ARC Review: SWIFT THE STORM, FIERCE THE FLAME by Meg Long (2023)

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: January 17, 2023
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Review of Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves (2022)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: gun violence, weather disasters, blood, explosions, loss of parents, colonialism, implied nonconsensual medical experimentation, mentions of torture. There is a wolf. The wolf experiences some peril, but the wolf does not die or suffer permanent injury

Once again, Meg Long takes the reader on a journey that is full of feeling, fun worldbuilding, and the complexity of friendship and surviving trauma. Sena and her wolf, Iska, are side characters in this adventure told from Remy’s point of view. It takes them to Maraas, a lush, jungle planet plagued by a hellstorm which rests the landscape every two weeks and the corporations at war with the syndicates. Remy searches for a good friend who she lost several years ago, and that might mean teaming up with the boy who betrayed their partnership at the same time.

Excellently paced, intriguing, and healing, I really enjoyed this return to Long’s slice of the cosmos, this time in stormy jungle rather than in a frozen tundra.

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Light Novel Review: VAMPIRE HUNTER D Vol. 4: Tale of the Dead Town by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Yoshitaka Amano (2006)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy Science Fiction Western
Year Release in English: 2005
Buy Link: Barnes & Noble (Initially received via Humble Bundle)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: violence, gore, talking carbuncle, blood, weather disaster

In this volume, Vampire Hunter D stumbles upon a biker and a family that’s been eliminated by radiation poisoning with only a teenager surviving. Things only get stranger from there when the new trio make their way to a literal wandering village inhabited by several thousand people. The mayor has some specific problems with Nobility, but the poisoned family’s home might have the key to all the goings-on.

The mystery here can literally only happen in the world of the Frontier. There’s science that feels like magic and fantasy that is ripped straight from horror. The architecture and depiction of the moving town is also something really rad. There’s allusions to the mechanisms that are firmly rooted in 90’s-style sci-fi, with a rudimentary understanding of computer and cyberpunk mechanics. It’s present enough to give the genre’s grounding, but not so much that not knowing the specifics will interrupt immersion. The intrigue driving the story is also deeply human, where the reasons behind the town’s ailments perfectly map to “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I won’t go into specifics, but if medical horror is your jam, you’re going to be well-fed.

2023 Bookish Hype Train

Per my post about 2023, I really need to refocus on refilling my creative well. So, this year, I’m limiting the number of author interviews I do and reshuffling my to-read list to be mainly about backlist titles. Plus, I am releasing a novella of my own, which I am more than thrilled to unleash upon the world.

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My 2022 in Reading: Jo Needs a Nap

I read 192 books this year in a split of: 54 ARCs (up from last year), 33 audiobooks (down from last year), 72 manga volumes (down from last year), 20 physical copies (up from last year), 8 light novels (up from last year), and 5 eBooks (down from last year). I want to share my favorites, so please enjoy my favorite 20 2022 books, favorite 10 books from before 2021, and my favorite 5 manga. I would have done a favorite 20 of backlist books, but, unfortunately, I did not prioritize this year, and I think that contributed to my exhaustion.

Overall, it’s not as many things as last year, and it did bring me dangerously close to burning out on reading. 2023 will be a year for resetting some of my priorities with regards to reading, which will focus on my backlog and reading a whole lot of light novels.

Note: Harper Collins book links have been replaced with the linktree for the Harper Collins Union until that publisher goes back to the bargaining table

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Light Novel Review: VAMPIRE HUNTER D Vol. 2 Raiser of Gales & Vol. 3 Demon Deathchase by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Yoshitaka Amano (2005)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy Science Fiction Western
Year Release in English: 2005
Buy Link: Barnes & Noble (Initially received via Humble Bundle)

Review of Volume 1 can be found here

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Blood, kidnapping, incest, rape (fades to black, but unequivocal), dismemberment, nonconsensual medical experimentation

The mystery in this one is so engaging. We start off finding a young girl who has been selected by her town to go off into the capital as part of a special program that gets her a higher status in human society while the village of Tepes gets more resources. But there’s more to the precocious young woman than meets the eye, and gnarly is just one word for it.

What really shines here is how monstrous the humans are especially juxtaposed to the Nobles. I won’t spoil the mystery, but there is a horrific arc in which we learn more about Lina and the mayor who took her in. Please heed the content warnings for that portion of the story.

The action is incredible, and I really liked how less animalistic the vampires were in this one. The conspiracy is a years’ long literal medical experiment in eugenics. It’s very horror, and highlights Kikuchi’s ability to blend genres and use tropes to great effect. I can’t say too much without spoiling the entire story arc.


