May came at me like a freight train. Specifically, Kentaro Miura, creator of Berserk, passed and that has been a sledgehammer to my heart and creative spirit. To get completely too personal, I’ve had to do an inventory of all my things and file them under “survival” and “creativity.” The blog is here to stay, don’t worry about that.
For yet another month, the mind is still a mess, but the reads have been fantastic.
Read an ARC from the publisher Content warning: homophobia, racism, abortion, domestic violence, car accidents, alcoholism
In this queer reimagining of The Great Gatsby, Jordan Baker is a queer, Vietnamese adoptee and socialite with all the beautiful sharp edges of stained glass. It’s deeply sensual and takes full advantage of almost a century of historical contextualizing. There’s glitz, glamour, and paper craft magic that fully immerses the reader in its time period and aesthetic.
I’m not saying this book is perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. The Chosen and the Beautiful perfectly captures the horniness of a summer fling with all the yearning horror of watching your best friend make increasingly ill-advised decisions when it comes to the men in her life.
Excuse me, but where did April go? This month went by so quickly, I cannot wrap my head around it. And what a roller coaster of a ride it was.
The big thing that happened to me was that my beloved Eclectus parrot, Investor, had to be put to sleep due to poor health. He was in our family for 20 years. I try to smile through the happy memories, but mostly it’s just tears.
Read a NetGalley eARC Content warning: bleeding (mild), doppelgangers
This unexpected sequel to Finna starts off with the backstory of why Derek couldn’t come into that fateful work day when Jules and Ava fall into a wormhole. What continues is an unexpected shift to tame homicidal toilets with a team of Derek’s own doppelgangers.
With fantastic dynamics, characters that leap off the page, and the cost of company loyalty, Defekt is a wonderfully weird sequel which leaves the reader wide-eyed at the strangeness and grinning with delight.
This book was a ton of fun. I feel like the tone went from scary-weird to funny-weird with clever uses of character introductions. Derek, as a person, is relatively harmless, albeit annoying as far as coworkers go. He’s senselessly loyal to LitenVäld, including details like how he lives in a cargo trailer near the store and seems to not know how to interact with other humans. He feels suddenly ill one day and takes a sick day, leading him to sleep for 30 hours which accidentally causes the relationship tension in Finna.
To make up for his absence, Derek gets assigned to a special inventory unit to deal with defekta, or mutant furniture. In true LitenVäld form, however, his coworkers are also his clones. I enjoyed how Cipri pulled this off. Each doppelganger definitely feels like they’re cut from the same cloth as Derek. It was also super exciting to see him interact with being that aren’t all LitenVäld all the time. It’s really funny from the end, and the inclusion of company handbook advice between the chapters to remind the reader of the capitalist horror that is this future brand.
Author Nino Cipri returns to the blog to talk about this sequel, which will be posted on release day, April 20.
Read an ARC from NetGalley Content warning: misgendering, intersex-phobia, kidnapping
We’ve had installments in the Wayward Children series for fans of Candyland, Frankenstein, and riddles. Finally, there is an entry for Horse Girls.
Regan struggles to understand friendship at that pivotal intersection of puberty and childhood. After she reveals to her “best friend” that she is intersex, Regan runs away and joins a commune of literal centaurs. There is a queen in the Hooflands, and she wants the human. But Regan will stop at nothing to maintain her agency and autonomy, despite whatever destiny wants her to believe.
Read an ARC via NetGalley Content warning: Workers’ rights violations, terminal illness
In Lowell, Massachusetts, weavers are fed up with long hours, unfair and unequal wages, and terrible working conditions. Judith and Hannah, literal witches, band their boarders together with witch craft and hope, starting a union to fight back against their managers.
Read a NetGalley eARC
Trigger warnings: Body horror, Ku Klux Klan, arson, lynching, gore
In this historical dark fantasy, the Ku Klux Klan also turns into literal abominations powered by hate. What stands between them and summoning their elder god is a Black girl with a leaf-shaped sword and the power of Shouts.
