles individual interpretations of privilege that are both incisive and has you rooting for the antagonists in the best way. Sometimes the vampires are the good guys.

Caitlin Starling’s “Land of Milk and Honey” performed by Xe Sands
The setpiece of a verfiable blood farm was exquisite in this work. Leigh just wants to have an ethical source of vampire food, and nearly compromises the Masquerade in the process. If you’re looking for some sapphic pining, this novellas also has plenty of that to go around. The women are complex, and the attention to detail regarding animal husbandry is particularly good.

A must-listen for people needing more vampire stories in their life.

 

Review: THE FISHERMAN by John Langan (2016)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult horror
Year Release: 2016
Source: Libro.fm

Listened to the audiobook

This book is narrated by the kindest-sounding old man, but don’t let that fool you: it is full of folk terror and upstate New York eerieness.

The Fisherman are about two IBM coworkers who happen to be widowers who go on a weekend fishing trip. Things get weird and very cosmic horror from there. There’s not much I can that wouldn’t turn into a spoiler, but I really loved the fishy horror of this one. There’s also a fair amount of the dead walking, all tied to this one stream in the Catskills. The location is absolutely beautiful, and alluring in a way that almost wants you to take up the sport. After reading this tale, however, it’s probably best to leave the restless waters alone.

The book does go on a relevant, but lengthy story of one of the first families to settle in the region. As if tragedy had not been enough, they are also befallen to the tortures of a godly type. It’s a fantastic mix of how people in general are scary, but also with the unsettling that comes with the unexplainable happening all around you. The fish and the location are the constant linking the contemporary tale and history together.

If you weren’t afraid of fish before reading, congratulations! You have ichthyophobia.