ARC Review: LUCKY GIRL, How I Became A Horror Writer: A Krampus Story by M. Rickert (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: September 13th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Trigger/Content warning: serial murder, dead family, stalking, spiritual abuse, ritual torture (aftermath)

Ro is a struggling writer with a couple of stories and a group of friends who seemed to have come together randomly at a diner during Christmas. They meet for several Christmases more, and each one seems to end worse than the one that came before as the past haunts them.

More creepy than scary, with people proving to be the real horror with folkloric elements woven throughout that makes the reader wonder if there’s sinister spirits afoot or if people are just like that.

Continue reading

ARC Review: SPEAR by Nicola Griffith (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: April 19th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a physical ARC from the publisher
Trigger/Content warning: death of a parent, fantasy violence, misogyny, discussions of infertility

Peretur grew up in a cave with her mom, Elen, without a name until she sees a band of knights and decides to go to Cair Leon where her destiny lies. There’s the lady of the lake, the sword in the stone, and the holy grail, remixed together in a swoony tale that fully honors its origins.

Romantic in a way only medieval romance can be, I really loved this exploration of the quest, the relationship between the chosen one and her mystical mother, and, ultimately, how much this story loves the women found within its pages.

Continue reading

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.

Read a NetGalley eARC
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: SIREN QUEEN by Nghi Vo (2022)

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy
Year Release: May 10th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: Homophobia, anti-Asian racism, murder, sexism, violence

In an magical alternate history of old Hollywood, magic is very real and the studio heads are literal monsters. All Luli Wei is to be a star, under three conditions: no maids, no funny accidents, and no fainting, in order to carve out her own career. She will stop at nothing to get the recognition she thinks she deserves, no matter the cost.

A world of magic and fey wrapped up in the glamour of the 1920’s, an immersive, sensual experience that’s equal parts dark and fabulous.

Continue reading

ARC Review: AND THEN I WOKE UP by Malcolm Devlin (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: April 12, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: murder, gore, blood

There’s an emerging subgenre in 2022 where a mysterious contagion makes people fly into a rage. While this is part of the premise of this novella, And Then I Woke Up examines the aftermath and the power of narrative when it comes to trauma. A cure isn’t as simple as dealing with It also looks at the power of narrative as it relates to violence and justification.

Deeply introspective with flashbacks to all the trappings of a zombie apocalypse, this is one of the saddest horror stories I’ve ever read.

Continue reading

ARC Review: LEECH by Hiron Ennes (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: September 27, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an eARC from the editor
Content warning: body horror, gore, blood, child sexual abuse (~75% mark), arson, medical experimentation, dysphoria, harm against animals

Gothic horror is great. Gothic horror that’s disguising a science fiction horror? Even better. A physician goes to replace a colleague far in the north in a frozen chateau occupied by a baron, his son, his wife, and their twins. As the doctor from the Institute investigates the cause of death, secrets begin to unravel that can easily spell humanity’s decline.

With dense, precise language weaving a tale of discovery and self-discovery, definitely a must-read for fans of Caitlin Starling in search of more claustrophobic settings and morally gray characters.

Continue reading

ARC Review: WHERE THE DROWNED GIRLS GO (Wayward Children #7) by Seanan McGuire (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: January 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: fatshaming, fatphobia, bullying

Cora’s door led to a world of Drowned Gods and mermaids. She returns to Eleanor West’s school still haunted by her experience and requests a transfer to the cruel Whitehorn Institute, where normalcy via suppression and repression is the rule of those halls. I found this entry much darker than those that came before it in ways that are less fantastical than eeriness of the worlds behind the doors.

This is an entry in which it is required to have read previous entries, despite how the back cover summary sounds. For the most relevant contextualization, Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) and Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children #6) are essential.

Continue reading

ARC Review: A SPINDLE SPLINTERED by Alix E. Harrow (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: October 5 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: chronic illness, rape (implied, not depicted)

Zinnia Gray has a chronic illness which will claim her life before she turns twenty-two. Charm, her best friend, throws a Sleeping Beauty-themed birthday party that accidentally causes a dimensional rift which sends Zinnia to the world of another Sleeping Beauty, Primrose. The two embark on a quest to wrench agency and salvation from their own crappy happy-ever-afters, while encountering a multi-verse of other Beauties.

This book is incredibly sad. There are constant reminders of Zinnia’s countdown, and the relationship between her and Charm is filled with so much angst. The love between them is firmly founded by their friendship, and strengthened by everything that unspools in these brief pages.

It’s wonderfully feminist in the way that the girls want to work together to save each other from their own crappy fates. The hope also comes from a place tinged with a wish these girls didn’t have to be strong in the ways that they are. It balances out the fairy tale fun of the story such that it works, with the constant emotive tension. The bit where they meet the Maleficent character is absolutely heart-breaking, and I’m not going to spoil it here. It just works.

It’s not my lane to speak to, but I do want to highlight that there is a bit of magical cure in which the havoc wreaked on Zinnia’s body is reversed at the end of the adventure, though the illness itself remains. If this is a trope you’d rather avoid, I’m not sure how much the series will work to subvert it, so that’s to be determined.

Author to Author with Neon Yang

The Tensorate quartet are sweeping fantasies with ambitious characters, high stakes, intricate politics, epic sequences, and a rad blend of technology and magic. The omnibus comes out today, and you can read the full series from start to finish in one package. To celebrate, I’m excited to host author Neon Yang to talk about writing process and what they’re working on next.

Buy Links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books

Continue reading

ARC Review: SUMMER SONS by Lee Mandelo (2021)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: September 28, 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: blood, gore, suicide, drug use and abuse, car accidents, emesis, homophobia

Andrew Blur lost his best friend Eddie in what looks like a suicide. But the ghoul haunting him suggests that there is something more at play and he’s determined to find answers, whether the academic establishment and newfound friend group Eddie found like it or not. This spooky read has a bit of everything: conspiracies, dark family histories, a mystery at its center, the full messiness of coming-of-age, and so much more. An absolute treat for those who enjoy hauntings and disaster gays.

The author Lee Mandelo will be featured on the blog in an interview on release day, September 28th, 2021.

Continue reading