The voice in this novella is incredible. This story could not have been narrated by anyone other than Maryse in Georgia during Prohibition. The setting and prose leap off the page and immerse the reader in rhythm, aesthetic, slang, cuisine, and more. This effect works well during the more uplifting moments centering Maryse and her community, and brings forth terrors when the mouths start appearing on metaphorical monsters in uncanny places. The creature designs fit the Shout motif which repeats throughout the novella.
The pacing is great and hits several familiar beats as far as fantasy stories go. To say more would ruin some magical moments and spoil some of the fun, horrific action sequences that span this book. But I found Maryse’s character arc compelling. Moreover, I loved the relationship among Maryse, Chef, and Sadie. One of my favorite things to see in fantasy is the girl Chosen One surrounded and supported by other women in her community. It was joyful and uplifting, despite the tragedy and horror happening around them.
This book is intense and horrifying, but ultimately fun as a community of eldritch horror slayers go against a KKK steeped in Lovecraftian designs.
Fairy tales from the East and West come together in this brisk tale of regret, forgiveness, and closure told in flashbacks while two legends—Hou Yi and Rosa (Red Riding Hood)—hunt sunbirds to save their countryside.
I love how the present-day story serves as a book-end to having the two characters recount to each other their great tragedies. As readers, we get to watch that past unfold on page. Huang expertly balances nostalgia and regret, while also having the characters be open about feelings that made past decisions seem like a good idea in the first place. Both main characters are honest with each other in a way that’s compelling both as people who need to work together to solve an immediate problem and as people who need to make room for healing from the past.
In addition, how many retellings appeared in one novella impressed me. We got the fairy tales of our main characters, but Goldilocks and Beauty and the Beast also make an appearance. The world-building isn’t heavy in this one, but the subtle way Huang highlights the difference in Hou Yi and Rosa’s languages was a very nice addition.
Two older queer women (one of whom is trans) embark on a retelling that suggests that there other ways to make things last than quests for immortality.
Read a NetGalley eARC Content warnings: Cutting off a finger, removal of an eye
The structure of this novella is absolutely fascinating. Manet, Amanuensis to the God King, is trying to solve the riddle of her origin and the secret of the king himself. She also has the seventh perfection, a condition which grants her perfect memory.
Which leads seamlessly explains why and how each chapter of this book is told via dialogue from an intriguing character. It reads to me like the dialogue from an RPG, except we don’t have the visuals and interiority of the main character to ground us in a story. It’s all told from the perspectives of essentially NPCs. But the tone, pacing, and sense of a larger world are all there. The history and aesthetics of the land simply shines. It’s a magic-techno world where a discussion unfolds about mythology and the veracity of epic tales that become more legend than historical account, even if contemporaries still exist in the present.
The journey to having the curtains pulled on god’s truths is a wild ride, and The Seventh Perfection is highly recommended for those wanting to read experimental novels or novellas.
It is very hard to summarize this book without spoiling the ending of Gideon the Ninth. But it picks up right where that left off and goes into the adventures of Harrowhark the Ninth as she starts service as a Lyctor to the Emperor of the Nine Houses.
This book examines trauma through magic and science fiction in a way that I’ve never seen in any other kind of book. It is what grimdark wishes it could be. The prose shifts between third and second, never flinching from the grief of the and pain of the end of Gideon. There is sincerity, tough love, and the grossness you’d expect from necromancy (soup is cancelled), but there is a joke and a colorful insult thrown in from time to time to get some relief as part of that processing. There is a deep sense of loss of control, being lost, and constant violence, but the empathy radiates off the page. Such a unique reading experience, and then there is another perspective shift that had my heart and mouth screaming.
A surreal sequel that maintains the tone and aesthetic of the first book, definitely pick up Harrow if you loved Gideon. Give me Alecto, now.