Review: DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD by Olga Tokarczuk (trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, 2019)

Genre: Adult Mystery
Year Release in English: 2019
Source: Physical Copy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: violence against animal, dead pets, hunting, misogyny, blood, bore, vomiting, blood in stool (mentioned), alcoholism

A woman with a deep love for animals is at the center of this mystery where men with violent tendencies towards the local wildlife start appearing dead in her vicinity. The source material for the movie, Spoor (2017), I definitely had to give this one a read, and it’s incredible how well both versions of the story work in their respective media.

Much smaller in scope than The Books of Jacob, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a character study of a recluse who loves animals living among hunters and

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Review: DAY OF THE OPRICHNIK by Vladimir Sorokin (trans. Jamey Gambrell) (2012)

Genre: Adult Speculative Fiction (Translated)
Year Release: 2012
Source: Unabridged Bookstore

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Trigger Warning: gang rape, violence, state-sanctioned terrorism, drug use, a fish swimming up one’s veins into their brain, literal book burning, state censorship, beheaded dogs

Andrei Komiaga, our protagonist, is the fourth-highest ranking member of the oprichnina in a future version of Russia that’s a blend of Ivan the Terrible’s reign with Vladimir Putin’s current policies. We follow a day in Komiaga’s life which involves terrorizing aristocrats, censoring literature, bribery, and not one but two rituals with his fellow officers.

Disturbing, intense, and brilliant, this is one of those books where if the Wikipedia summary is enough to make you not approach this one, I do not blame you.

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Review: WARRIORS OF GOD (The Hussite Wars #2) by Andrzej Sapkowski (2021)

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy
Year Release: 2021
Source: Physical Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warning: war, accusations and threats of sexual assault, gore, blood, vomiting, illness, bigotry, use of the g-slur for Romani, reference to blood libel and pogroms
Review of Book 1, Tower of Fools, can be found here

The saga of Reynevan of Bielawa continues as battles take place, more scheming continues, war ravages the countryside, and his personal reputation neither gets worse nor improves.

What Sapkowski weaves here is even more snark and careful maneuvering around political machinations, where he has no patience for the exploits of Reynevan and, I’d say, even enjoys dolling out consequences, dragging him further and further through uncertainty.

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ARC Review: THE STORY OF THE HUNDRED PROMISES by Neil Cochrane (2022)

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a physical ARC
Content warning: queerphobia (specifically against aromantic and asexual people), transphobia, gender dysphoria, menstruation

The Story of the Hundred Promises is a fantasy novel that centers queer people and queerness in a fairy tale setting that feels lived in steeped, steeped in a familiar aesthetic and the trappings of a classic, complete with curses, magicians, fae, and more. Darragh, a trans sailor, is summoned to his family home where his father lies dying. To help, he goes on a quest to find the magician who helped him tradition several years ago.

The story that follows is full of tenderness, hard-won acceptance, and magic.

An interview with the author is going up on release day, October 4th, 2022.

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Review: OUR WIVES UNDER THE SEA by Julia Armfield (2022)

Genre: Adult Literary Horror
Year Release: 2022
Source: Physical Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Trigger warning: eye trauma, death of a parent (both parents discussed in different scenarios), claustrophobia, blood

Leah is a marine researcher. Miri is her work from home wife. Leah went missing for a bit after going on a deep sea dive. She returns, but Miri worries when she starts spending more time in the bath and becomes something other than human.

Haunting with beautiful prose that led me to excessively mark up my copy, this literary horror moves deftly from quiet melancholy to straight-up nightmare fuel when a wife returns, but did she really?

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Review: LAPVONA by Ottessa Moshfegh (2022)

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Physical Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Trigger warning: realities of birth, rape, sexual assault, religious trauma, graphic religious flagellation, child sexual abuse, incest (between adults), child physical abuse, death of babies, maggots, starvation, pica, vomiting, murder, cannibalism, murder, self-harm, violence against animals, ableism

The invented village of Lapvona sits at the feet of its manor, both literally and figuratively. The lord is a pig with zero self-awareness, but the story of this seemingly cursed town also centers on its inhabitants. Not a single person is a good person, the plot moves from one natural disaster to personal disaster, ping ponging between the two. The prose is crisp and clear, making the happenings uncomfortably unambiguous in their depiction.