Content warnings: Blood, kidnapping, dubious consent, body horror of John Carpenter’s The Thing variety

This entry is absolutely the gnarliest one I’ve read so far, and, yes, I am aware that I am only on volume 3. While Demon Deathchase is the lightest on lore so far, the mesh of science fiction and dark fantasy is at its tightest. There are death cars and possessed carbuncles that grow into fully sentient tumors. It’s disgusting. It’s incredible.

There is no stone Kikuchi will leave unturned when it comes to the horrific scientific possibilities plaguing the world eleven thousand years into the future. We have flesh-possessing carbuncles that are eerie like ghosts and unsettling in the way flesh distorts with science that feels like magic.

The women within this work show a range of strength, from the lovelorn dhampir mechanic Caroline to the gearhead hunter Leila. I love them all, especially how they relate to D. The purple prose really works throughout the series to draw attention to D’s terrific power and ethereal beauty. The interactions and obsessions only highlight it further, and seeing the variety of personalities attracted to him definitely keeps me engaged in the new characters regardless of gender and whether or not they label their attraction love.

The ending to this one is brutal, gross, and eerily beautiful.

ARC Review: CAST-OFF (Peridot Shift #3) by R.J. Theodore (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Year Release: December 2022
Buy Link: Bookshop.org

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an eARC from the author
There will be light spoilers for Flotsam and Salvage
Content warning: deicide, dismemberment, murder, chemical warfare, references to torture, gun violence

Souls are torn from their bodies, introducing new beasts, while the gods who still live don’t seem to care. It’s up to Talis, her splinter crew, a half-freed goddess, a transplanted alien, an empress, and a priestess to set it all straight before all souls go to the ether and transform into monsters beyond everyone’s comprehension.

A thrilling conclusion that rights wrongs both within the story and healing from historical ones, definitely a romp that will stay with me and a go-to recommendation for folks looking for a queer adventure expertly navigating the lines between science fiction and fantasy.

An interview with the author will be going up on 12/6/2022.

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Review: SALVAGE (Peridot Shift #2) by R.J. Theodore (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Year Release: 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a physical copy
Content warning: deicide, vomiting, parental death, dismemberment, murder, chemical warfare

A god is dead, another one has been transposed into the body of a raven, and a sealed-away goddess is on the loose. Talis has lost her ship and part of her crew, but still has several jobs to complete in order to literally stay afloat and keep their lives. The stakes keep escalating, and in this volume, we get a hefty dose of interstellar court intrigue on top of the normal dangers of space piracy.

Magic rings, alchemy, aliens, chanteys, and found family, there is so much goodness from both science fiction and fantasy to be found within the continued misfortunes and advantage of Captain Talis and her crew.

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Light Novel Review: VAMPIRE HUNTER D Vol. 1 by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Yoshitaka Amano (2005)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy Science Fiction Western
Year Release in English: 2005
Buy Link: Barnes & Noble (Initially received via Humble Bundle)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: violence, gore, threats of rape, misogyny

The hardest part of writing this review is figuring out which genre to slot this work into. The ’80’s genre classic, Vampire Hunter D follows the exploits of a dhampir, the eponymous Vampire Hunter D. He rides an electronic horse, has vampire powers, and uses a really cool sword to slay his half-brethren with. In this first volume, he goes to a town ruled by a Count, and a girl named Doris being preyed on by the vampires around. This first entry is fun with some rad world-building, definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of genre blends and vampire classics.

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Author to Author with Bendi Barrett (Empire of the Feast)

Happy release week to Empire of the Feast, an amuse bouche of delights for spacey science fiction and queer fantasy fans alike. There’s an eldritch god kept at bay by cultish sex magic, a reincarnating monarch, and plenty of conspiracy to go around. It’s fucky, it’s goth, it’s queer, and it’s here.

In today’s interview, author Bendi Barrett talks about how this novella came to be, how he crafted its tight world-building, and what he’s working on next.

Buy link: Neon Hemlock

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ARC Review: EMPIRE OF THE FEAST by Bendi Barrett (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: Fall 2022
Buy link: Neon Hemlock

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an eARC from the publisher
Content warnings: explicit sexual content, murder, body horror, gore

Empire of the Feast is a story of spaceship court intrigue in which a reincarnating emperor staves off an eldritch beast via a sex cult in a perpetual orgy. There’s a betrayal, there’s an army, and a transferal power that subverts genre tropes. Barrett efficiently packs so many compelling story elements into one taut work. If there are more stories coming out of the Stag Empire, I am here for all of them.

An interview with the author will be going up on October 27th, 2022.

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