ARC Review: JUST LIKE HOME by Sarah Gailey (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: July 19th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: murder, torture, gore, blood, sleep paralysis demons, emotional abuse, parental terminal illness

Vera Crowder comes home to settle the estate while her mother lives out her final days. Their relationship has always been strained and it doesn’t help that her father is Francis Crowder, a storied serial killer who used the house for his deadly extracurriculars. Though her father died years ago, something else haunts the house, leaving behind notes and making sure Vera doesn’t get a wink of sleep.

Claustrophobic, melancholy, and atmospheric, this story about a woman packing up her family’s possibly haunted house is a delight for both true crime and horror fans alike.

An interview with the author will be going up on release day, July 19th, 2022.

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ARC Review: JACKAL by Erin E. Adams (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: October 4th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: kidnapping, gore, child death, alcoholism, domestic violence, partner abuse, fatphobia (challenged), anxiety, racism

Liz Rocher returns to her predominantly white town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania to attend her best friend’s wedding. She thought the worst she would have to deal with are micro-aggressions and passive-aggressive reunions with people she hasn’t seen, in some cases, since high school. But when the couple’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing in the world, what unfolds is a race against time and a horrific history of Black girls going missing in the woods every summer for years.

It’s a little bit The Ritual meets Hereditary on a community level, and a lot bit about a divided past that haunts not only the town as a whole but also the characters driving the story.

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ARC Review: WRATH GODDESS SING by Maya Deane (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: June 7th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: Vomiting, gore, bloodshed, death by drowning, dismemberment, death in childbirth, misgendering, deadnaming, slavery, pregnancy

The Iliad with a trans lens. Achilles is a trans woman living on Skyros with women just like her when Odysseus comes searching for him to partake in a war to retrieve Helen from the Hittites. Instead of fighting as a man, Athena intervenes and gives her the body of a woman, and she goes off to war.

Drenched in glory and war-time gore, there is also a surprising amount of love and beauty to be found in this modern retelling.

An interview with the author will be posted on June 7th, 2022 (release day!).

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ARC Review: THESE PRISONING HILLS by Christopher Rowe (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: May 31st, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Content warning: PTSD, self-administered eye surgery, bombing, subjugation, kidnapping

It’s another post-apocalypse in Appalachia, but this one has to do with a war long thought over against an AI named Athena Parthenus. Decades go by, and the main character, Marcia, is about to retire until she’s reinstated for one more mission to investigate an automaton that’s reawakened.

The world-building is really cool in this one. There’s a band of Owl and Crow resistance groups who cosplay as their respective birds, and it’s interesting to see the different community dynamics of the few remaining human enclaves. There several different types of robots, and it’s not entirely clear if all the people aren’t some kind of cyborg as well. The writing is clear and crisp, and it’s easy to keep all the different factions clear.

It’s a bit on the nose in its exploration of the collapse of an empire and the cycles of violence that come with it, citing examples of Greek and Roman history in casual dialogue. But for a small vignette of a greater world, it simply deepens the worldbuilding.

Due to the brevity of the work, the character development loses a bit of its depth. That being said, it’s rad to have a genre work about a reckoning with past and present while AI have different agendas with regards to where the world goes next.

ARC Review: HELL FOLLOWED WITH US by Andrew Joseph White (2022)

Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: June 7th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Content warning: Body horror, gore, skin diseases, gun violence, deadnaming, plague, religious abuse, suicidal ideation, dead parents, homophobia

The area of Appalachia where Hell Followed With Us takes place has been ravaged by a virus unleashed by an eco-fascist Christian cult that wants to usher in the end days to meet their God. They do this by an infection called the Flood and the creation of literal monster called Graces, the most powerful of which is Seraph. It’s host is Benji, who’s on the run from the cult because he’s trans and has had enough. He finds sanctuary with a small resistance group, but it wont’ belong long until the cult finds him and take back the monster he stole.

It’s gory, it’s fun, it twists and surprises, and features a cast of queer teens at its center whose thorny found family relationship lends itself to a post-apocalyptic landscape.

An interview with the author will be posted on June 9th, 2022.