I’ve read so many things that I can reliably comp to The VVitch, but this one definitely follows a kind of interpersonal dread that makes you beg the question of the devil’s involvement. In this work, however, the answer is clear as mud. And if you’re into the unlikability of My Year of Rest and Relaxation, it is relentless across a wider cast of characters.

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Review: FLOWERS FOR THE SEA by Zin E. Rocklyn (2021)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Sirens Con 2021 (Physical Copy Buy Link)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warning: realities of birth, generational trauma, vomiting, infant harm and death, body horror, threat of drowning

On an ark escaping from a flooded kingdom, Iraxi is ostracized both on land and at sea, with her pregnancy the only thing keeping her company. Claustrophobic in its intimacy, this story has her narrowly escaped hell only to find herself in a new nightmare of razorfangs and other things that stalk the deep.

The language in this novel is intimate and precise. The location is tight – it takes place entirely on a ship escaping from a drowned world. Outside, there is the danger of literal sea monsters. Inside, there is starvation and distrust, especially as Iraxi seems to be the only one to have successfully gotten pregnant in the last five years. There’s hope in the new birth, but also fear of what comes next from her fellow passengers and rejection as Iraxi questions if she even wants the child altogether. The other characters aren’t much help either, though they definitely explain a lot as to why Iraxi feels the way she does about her predicament, both personally and on a community-level.

The horror found within pulls no punches, with key moments engaging both visual fears as well as audio, making for incredible reading jump scares. Pregnancy is part of the peril here, as is the child that comes of it. There is some body horror in addition to uncomfortable nightmare sequences to depict the before-times. I won’t go more into specifics because it’s best experienced first half, but it is as terrifying as it is awe-inspiring.

Anger simmers and propels the plot forward. Though there is time ticking with the upcoming arrival of the baby, Rocklyn keeps the reader going with hints as to what got Iraxi on this path, why she’s so angry, arriving at an ending that tracks perfectly.

Review: THE HACIENDA by Isabel Cañas (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2022
Source: Book of the Month Club

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warning: arson, murder, gore, rape (mentioned, not depicted), vomiting, financial abuse

Beatriz lost everything when her father was executed during the Mexican War of Independence. She and her mother go to live with reluctant relatives, until Beatriz sees an opportunity to return to some form of personal security in marrying Don Rodolfo Solórzano. It takes her to his family estate in the countryside, Hacienda San Isidro. But the promised security is quickly dashed when things start going bump in the night and there is more truth to the rumors surrounding Rodolfo than initially ignored.

This book has everything: 1800’s Mexican history, political tensions, a haunted house, a restless spirit, and a priest who’s also a witch. An incredible blend of historical fiction and gothic horror, I simply could not put this one down until the very last page.

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Review: WOMAN, EATING by Claire Kohda (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2022
Source: Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Sexual harassment (physical and verbal), sexual assault, gore, animal violence, hospice care

Lydia is a vampire and, for the first time in her adult life, she’s on her own. She’s dropped off her mother at a long term care center. She’s taken up residence in a studio, around humans and artists. This book explores Lydia navigating on her own at the crossroads of human and animal, looking back on what being human has meant all her life versus the experience she’s living now.

Incredibly introspective and melancholy in the way it approaches vampirism as a means to explore loneliness, human connection, and finding one’s place in the world.

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Manga Review: OROCHI Vol. 1 by Kazuo Umezz (2022)

Genre: Horror Shonen
Year Release in English: 2022
Source: Forbidden Planet NYC

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The first volume of a short story collection from a new-to-me horror writer. To be honest, I picked this volume up because the cover and packaging were gorgeous. I found myself delighted by the horrors found within.

A mysterious young woman finds herself entangled in others’ personal lives with powers that can shift the tides of fate.

It’s easy to tell that the art style is much older, with the original works having come out in the late 60’s, early 70’s. The lines are bold and there’s great use of blank spaces with solitary figures. There’s also not a lot text to be found in the pages, letting the art do a lot of the story-telling. Some of it is unsettling, and I’m invested in the stories told in facial expressions alone.

I found both stories chilling, but “Sisters,” to me, had the more effecting twist. I’m definitely into the style and I’m looking forward to the stories found in the following volumes.