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ARC Review: INHERITORS by Asako Serizawa (2020)

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: July 14th, 2020*
Buy Links: Barnes & Noble | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: Murder, war crimes, sexual assault (not depicted), comfort women, gore, PTSD, terminal illness

A historical fiction journey following one family spanning several generations and centuries. Starting with colonial Japan and a murder, going all the way to post-the-current-year (2035 to be precise) to a V.R. utopia masking future-type horrors unfolding. It’s about cycles of imperialism, violence, and generational trauma, some of which isn’t necessarily dealt with, but very much explored.

Told in a wide range of styles, from interviews to more straightforward narratives to diary entries, I found myself having a hard time believing that this was fiction and not something like a Svetlana Alexievich collection of accounts.

*In an effort to get my reading list under control, I will be finishing up a few ARCs that I should have finished, in some cases, years ago.
Yes, I am embarrassed.

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ARC Review: LIGHT YEARS FROM HOME by Mike Chen (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: January 25, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: dead parent (father), dementia, PTSD

One of my favorite subgenres of science fiction and fantasy comes in the form of “what happens to the main characters when they return from their adventure?” This book is split into three POVs: one sister, Kass, who kept herself firmly rooted on Earth, her twin, Jakob, who disappeared in a first contact episode fifteen years prior, and their younger sister, Evie, who wants to find her brother but also proof of extra-terrestrials. Jakob does return one day, and it’s a race to complete a space military mission while trying to tie knots longed frayed by hurts gone unmended.

A compelling story about siblings trying to mend rifts that go beyond the pedestrian and tear into space and time amid a veritable Easter basket of Assassin’s Creed references.

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ARC Review: SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN (The Radiant Emperor #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: Famine, poverty, flaying, plague, war, queerphobia, misogyny, immolation, dismemberment

A girl’s family dies in a famine-stricken village at the hands of despair and bandits. Instead of succumbing to her nothing fate, so takes on her brother’s name, Zhu Chongba, and takes on his destiny of greatness. She joins a monastery, gets enlisted in the army, and seeks greatness at every turn. On the opposite side of war, there is Ouyang, the eunuch general, whose everything was taken from him by the family he serves.

My official review is one long joyous screech of hype. This book has so many things I love, such as character archetypes and depictions of betrayal. The balance between political intrigue and epic battles is masterful, as are the parallels between Ouyang and Zhu.

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ARC Review: THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON by Ryan Douglass (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Content warning: Gore, school shooting, revenge porn, attempted rape, bullying, homophobia, abuse by parents

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black student at St. Claire’s Prep. The ghosts reliving their deaths and ghouls following him don’t make high school any easier. When a mass shooter from the town’s recent past decides to pick Jake as his next target, it’s a race against escalating violence as Jake comes into his powers as a medium to banish the spirit once and for all.

An atmospherically horrifying new voice in horror that had me reading this book through splayed fingers from start to finish, while clinging onto the hope for a happy-for-now ending for Jake.

Author Ryan Douglass will be featured on the blog on release day, July 13.

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Manga ARC Review: UNDEAD GIRL MURDER FARCE Vol. 1 by Yugo Aosaki & Haruka Tomoyama (2021)

Genre: Fantasy Mystery Seinen
Year Release in English: 2021
Buy Link: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Content warnings: Blood, murder, nudity, disembodied head

In 19th Century France, vampires are allowed to live alongside humans. Detectives are called in but little does anyone expect, it’s the disembodied head who’s also a demon.

This manga opens up with a dead vampire, a family member suspected, and a kooky trio consisting of a maid, a himbo, and a disembodied head in a cage. It is wonderfully strange and not very deep. It ends on a cliff-hanger, and I’m eager to see what the cage user has hidden behind his kind lack of sense.

The art style is really neat, though at times, the background work gets in the way of comprehending the words on the page. I’m unfamiliar with the differences between ARC manga and finished copies, so perhaps it is cleared up, and I hope so. I had a ton of fun during this read.

If you’re looking for something with cheek, thought-out world-building, and engaging action, definitely give this a shot.